This past Saturday, my coworker and I had our Super Hero Training Camp program and it was awesome! While it took a lot of planning, a lot of shopping, and a lot of setting up, it was totally worth it. And although the turnout was smaller than I'd have liked, the kids that did come had a great time. Plus, I think the smaller crew was easier to manage, since a program like this automatically riles everyone up.
In the early planning stages, we started by scouring the internet for different "obstacles" for the kids to do. After lots and lots of Pinteresting, we narrowed it down to a collection of things that seemed both fun and do-able for us. We decided to have eight obstacles in total--mainly, because eight looked neat and pretty on the certificate. We also decided that, as the kids completed each obstacle, they would earn a star sticker in the given spot on their certificate. Here is what that looked like (sans stickers):
The day-of set up was rough. We wound up only having an hour to do it, which was tight for sure since there were so many things to set out and assemble. But with the two of us plus a super-handy page, we were able to hustle and get the program together quickly.
When the kids came in the room, we started by having them put their names on their certificates. Once they did that, we took the certificates from them and then had them color a super hero mask (punched from the Ellison Die machine) and a name tag that included information like their super hero name and their super hero powers. I found these name tags on Sunflower Storytime.
It should be noted that, from this point forward, I only referred to the kids by their self-appointed super hero names: Ice Girl, Fire Main, Girl in Red, etc.
Here is the crew, about to complete their official super hero training.
And then it was time for... drum roll please... the obstacles!
1. The Brick Smash
This was inspired by a story about my husband who, as a child, regularly pretended to be The Incredible Hulk, setting these brick blocks up in a wall and then busting through it with his Hulk Hands. For our first obstacle, we set the brick blocks up like a wall, sitting them on top of the box we store them in so that the whole formation would be kid-height. Then we let the kids just straight up punch through the wall (although we lacked Hulk Hands). They were all totally into it. Who wouldn't be? And as it turned out, the quick re-setting-up of the wall between kids wasn't even that annoying.
2. The Ring of Fire
I was excited for this, but also kind of nervous that (1) someone was going to dive carelessly and hurt themselves or (2) the structure would fall apart after the first kid dove through it and then it'd be ruined. There was no need for me to worry though; they LOVED it and it stayed together perfectly! We made it by setting up a hula-hoop up between two chairs, with Gorilla Tape holding it in place. Then we taped yellow and red streamers from the top and this Firehouse Heroes Fire Garland from Oriental Trading along the the upper rim. It was complete with an air mattress for landing and it was ready to be flopped on!
Fun-wise, I'd say this was the highlight of the afternoon for the kids.
3. The Kryptonite Search
Fun-wise, I'd say this was the opposite of the highlight of the afternoon for the kids. The obstacle was simple, but not the most exciting of the bunch. For this one, we filled a cooler up with black, shredded paper, then stuck green glow sticks from the dollar store, "kryptonite," in the mess for the kids to find. We told them they could only use kitchen tongs to search, not their hands, but it still wound up being too easy. I think the main problem was the glowstick/shredded paper ratio. There were just too many glow sticks--so many that it was almost easier to find one than to not find one. Next time: A larger container with way more shredded paper and way less glow sticks would make this a little more of a challenge, and thus, probably more fun.
4. Bomb Destroying
For this obstacle we had the group work as a team to destroy all the black balloons, "bombs," as fast as possible. This was good in that it was a bit of a lesson in problem solving, but bad in that the bigger and more athletic kids naturally took over. As a former non-athletic kid, I could feel the smaller kids' frustration here. Luckily, the smaller kids had two super hero librarians to make sure that everyone had a fair shot and that wound up being just fine. There were 12 "bombs" to destroy and in general, I think the kids really enjoyed the challenge of destroying them by stepping on them, pushing them up into corners of things, and, as seen below, sitting on them. They were excited and giggling throughout this whole obstacle and I was really impressed with their unabashed ability to pop balloons with all their might, as opposed to cautiously slicing the bottom with a scissor while holding it as far away from them as possible...as some non-athletic librarians may do.
5. The Super Drill
The Super Drill was our take on football's Tire Drill. We used pool noodles taped into circles instead of tires so there'd be less height to leap and less chance of injury (also, they're cheaper). The kids enjoyed hopping through the circles in different ways. This was a quick one to set up, made no mess, and the kids enjoyed it--a win all around. Plus, if we ever do this program again, the noodles are already taped.
6. The Laser Maze
I have been looking for an excuse to do a masking tape Laser Maze for probably two years now. It's a little bit of a challenge to set up because it has to be done in a hallway or other narrow area, but it's every bit as fun as it looks--I tried it! (Sidenote: If no hallway is available, you could probably improvise by attaching the lines of tape between a wall and a row of chairs but I think it'd be restrictive, height-wise, so a hallway is best if you've got one.)
The one problem we had here was that, by the time we got to the Laser Maze, some of the tape had fallen down. Next time, I'd use a stronger tape, possibly book tape or duct tape to attach the red masking tape to the walls. Luckily, the kids didn't care at all and had a good time going through anyway. So did the non-athletic librarians.
7. Target Practice
This was an easy and fun obstacle because we already owned this Tar Grip Toss Game from S&S. We had the kids stand in one of the pool noodles from the Super Drill above and toss 3 tennis balls each. They liked this and probably could have kept tossing for a while if there wasn't the incredibly tempting next obstacle...
8. Lava Pit Crossing
Throughout the entire program the kids were asking us what the pool, "lava pit," was filled with. Like, no matter what we were doing, their attention kept going back to the lava pit. Over and over we told them it was hot lava but eventually they deduced that it couldn't be hot lava because then, if they burned themselves, we'd get fired. This was probably true. So then we told them it was cold lava, but one of the kids said, "No, because when lava gets cold it turns into rock." Hm. So it stayed a mystery because telling them the truth would kill the magic; it was water with pool dye for color and Alka-seltzer tablets for fizz. We set this one up by first filling the pool*, then using a wood board from Home Depot attached with Gorilla Tape to two stools we had in the library already. The board was pretty wide, so walking across was pretty un-challenging, but I think the kids enjoyed it anyway since it hovered over the mysterious, red liquid lurking below.
*Sidenote: When we filled up the lava pit initially, we used a 3-gallon water bottle from a water cooler, dumped it in, and refilled it 4 or 5 times. We had some help from our Maintenance Department, mostly just because we were in a hurry, but overall, filling the pool wasn't a tough job. Emptying it, however, was a whole other challenge. We couldn't figure out how to do it without spilling water (red water) all over the place. So we wound up asking Maintenance to use their mop bucket and somehow, they emptied the lava pit and it didn't even take that long. They're really amazing sometimes.
After the eight obstacles, we had water bottles ready at the Hydration Station, which a kids few took and a few kids didn't. Then last, we ended the program with some cape decorating. The capes were made of garbage bags (found on Our Life in Action) and the kids decorated them with different kinds of tape, scissors, and sheets of foam. Then we trimmed the capes to fit each child correctly and attached them around their necks with Velcro. They had become official super heroes! Even though these were made at the very end of the program, it still allowed the kids to go home with one more thing and also, it looked cute in our group photo.
What worked best: The Brick Smash, Ring of Fire, and Laser Maze were definitely the three most fun obstacles of the day. If we do this program again in the future, I would do those three obstacles again exactly as they were. And I'd probably not change the Target Practice or Lava Pit Crossing either really.
What worked least: The kids were a little bonkers by the end of the program because, well, how could they not be? After doing things like popping balloons and diving through a hula-hoop onto an air mattress, what could we really expect? While yes, this program was one hype-up after another, I think that if we ever do it again, I'd want to do it as a family program, so more kids of different age ranges could be included but their parents would be there to keep them in check. This would help keep the crazy down, I think.
At last, we can all rest easy knowing there are six young super heroes patronizing our library!