Spring Break Programming: We Did It (and so can you)

This year I decided it was time for our library to try out Spring Break programming.  I’d be reading about all these amazing youth programs happening at libraries, getting all inspired and fired up, and I decided five days with no school just seemed like too big of an opportunity to pass up.  Maybe we’d get really low turn-out, too many people traveling, no one really coming out during the week.  But my hope was that we’d give parents with several children, now all at home, a little break and maybe even see some new faces.  It also seemed like a good way to start promoting summer: you think this is fun?  We’ve got two months of this coming!  I decided it was worth the effort to try.

And boy was it!  We had about 150 people attend our five day Spring-Break programming spree (not counting our regularly scheduled programs for the 0-5 set,  Music & Movement and storytimes, which continued on during Spring Break).  This was a GREAT number for us, far beyond my original hopes.  So, here’s what we did and here’s what we learned.

We had programs for children/parents on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.  All our programs began at 2:00, a tradition we carried over from summer.  It’s hard to find a non-nap-non-snack time that works but we’ve found 2:00 is going to be as good as it gets.  Here’s how the week broke down.

  • Monday – Game Day! We put the Wii out and hauled out our board games.  This was a moderate success: about 20 adults and children gamed.  Three 7-10 year olds rocked out on the Wii with Guitar Hero and Super Smash Brothers and the rest all played board games: Memory, Animal Upon Animal, Don’t Spill the Beans, Operation, Chutes and Ladders, and Kerplunk were some favorites.  As always, the slightly older set (6-10) loved the loud games (Operation and Kerplunk) and the slightly younger set (3-5) loved the simpler games (Chutes and Ladders and Don’t Spill the Beans).
  • Tuesday – Teen Day! Our usually scheduled Teen Advisory Group met and then we had an evening screening of The Avengers.  Not great attendance at either, ten total, so  not the worst, but it’s always hard for us to get teens to show up on days there aren’t school, but it was important for us to include teen programs!  Avengers had high interest – we got tons of questions about it and it prompted me to decide to have a summer screening of it for all ages!
  • Wednesday – Clifford’s Birthday Party!  Like many libraries, we decided to celebrate Clifford’s 50th birthday party.   This was our best attended program, a big hit. We had a daycare group show up for this, which added to the complications, but hey, we rolled with it!  About 50 people, adults and children, attended this program.
  • Thursday – Amelia Bedelia’s Birthday Party! We decided having two birthday parties for two beloved characters back to back was a good plan.  This crowd skewed older than Clifford, though we still had younger patrons, which fit well with the Amelia Bedelia jokes.  It was another happy success. About 45 people, adults and children, attended this program.
  • Friday – Makerspace! We launched Makerspace with this program – three craft CreationStations and our Lego-Duplo blocks out.  The CreationStations involved beading, paper weaving, and cutting and gluing. The Duplo blocks, making their debut appearance before this summer’s Lego Club, were an runaway hit – they were used in a lot of active play and used to build fences, skyscrapers, birds, and airplanes.  This was a slower program, but we still had about 25 children and adults attend.

makerspaceMAKERSPACE CreationStation products

What did we do at the birthday party events?  We structured them around our very successful stand-alone summer programs.  Over the past two years we’ve shifted away from “attend every day for a week!” or even “attend every Wednesday!” summer programming and shifted to, instead, one day events focused on a certain theme/book.  I think we’ve seen a lot of gains from that – far more flexibility and variet, more drop-ins, and less pressure about attending (but I can’t come every day!) are a win-win in my book and I think for patrons too.  The Clifford and Amelia Bedelia events were structured the same way.  Here’s the agendas:

  • We read the first Clifford book – it still got lots of giggles and laughs and audience participation, they loved it! “She’s washing him in a swimming pool, how silly!” 
  • They went on a bone scavenger hunt. Our kids LOVE scavenger hunts – it’s always a favorite at events.  We cut out and taped up 50 paper bones all through out the youth services area. They peeled them off and brought them back. They could do this over and over so I recruited some older attendees to re-hide them so the fun just kept going.  I honestly think most kids could have done this the whole hour!
  • They had two simple crafts and this was a big mistake, I learned over this programming extravaganza it’s MUCH better to have more activities than less. Too few and they finish WAY too quickly and start to get restless. One craft was to color and then cut out a bigger bone and then go tape it up on a Clifford birthday cake. (You’ll see from the photo it was pretty adorable!) They also used paint and Q-Tips to paint Clifford, which was a big hit but, again, not enough.
  • We wrapped up with a snack time: red punch, strawberries, cheap cookies, and Chex mix. Nothing too fancy, the strawberries were a little pricey, but I thought splurging for fruit was worth it.  We fed about 30 kids for under $25.

bone cakeBONE CAKE!

For Amelia Bedelia the structure was very similar  but I’d learned from the mistakes the day before and did a better job separating the craft/eating stations (a huge mistake from the day before –  there must be space!) and having more activities on hand.

  • We read the very first Amelia Bedelia.  I admit, I had a staff member in the audience to be a ringer and prompt the laughter and we had a little time to stop and talk about the book.  “Draw the drapes can mean to make a picture of them or to close them!  Which do you think Mrs. Rogers meant?!” I also had a third grade helper in the crowd and that worked quite well, he was a good leader.  Still, the kids got into it as it went along, even the younger ones, and by the time we got to the chicken in suspenders and socks they were practically dancing with anticipation to see what she’d done.  It was rewarding to see the book really work with them and worth the conversation and engaging.  Made me totally fall in love with the cleverness of the books all over again.
  • Their crafts were to decorate the wings of a BUTTERfly, to cut out and color clothes to dress our giant chicken, and to create their own pie and write about what it had inside in little mini-books.  It was just the right amount of crafts: plenty to do for some, enough to focus on just one for other.  Overall, a big improvement from Clifford BUT we were dealing with an older crowd!
  • Snacks were the same but with grapes instead of strawberries.  Even more pricey but…fruit splurging!  They were also in a separate area from the crafts, which took a lot of pressure off all involved!


book display






(The BUTTERfly template: big wings to decorate and color, Amelia Bedelia book display, my student worker all wrapped up in a story.)

I’d be happy to share .PDF or editable files of anything we used for anyone interested.  My amazingly gifted student worker who is also an artist created many templates for us and I bought the pie unit for $3 on Teachers Pay Teachers, the one site I never mind spending money on.

Some takeaways:

  • Mini-books are where it’s AT!   They weren’t really on my radar until I started visiting teacher sites and talking about teaching methods with my roommate the third grade teacher but I love them!  I think they’re great for early literacy and understanding story, and parent-child activity, and EVERYTHING LIBRARY.  I am definitely going to incorporate more into programs and even storytimes.  Anyone else use them and have ideas to share?
  • Love to the publishers, Scholastic and HarperCollins, for promoting the birthdays and creating such fun event kits.  (Clifford /Amelia Bedelia) The event kits were really good motivators and idea sources.  More of this, please!
  • Tied into that: seeing the books check-out was a real highlight and very gratifying   Almost all of them were checked-out at both events.  On Friday, one patron came back to tell me that she and her parents had baked the cake from Amelia Bedelia Bakes Off.  How cool is that?
  • We had the most success in the middle of the week.  I think there was some traveling happening on Friday (it was a slower day in the library in general).  I don’t think it was JUST that those were the events people were interested in, though that was a factor I’m sure,  it seemed like the real momentum was the middle of the week.  Having something every day was easier for promotion, though, and gave us chances to talk everything up.
  • Related: being able to promote things on our newly created (well, a few months ago) Facebook page really helped – posting every day kept it fresh in people’s minds that SOMETHING was happening today and several items got shared by our local online news source which has a few thousand followers.

In all, Spring Break programs succeeded beyond all my dreams!  I’m glad we decided to take a leap and try something new out.  There were a lot of really great, rewarding, library moments: the mom who brought her tiny baby to Clifford and Amelia Bedelia and held him during reading and colored with him in her lap, the older kids volunteering to help during the two events by putting out chairs and hiding bones and helping younger kids color, hearing the marbles crash down during Kerplunk as kids giggled, parents we don’t usually see during the school year telling us they couldn’t wait for summer, parents in general thanking us for being there during the week off, grandparents having a chance to attend programs, Duplo planes zooming around in younger children’s hands while older siblings made beaded necklaces.  It doesn’t get much more inspiring than that!  It was worth the leap of faith – thanks to all of you out there blogging and tweeting about what you do, it makes me want to try. 

Does YOUR library do Spring Break programs or programs on days your school districts are off?  Have you been inspired to try them?  Most importantly: what ideas do you have to share?  

5 Responses to “Spring Break Programming: We Did It (and so can you)”

  1. Marge Loch-Wouters

    Thanks for sharing all the great stuff you did. And you model my favorite youth librarian skill – totally re-analyzing what went right and wrong and building the next program’s success on what you learned! Not enough people do it and your post is just perfect in guiding us through it.

  2. Cassie @ KnowsProse

    My local library had people coming in to teach kids to play bridge a while back. I had just finished reading Louis Sachar’s The Cardturner, so I was all over that idea…but I was too old to attend! Your Spring Break lineup sounds like tons of fun. Awesome librarians!