Way back in the Spring, a young patron asked when we were going to host another stuffed animal sleepover. I was glad to get a request for a program that we’ve done before and it was fun. To be honest though, I haven’t made the stuffed animal sleepover an annual event because, frankly, the first one I hosted was a logistical nightmare. I didn’t think I had another sleepover in me.
At the event two years ago, we had zillions of stuffed animals to photograph and thus a zillion photos to print and sort for stuffed animal owners to pick up the next morning along with other goodies. Add a few technological challenges to the mix (this always happens, I should learn) and I sprouted a few new grey hairs I didn’t need. But, I hate to resist programs that are requested by library fans, so I added it to the summer schedule and sat down to figure out how I could make the program easier but still fun. Some call this program assessment. It’s important.
I looked over my notes and knew I absolutely needed a few elements:
- stories to read aloud
- opportunities for kids to tell me and the other event-goers about their stuffed friends
- some way to show kids what their stuffed animals did after the library closed (this is the key to the whole event after all)
The last piece was the hardest, because really, this event is a storytime for kids ages 9 and under and I can plan those pretty easily. After the previous sleepover event, as I mentioned above, we printed out pictures of groups of stuffed animals and had them available at storytime the next morning along with replica library cards for each stuffed animal. Printing the pictures was overwhelming and keeping track of which animal belonged to whom was tricky. This year I vowed to post the images on the library’s Flickr page and post a link on our other social media pages. No printing meant no big hassle in my eyes.
Then I had second thoughts. After talking over the plan with my library’s director, a previous children’s librarian, I just couldn’t give up providing pictures for each child. I had to find a way. This time around the whole event was much easier and the giggles and conversation fueled me through the after hours tasks. Here’s what I did:
This was one of the best storytimes I’ve hosted in awhile. Reading the stories turned into the ultimate conversation and even the kids I’ve never met or seen before were comfortable and actively engaged. We joked about how storytime wasn’t usually at night (“It is at my house!”), bantered back and forth about funny bedtime routines, sang favorite songs, and introduced our stuffed buddies to each other. Everyone had such a warm and fuzzy feeling all through the event!
Llama, Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney (Viking, 2005)
A rhyming tale about love and why kids really need to go to sleep- so parents can get some things done!
Knuffle Bunny: a Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems (Hyperion Books for Children, 2004)
An emotionally charged Willems-special that is inspires kids to talk about their special buddies and how important they are to them.
Time to Sleep, Sheep the Sheep by Mo Willems (Balzer & Bray, 2010)
A fun, quick story that gave us the opportunity to talk about nocturnal animals and inject a little bit of science into the evening. We also talked about why we sleep, no matter when we sleep.
How do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague (Blue Sky Press, 2000)
A few of the younger kids were getting wiggly even though they wanted to keep reading. This book is perfect for capturing their attention and keeping them involved in the storytime.
Fingerplay: Five Little Monkeys Jumping in the Bed (with finger puppets)
Action Song: Teddy, Teddy Bear Turn Around
Teddy bear, teddy bear, turn around,
Teddy bear, teddy bear, touch the ground,
Teddy bear, teddy bear, reach up high,
Teddy bear, teddy bear, touch the sky,
Teddy bear, teddy bear, bend down low,
Teddy bear, teddy bear, touch your toes,
Teddy bear, teddy bear, go to bed,
Teddy bear, teddy bear, rest your head,
Teddy bear, teddy bear, turn out the lights,
Teddy bear, teddy bear, say “good night”.
Credit: KCLS Wiki
Unlike other storytimes where I invite families to pick and choose from multiple activities, at the sleepover I asked families to make sure they completed each craft, especially if their stuffed buddies were staying the night (this was optional). Some of the activities were just fun and others were designed to help me keep track of which animal was which come picture time.
I got this idea from Librerin. I had a bunch of foam sheets leftover from a previous craft, so a coworker helped me cut out small, medium and large eye masks that we had set out on tables in the kids library. Kids picked out a favorite color and size and then wrote their stuffed friend’s name on it. Decorations were available as were pieces of ribbon to tie the mask on to the faces of their buddies. The stuffed buddies that stayed the night wore their eye masks and the names helped me remember who was who. (Meet Dina the dinosaur, my T Rex.)
Materials: pre-cut masks, ribbon, sharpies (for writing names on the foam)
My Name is…
The second activity gave kids the chance to share about their buddy. If I was going to get any of these crazy animals to sleep I definitely needed to know their favorite bedtime snack, book and song! I also provided a space for them to draw a picture of their buddy and of course a place to write their buddy’s name. This completed form was later placed under the corresponding stuffed buddy to be a pretend “pillow” and helped me keep the animals organized. It was returned to the child after being modified (see below). Credit: Jen in the Library
Materials: foam, markers, crayons, pencils
I found this mobile idea at Sturdy for Common Things and was able to piece together materials from items at the library. I cut out spirals and stars from cardstock and provided more ribbon and tools for decoration so each child could make it their own.
Materials: cut out spiral on blue cardstock (1 per child), pre-cut stars on yellow card stock (We estimated about 5 or 6 per mobile. We don’t have die cutter so we did this by hand.), ribbon, scissors, tape, stapler, foam stickers, markers, crayons
We provided animal crackers for the hungry crafters at a table that also held little reminder sheets about when to pick up the stuffed animals.
After the young crafters were finished, we all gathered around the sleepover blanket. We finished the night with bedtime song- Twinkle Twinkle Little Star sung and signed. I taught everyone the signs we were going to use in the song and then we sang it together multiple times. Many of the kids quickly picked up the signs for the tried and true favorite tune. To see the signs for this timeless song go here.
The fun really gets started…
After families left, my kids (great library volunteers) helped me set up the stuffed animals in different scenarios that I had planned out. We worked our way around the blanket and took pictures of the animals in small groups. This kept everyone straight and made sure we included all of the animals.
My son and I took pictures that we made into a slideshow (below) to post on the library’s social media sites and then printed out paper copies for each child to pick up the next morning. The pictures were printed on regular paper and glued to one side of a 1/2 sheet of cardstock. The “My Name is” form was glued to the other side. Animals and photo cards were returned to the children’s library and arranged sleepover style for families to pick up in the morning. I asked families to return to the library after 11am the following day so the morning wasn’t so stressful, a change from the previous event. Last time kids picked up their stuffed animals at a regularly scheduled storytime thenext morning which was a bit much back to back and did not allow for technical difficulties.
Kids were thrilled to show up and see the results of the night. Each wondered if the animals really did stay up all night. I’ll never tell.