We often use summer to try out some different storytime models. This summer we’re running a 6-week Imagination Storytime series. Each program consists of a few books followed by dramatic play on a theme. Unlike our regular Storytimes, this is a registered program for only 18 two- to five-year-olds with an adult. The program is listed as 45 minutes (our usual storytimes are 30), but families head out whenever they feel done.
Our goal with this program is to bring back some of the dramatic play that we see missing in our community’s overscheduled preschoolers, and to show parents and caregivers that it can be inexpensive and easy to set up some pretty fun dramatic play areas. Since the programs require a fair amount of planning, we have three librarians doing two themes each. The themes are: Animal Hospital, Post Office, Camping, Baby Care, Gardening, and Construction.
Opening Song: “I Am Here & You Are Here” by Peter & Ellen Allard (on Sing It! Say It! Stamp It! Sway It! Vol. 3)
We started off by talking about who had been to the post office, who had written a letter, what happens when you send/receive mail, etc. Then we moved on to the books.
Nonfiction: Mail Carriers by Carrie Meister. This group was pretty heavy on the 2-year-olds, so I browsed our nonfiction and chose a very simple title. It touched on mailing, sorting, and delivering mail, all of which we were planning to do as part of our activities.
Fiction: Millie Waits for the Mail by Alexander Steffensmeier. This was funny and not terribly text-heavy, but still probably too conceptually difficult for the 2-year-olds. I had considered singing “Mail Myself to You,” but the kids were a little bit squirrelly, so I decided to just go on to the activities. If the kids had been older, I might have used “The Letter” in Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel; I’ve had fun with that at storytime in the past.
The discussion and books took about 15 minutes. Most families stayed about 30-40 minutes, although there were two families still there 5 minutes after ending time. The activities were probably a little hard for the younger 2s, but everyone seemed to have fun. Most kids did the table activities first and then moved on to sorting and delivering mail.
Activity #1 (table): Decorating mail carrier bags. I made these ahead, and the kids decorated them at the event. They were really easy to make and worked really well. I cut a brown paper grocery bag in half. Then I cut the top half in half again. I kept the middle section and threw away the top (where the handles attached on the bags with handles.) I made one cut and opened up the middle section, and then stapled it to the bottom of the bag to create the strap. It worked out to be a great length for the strap to go across the body. In the detailed picture above, I tried to use the entire top half of the bag and fold it over to make the strap stronger, but it didn’t work very well. You can see the gaps where the bag wanted to separate. I would have needed to tape along the length of the strap, and that was more work than I wanted to do. The bags seemed plenty strong with just the single layer.
Activity #2 (table): Letter writing. I put out assorted notecards (mostly the free ones you get in the mail), envelopes, construction paper, stickers, stamper markers, pencils, and colored pencils, and let them go to town. The kids could take their resulting letters home or put them in our mail box for play delivery. Most of the kids seemed to put them in their mail bags and keep them to take home. A few of the older kids spent a very long time here getting their letters just right.
Activity #3 (table): Postcards. I made a postcard template and printed them out on cardstock with one side blank. I let the kids decorate the blank side and then address the letter to themselves at home. After I checked to make sure they were legal (the post office is fairly strict about postcards), I let them choose a stamp. Later that day, I put the cards in the mailbox. Fingers crossed that all of the kids actually get them! I did take one to the post office in advance to make sure it was ok, and she had me change a few things. Here’s the Word version of the postcards in case you want to borrow and adapt, and the pdf version of the postcards in case you just want to look.
Activity #4 (around the room): Mailing and delivering letters. I made a large mailbox out of a cardboard box. This had a slot in the front for putting in letters and one in the back for taking them out.
I also created four small mailboxes and labeled them with popular characters – Curious George, Maisy, Pete the Cat, and Piggie. I created several envelopes addressed to each of those characters. Here’s the Word version of the envelopes in case you want to borrow and adapt, and the pdf version of the envelopes in case you just want to look. I printed these on plain paper, cut them out, and laminated them. I put them all in the big mailbox to start. The kids then sorted them and delivered them to the little mailboxes. When just a few kids were playing, I collected them from the little mailboxes and brought them back to the main one. Once they got going, though, some of the younger ones preferred collecting to delivering, so they took over the job.
This was immensely popular with a few kids. One family even came back in the afternoon for another program and told me they had already created shoe box mailboxes at home and were busy delivering the mail around the house. I suffered serious cuteness overload watching a room full of little ones walking around with their mail bags delivering the letters.