Back when I first started doing preschool storytimes, I used to do somewhat complicated crafts. Lots of cutting out pieces and having the kids glue them a certain way. This was back when I worked at a smaller branch and only did storytime for one month and then had a break with lots of free time to plan. Now I work at a much busier branch and our system has adopted a year-round Early Literacy Program calendar, which means every single week I am doing some sort of children’s program. Combine that with working on the desk (programming increased, staff did not, we actually lost one person and we are a very sparsely staffed system anyway) and it leaves very little time to create elaborate crafts.
Our preschool storytime groups average at least 30 kids each week. That is a lot of kids and limits the kind of hands on crafts you can have. You have to keep it simple to make it easy to set up and take down. You have to keep it simple so you can maximize the minimal budget set aside for supplies.
I started taking advantage of our die cut machine. It is very simple to crank out 40 bears, cars, crowns – whatever. At first, I felt very guilty, like I wasn’t putting enough in to the craft. I would look at other storytime blogs for inspiration and see crafts that involved lots of intricate pieces that had to be cut out by hand or purchased at the craft store and I felt like my glue and color crafts made me look like a lazy librarian.
But that is not true.
I really think the kids enjoy the simple crafts more and that they get more out of them. It gives them the freedom to use their imaginations. When I had my more complex crafts, I found that the parents were obsessed with the kids making it “right” instead of the child just having fun. I also found that the more complex the craft, the less time they spent on making it. They would glue the pieces where they had to go and then be done.
My craft today was very simple. We did stories about transportation and I had cars for the kids. They used gluesticks to attach the car to a piece of paper and then colored where the car was going. The kids worked on their projects for a solid 10 minutes, some more elaborate than others. As they colored, I took the time to walk around to each child and ask them about their car, where it was going and the colors they had used on the paper. The children were very eager to talk to me about their cars and would come running up to share their pictures with me an explain everything on the page. One car was going to school, another had a rainbow on the door, and there was even a car parked outside a bakery (that girl was after my own heart).
So when you are sitting there, trying to figure out what craft to do for your preschool group, don’t obsess over whether the 300 little bits of paper you have to cut out will impress the parents. Think about how this craft will expand the child’s mind. Think about the early literacy skills they can pick up just by coloring in a car and telling you about how they have to drive to school. The more you encourage them to talk and share, the more positive experience they will have, and isn’t that what we want to create? A positive experience with reading, books, and the library.