Thursday, July 6, 2017

Campfire Stories for the Fourth

Last July, I did a program called Campfire Stories, where we read stories around the "campfire," did a fire-themed craft, and made s'mores. It was mostly a success (aside from me not being wild about my story choices or really loving my craft).

So this year, I brought out the campfire again, but to alleviate my issues with last year's version of the program, I made the program less "campfire-themed" and more about July 4th.

When the kids came in the room, I had the lights out, the campfire set up on the floor with logs around it (care of my husband's wood burning stove stash), books set up, and pieces of foam mats (borrowed from my Share & Play Babies program) as spots to sit on (because I will forever associate campfires with Girl Scout camping, where we had to tote homemade situpons through the woods so we'd have a cleared-off spot to plant our butts).

Here's how it looked:

I had each kid plop on a mat (with the flashlights they'd brought with them) and I began to read. Before the program I'd pulled five books out and decided that I'd choose my stories based on the group. I wound up reading Red, White, and Boom! by Lee Wardlaw and Should I Share My Ice Cream?: An Elephant & Piggie Book by Mo Willems.

Red, White, and Boom! was only okay. I kind of felt like I had to read a Fourth of July book since this was a Fourth of July program, but when I looked through a bunch of them, I didn't find one that I absolutely loved. I picked this one because it was easy, the illustrations were nice, and it rhymed. But I didn't love it. And from the looks of the kids, I don't think they did either. Maybe if I start looking now I'll find a better book for next year.

Anyway, it's good that I read this book first because the kids had a pretty good attention span at the start of the program and, once I announced that  I'd be reading Elephant and Piggie next, all was right again with the world.

I may have bragged about this before but I have to say, I do a mean Should I Share My Ice Cream? monologue.

I considered reading a third book but decided to skip it since there was so much else to get to. Still lined up I had two crafts, a photo backdrop, and s'mores!

The first craft was fireworks painting, stolen from

It's so easy! It's just toilet paper rolls with slits cut vertically along the bottom so you can fan them out to make burst-shapes. I did change my version of this craft a tiny bit from CraftyMorning. I swapped out the white paper for black (way cooler!) and traded the red, white, and blue paint for the similar-but-prettier magenta, white, and teal. I also put out white crayons so the kids could add details if they wanted to and, at the end, I offered red or green glitter (which was only to be applied by adults) to top off their fireworks!

It didn't occur to me that I had already put out the 4th of July Self-Adhesive Shapes (these from Oriental Trading) in preparation of our second craft, so many of the kids wound up sticking these on their fireworks scenes as well. Luckily we had plenty (500 to be exact), so this was no big deal.

Here are a few of the beautiful fireworks scenes. They came out really nice!


Next it was time for craft number two! Picture frames! I used these frames from Oriental Tradingthese Fourth of July stickers from Oriental Trading, and this fireworks backdrop from Oriental Trading. Here are two of the results:

This was fun and cute, but not without a hitch. The plan was: The kids were supposed to come up to the backdrop one-by-one as they were working on their crafts, get their photo taken, and then I was supposed to email the pictures really quickly to our clerk, Mary, who would hop into her office, print them out and then come back and deliver them to the children before the end of the program.

"I don't think so!" said the library's wifi!

The kids were happy to make their various crafts, then sit around the fire with s'mores, but unfortunately, everyone had to wait for their pictures until I could make my phone and the wifi play nicely with each other.

S'mores around the fire was the last thing I had lined up the night. Like last year's program, I used marshmallow fluff, chocolate bars, and graham crackers. No, the chocolate bar doesn't melt next to fluff the way it does next to a roasted marshmallow, but my options were limited here without access to anything hot! And I wasn't about to have a line of kids at the microwave.

Anyway, does this look like it didn't work to you?

Nope. It worked perfectly! And do these kids look like they're upset by their non-melted chocolate?

Nope. They were enjoying themselves completely!

As the program came to a close, Mary started to appear with some of the printed photos. The wifi finally cooperated! The parents and kids were actually totally content to wait a couple of minutes extra so they could take home their pictures. What a great community I work in!

Here are few of the cuties against the backdrop:

What worked least: The pictures! What a mess that whole thing became. While it all worked out fine in the end, it certainly wasn't ideal for me to have to send the photos to Mary three times or for the families to have to wait around an extra 10 minutes after the program for the pictures they were promised. This needs to be ironed out if I decide to repeat the program next year!

What worked best: The obvious answer here is the s'mores, because the snack is pretty much always what works best in these types of programs. The insightful answer here is the fireworks painting paired with the foam stickers, because it was the perfect mix of process and product, it was mixed media, and it included the use of recycled materials (and then, of course, countered that with foam stickers. Oh well.)

Such a fun program! Hope everyone had a great Fourth of July!

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