Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Stuffed Animal Sleepover #4

I'm not sure if Stuffed Animal Sleepovers are old hat by now, but I'm still holding on a little longer. It's a good thing I have been too; I had my biggest turn-out ever last Thursday--for my FOURTH Stuffed Animal Sleepover.

blogged about this program twice before, but it's been a while and, since each Stuffed Animal Sleepover has its own personality (and also because the pictures are SO CUTE), I wanted to write about it again. So. Here I go.

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

As the stuffed animals and their owners arrived, I gave everyone a name tag. I've changed the name tags up a few times over the years but resorted back to my first ever version, mainly because I had a ton leftover and couldn't stand to look at them anymore. I don't often use name tags but they're important for this program so I can (a) know the stuffed animals' names and (b) make sure the right stuffed animals match up with the right kids. This is especially crucial for next-day returns!

Something I did that was new last time (that I repeated this time), was bring in one of my childhood stuffed animals. Last time I took Jelly Beanie (seen below) to the party! He really did a great job. Here he is reading to the other stuffed animals:

Even though Jelly Beanie did great, I decided to spread the wealth a little and bring a different old friend this time around: Simba (from the Lion King) also did a wonderful job!

Once I took the kids back to the program room, I did a regular, simple bedtime-themed storytime. A list of my favorite bedtime-themed books can be found on my Recommended Storytime Books by Topic list.

I started with Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson (as usual), then I sang Five Little Monkeys with the monkey mitt, and then I read Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime by Bob Shea.

After this, 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. Again, this is the same craft I've used for every past Stuffed Animal Sleepover, but it just works! So sue me! I've considered changing it just so repeat program attendees 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 attendees) and it gives them a way to "tuck in" their stuffed their animals before they leave them, which I'm not sure I could do without at this point. Also, it's totally adorable to watch.

I didn't make my own pillow case but, lucky for Simba, Kitty Kitty was kind enough to share her sleeping bag since she's pretty little. The two then became fast friends and I made sure to let Kitty Kitty's mom know how good Kitty Kitty was.

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. The parents always like this part.

Then, when everyone was finished (and when there was about 5-minutes left of the program), we wrapped up with one more book: Tuck Me In by Dean Hacohen. Then I ended by having the group sing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star twice, once normally and once as quietly as possible so the stuffed animals could drift off to sleep. Then the kids kissed their animals goodnight, whispered goodbye to me, and 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. Sometimes matching the sleeping bags isn't so easy so this step can be very critical!

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

First, Simba read the other animals a story (He went to special Stuffed Animals Library School for this).
Then they played cards. Some played Uno.
Next they played computer games. Some played Snoopy and some played Star Wars.
It was 8 against 7 for checkers, but everyone was a good sport.
Everyone cooperated nicely at the Lego table.
Next up, it was puzzle time.
And last, the animals chose books to check out.
I also included individual pictures of each stuffed animal enjoying their book solo (or in some cases, with their sibling):

Thanks to Mary, our clerk who stayed most of the night with me, each stuffed animal got a super-custom-picked book that matched them. 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! 

This means each kid went home with a pile of goodies: their stuffed animal, sleeping bag pillow case, book, name tag, and set of photos from their animal's night out.

Anyway, as usual, the kids liked the print outs, but the parents LOVED the print outs. This has held true every time. In fact, I copied and pasted this exact sentence.

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 method I'd like to add, also, that doing this while 6-months pregnant was even extra awful. I was exhausted and achy. So yes, this was my biggest challenge for sure.

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.

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