Program advertisement: Come dressed in your tea party finest to enjoy the story of The Nutcracker and some festive treats. Before we're through, we'll decorate magic wands and dance like sugar plum fairies!
- festive treats (I got mine at Trader Joe's, which always has small, fun, inexpensive goodies that you don't see at every grocery store)
- drink options (I had both hot peppermint tea and cold juice drinks)
- a copy of the story of the Nutcracker, either for a read-aloud or for oral storytelling
- music from The Nutcracker ballet by Tchaikovsky, and a way to play it
- supplies to make magic wands: chopsticks, stars on card stock, crayons, crepe paper, and book tape
Program audience: ages 3-6, or preschool (siblings of children falling in that age range may also attend)
Room setup: On the large side of our room, I created two long banquet-style tables by setting several of our moveable tables end-to-end and covering them with bright-colored tablecloths. Each place setting was set with a napkin and a small plate with pre-portioned treats (I kept ingredient information for interested caregivers), and crayons and scissors were set along the middle of the table for our craft.
On the smaller side of our room, I set out our story time rugs to delineate our story space. I also set a table against a wall to use as our craft assembly station. Our CD player was on this side of the room.
Program schedule: The entire program was 45 minutes.
- Welcome: When I opened the doors to our program room, I had each child check in with me before finding a seat. I took that opportunity to welcome and compliment each child on his or her lovely attire and how confident it made them. This was also when I passed out each child's drink. Every child could choose a cold juice or a hot peppermint tea; about 5 of the preschoolers opted for tea, which is more than I would have expected. I also had a stack of flyers for a January "ballet story time" sitting on the welcome table; almost every caregiver picked up a flyer.
- Tea party snacks and chat: As the young partygoers enjoyed their treats, I moved from table to table to talk with each of my guests. Some were shy and just nodded demurely at my questions, but others were eager to tell me all about their party clothes, or their holiday plans, or the upcoming snowstorm.
- Story: We headed over to the story time rugs for the read-aloud of The Nutcracker. I used the version by Susan Jeffers, which has great illustrations and is an appropriate length for a preschool group.
- Craft: I handed each child a card stock star after the story, and everyone moved back to the tables to decorate and cut out their stars. I helmed the craft assembly station at this point, asking each child what color streamer they wanted for their wands. The star and streamer were book taped to the top of a chopstick for an easy, inexpensive craft.
- Dancing: Our final activity was to dance like sugar plum fairies with our wands! I cued the CD to the Trepak, the energetic, Russian-style dance from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker. The children had lots of fun dancing however they wanted, with some twirling, some jumping, some marching, and some leaping about. To help bring down our somewhat chaotic dancing to finish the program, I invited all of the children to follow me into the library for a Nutcracker parade. Our single-file line went out one program room door, past the circulation desk, through the children's area, and back in the other program room door, at which point I invited everyone to find their grown-ups and thanked them for coming.
Reactions: So many parents thanked me profusely for offering a program like this in the winter. Several said that their children love to get fancy, but they just don't have many opportunities to indulge that. My coworkers said they appreciated the Nutcracker parade, as it allowed them to enjoy seeing the excited preschoolers all dressed up. The reactions to this program were overwhelmingly positive, which is saying something when your final attendance count is 50+ attendees. We'll be doing a variation on this program again in the next few years, that's for sure.