My biggest success this fall was the implementation of after school programs. I tried a few of these last winter/spring and averaged about 2 kids attending. But I changed the format and programming and this fall they took off!
Lego Building Club: I started this with the laudable intention of having a theme and books for the kids to check out. I opened the door the first day and 30+ kids nearly knocked me over. We've met about 5 times and have abandoned any ideas of themes, moved into the Community Room, and are averaging 40-50 attendees, mainly boys age 6-10, but there's a faithful contingent of about 10 little girls (having some pink legos donated helped) and a ragtag group of middle schoolers who help me set up and clean up and occasionally hang around to build stuff.
Sewing Club: This was successful, but it didn't work. The idea was for kids to come every other week for an hour, pick out a sewing project, and work on it each time they came until they finished. We had an average of about 15 kids attend each program. They had great ideas of what they wanted to make, were very enthusiastic, and parents loved the idea...but it was quickly apparent that the average sewing ability was in the negative numbers. None of the kids could thread a needle and the group was too large for me to teach the basic sewing skills they needed, especially for the kids who needed one-on-one help. Knitting or crocheting was waaaay beyond their abilities as well, although I was able to teach a couple older kids how to hand-knit. We did make a lot of stuffed animals and little pillows out of flannel, but I never want to thread another needle in my life! I'll do more sewing projects in the future, but they'll be one-time things, part of the Make it and Take it program (I also bought a second copy of Jane Bull's Made by Me - if you ever do sewing programs of any kind, get this book!) I plan to try sewing club again some time in the future, but I will make it an actual class and start out by teaching the kids how to thread a needle and do basic stitching, then we'll all work on the same project at once.
Make it and Take it: This is basically the same program I did last spring, but for some reason people are coming now! The average age is 6 - 9, although sometimes the middle schoolers will drop in and make things...exciting. We did a lot of different crafts...
- Artist Trading Cards - the kids didn't get the point of this at all, but they really liked playing with paint.
- Locker magnets and pencil holders - I cancelled the pencil holder part, which involved paint, and we just used massive amounts of glue. It took a little time to explain exactly what this craft was and how it worked, but once they figured it out they really liked it.
- Beading - always a popular one. It quickly changed into "braiding pipe cleaners" since several girls had just learned and wanted to show off their skills...
- Chester stories
- Button men - this required some explanation, but was popular once they figured it out.
- Scarecrows - one of our library staff lives on a farm and donates corn stalks. I forget every year how horrifically messy this is! The kids like it, but some of them get frustrated on how to attach the things together. I think next year we'll paint small pumpkins instead.
- Masks - always a popular craft for all ages
- Alien crafts - we made goo, which is easy to make but kinda messy, and then the kids played around with foil and pipe cleaners while they were waiting their turn. Make sure you take an apron and are prepared for messiness if you do this.
- Cards/suncatchers - this is an easy and popular craft I've done many times. The kids cut a die cut shape out of the paper, then use tissue paper to make a sort of iris folding thing. It also works as a suncatcher. This time, we had a boy mysteriously cut his finger on the die cut machine (seriously, how exactly does that happen? We even had him show us what he did and I still don't know how it happened!). So, next time we do this I'll have to have an extra assistant to man the die cut machine - if it's happened once, it will happen again.
- Treasure boxes - I collected a bunch of shoeboxes and had the kids decorate them. They decided they really wanted to cover them with cloth, so that's what we ended up doing. We used a lot of staples and tape!
- Gingerbread houses - in a moment of what I can only think of as complete lunacy, I decided to bake all the houses. From scratch. That's 16 houses, 6 pieces each...64 pieces of gingerbread, plus 3 extra pieces in case of breakage. Not to mention the 15 cups of royal icing, including the breaking and separating of 14 eggs. It was messy and the kids were frustrated by how hard it turned out to be to put the houses together, but once they solidified, all was well! I wimped out on making another 20 cups of icing and bought regular icing from our locally-owned grocery store, Frank's Market, who are always super great about helping out the library! Next year we'll use graham crackers though.
We had a few other programs, Storywalk (wasn't successful and will probably be combined with the craft fair next year) baby and toddler birthday parties (low attendance) and holiday crafts (next year this will be the gingerbread workshop, I think) but these were the highlights!