One of the programs I inherited when I started my job here two years ago was the school-age Fall Festival. The program originated with my colleague Angie, who now puts her excellent talents to use with teen services, but it was such a hit we wouldn't have thought to drop it. What's great about programs like an annual Fall Festival is that, even though you offer them every year, you can switch up the activities you do in them. You end up with consistent attendance without driving yourself mad through repetition. Best of both worlds.
This year, our Fall Festival consisted of four activities:
I got a bunch of mini pumpkins from a local market and set them out on dessert-size plates to minimize paint spillage. I set out a few autumn-like colors of paint, too: green, yellow, black, and purple, as well as some glow-in-the-dark paint that was a hit. As children got to the program, I encouraged them to get down to painting their pumpkins however they wanted. Now, this is a Fall Festival--not a Halloween program--so I included pumpkins without a directive of jack-o-lanterns or anything else Halloween-related. I found that the kids painted their pumpkins with hugely diverse designs with this minimal instruction; whereas instructions for a jack-o-lantern would have enforced some creative limits, free painting was completely open.
Draw and Tell "The Night Walk"
I told the story of "The Night Walk" from the script and drawing notes on the Notes from the Story Room blog. The story follows a pair of siblings, professing boredom, who accompany their father on a walk outside at night. In the dark, they encounter plenty of new noises--including the sound of the creature that results from this simple draw and tell tale.
Pumpkin Mummy Relay Race
The kids split into two even groups and formed lines for our relay race. The race included two parts. First, each team member was to individually grab two small pumpkins, then speed walk around our course while holding them. When the first team member returned with the pumpkins, the next team member speed walked, and so on. Then, once all the walkers were finished, each team had two rolls of toilet paper and instructions to make two of their team members into mummies. The first team to successfully wrap two entire mummies would win, and incentive that inspired some interesting mummy-wrapping techniques. The excitement was pretty fierce for an activity that took a bit of time. You might say the kids got quite wrapped up in all that excitement. :)
Candy Corn Bingo
Several years ago, my colleague Angie created a set of bingo cards filled with autumn imagery. We break out these cards for the Fall Festival and put out candy corn on the tables as card markers. I call the pieces until every child has won at least once--yesterday we had enough time for everyone to win twice. Each win nets two prizes: a piece of candy and a book. I buy a variety of candy from the dollar store to make our sweets options, and the books consist of ARCs and leftover summer reading prize books. I love seeing that, while kids will choose a piece of candy without giving it any thought, they choose their books carefully. There are always a few kids who ask incredulously if they can really keep the books "for always"; I'm happy to tell them yes.
There you have it: our high-energy, literacy-positive Fall Festival for school-age children. Do you offer fall or Halloween festivals/parties for this age group at your library? What do those programs look like?