Yesterday was the first day of a new program at the library. Talk about butterflies! This was really the first library program that I've worked on developing myself (as opposed to inheriting outlines or routines from others) so let me tell you, I was nervous!
At my library we offer two early literacy programs per week for our small town of just over 5,000 residents. Wednesdays are our toddler/preschool story times, and Fridays - up until this week - are a drop-in craft activity that, due to staff time constraints, typically amounted to coloring pages cut out and taped onto construction paper backgrounds. We definitely have regulars at the craft days, but Fridays turned in to more of a social hour for the grown-ups than entirely focused on the kids and early literacy practices. Since I started at the library just over a year ago, these craft days and ways to revamp them had been on my mind, but it was only recently (with the hiring of additional hourly staff) that I've been able to really devote time to thinking about potential changes to the program.
With the anticipation of more program prep time on the horizon, I talked with our children's room staff member who organizes the early literacy programs about some potential changes to our Friday craft days. She gets tired of doing the same thing each week, too, so she was on board to change up our approach to Fridays. With more free time during the day, I'd be able to assist with the program and to prep for it, too - something that her half-time schedule simply did not allow for.
We bounced some ideas around as our pre-holiday programs wrapped up, and eventually settled on a program that would be part-music and movement, part-hands-on activity that would draw heavily from early art education curricula. Especially during our cold winter this year, we were noticing that the kids really needed to get out their wiggles during story time, so we wanted to make sure we accounted for that with the new/expanded Friday program. We've also been fortunate enough this year to acquire a lot of new props - a parachute, scarves, beanbags, and handbells - so we wanted a dedicated time each week when the kids could work and play with those.
Together, we arrived at the title "Movers & Makers" for the program - something that parents could look at and recognize the two main components of the program. Our activities are aimed at the 18 mos - 3 years crowd, with older siblings and friends welcome (preschool age kids are fabulous role models and helpers and we didn't want to exclude them). I sourced some program templates from libraries that I know are doing fun and effective programs for that age group, and cobbled together a program template based on the outlines I gathered. Our template has a lot of activities on it, because let's face it, there's nothing worse than sitting up there feeling panicky because every finger play you've ever learned has gone out of your head.
Because we were keeping with the same time on Fridays as our programs had always been, we didn't need to advertise the new program too much. We wrote an article about the revamped program for our local paper, and posted about the changes on our Facebook page complete with a photo of some of the props we'd be using.
So - what'd we do on our first day? Like I said, we definitely over-planned with our activities, but better that than the alternative! Here's a quick overview:
- As people came in, we used bubble blasters to give our on-time arrivals a special welcome. We sang "The Bubble Song" by Pam Schiller and encouraged the kids to pop the bubbles while we sang.
- After bubbles, we did a name game that ended up going a little long because we had so many people! (Not complaining about this!) In the future, we will likely do a drum welcome (each person hits a drum and says their first name) since that goes a little faster.
- A "Walking, Walking" song that gets kids walking, hopping, running, and stopping!
- Our letter-sound of the week (this week was B-B-B).
- The A-B-C handjive.
- An on-your-feet activity about colors.
- Jim Gill's List of Dances. They liked this so much we did it twice - from beginning of the list, and then starting at the end and working our way up the list.
- We will end each program with "We Are the Dinosaurs" by the Lori Berkner Band.
Normally we'd also do a prop-based set of activities (I was planning on using the parachute this week) but we simply ran out of time.
Then it was time for the "Makers" part of the morning. For our first week we did "no mess finger painting" with primary colors to talk about what new colors we could make using red, blue, and yellow. We had prepped two folding tabletops with projects ahead of time and simply moved the tabletops right onto the floor so that the little ones could sit directly on the floor and do the project on the hard table surface. The kids (and grown-ups) really liked this simple, mess-free project.
Note: I LOVE the toddler art class ideas by Carissa Christner at Library Makers. I'm sourcing project ideas for this program from her website.
We got all-around good feedback from attendees on our first attempt at this program. As far as future adjustments go, we'll scale back the introduction portion since that went a little long, and we'll prioritize our weekly prop activities to make sure that the kids have a chance to use them in the program. And, as long as we still have our audience's attention, we'll allow the Movers part of the program to go longer than the originally stated thirty minutes. We are due to get some awesome carpet squares so we're looking forward to using those hopefully in our second week of Movers & Makers - this week we made do with a mat and some quilts.
ote: we are lucky enough to have two staff members who can partner to present this program. It did take several hours of prep work to make the first program run the way it did!