September's looming awfully large on the calendar, and that means the return of after school crowds! During the busy after school hours, passive programming can be a lifesaver. In the teen section, maybe your after school group is too huge to handle, or simply presenting general teenaged surliness when confronted with the offer to participate in programming run by an adult. In the children's section, maybe the desk gets so busy that it's hard to have someone away running a program, or you want to engage the families who come through at off-hours. In any of these cases and more, passive programming has a lot to offer. The best part? The possibilities of passive programming are as endless as your imagination. You can turn almost ANY program idea into a passive version of itself, with a little ingenuity and elbow grease. Hopefully the ideas described below get your mental wheels turning!
Arts and Crafts
Arts and Crafts passive program can be as simple as paper shapes and gluesticks or as complicated as ... anything, really! It all depends on what you have on hand and the space you have to work with. Best of all, everyone loves arts and crafts, so you can tweak almost any project for almost any age group. How about...
Giant coloring sheets! Harborfields printed these out themselves. When we visited, there was a girl working intently on one while listening to music - she looked happy and relaxed! We saw giant coloring sheets at some other libraries as well, in various stages of completedness. You could also put out smaller coloring sheets, but there's something delightfully communal about the giant ones. When it's finished, hang it on the wall to show off your patrons' artwork!
In the vein of collaborative artwork, let kids and teens create or decorate something that then decorates your room! Many of you already do this as part of your Summer Reading clubs with kids writing their names on themed shapes, but it works any time of year - snowflakes for winter, hearts for Valentine's Day, flowers for Spring, origami for...whenever! You can tie it in to pop culture events as well. Why not have your teens design some magical creatures to coincide with the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie coming out this fall?
You can go beyond just paper and crayons - how about potholders, knitting, or other crafty activities where the patron can take something home at the end? Tara at Half Hollow Hills has a potholder loom out permanently. Kids have finished and brought home dozens of potholders!
When we were visiting Southold, one of the projects Dana Sheridan taught was out as a passive activity - and she suggested that idea for a storytime! Have you ever had a great craft idea for a program that never ended up fitting? Let it stand out on its own as a passive activity!
Scavenger Hunts & Guided Activities
At South Huntington, we spotted another favorite passive activity - scavenger hunts! This hunt has kids search for pictures of athletes and fill in the blanks of where they found them. You can also have them hunt for resources, books or objects. You could theme your scavenger hunt around a day or event - like this I Spy with My Jedi Eye hunt for Star Wars Reads Day! For older kids, get technology involved and have them take pictures of the things they find - a Selfie Scavenger Hunt sounds fun, doesn't it? You could also hide QR codes around the room that are links to clues, instead of giving out paper sheets. ALA has some more scavenger hunt ideas over on their Fun Activites @ Your Library page.
Guided activities can move beyond scavenger hunts as well. Remember this fitness challenge from Cutchogue-New Suffolk? It has you complete fitness activities in a particular order, and those that do get to take a photo and send a monkey down a zipline to ring a bell (you read that right!).
Several of our libraries have built or are building StoryWalks. As described by Boston Children's Museum website, "A StoryWalk® is a fun, educational activity that places a children’s story (literally a book taken apart) along a popular walking route in your community." Isn't walking through your library a popular route in your community? You can create a StoryWalk that goes through your department, your whole library, your library's grounds, or your community. Check out this FAQ for lots more info!
STEAM activites make for some GREAT passive programming. As a start, may we humbly recommend our Science Buddies and Maker kits? While the Science Buddies kits are designed with a storytime format in mind, activites can easily be turned into passive activity displays with recommended reading to check out on display with it. As for the Maker Kits, while some of them contain technology you don't want to leave out unattended, you can definitely put them out for a group of teens to experiment with while a librarian is at a desk nearby. The teens will like the informality of this setup as well.
Building implements also make great STEAM passive activities - keep this in mind when you're thinking about next year's Summer Reading Club theme! Legos and Lincoln Logs are timeless and fun for anyone to play with. And check out these Keva Planks that Tara puts out at Half Hollow Hills! Add a few marbles, and these become marble race tracks. Great stuff!
Finally, check out this "Selfie Booth." The Jaws theme would play while the kids took their pictures that put them in the jaws of a shark. Love it! The kids did too, so it stayed out all summer. Using green screens for creative results gets teens thinking about what they could do with their own photography and artwork both in the library and at home.
Contests are great because patrons can participate quickly, which makes them a great way to engage patrons who are stopping by for a quick visit and wouldn't have time for a more involved activity. If you put them up on a regularly scheduled basis, you'll even develop a following of patrons who come back for them every time. You can feature Guess How Many contests, trivia contests, naming contest, caption contests and more. I love caption contests in particular because you can display the best entries. Maybe you could have patrons vote on their favorites! Ensign school library lists some great contest ideas on their website.
Displays that feature interaction, even if it's museum-type informational displays, bridge decoration and education and are passive activities too. I know we just posted this, but it's such a great fit - Harborfield's Athletic Center features a little room that had a hidden display showing video of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and facts about the history of the Olympics on the walls. The fact that it's a little room makes it feel even more personal and museum-y, but a bulletin board can be just as cleverly crafted to make a museum-quality display. Trivia boards also fall into this category, and you can give prizes for correct answers, or just post the answers underneath the questions.
Do you have pictures of passive programs your library has put out that you'd like to share? Email or comment and we'll add them to this post!