For the next week and a half, the public schools in New York City are on spring recess. A mere six weeks after taking a week hiatus for midwinter recess, mind you. Sadly there is no spring break for public librarians.
Rather my library is at its busiest when school is out of session, as families look for free, enriching activities outside of their New York City sized apartments. My approach is to offer programs on most days for both the sanity of the kids that stay for hours as well as mine.
During the school year the programming budget is very limited, so all of these suggestions are quite cheap or "free", using old supplies and left over summer reading club prizes. The targeted age range is kindergarten through sixth grade, to be as inclusive as possible. Attendance can vary from twenty to fifty children. So how exactly do we satisfy many children of different ages with little funding?
Hey, it is school vacation after all! Showing a movie is one of the easiest activities to plan -- the most difficult part is finding something to (legally) screen. Weston Woods DVDs come with public viewing rights, and feature animated adaptations of popular books. Occasionally newly released DVDs will grant libraries viewing rights for a short period of time, as I’ve experienced with Wayside School and Pinocchio; otherwise, the fee to show a movie can be $75 and up.
Wikki Stix Workshop
Wikki Stix were truly one of the best summer reading club prizes EVER. Also known as Bendaroos, they are small bendable reusable craft sticks that can be used to create virtually anything. As we still have some left-over from last summer, my co-worker is leading a open ended workshop where kids can place them in designs on coloring sheets or just make whatever they choose.
April Fools’ Day Fun
Our program on April 1st will involve sharing tricky books and crafts. Some possible titles to share are Guess Again by Mac Barnett and What’s Going On In There? by Geoffrey Grahn.
There’s a great recent non-fiction book too, The Kids’ Guide to Pranks, Tricks and Practical Jokes by Sheri Bell-Rehwoldt .
Or you could go old school with the original trickster himself, Anansi.
There are many funny craft options: a trick cup that drips while drinking, an April’s Fool Day card that won't open, and a fake bug on a string to scare others. We’ll also pass out a word search that doesn’t include any of the listed words… let’s see how long it takes the kids to figure it out! All of the necessary materials we already had, such as construction paper for cards, Styrofoam cups, and plastic bugs left over from an insect themed summer reading club a few years past.
BINGO & Lanyard Crafts
Friday is fancy with two options depending on one’s grade level. For children in kindergarten through grade three, Number BINGO it is. There are some serious BINGO addicts at my library -- kids would happily play for hours if allowed. I suppose the simple, competitive element is what is so appealing. Our BINGO set allows up to thirty kids to play at once, and there are small prizes like stickers, tattoos, and erasers (again left-over prizes). My talented, crafty co-worker will be guiding the tweens in making lanyards in the auditorium.
Music & Movement Games
On the last day of break I’m leading Music & Movement Games, as by this time most kids are quite bored with restless energy. I’ve planned many possible activities to adapt according to the ages and interests of the children who attend. Musical Chairs is always popular, along with the similar Hot Potato, Duck, Duck, Goose, Simon Says, and LIMBO. Surprisingly even the older kids enjoy dancing to Jim Gill’s "Silly Dance Contest", or will try "My Bonnie" and "Knuckles, Knees." You could even do the more generic Freeze Dance using any popular CDs or the radio. If you need to bring down the energy level, some low key possibilities are seeing how many words can be made out of “It’s Spring Break”, playing Hangman, or memory games like Grocery Store.
And this is how I’ll be spending my “spring break”, with countless children, at the library.