Dino Mania! A Spring Break Program

School Age


The month of March was hectic for me at work. I had so many programs and collaborations going on that I didn’t get a whole of time to plan and prepare for any of them. Never good! Luckily I planned this program to be pretty simple. It was Spring Break, and that meant families would be looking for easy ways to spend quality time together. Since I was going for easy for me, too, I decided to make it a family movie day with some activities to extend on the experience.

I showed The Good Dinosaur, which was a new release, and created a few stations and activities to explore before the movie. Here are my stations.


Dino Excavation Station

I found some dinosaur figures in the party favor section of my local Wal-Mart and bought a few packs. I buried each pack in a bowl of chocolate pudding with a marshmallow surface. There were wipes at each bowl to allow kids to wipe off the dinos before they took them to a table to identify them.

dino ID

Dino Safari


For this station, kids donned a mask, picked up their search sheet, and went searching around the library for those dinosaurs. Since this program was in the council chambers that’s connected to this library, the safari was a tricky way to get them into the library to look around and count them in our door count.

Kids got to keep their masks, which were also found in the party favor section at Wal-Mart. (Bookmarks above them are dinosaur-shaped and leftover from another program.)

Cave Painting


I set up a few tables in the room and draped them with black tablecloths to create “caves.” I explained that our movie would have a cave man and that humans used to make paintings as a way to tell stories. I asked them to create their own stories inside the caves.

These activities took around 20 minutes for most families to complete and when I saw that everyone was finishing up, I started our movie.


As the opening credits were playing, I pointed out exits and explained that no one’s feelings would be hurt should anyone choose to leave early. There were some preschoolers in my crowd and I said this to make them feel a little more empowered if (and when) those children got bored and disruptive.

The Good Dinosaur is not the most exciting kids’ movie I’ve ever seen. I watched it the weekend before the program and considered choosing another movie instead, but thought that since I’d advertised for this one already, I’d better stick with it. My advice would be to pass on this one as a program pick.

Did this post help you? It took around 2 hours of my personal time to share with you. If you would like to send me a dollar for my time, I would not be opposed. 


Fall Passive Programs

I really like to have passive craft activities in my library and fall is my favorite season for this! Here are a couple crafts that are easy to set up as passive programs.

Sticker pumpkins!

sticker pumpkin

So you don’t want pumpkin guts all over the library or stab wounds from carving mishaps? Try this activity instead. It’s perfect for toddlers and preschoolers, but older children can get really creative, too.

Just set out some adhesive foam sheets, some pre-made parts, and ideas to get kids going. Scissors are required for optimal creativity, but you can also just create a whole lot of pre-made pieces if you’re feeling cautious.

Watercolor pumpkins!


For this, kids need to scribble all over coffee filters, spray them with a little water, pat them dry, and then glue them to a pumpkin outline. It’s easiest if you leave the pumpkin outline on a whole sheet instead of pre-cutting them, because then you can trim off the excess coffee filter that will otherwise stick out behind your outline. You can hold on to a water bottle at the desk and even help young kids squirt their creations.

These activities were big hits on Halloween, but pumpkins easily flow into November.

From Lisa Shaia at Thrive After Three

Here’s a fabulous pumpkin game! And if you’re coming up on some cold weather (I still have another month or two), try her snowman scavenger hunt, too! Her book character scavenger hunts are my favorites.

From Sturdy For Common Things

Please check out this amazing series of storywalks! Doing one inside the library just makes so much sense, and this team even created extension activities for the stories. It would be easy to do one with stories about being thankful or pumpkins in the coming months.

From Hafuboti

If I live 100 years, I will never forget DINOVEMBER! I can’t even…

Okay, world! Go try some things!


Happy Birthday, Clifford!

Here’s another teacher workday program that could work for preschool-aged or school-aged children. In my advertising, I said it was best for ages 2-8, but 12 and under were welcome.

Clifford the Big Red Dog is one of those classic characters that still enjoys some popularity with new generations of kids. Parents love that he teaches lessons on friendship and kindness and helping others. I think his messages are perfect for the prek-2nd grade crowd, and I was so excited when I saw the author’s birthday coming up in February. I checked the school calendar and found a teacher workday for offering this program at my library. There was a hitch in the plan when snow days erased the teacher workday, but some schools and preschools were still out for snow, so we still had a good turnout.

I started out with a short storytime featuring a couple songs and a Clifford book. We did a version of Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, but instead, I said, “Red dog, red dog.” Then I sang If You’re Ready for a Story to the tune of If You’re Happy and You Know It, and including some dog actions (wag your tail, give a howl, dig a hole).

I chose Clifford the Firehouse Dog because I saw some potential to partner with our local fire department to teach kids about fire safety. They were happy to help, so after I finished reading the story, a fireman came to briefly talk to the kids. They also got to go outside and explore the rescue fire truck. They were allowed to climb into the fire truck and try on a helmet. Lots of photo ops for parents and grandparents!

After the truck drove away, I led children back into the library for a few relaxing crafts.


I scattered some kittens who needed rescuing inside of picture books in the library. I asked kids to help Clifford find them for a sticker. I tend to have a station like this because our program room is outside the library and I want to make sure most of the kids make it inside and look at the books. (And I also want them to be counted in our door count.)

dog biscuit

To make a dog biscuit, kids scooped out a little clay, flattened it on our table cloth, cut with a cookie cutter, and peeled away the excess. I had beads, jewels, pom poms, and feathers to add. I also added some plates for adults to take them home to dry. The kiddos loved this activity.

clifford puppet

A Clifford puppet was really simple to prep. I just drew a template, copied it onto red cardstock, and put out supplies to cut it out and draw a face. I also had big popsicle sticks that could be added.


Finally, I had a simple coloring station as well. For kids who were on the older side, I asked them to fold them in half and decorate the blank sides as a birthday card for Clifford.

This event went really well. We had a good crowd despite the weather complications and it reminded me just how much I love to do programs for the preschool crowd. Their little faces as they asked me why Clifford wasn’t there broke my heart, but they loved the fire truck and the crafts. I got lots of little hugs.


(The Trials of) Family Day

Over the summer, I decided that I really wanted to host a Family Day at my library. My vision was for a small, laid back sort of festival with snacks and games and mini-presentations from other departments who work with children and families. I started reaching out to organizations and businesses in my area in July, calling and emailing probably 20 groups before my deadline. Among them were the Humane Society, social services, police and fire departments, the local music factory, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, afterschool centers like the YMCA, and bakeries and fitness coaches. I had a rough idea of what I wanted to see and it looked a little like this:

A Saturday from 10-1

Slots for speakers every 30 mins

Passive library activities on side tables

Orgs and county/city departments on tables toward the front of the room

After a lot of communication over the course of a couple months, I found out that a lot of other groups had this same idea for the same weekend. Many contacts were loaded with other events, so I had very few yes’s. I wound up booking social services, our police and fire departments, and our local Boy Scouts troop (thanks to a mom who is a champion for our library) to come and set up tables to speak to families all day, and a bakery and our hospital were sending speakers to do do demonstrations. The rest of the time, I filled in with a combination of passive and active programs run by me. The schedule turned out like this:

Sept. 13, 10-1

10 am: Car seat safety

10:30: Make and take craft

11: Family Dance Party

11:30: Cupcake decorating

12:30: A Maze for Minnie

Not too bad for me.

If you’re a librarian reading this, though, you probably know that this is the part where things don’t go as planned. I mean, there’s a reason this shirt exists:

Let The Librarian Handle It t-shirt  -- This needs to be my uniform at work

The day before the event, I called our baker to be sure she was still coming. No dice.

But it was okay. I didn’t ask for a big commitment from her because I knew there was a possibility that this could happen (after I’d already advertised for it), so it was easy for me to cover for her. I just stopped by a grocery store on the way home for supplies and baked the cupcakes myself.

The day of, I also heard from my other speaker that she was very sick and couldn’t make it. At the time, it was 9:30 am and dumping rain, so I wasn’t optimistic that people were going to come for her 10 am slot, anyway. She was reassured that she could come speak any other time for my storytime crowd. No problem.

Around the time that I hung up with her, though, I noticed that the library was not only humid, but steadily growing hotter.

That’s right. The air conditioning had been thrown off by a big storm the night before.


It took a couple hours for us to get a hold of anyone, so our AC wasn’t restored until 12ish. In the mean time, I brought out small cups and reminded everyone to keep drinking water from our fountain.

I was very worried that the combination of all these things would kill my Family Day, but my twitter friends were there to remind me to just have fun. Librarians are such great friends. Adopt one today. 🙂

Actually, the kids didn’t seem to care that it was very warm.

To cover for the sick presenter, I brought out the crafts early. I had pipe cleaners, plastic string, and beads for jewelry and melty beads (also called perler beads, I think) for making patterns, figures, or keychains. The melty beads were the biggest hit, but I quickly found out just how fickle those little things are. They were time consuming, though, and in this case, that was a good thing.

meltybeadsTo keep everyone from getting too hot, I shortened the dance party by about ten minutes and kids compensated by making more crafts.

While I worried the cupcakes might not be cool enough without all the goodies a bakery could provide, the kids were thrilled to add icing and sprinkles and candies to their naked cupcakes. They didn’t know or care if something else had been planned.

Since some kids (and adults) were getting too warm, I brought out Minnie a little early and let everyone pet her before they left.

How rude of me. Have you met Minerva Louise yet?

minnieThe white ball of fluff is Minnie. The chocolate-y Princess Paws is Luca, one of my dogs.

We still had a few families who stayed, so I brought out boxes and cut to the final activity, which was STEM in a sneaky way. I had around 12 boxes and I asked kids to make a maze or obstacle course for her to go through. At one point, it was a group of just 5 girls going to town. They made a house for her, a picture for her wall, and a toy before they got down to business and started construction on a tunnel.

tunnelgirlsI provided packing tape, markers, glue, and construction paper and gave them about 15 minutes to work. Halfway through, a few boys arrived, but were content to work on coloring the tunnel.

wholetunnelSo this was the end result. As you can see, there a few holes in their engineering, but it worked. I brought out Minnie and she made it about halfway through before being too freaked out by all the kids gawking at her. She froze and I just quietly asked all the kids to sit on the carpet and I would get her out. It was a nice surprise to me that all the kids were very respectful of her and of me when I asked them to give her some space. It helped that the kids were mostly older than 7 and understood when I explained that this was her first time being around lots of kids at one time. I explained that bunnies like quiet voices, too, and they were all pretty quiet and gentle. They weren’t disappointed at all that she hadn’t made it very far through their maze. They told her she’d done a good job on her first try.

So that was Family Day. Ultimately, around 50 people came through, which wasn’t too shabby under the circumstances.

If you ever wonder what you need to be a small-town/rural librarian, it’s flexibility and lots of optimism.


Brytani Begs for a Dance

Last Saturday I kicked off a new storytime/preschool offering: Family Dance and Learn. I started this program, to be held the first Saturday of every month, as part of my leap into more diverse offerings for families. Throughout the year, in all our branches, only one kind of storytime was being offered: a mixed-age, ECRR storytime. It kept life simple for me as someone who was doing three each week, because I could simply repeat the same storytime in my different sessions.

Before the summer began, I decided I needed to make a change for my patrons. Toddlers and active children were not able to contain themselves in my family storytime, and often parents and grandparents of these children left early, embarrassed.

There’s nothing that makes me sadder than having parents and grandparents wonder aloud to me about why their children can’t behave in storytime. I do not believe that one storytime model can reach every child in a certain age range, and it’s extremely difficult when you have birth through age five or six in a room together. I believe that when adults try to help their children fit into a program that’s not working for them, it leads to frustration and doubt and I’ve seen this affect the self-esteem of some kids.

Instead of being a source of disappointment for these families, I want to be able to offer different options for different learning styles and developmental stages. I want to set up kids to succeed with programs that work for their needs.

So Dance and Learn was born as a way to reach all my wiggly, rowdy kids. I studied other examples, most of all Amy Koester’s. I borrowed a lot of ideas, but I also had a couple goals of my own. I wanted this to encompass the whole family, not just preschoolers. For that, the music needed to be very well known and super infectious. I wanted kids to have an opportunity to really learn. I decided I would add in a nonfiction title that related to the sing-along books I selected and include songs to sing with sign language. I also wanted to be sure to repeat again and again that singing together is great for phonological awareness and growing a sense of community and family. Dancing, for that matter, can be important to developing motor skills in little ones.

Since I’m on a mission to promote library resources, too, I used music that could all be found on Hoopla. Mostly what I found was Disney music–but hey! Disney music is very well known and all ages love it. Here’s the plan I laid out:


Let it Go- Frozen soundtrack

Blow bubbles to this song and let the kids pop them. (Popping requires hand-eye coordination. Yay, motor skills!)

I Just Can’t Wait to Be King- The Lion King soundtrack

Pull out the scarves and wave them as we walk around the room–stopping to shake our fingers at the sassy part (“No one saying do this, no saying be there…”) and waving in circles during the chorus.

Croaky Pokey by Ethan Long

Talk about left and right before this book.

Hip Hip Hippety Hop (check it out on Jbrary)

Talk about sign language–what it is and why people use it. Demonstrate stop sign.

Frogs by Gail Gibbons

Explain that this is a book of true things about frogs and paraphrase text, pointing out pictures.

Happy by Pharrell

Use shakers and free dance.

See the Little Bunnies Sleeping (again, Jbrary it)

So much impulse control! I love this song and game.

If You’re Hoppy by April Sayre

Only if the group seemed up for another book.

Under the Sea- Disney’s Greatest vol. 2

Have parents help me hold the parachute and wave it gently (like the sea!) while the kids played underneath.


Here’s what actually happened.

On the day of the program, the weather was just nasty. Still, we had a couple kids in the library (a toddler and a preschooler), so I asked their parents if they’d like to participate.

My “you know you want to” face:


Of course they hadn’t planned to stay for a storytime, but they were gracious and decided they could stay for a few minutes.

We got through the first two songs and Croaky Pokey. It wasn’t much, but let me just tell you…it was DELIGHTFUL. I can already tell this is going to be a favorite program for me. The moms were laughing hysterically at us (in a good way) and recorded everything.

I can’t wait to do more of this.