By Awnali Mills
Programming is always a gamble.
Which can make it stressful.
Will anyone show up? Will too many people show up? Will we prepare enough? Will we not prepare enough? Will people like it? Are the instructions good enough? It’s enough to send a librarian screaming out into the snow. (Which we don’t currently have. So, well, never mind.)
Such was the case with the program we did today: a Gingerbread Party. Our boss scheduled it and then retired, leaving my co-worker and me to plan the party. With much consultation, Pinteresting, and consulting of archives, we did. Our biggest worry was that people would think that actual gingerbread was involved (it wasn’t) and be disappointed. Our second worry was how many (if any) would show up because, you know, it’s the holidays. When we consulted the archives, we discovered that it was hugely popular before, so with trepidation we planned for a large turnout.
We needn’t have worried. It turned out great!
For the Gingerbread Party, we started off with a story, “The Gingerbread Baby” by Jan Brett. There were a comfortable number of people in the room; enough to feel full without being overwhelming. But they just kept coming in and coming in and coming in!
After the story was finished, we explained the stations and then set the kids free to roam at will.
Station #1 The Giant Gingerbread House
This was a large cardboard box covered with bulletin board paper made to look like a house (roof and all). Word to the wise. If you decide to duplicate this party, make sure that your roof is securely constructed and attached to the house. Children who are taping things to the roof WILL LEAN ON IT and make it fall off. Ask me how I know.
The children were allowed to choose from several different pictures of candy and crackers. Then they cut them out and used double stick tape to adhere them to the building. This station was busy the entire time, and some children never left to do anything else. The house is now displayed in the children’s section of the library.
Station #2 Elf Hat
This is a super simple craft found on the Frugal and Fun Mom blog. This was very popular as well. You know it’s a good craft when moms and kids are seen after the program walking around the library with elf hats and ears on.
Station #3 Frosty Toss
This comes from this blog with a ridiculously long name. After I made the game, it was quickly co-opted for another program we had at the library. They discovered that the pompoms I had made (following the blog) stuck to the sides of the cardboard holes. Not happy. They substituted some little balls we had, but they were a touch too big. SO, when we held the Gingerbread Party we used small Styrofoam balls that were juuust right. A tin without a lid held the balls when they weren’t flying at Frosty.
Station #4 Climbing Snowman
We got this idea from the Makes and Takes blog. We just substituted a snowman for the critters on the blog. We let the kids color their snowmen, tape two small straws to the back, string a length of yarn up one straw and down the other and tie beads onto the end. Loop that puppy over a doorknob and watch him climb as you pull the yarn to the side! I demonstrated this for the kids, but it still needed continuing explanation. If I did it again, I would explain at the beginning that you need to pull out to the SIDE and that friction makes the snowman climb. I did explain at the end, but I don’t know how many were paying attention. Sorry I didn’t get a good picture of it, but the work table was blocked for most of the party!
Station #5 Make Your Own Gingerbread House
For this station, we totally used Oriental Trading Company. We got cardstock gingerbread houses that families assembled and sheets of candy stickers that they used to decorate the houses. Because we had such an overwhelming turnout, we limited it to one house per family.
Station #6 Gingerbread People/Houses Coloring Sheets
This was a last minute thing that my co-worker threw in because she was afraid we weren’t going to have enough things for kids to do. It was astonishingly popular. I saw several families carrying off extra sheets to take home as well (one father tried to walk off with the entire stack, but his horrified little girl stopped him).
Turns out, we had enough stuff to do. As a matter of fact, we probably had too much, since we couldn’t hardly get people to leave. Even with several warnings, turning off the music, and starting to clean up, people were still trying to fit in one more craft or do one more activity.