Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Polar Express PJ Storytime

Inspired by last year's post from my good friend, Book Girl Nadine, this past Thursday night I finally got to host my own version of a Polar Express Pajama Story Time! I was SUPER excited about it-- bought my supplies about 5 months in advance, and set the program room up about 3 hours ahead of time. I even brought slippers in to work, despite the fact that I intensely dislike dressing up in a costume of any kind. 

Anyway, by a few minutes before program time, here's what I'd prepared:

1. The things you get when you check in: round trip tickets to ride on the Polar Express (These found on Keepin' It Kool in Kinderland, except I resized them to be a little bit larger) and candy cane glow sticks so the kids could (a) get something cool immediately and (b) walk into the dark room safely (even though it totally wasn't very dark at all).

2. I quickly made masking tape train tracks to follow into the room. I stole this idea from The Gala Girls Polar Express Party, but I definitely didn't remember it correctly because the version that I made was lot less cool. But it didn't matter. The tracks were still fun for everyone to follow into the room and only took a few minutes to make.

3. The craft stuff: Lots of assorted Ellison Die Cut train pieces, Jumbo 2" bells, glue sticks, large white construction paper, crayons, red velvet ribbon (pre-cut into strips), thin twine-like yarn, and "Believe" charms from Oriental Trading (hiding in that Dixie cup seen above).

4. I made a little hot chocolate bar! It had hot chocolate (obviously), a big plate of marshmallows, cinnamon sticks (which one boy ate straight up!), mini candy canes, spoons, a small plate of Christmas Tootsie Rolls (confession: I brought these in from home because I had a million and was trying to get rid of them), and water bottles.

Tickets, please!
Another thing I was super excited about was reading The Polar Express with both the book and the ebook! I had the kids sit on the floor, like I would in a regular storytime, but then, in addition to having the hard copy of the book with me, I had the ebook projected on the wall, nice and big so everyone could see the illustrations really well. This created such a mood!

To me, The Polar Express is at least 65% about the pictures. I had this vision of the kids relaxing in their PJs in the quasi-dark room, staring up at the pictures from the book as I read the words to them. And that kind of worked! Many of the kids still looked at me, despite the fact that I tried to draw their attention to the projected book repeatedly. But a few of the kids got the idea; one boy even lay on his back staring up at the ebook as I read! But either way--the darkish room, the classic story, the kids in PJs, the candy cane glow sticks... it was an atmospheric night! I think (I hope, anyway) that it was the kind of night Chris Van Allsburg would approve of.

After the story, it was time to move on to hot chocolate and crafting. The kids were super well-mannered as they waited in line at the hot chocolate bar. I poured them each a small amount of hot chocolate in a Christmas hot cup (which I pre-made with Swiss Miss packets and hot water, then let cool for about 45 minutes in a hot carafe meant for the Keurig). After they got their cup, they walked down the line of "toppings" and customized their drink. Basically though, they all took everything. Despite this, to say I overbought stuff would be an understatement. We had quite a bit of leftovers (I guess I'll be making marshmallow igloos in Books n Play for Pre-K this week).

Once everyone was settled with their beverage, it was time for crafting. If you haven't already guessed, the kids made 1. A fancy sleigh bell (a craft more about the product) and 2. A train scene (a craft more about the process).

The bell was a cool, "The First Gift of Christmas" type bell made with Jumbo 2" bellsred velvet ribbon (which I pre-cut into strips), thin, twine-like yarn, and "Believe" charms from Oriental Trading.

This was super easy and quick. The kids strung the big bells through the velvet string and tied a knot at the top (most with help from me or their parents). Then, I had them string the tiny "Believe" charms on a piece of super thin, kind of rusticy-looking yarn, and then tie that string through the big bell too. Voila! Like I said, this was a quick craft with a nice looking finished product.

Next, the kids made train scenes. I told them they could create their own Polar Express, or any other kind of train they wanted and had about a billion pre-cut Ellison Die Cut train pieces for them to pick through. Coupled with white paper, glue, and crayons, they were set and able to be creative. Here are some of the finished products:

What worked least: It was all really great! One thing that didn't go exactly as I'd planned (but still worked) was that the kids were more into looking at my physical copy of The Polar Express instead of relaxing and gazing up at the ebook projected above them. Had I planned on this happening, I may have ditched the ebook altogether and just turned on the lights so they could see the book better. But also, then the candy cane glow sticks would be pointless and the whole vibe of the room would have been different. So really, I'm not even 100% sure I'd have changed anything at all.

What worked best: They LOVED those silly tickets! It's always so funny when something so simple is the highlight of the program, but in this case, the tickets totally made it! Go figure!

Anyway, happy everything to everyone! May 2016 bring us all luck, love, and happiness. 


  1. Oh how I wish I had a die cut machine...I know you don't necessarily need one...but oh how I want one....! :)

  2. They definitely come in handy!