Monday, December 10, 2012

The Return of the Stuffed Animal Sleepover Story Time

When I hosted my first Stuffed Animal Sleepover and Story Time last spring, I didn't know what type of response to expect. Would families find it too logistically difficult to visit the library in the evening and then again the next morning? Would young children be traumatized at the prospect of leaving a beloved stuffed animal at the library overnight? My concerns, as it turned out, were unfounded; plenty of families loved the idea of the stuffed animal sleepover. They loved it so much that we recently offered another.

The basic format for our most recent Stuffed Animal Sleepover and Story Time was very similar to our spring program. Caregivers brought their children to the library on a Wednesday evening with their stuffed animal friends in tow. As each child brought his or her stuffed friend to the reference desk, I asked for a few details: the stuffed animal's name; the child's name, for the back of each animal's nametage; and any special instructions for taking care of the animal. I learned which stuffed friends needed help brushing their teeth, which enjoyed dancing before bedtime, and which needed a hug before being tucked in. Adorable. (And pro-early literacy! Those kids were all about talking about bedtime rituals!)

A teen volunteer was at the library that Wednesday night to help photograph the stuffed animals doing library sleepover activities--ordering pizza for dinner, playing at the train set, having story time... Having a volunteer on hand to assist with the photos was a HUGE help. Whereas during the last go-round I felt frantic on the evening of the drop-off, this time I was able to get things done at a reasonable clip. I had all of the photos taken on my iPad for easy creation of a slideshow for our story time the next morning; everything felt much more seamless this time around.

On Thursday morning, I woke up the animals and got set up for our story time. The formal program included four main components:

1. Viewing the slideshow of the animals' sleepover antics. Kids and caregivers both love this portion of the program--I had a couple of moms snapping pictures of the projected slideshow before I mentioned I would share the link with them. I used the Haiku Deck app to make this simple slideshow.

2. Sharing a few stories and songs. I read some books that the stuffed animals had "read" the night before: Maisy Goes on a Sleepover by Lucy Cousins; Let's Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy by Jan Thomas; and Waking Dragons by Jane Yolen. We sang a few songs while I played the ukuklele; the favorite was "If All the Raindrops."

3. Enjoying a small breakfast-y snack. I had juice boxes and mini doughnuts set out on a table for everyone. Tests indicate that powdered sugar trumps chocolate, FYI.

4. Getting crafty to create sleepover souvenirs. I printed out a picture of each of the stuffed animals friends doing something at the library. Children were able to cut out that picture and then attach it to a cardboard picture frame that they had decorated. Caregivers particularly love these keepsakes. Each child could also draw and/or write on a small poster to show what their stuffed animal's favorite part of the sleepover was. Funny moment: When I asked one child what her dog Clifford said was his favorite part of the night, she replied, deadpan: "You do know they can't talk, right?"

Children were able to finish their crafts at their own pace before heading home with their stuffed animals. I did share the slideshow with all the caregivers who shared their e-mail addresses, and I got a lot of positive feedback after I sent that message. Already I've heard from families asking when we'll offer the program again--some really enjoyed it, and some weren't able to attend this time. I think it's safe to say we'll be giving this program a permanent spot in our special programs rotation.

Questions? Recommendations? Stories about your own stuffed animal sleepoevers? Share in the comments!

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