What activities did we offer?
Over the course of our 9-week summer reading program, we offered the following activities:
- Monster page-corner bookmarks
- Materials: colored paper printed with a bookmark form template I created, scissors, glue sticks, and markers
- How-to: page corner bookmarks from Tally's Treasury
- Materials: popsicle sticks, rubber bands, plastic spoons, and pom pons for ammo
- How-to: Marshmallow Catapults from Mommy Poppins
- Card Making
- Materials: assorted colors paper and card stock, assorted die cuts, markers, glue sticks, and joke books
- How-to: Invite kids to make cards for time-appropriate occasions; for us, that was Father's Day and/or graduations. We also had plenty of joke books on hand for kids who wanted to just make "anytime cards."
- Fingerprint Art
- Materials: white paper and washable ink pads
- How-to: I've documented my prior forays into this activity at my previous job
- Origami Dinosaurs
- Materials: origami paper and origami how-to instructions and books
- How-to: Origami Dinosaur from Origami Voor Kinderen
- Balloon Rockets
- Materials: twine, drinking straw, scissors, tape, party balloons
- How-to: Under Pressure: Launch a Balloon Rocket from Scientific American
- Postcard to an Author/Book Character
- Materials: postcard-sized paper and markers
- How-to: Encourage kids to write a postcard to their favorite author or book character. If you're able to, take photos of the kids' cards and tweet them at the authors and/or publishing houses.
- Planet Buttons
- Materials: button maker with appropriate button-making tools and materials as well as images of the planets sized to fit the button maker
- How-to: Encourage kids to choose their favorite planet (we did this activity to celebrate New Horizons and the first clear photos of Pluto) and then make a button to share it proudly.
- Optical Illustions
- Materials: paper, scissors, drinking straws, tape, and coloring pencils
- How-to: Thaumatrope Illusion from Teachers Try Science
When did pop-ups take place?
Based on the calendar of scheduled programs and a rough guess at general patterns of foot traffic in the summer, we opted to offer pop-up programs on Thursday afternoons for approximately 90 minutes. After a few weeks of running the pop-ups from 4-5:30, with seriously dwindling numbers for the last half hour, we adjusted the time to 3:30-5 p.m.
Who ran the pop-up programs?
While I (or another staff member, the week I was out of town) was present in the youth department for the duration of the pop-up programs, a team of teen volunteers actually facilitated the pop-up activities from start to finish. I had a team of 5 teens who took turns rotating roles: one would be designated in-charge; one would make sure to take count of participants; one would move about the department to alert kids and families that an activity was taking place; and everyone would assist kids in completing the activity.
Who was the target audience for the pop-ups?
We wanted to offer activities that were accessible to children ranging in age from preschool through early junior high. Recognizing that that is a really huge range in age and ability, the litmus test for a program activity was whether a first grader might be able to complete the activity on their own/with little mediation. The volunteers were more than happy to assist kids who needed it, but we didn't want activities to be frustratingly complicated.
How were the pop-up activities received?
Really well! While there were some fluctuations in the number of attendees from week to week, we had a solid number of participants for every activity, and always a handful of kids at minimum who expressed really enjoying the activities.
Would we offer summer pop-ups again?
You bet! For next summer, I'll be considering not only what activities might be well suited to pop-up times, but also the best possible strategies for staffing them (volunteers? or part-time programming staff who can spend some work time making activities as well as leading them?) and when we offer them (scheduled? or truly pop-up, when we see lots of bodies in the department but no program on the calendar?). Lots to think about, including potential implications for school-year pop-ups.
What have been your most successful pop-up programs and activities for kids?