I have been extremely lazy about posting my programs lately, so I really have some catching up to do. For the past couple months, I’ve been taking a course on early childhood development from birth through age five. I’ve learned a lot about milestones and have a ton of ideas on how to help adults in my storytimes understand their child’s developmental stage. Some of the info has already opened up some good conversations in my baby storytime, but it did suck up all my free time for a while.
Anyway! Now I’m back! With a Ninjago program for the school-aged crowd!
Before Christmas, I made it a goal to offer a school-aged program for every teacher workday in the second half of the school year. I’d started to do this before Christmas, but wasn’t very thorough, so I wanted to prioritize it more after seeing other programs really do well when kids were out of school.
This was a program that I offered in January on a teacher workday. Like programs in the past, I was expecting somewhere around 30 people total. But! Just a couple hours before the program, I got a call from one of my homeschool moms saying that she’d shared the program with her group online and was expecting 25 people from this group alone.
I am so glad she called. Even on short notice, I was able to re-work what I offered by printing out some more crafts, adding a couple stations, and roping in a volunteer to help me manage the crowd.
I love station-driven programs, so I started out by explaining to everyone what was offered at each table, pointing them to a display of lego-themed books, and laying out some simple ground rules. When we started I had around 25 people in the room.
Station One: Bad Guy Knockdown
In the weeks before the program, I asked a couple volunteers to help me make some origami ninja stars to throw at bad guys at this station. We had around a dozen stars in a little bucket on a chair. The chair had instructions for the station. What I didn’t specify was that each child should probably have no more than three turns before cleaning up his stars and letting someone else try.
So, the problem I had here as the crowd continued to swell was that a handful of boys were hanging on to all the ninja stars and dominating the station, even fighting with each other for more stars. I had to step in a couple times and take away all the stars, sending the boys to other stations. I was a big meanie.
Station Two: Concentration (balloon balance)
This was a really fun station, but the issue I had here was that our “staff” (a section of pipe insulation similar to a pool noodle) was walking away and being carried around or used to bash other kids. I had my volunteer stay between this station and the next one to remind everyone to put everything back on the table.
Station Three: Agility (cup stacking)
At this station, kids were challenged to stack cups as high as they could either in a pyramid or straight up and down. After I showed a couple how to quickly slide cups down the pyramid, they also competed to see how fast they could take down their structures. Not a lot of issues here other than the cups scattering from time to time. My volunteer helped keep this area neat, too.
Station Four: Paper Lanterns
This was a more lengthy activity, but I left it totally up to adults to guide kids through the craft. I had instructions on the table with photos to help with each step. All the necessary supplies were available. In the beginning, when things were quieter, I saw several families enjoying this station, but with more kids and more noise, kids got distracted pretty quickly.
Station Five: Find Sensei’s Beard (and color it)
This was a station where I improvised to work with a bigger group. I’d scattered beards throughout the library for kids to find and tape to the sensei. When I learned we’d have a lot more people, I printed more beards and added a table to color them before putting them on.
(Yes, I drew him. Don’t make fun of him!)
Station Six: Free Lego Fun
With more kids than expected, I needed another station where kids could just be occupied while waiting for other activities to free up. I dumped a bunch of duplo blocks onto my storytime rug and called it good. 😉
About 15 minutes into the program, our numbers swelled from 25 to 75 with around 40 kids ranging from overwhelmed, to hyper, to terrified. A lot of adults missed the instructions and the decibel level was just going up and up.
So I waded into the middle of the room and shouted for everyone to stop and gather around the rug. Once I had everyone there, I explained that we had a lot of people who missed the introduction and I was going to go over them again. I went from station to station and explained exactly what I wanted to see AND what I didn’t want to see (taking things from the table, hogging the game, bashing each other, running). Since I had observed that only about half of the adults were staying with their kids, I also explained in the kindest way possible that with this many people, I really needed help engaging kids. I asked adults to stay within arms reach of their child so that they could help explain the stations and rules and really enjoy this time with their kids. Then I released everyone again.
Even after explaining all this, there was still some insanity going on. I had to take away the ninja star toss altogether because I couldn’t keep a gang of boys from hogging it and I had to clean up a puddle of pee (where the parent didn’t tell me, another mom clued me in). I could not stop kids from running and yelling to save my life, but it was better than before our little chat. It was interesting to say the least.
At least the activities were well loved and the program was extremely popular!