Saturday, May 19, 2012

Stuffed Animal Sleepover Story Time

I'm always looking for ways to put a new spin on story time. I'm interested in adding in music, science activities, play... all sorts of things to promote literacy, a love of books, and a love of the library. I've read and heard about stuffed animal sleepovers at the library several times over the past year. Boy am I glad I gave this program a try!

Bedtime at the library sleepover!
The concept is straightforward: kids drop off stuffed animals at the library in the evening, and those stuffed animals spend the night at the library doing all sorts of fun things. The stuffed animals are then waiting for their respective owners at a story time the next morning, where the night's activities are recounted. I was a little nervous about marketing this program--would the description be enough to get the two-part event across? I ended up e-mailing registered participants the day before the drop-off to reiterate how the program would work, and happily there was no confusion as to the logistics of the program. I was also somewhat surprised by the number of families who registered for and participated in this first-time program: 18 kids brought stuffed animals to the library and picked them up the next day, a high number for a preschool story time outside of our regular weekly morning program.

Little Green Man and Turtle
explored some picture books.
The most satisfying aspect of putting on this stuffed animal sleepover story time was the excited feedback of the kids who participated and their caregivers. When the kids dropped off their stuffed animals, they were very adult about the transaction, responsibly informing me of any special needs on the part of their stuffed friends. When they picked up their stuffed animals the next day and saw what they'd been up to all night at the library, they had some tremendous looks of magic in their eyes: Look what wonderful things my friend got to do at the library! Caregivers, too, said they were impressed with the program--a few families even came from a few towns over to participate.

When all was said and done, this story time event didn't take much more planning or work than any other story time. Even if it had taken more time than other programs, it would be well worth repeating. Here's what I did:

The Night Before
The Drop-Off
     Families were encouraged to bring their preschoolers to drop off their stuffed animal friends between 5 and 8:30 in the evening, which coincided with my shift of the reference desk. I had prepared blank nametags before the drop-off, and as each child introduced me to his or her friend, I made a nametag for the stuffed animal. I also made a point of asking if the stuffed friend had anything special he or she needed before bedtime. A lot of kids said to make sure friends had a drink of water, heard a bedtime story, and got tucked in. I made notes of these details, and every child walked away from the drop-off feeling confident that all of the stuffed animals would be in good hands.

Harry the Bear read Where the Wild
Things Are
 before bedtime.
The Sleepover
     This bit of the program is, admittedly, a bit frantic if you're keen on finishing it before the library closes. I rushed around the library taking photos of all the sleepover activities the stuffed animals participated in: book cart races, playing at the train table, taking turns playing computer games, playing hide and seek in the stacks... I made sure to get photos of every stuffed animal at least twice, and I made sure the pictures included the activities the kids had mentioned as important to bedtime rituals. I then put all of the photos I had taken of the sleepover into a slideshow with some captions, which would serve to recap the sleepover portion of event at the story time.

Story Time
     I had set all of the stuffed animals out in a circle in our story time space before kids started arriving. As soon as I opened the program room door, kids rushed to see their stuffed animal friends and to "chat" about what they had been up to. Those greetings were priceless.

Opening Song: "Alive, Alert, Awake, Enthusiastic"

I'm alive, alert, awake, enthusiastic.
I'm alive, alert, awake, enthusiastic.
I'm alive, alert, awake,
I'm awake, alert, alive,
I'm alive, alert, awake, enthusiastic.

alive = touch knees
alert = touch waist
awake = touch shoulders
enthusiastic = jazz hands over head]

     This song is a popular morning song at the summer camp where I worked, and it is a great morning alternative to "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes." It gets the blood pumping, and it introduces some fun new vocabulary, too. Add in the options to speed up or slow down and you've got a giggle-inducing opening number.

Visual: Stuffed Animal Sleepover Photo Slideshow
     I had the slideshow of sleepover photos cued up, and I took several minutes narrating the stuffed animals' fun night at the library. The best reactions from the audience came from the images of stuffed friends having a bear-led story time and, understandably, being cutely tucked into their sleeping spots.

Story: Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems
     This wonderfully-illustrated story tells of a young girl and her trip to the laundromat, where she accidentally leaves her precious stuffed animal friend Knuffle Bunny. Children always connect to this story--it explores the fear they all have of losing track of their stuffed animal friends while simultaneously showing a happy reunion in the end. Grown-ups love seeing this story read aloud, too, because Willems portrays the young girl's parents perfectly. And, really, is anything Willems does ever disappointing? (No.)

Story: Time to Sleep Sheep the Sheep! by Mo Willems
     Willems has been doing a series of short picture books featuring what I call Animals the Animals--in this story's case, the main character is Sheep the Sheep. In Time to Sleep, Sheep the Sheep goes from friend to friend getting everyone ready for bed. They have a drink, they brush their teeth, they go potty (kids love the inclusion of this before-bed ritual, and the accompanying illustration is hilarious), and then finally they settle down to sleep. Everyone except Owl the Owl, that is--in true goofy Willems fashion, Owl the Owl remains wide-eyed and awake and asks his sleeping pals if anyone wants to play checkers.

Song and Dance Break: Any song that would befit a stuffed animal parade
     We had a parade to end the story portion of our story time and to move us over to the snack and craft tables. Kids grabbed their stuffed animals and paraded around the room, making a big show of lifting up their stuffed friends and dancing with them.

Snack: Mini doughnuts and apple juice boxes
     Those animals had been in the library all night. Of course they were hungry! I don't usually do any sort of food in my preschool story times, but this special event merited a sleepover breakfast-style snack of doughnuts and juice boxes. I cleared those snacks with the parents during the drop-off the night before, and no one needed a special food accommodation.

Craft: Stuffed Animal Sleepover Scrapbooks
     Before the library opened the morning of the story time, I printed off one of the sleepover photos featuring each of the stuffed animals onto a quarter sheet of cardstock. Using more cardstock and some yarn, I then made a little blank scrapbook, photo on the cover, of each stuffed animal's sleepover experience. Our craft was a great opportunity for writing (sometimes a hard ECRR skill to incorporate!), as the craft tables had crayons and stickers available for writing in the scrapbooks. I walked from child to child and encouraged them to write about their stuffed friends' favorite activities from the sleepover. The resulting scrapbooks were very creative, and the kids' descriptions of the writing in the books was impressively detailed. What a wonderful early literacy activity! Also, this craft allowed every child to leave the program with a memento of their stuffed animal's first sleepover. What a success!

1 comment:

  1. I love this program!! I might have to borrow it, if that's ok?


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