Notes from Tween Programming
(taken by Sarah Rodriguez, Children’s Librarian, Scarsdale Public Library & Ossining Public Library)
To talk about tween programming we first had to define “tween”. Each library has slightly different age range (somewhere between 9 and 13 years old), but all agree that what tweens have in common is that they are becoming interested in, but are not yet ready for, YA content.
Next we asked who should be allowed into tween programs. A 6th grader won’t want to be in a program with a 5 year old, so it is important to be strict about age limits. It may be convenient for parents to take all their kids to a single program, but that’s why there other events with open age ranges. Having an exclusive program for tweens provides them with a place to socialize with their peers outside of school. Exclusivity also adds to a program’s appeal.
One library recently created a tween area, The Tween Scene, by redecorating an alcove with new comfy furniture, fresh paint, and a few decorative touches. When non-tweens suddenly wanted to hang out in the new beanbag chairs, they moved the chairs behind the desk, making them available for checkout to tweens only. A supersize scrabble board will soon be mounted to the wall for play, and for librarians to leave messages about upcoming programs.
Attendance in tween programs was another point of discussion. We want to pull in boys and girls, but agreed that this was not a huge issue for any of us. At this age, parents may still be pushing kids to learn new things. For example, a sewing program at Darien surprisingly pulled in boys. We talked about how programs like this could be marketed as operating a sewing machine, which is appealing to any child, rather than “learning to sew”. Another great idea to increase attendance is to suggest that tweens bring a friend to each program.
While there are a lot of cool, complicated programs ideas out there, it seemed that simple sometimes does the trick. Programs with card games, board games, or magic tricks may expose tweens to “old” things that are new to them.
We talked a bit about tween and teen involvement in the library. Getting older tweens and teens involved in a book buddies program, helping younger children read, could build confidence and their own literacy skills. There is also the possibility of letting tweens teach a skill to a group (a simple dance, how to make a duct tape flower, etc.) while a librarian facilitates the program. At Darien one way to earn points toward badges in the new TEA Room is by teaching another child a skill they were taught.
We also discussed how parents don’t always like making a mess, which makes messy programs often the most fun. Programs with food involved falls into this category, so we discussed how we have dealt with food allergies. Some libraries post food alert signs or lists of ingredients being used, while others have patrons sign forms.
And finally, the list of wonderful tween program ideas!
- squishy circuits
- LEGO robotics (at Darien there was a Tween MAKE Week in June)
- Fiber arts
- Crafts: sometimes not having an example is better to encourage creativity and avoid both parents and children trying to make exact copies of the craft
- Duct Tape: put the materials out and let them go wild to encourage creativity
- Journal Making
- Art Journaling/Smashbooking (a kind of art journaling), there are a lot of great free printable resources that you can find on Pinterest or by googling. You can also use materials you already have on hand.
- Board games:
- scrabble afternoon – one library that had scrabble afternoons had a group so interested that they began competing as a team in scrabble tournaments
- Twister is wildly popular at one library. The idea of a bubble wrap twister board seen on pinterest could possibly be adapted for a twister or board game night.
- Video games: Wii game night, Mario Kart or other game tournament
- Make candy corn for national candy corn day (October 30)
- Salsa making using fresh ingredients
- Taste Tests: coke v. pepsi, different pizzas served in town (to mix in math, take a vote and have the kids graph it)
- Cereal bar: could be rolled out on a cart or served as a snack
- Tween movie nights are great and can be as simple (just set up a tv and chairs) or complex (projector screen, popcorn machine, comfy seats) as you want
- “Rewind” (read, watch & discuss) book club at Darien. Tweens read a book, and then watch the movie to compare the two. This gets them to read something they might not have tried yet and also builds analytical skills through critiquing the movie.
- One Library does “Wacky Wednesdays” where the activity on Wednesday will be a surprise; it might be bingo, a game, a craft, etc.
- Lifesize Angry Birds – stack up boxes, decorate paper lanterns as pigs, throw plush birds
- Darien Library had SoundWaters come and do a glacier program (with cookie glaciers!)
- Spy School – generate a spy names, use cyphers, memory games (ispy), take pictures in disguise to make a SPY ID, learn spy terminology, Laser beams in the stacks (red crepe paper)