Thursday, May 2, 2013

Lessons Learned at the Craft Table

In December, one of our long-time staff members retired from the Children's Room after 40 years at this library and we had a card drive for her. Not wanting to leave her beloved young patrons out, we put up a little table right by our reference desk so that kids could make cards for Miss Jan. It was such a hit that it's stayed up ever since!

Okay, yes, it's messy sometimes. And yes, sometimes parents argue with their young children about whether or not they're allowed to use the scissors. But here's why we love our craft table:

1. It attracts kids to the desk. From there, we may be able to have a conversation with them or at the very least, we can be a friendly face.

2. It gives kids something to do when mom or dad is engrossed with filling out a job application (or, let's face it, checking Facebook) on the computer.

3. Coloring or scribbling with crayons helps develop fine motor skills. Using scissors is a skill that kids need to learn in Kindergarten. Depending on the craft, kids may get a chance to practice their writing. Crafts that require instructions require kids to read and/or to practice following instructions.

4. It gives kids a chance to make something for their families. Right now, we've got Mother's Day cards as our craft. Kids can't drive to the store. They may not have craft materials at home or their parents may not use craft materials with them. This is a very simple activity, but kids love to show appreciation to their loved ones and this station helps them do that!

You can see how we've got it set up in the picture above: a small half-table that butts up against our reference desk. (We'll probably find another place for it come summer when we're sure to have lines at the desk.) We place a couple of stools there and we made sure to have a trash can nearby. Depending on the craft, we'll set out crayons, scissors, glue, construction paper, scrap paper, stencils, and/or templates. Another good thing about having it right at our desk is that it allows us to keep an eye on the materials and we haven't had any incidents so far.

We aim to change out the craft about once a month and we're planning to change it out every other week over the summer. The crafts we've done so far include: retirement cards, cut-paper snowflakes, Valentines, game boards (you can find the template on this blog post), paper kites (template here), and this month's Mother's Day cards. We're also planning on doing a bookmark craft to get kids ready for summer reading and Father's Day cards.

A couple of tips:

  • Yes, it'll be messy. Especially glue. And cut paper. To me the benefits outweigh the potential hassle of cleaning up the station. Make sure you have a trash can nearby and monitor the table regularly to help keep a handle on the mess.
  • Remember that the process is more important to the kids than the final product (generally). Don't be dismayed if you find finished crafts left behind. 
  • Sometimes the parents want to sit down and color, too, and that's okay. 
  • Have some scrap paper handy for littles who maybe aren't really old enough to do the craft but would like to color. Or be prepared to throw away a lot of construction paper or templates with scribbles on them. 
  • Think about taking down the craft station if you have a class coming to visit. Our station is very small, so it can be overwhelming to have 15 kids all wanting to do a craft at the same time. We'll typically take down the sign and supplies if a group visit is coming in or when we have our toddler programs and expect a lot of young children in the room. 
  • Keep statistics! We make sure to count how many templates or sheets of paper we're putting out so that we can count this activity in our department statistics. It may not be an This is a passive program, so make sure you're counting it towards your stats!
Anybody else have a make-and-take craft space in your children's or teen area? What crafts have you loved?