Storytime Night Light

This is a surprisingly affordable craft for ages 2-6 with a functional & impressive end result. This particular design grew out of my own brain, but it is definitely a cousin of the google/pinterest search for “luminary crafts.”


Supply List:

  • Mod Podge glue
  • Foam brushes
  • Print outs of appropriately-sized book covers (4 per child)
  • Battery-powered tea lights
  • Hard plastic dessert cups

Instructions for kiddos and adults:

  1. Cut out the pictures of the book covers you are using
  2. One at a time, wipe a thin layer of mod podge onto the back of each book cover, and press it onto the outside surfaces of the plastic cup (make sure to get the edges and corners!)
  3. Once all four sides are covered, wipe a thin layer of mod podge over the top of the pictures  to make them shiny & protect them
  4. Place a tea light inside

For me, this project worked out to about $1 per child attending, and was well worth it – grown ups were very impressed by the end result of the craft project! It’s educational, functional, age-appropriate, and unexpected: a real winner, from my experience.


SmARTful Kids: Rainbow Jars

Newsletter description: SmARTful Kids, ages 2-3 with an adult: Play, draw, investigate, and explore new art styles and media in this process-oriented art class for Twos and Threes. Grown ups and kids should dress for a mess! Explore the way colors mix and combine and bring home your own Rainbow Jar, a soothing toy that keeps little hands occupied during quiet time.

This was a stellar event. I hosted 2 sessions, each with about 25 children (plus their adults and siblings). The focus of this series (other librarians here do sessions for 0-14 months and 15 – 23 months) is process-based artwork, so I led into our craft with a very short storytime:

Rainbow Jar

I bought a couple gigantic bags of pom-poms and clear plastic 8oz juice bottles from Amazon. I printed out these “rainbow jar” tags and set out all the supplies they needed: scissors, hole punches, pom-poms, and ribbons. These are the instructional handouts I gave to the adults. It was a huge success: kids really love these jars. It’s sometimes the simplest things that make the biggest impact!

Art Attack: Suncatchers

This is a really popular idea that I first found on Pinterest, where there are pretty much endless variations. I’ve done this project twice: once for Mother’s Day with butterflies, and again for an Apple-themed fall storytime. I like this project because it has an interactive, sensory process, but also a really beautiful product that stands out from all the other glue-sticks-and-construction-paper stuff that toddlers can make. Some of the strongest positive reactions I’ve gotten from parents have been to this art project; both times, all my extras went home with them for siblings or friends to finish.

For the butterflies, I hand cut the frames out of colored paper (crazy, I know – after this I swore to stick to die-cuts). Next, I cut my contact paper into 8×10 rectangles – smaller than the edge of the frame, but bigger than the butterfly. I peeled off the backing, stuck the butterfly frame to the contact paper, and reapplied the backing for storage until it was time for the program. To make the colored ‘glass,’ I used multicolored cellophane. I crinkled it, then cut each sheet into small, semi-random shapes. The process was exactly the same for the apples, but with the use of my friendly die cut machine.

If you run out of contact paper like I did with just a few frames left to prep, packing tape works well – it’s just much harder to set up since you have to line up all those strips of tape and it doesn’t come with a built-in non-stick backing.

Storytime Theme: Dogs

Class: Toddler Time, summer 2014 – 9:30 and 11:00

Books: Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion, Digger Dog by William Bee

The plan:

  1. Welcome songs
  2. Story #1: Digger Dog
  3. Silly song: B-I-N-G-O
  4. Rhyme: 5 Fat Sausages
  5. Shaker Songs
  6. Story #2: Harry the Dirty Dog (pretty heavily abridged – I paperclipped some pages together and mostly told the story along with the pictures, rather than reading the words, as it’s quite long and complicated for toddlers)
  7. Weekly wiggle: Where is doggie hiding?
  8. Song cube
  9. Goodbye songs
  10. Craft and playtime

How it went: Both books were truly spectacular hits. Digger Dog’s large fold-out pages got oohs, aahs, and laughs. Both books inspired spontaneous applause from toddlers and caregivers. I thought Harry would be too complex and long for this group, but it has clearly has the kind of charm that explains its place as a kid lit classic. As always, I made sure the song cube landed on Zoom, Zoom, Zoom!

I took craft inspiration from the cover of Harry the Dirty Dog:

harry the dirty dog


I created the canvas by hand-cutting black and white Harrys and gluing them to oversize construction paper in a rainbow of colors. Then I set out white and black paint and q-tips as brushes. This craft went over very well with parents, who liked the connection to a famous storybook.

To make the Harry silhouette, I drew Harry freehand on cardstock and used that as a stencil on black and white construction paper. It could also be done by tracing the image on the front cover (with or without increasing its size on a copy machine first). This craft takes a lot of cutting and gluing, which means it’s great for a time (like summer reading) when you have volunteers to help you prep.

Art Attack: Amped-Up Finger Painting

I’m good at learning songs from Jbrary and repeating them in storytimes. I’ve been complimented more than once on my skills reading aloud and holding an audience’s attention while I do. I have an artistic streak and I’ve made a lot of really cute prop stories.

But arts and crafts? This is my jam. This is the set of projects and ideas and results that I’m most proud of, and the most eager to share.

Like most library programmers, I frequently read books and blogs and I talk to many other professionals, and a lot of my work is informed by those sources. One of the reasons I’m hesitant to share my work on this blog is that I haven’t kept track of these sources, and I know that a community of librarian readers expects to see a fellow professional using accurate citations. So, if you see projects here that are yours, or that you know the origin of, please share that with me so that I can credit you properly!

The first art project I’m sharing is my own invention. This is a finger painting project that I did at a drop-in storytime with an Animals theme (books: “Are You a Horse?” / “A Sick Day For Amos McGee” / “Hooray for Hat!”).

photo 1 (1)

Lions, before and after

Prep work: 3 minutes per child

Special supplies: none

photo 1 (2)Yes, I did remember to cover the tables with art paper!

I created animal stencils by printing out images of the animals I wanted and cutting them out, then tracing those animals onto construction paper. That’s it. Kids paint, paint dries, and at home later, caregivers cut out the animal I traced to reveal a colorful, Eric-Carle-style piece of art! I like this project because it flexes to fit any theme; you could trace butterflies, people, flowers, letters (the child’s initial, if you have a registered storytime), or even basic shapes.

photo 2 (1)Penguin, Rhino, and Elephant (I think?)

Reasons I love it: Easy. Flexible. Cheap. Moderate prep work level. Good WOW factor. Process-oriented, but it has a cool product too!