Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Holiday Craft and Story

This past Saturday night was the big holiday parade in the village of Huntington! In conjunction with this event, my library director was able to set up a sort of parade kick-off program for the kids at the library, and I was lucky enough to be the librarian assigned to do it! I spent a month or so choosing what I hoped to be perfect selection of family holiday stories and the right mix of crafts. It wound up being a fun event for lots and lots of kids!

The program was drop-in style, from 2:00 to 4:00 (but really more like 4:45) and for all ages. I ordered a ton of stuff. I was told to expect crowds and I was told right! We had over 60 people! I decided to have 6 different crafts, each on their own table, and to have the families move around from table-to-table as they wanted (in the same format as the Watercolor Workshop, which really worked well). For me, this format is, for sure, the way to go for an assortment of crafts.

We received many compliments on Saturday's programs so I figured I'd share each craft. They were as follows:

Christmas Tree Ornaments

This was the crowd favorite of all of Saturday's crafts. I purchased these snap-together ornaments from S&S and let the kids just go to town with them. I put out pom-poms, buttons, pipe cleaners, sparkles, feathers, and also paint and paint brushes. It was all super messy and really let the kids be creative. There was one glitch though. The snap-together ornaments each have two different shaped halves that look almost identical--so almost identical that I thought they were all compatible with each other and therefore put them all out in a basket. So kids would pick up two pieces and sometimes they'd snap right together and sometimes we'd twist and push and they'd just never fit together properly. So be warned! Once we were privy to the situation, I put sets together to make it easier going forward and that helped fix the problem. All in all, still the overall favorite.

Paper Snowflakes

This is an easy, classic, and virtually free craft that I was obsessed with as a kid. I tried it a while back in Books n Play for Pre-K but it wasn't a huge hit with that age group. However I found it to be absolutely perfect for the older kids! It seems like they can snip these up for a while before getting bored and some of them were so focused and precise. I think it's the element of mystery--not knowing how your finished product will look until you've unfolded it--that makes snowflake cutting so exciting for the older kids (and the parents too). The only thing to remember with this craft is that the paper must be square! I chose not to pre-cut squares but to instead have the kids trim the paper themselves. No regrets there. It's all part of the experience! I'm glad I included this simple craft in the day's events because it really went over well with many families.

Mitten Hand Print Wall Hanging

This is was an easy kit that I ordered from Oriental Trading that wound up making really cute keepsakes! When I made my sample for this (seen above), I had to borrow kids on the floor because my hand was too big to fit in the mittens. Because of this, I thought it wouldn't be a doable craft for the older children, but it actually worked out totally fine. I guess there's a bigger difference between older kids' hands and adults' hands than I realized. Anyway, everyone loved this! Way more than I had expected! One mom even told me a few days later that she made one with each of her three kids and hung them all next to each other at home. Success!

Penguin Magnet

This was another simple kit from Oriental Trading. I liked this because it was good for all ages, quick, cheap, not paper (I didn't want too many of the crafts to just be paper) and not even remotely Christmassy. Even though this kit was quick to do, the kids really seem to enjoy it--I'm guessing because they made a "thing" (a magnet) and not just a picture. Plus this was great for all ages. I even saw a few moms with teeny babies sitting down to make one of these. Some older kids wound up making a set of them and that was cute too. It was perfect to group with other crafts because it always looks cute and it's hard to mess up. I might not want to use this as a stand alone craft because it doesn't allow for much creativity on its own, but for this situation, it absolutely was perfect. It filled the "thing" component for me.

Chalk Traced Holiday Lights

Thank you, Pinterest. This came from and just looked so pretty and doable. While kind of messy, and kind of less doable than I'd expected (perhaps in part to me using sidewalk chalk instead of something smaller; who knows?), it was pretty and fun for everyone! It turned out that many of the kids didn't want to make a string of lights but really enjoyed just drawing with chalk on black paper. That's cool too! Some people made the string of lights, some made glowing Christmas trees, some made glowing menorahs, and some just made scribbles and happy faces. As the hours went on, some kids even glued my light-shaped, cardstock templates to their projects, using it as an art supply. (I quickly made more.) They were having a good time just doing their own thing and that's all that matters! Sometimes you never know, right?

Color a Snowman

The day before the program, I decided to throw in one more last-minute activity and it was this--a coloring sheet, nothing fancy about it. Yet sometimes I am amazed and how the simplest craft is the most fun. And this was super simple. I had already formatted the "blank snowman" template a while back for Books n Play for Pre-K so it was easy for me to run a few copies off again. While this craft was a bit of an afterthought, the table was never empty! I think the appeal of this is that it works for almost all ages, it's virtually mess-free, and it allows for as much or as little creativity as the colorer sees fit. Everyone likes coloring! Even our pages got in on the action. I'm glad I threw this one in; it worked.

I'd also selected three books for the storytime part of this program: Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner, Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson, and Have You Been Naughty or Nice by Ethan Long. Picking Christmas books felt wrong but the town's parade ended in a Christmas tree lighting with Santa, so avoiding Christmas books also felt wrong. I tried by best to compile a collection that was "light Christmas" and I think I did an ok job with these three. Snowmen and Night is always safe and, while Santa Claus makes a brief appearance in the other two books, they avoid religion completely.

My director and I had discussed how we would go about incorporating the stories in with the drop-in craft, since families would come and go. In the end, it was decided that we'd sort of wing it based on when there were crowds and if the kids came in waves. We wound up holding two little storytimes during the craft, one about 20-minutes into the program and one a little over and hour into it. My director did the reading and she chose to read both Snowmen and Night and Bear Stays Up for Christmas. She read as the kids continued to craft. When she did, some kids gathered around her and some continued to craft, which is about what we'd expected. It really seemed like everyone who did move from the craft to the story though, really liked these books. Something for everyone, I guess. Nobody was bothered by the appearance of Santa Claus or the mention of Christmas. Phew.

What worked least: Although the kids really liked them, the snap-together ornaments from S&S were just junky. I wish I'd paid enough attention when I'd opened the packages to realize that there were two different corresponding halves instead of just tossing them all in a basket and having them not match up right. But once I figured out what happened, and pre-matched the pieces up, it really was a fun and successful craft. And funnily enough, the favorite craft of the afternoon!

What worked best: The overall format of the program was probably its biggest success. I think that having the kids choose what crafts they did and when the did them, sort of gave them a little sense of  independence and made them feel like they were in charge. Plus, they all left smiling and with armfuls of handmade goodies.

This kicked off the holiday season here! December is going to be a fun month for library programs!

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