Years ago, there used to be a place in the Sawgrass Mills Mall called Wannado City. This city allowed kids to be whatever they wanted to be. They would check in and be Doctors, Teachers, Publix cashiers, fire fighters, police officers and many other careers where they would earn money they could use within the city. Sadly, it closed about 11 years ago, but I wanted to bring the magic of Wannado City to our library.
Knowing that one of our student shelvers is also a baker and very artistic, I asked her to create different set pieces out of the cardboard boxes our IT department was getting rid of. She built a full kitchen set– sink (with moving knobs), refrigerator and an oven, a grocery store with a conveyor belt and shelves, and a tool bench for the mechanic shop. I raided my two-year-olds’ toys for things to put in the kitchen and grocery store, took advantage of end of summer sales to grab other things and made use of several things we already had at the library. I hand stitched 14 eggs to put in plastic easter eggs and made pasta from felt and printed and laminated sandwich and pizza fixings.
The day of the program, our student shelvers helped me set everything up. We ended up with six stations or centers the children could experience. Each child was handed a stack of money to use at the post office, grocery store, the mechanic and the vet clinic.
The farming station was set up behind the Children’s Desk and had animals to tend to and eggs (shaker eggs) to gather from the chickens. There was also a spot for harvesting veggies and flowers. (I used a box lid, a pool noodle cut into four pieces and brown fabric to imitate planted rows of crops.)
The mechanic was one of the top 3 most popular stations. The work bench included a few working toy tools and a plane, car and motorcycle to repair. The colorful drill actually worked to replace the screws. While all the kids enjoyed this station, the older ones loved it even more. The mechanic shop also included a table full of books about different jobs that could use a tool bench and a color match tool sorting game.
The 2nd most popular station was the house. The children loved pretending to fix a meal for the families and one of my favorite interactions was when a little girl looked at her dad, handed him a broom and told him it was his turn. A couple minutes later, she said, “You missed a spot.” Dad chuckled to himself and dutifully swept the spot his daughter pointed out. Another family pretended to cook dinner and the siblings talked about what they like on their pizzas and sandwiches. Some kids chose to do the dishes or stock the refrigerator with items they purchased from the absolute favorite station in the program– The Grocery Store. This station had food the kids could purchase with the money they got when they came in. Under the conveyor belt, we put grocery bags that could hold their purchases. The kids took turns being the cashier or the shoppers. One of the funniest moments was when a little girl told her mom the total was “$5000 dollars!” Mom looked at her and exclaimed, “$5000, all I bought was fruit! Okay.”
By the end of the program, 27 children and their caretakers participated and used their imaginations to be what they wanted, on a SATURDAY!
Things that made this program successful:
- Knowing the strengths of the members of your team will go a long way in making things happen.
- Amazing coworkers who embraced the idea and ran with it.
- Being “hands off”– I allowed the children to play and explore however, they wanted. They were in charge of their lives and careers.
- Time- when I originally scheduled the program, I decided an hour would be fine. As the kids came in and started playing and exploring, I threw the clock right out the window. I decided about 20 minutes into the program to let the kids play as long as they wanted and it ended up being close to two hours.
- Parent/ Guardian involvement. This one is huge! So many times, parents come to storytime or special activities and just zone out, or they are on their phones, ignoring what the kids are doing. This activity encouraged parents to play and engage with their children. The children took the lead and directed their adults through each station. The parents/guardians allowed the children to be the ones in charge.
Amberdenise Puckett is a Children and Teen Specialist with the Palm Beach County Library System. One of her passions in the library is programming from baby storytimes, Kindergarten Readiness and Dungeons and Dragons.
This blog relates to ALSC Core Competencies of III. Programming Skills