Cool Children’s Programming (ages 0-8)

Today I am taking a tour around the wide world of libraries and taking note of some of the coolest children’s programming I can find.

I am specifically looking for programs that meet several criteria: they are interactive and engaging for participants, they incorporate early childhood learning concepts in a meaningful way (but not limited to literacy – this includes social-emotional learning), and they could be adapted to numerous library settings.

I am especially looking for programs that can be done within the budget constraints and staffing limitations that exist in many public libraries today.


For those of us who are just getting started…

I really enjoyed ALSC’s list of programs for school-aged children. (I’ve saved it here as a PDF.) These programs can stand alone or be part of a series offered for children. Notice how many of these are related to, or can be tied to, books that are appropriate for our age group (0-8). Here’s a selection:hubbell_horsebook.JPG


  • Bit & Bridle Storytime: Discuss a great horse book and complement it with fun horse-related activities. Bring horse equipment in for a demonstration. Look at different feed, include a horse craft and horse snack. (Builds vocabulary, provides opportunities for science learning, can incorporate art and fine motor activities – make a picture of a horse out of these shapes?)
  • Book Charms Workshop: Create “charming” book markers with twine, beads, buttons and more. (This can be done with inexpensive materials, and could be incorporated into a STEAM event, used in Summer Reading kickoff, or just done in the context of storytime. This is a fun fine motor activity, and children could select beads that represent their favorite stories.)
  • DramaRama: Choose a children’s book with loads of action. As the librarian narrates, kids act out the parts. (This would be a terrific way of helping children link up stories with their own movements and actions – creating links in the brain between the words and the acting-out! Lots of opportunities for vocabulary building, creativity, kinesthetic learning.)

I share these ideas with you because these are things we could do easily, inexpensively, and with relatively little investment of materials or time – making these great starter programs or programs to enrich or expand an existing children’s programming offering.

If you’re interested in STEM…


(image: Abby Johnson)

I enjoyed this blog post: Visit the Science Playground. Like I talked about in my last STEM post, I love that these activities can be adapted to your setting (don’t have a microscope? No problem – you can make a sink and float station with a bucket and some items!). Bug toys, magnets, blocks, things to look at under a magnifying glass… I could put together a science playground next week, couldn’t you?

And a closing note…

While I was looking around the web for information about cool children’s programs, I came across this article: Innovation Frustration. In it, Sarah Bean Thompson talks about how we can get so caught up in the idea of innovating that we forget that our programs are already useful and innovative in their own ways – every program is an opportunity to show the library in a new light and to a new audience. While we are planning programs, we might feel like we are doing things that are predictable and expectable, but in reality, if we provide programs that are linked to children’s interests and provide some value to children’s needs, we are providing opportunities to demonstrate the library’s value to patrons.

I am often reminded to “not let perfect be the enemy of good” – to not get so caught up in making everything glossy and beautiful and Pinterest-ready that I forget that what we are really here to do. Something to remember when we are working with buildings and budgets that are not everything we might ever have dreamed – let’s use what we have to the best of our abilities and provide something of legitimate value.

Play in the Library: STEM

For today’s post, I wanted to explore some STEM concepts that could be used with young children in our library programs. I picture these ideas as being inspiration for things we could implement in special events such as STEM night, or as things that we could do as centers with selected early childhood programs. I am going to share with you two videos that demonstrate some play activities that we could implement at low cost.

This video shows children playing with a variety of materials in STEM centers in an early childhood/preschool setting. Notice that the children are using a variety of tools and toys which we may already own, such as blocks and building toys, as well as things we can acquire inexpensively such as nuts and bolts to string together (a great fine motor activity).

It is also interesting that the video points out ways in which these activities enhance social and emotional development, cooperation, problem-solving, and critical thinking.

This video is a great example of how children learn through play. The children in the video appear to be perhaps 4’s and pre-K age, maybe some who are 3, and they are quite capable of learning how to use simple tools such as levels and simple circuits.

Next I want to share with you an idea that we already do in our preschool classrooms that is SO much fun and SO interesting for kids to play with.

You can buy an expensive ramps and pathways kit online, but that isn’t necessary. The wood ramps are made from unfinished quarter-round trim, which you can get at the hardware store. They will even cut it for you (sand the cut edge to make it smooth – no splinters). Prop the ramps up on wood blocks, cardboard blocks, stacks of books, whatever you have available – or lay them on the floor. Now drop a marble in and see what happens. Then put a small brick (like a Lego) in and see what happens.

This is an instant, logical, hands-on lesson that incorporates learning about gravity, shapes, planning and problem-solving, velocity, and more. It’s so clever – I’m a big grownup and I love playing with our ramps. This is a great center activity or something we could incorporate into a STEM event as well, at a very low cost.