Monday, October 19, 2015

Stuffed Animal Sleepover, September 2015

I can't believe I forgot to write about the Stuffed Animal Sleepover that I did a month ago! I'm usually super on my blogging game! Anyway, better late than never, right?

About a month ago our stuffed animal patrons had their third sleepover at the library. I blogged about this program once before, but it's been a while and, since each Stuffed Animal Sleepover has its own personality, I wanted to write about our September sleepover also.

This is a pretty simple program--a few books, a few songs, and a craft--but the real fun starts when the kids go home and leave their stuffed animals behind for an overnight sleepover party!

As the kids arrived last month (it's weird to say that), I gave each of their stuffed animals a simple name tag (with the child's name on the back). Usually, this helps me keep track of things later, although this case, the group was so small I'd have been able to keep track of who belonged to who anyway.

Something I did that was new this time, was bring one of my childhood stuffed animals, Jelly Beanie, to the party! He was very excited about staying over. He hasn't been out of the house in years.

Once I took the kids back to the program room, I did a regular, simple sleep-themed storytime. I started with Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson, then sang Five Little Monkeys with the monkey mitt, and then read One Drowsy Dragon by Ethan Long. (Sidenote: This was my first time reading One Drowsy Dragon to a group and they really enjoyed it and giggled throughout the whole story! It's a keeper!)

Then the kids moved on to the craft tables and decorated "sleeping bags" for their stuffed animals to sleep over in. These are just pillow cases from Oriental Trading decorated with fabric markers. This is the same craft I did in all my past Stuffed Animal Sleepovers and it just works. I've considered changing it just so repeat program attenders wouldn't have a dozen fabric-marker-decorated pillow cases at home, but it's always a hit so why reinvent the wheel? The kids like it (even repeat attenders) and it gives them a way to "tuck in" their stuffed animals before they leave them, which, by the way, is totally adorable to watch.

I didn't make my own pillow case but, lucky for Jelly Beanie, Miss Moo Cow was kind enough to share her sleeping bag since she's pretty little. The two then became fast friends.

As the kids finished up their crafts, I had them come back to the story area to quietly read board books to their stuffed animals as we waited for the whole group to be done. When everyone was finished, we wrapped up with a few more songs. First Itsy Bitsy Spider, then Wheels on the Bus, and then I ended the program by having the group sing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and then sing it again as quietly as possible so the stuffed animals could drift off to sleep. Then the kids kissed their animals goodnight, whispered goodbye to me, then tip-toed out for the evening.

There's a very important behind-the-scenes step that comes next. Before taking the animals out for their library adventure, I always photograph each animal with its sleeping bag and name tag. That way, when the children pick up their stuffed animals the next day, I can match everything up right without having to guess. (Like I mentioned earlier, I had a really easy time remebering who belonged to who this time, but this step is always a good idea anyway.)

Now on to the fun! Here's what the stuffed animals did during their sleepover:

Jelly Beanie read the other stuffed animals a story.
Games: Checkers, cards, and Connect Four.
Coloring and making macaroni necklaces.
Playing with Legos.
Playing computer games.
Doing a big puzzle.
Choosing books.
I also included individual pictures of each stuffed animal enjoying a book solo:

Each stuffed animal got a super-custom-picked book that matched them. I had a clerk stay late with me that night and she helped select the most perfect set of books. Then, as a circulation bonus, when the kids came in the next day to pick up their stuffed animals, I asked if they wanted to check those books out, and guess what? They all did!

As usual, they kids also got their pillow case sleeping bags and a set of photos from the animal's fun night out when they came back to pick up their stuffed animals. Then, in addition to also giving them their animal's book choice, I gave them a coloring sheet too (the one the animals colored during their sleepover). So many goodies!

Anyway, as usual, the kids liked the print outs, but the parents LOVED the print outs. This has held true every time.

What worked least: Rather than something not working, the biggest challenge in doing this program has been trying to do so much of it after hours. I've found that I just can't do most of the photos while there are patrons in the library. Not only are there very few place you can set the animals up without disturbing people, I just kind of want to keep the magic alive a little too. So most of the hard part is done after the library closes--propping up all the stuffed animals, taking all the photos, matching all the stuffed animals back up with their sleeping bags, and preparing the photo print outs (a Publisher document).  I wish I could figure out a way to fix this, but right now, I can't think of a better way to do it. However, I did do it all in record time last month, so maybe practice makes perfect (or, faster, anyway).

What worked best: Singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and then singing it again quietly so the stuffed animals could "fall asleep." We all whispered from this point on and this was a good, natural way to say goodnight and end the program.

Overall, this is a fun, easy-to-run program that is a straight up patron-pleaser. Anyone else do one of these at their library? Let's swap ideas!


  1. These are always fun! I've also been doing the photo printouts with a note about the book the animal chose (It's about a tiger like me!) and the books always get checked out when the animal is picked up. One thing I've found useful is to take a photo of each child holding the animal they are going to leave overnight. This photo goes on each respective child's photo sheet and is not only a nice thing (it's fun to see the kids grow up over the photos since I do this program every six months), it's super-helpful for ID-ing the animals and their owners. Each animal also gets a tag on a rubber band: My name is __ and my best friend's name is _____. So far, everyone has gotten home safely. :-) Thanks for all the great program ideas!

  2. This all sounds really cute! Thanks for the ideas!

  3. What an adorable program! I haven't run a stuffie sleepover before, though I know other branches in my system have put them on. I think all your tips have helped allay my primary fear, which would be failing to connect a beloved stuffie with their little owner. :)

    1. As long as you make name tags and take pictures ahead of time, you should be ok! I find the group photo helpful also.