Teens are notoriously hard to get into the library, and sometimes tweens seem just as difficult to reach. Hitting on the right activities can be difficult. You don't want to come across as "babyish" but you don't want to do anything overly mature either. Adding in their busy after school schedules and extracurricular activities only makes the situation worse.
I have been lucky enough to build up a pretty successful core group of tweens in the three years I've been at my library. My monthly program for Grades 3-6 is called ATLAS (At The Library After School) and registration for it fills up most months. For being in a small town, I would say we get a pretty good sized group. I will be posting more about each ATLAS program as it is held, but figured I would give an overview of some of the things that have worked for me in the past. These ideas are all fun, easy and relatively cheap.
Here are some of my best tween ideas (in no particular order):
1) Chocolate Olympics: The kids played a variety of "Minute to Win It" style games involving chocolate. For instance they played the "Cookie Face" game with chocolate chip cookies. I've also done a similar program with popcorn related games, but after the condition of the floor following my program I would not recommend it. Thank God for vacuum cleaners!
2) Cooking with Ms. Kelly: My girls especially love this program. We do not have access to an oven, and a microwave tends to take up a lot of time during the program, so we pretty much do No Bake and No Cook recipes. This means a lot of dips, wraps, and covering stuff in chocolate (always a big hit!). My kids like that they get to do the work themselves and get copies of the recipes to take home.
3) Origami: Pretty self explanatory. I used a Powerpoint going through the various steps of creating various origami creations.
4) Minecraft Party: The game is a big hit, so this program was a well. We played games related to Minecraft, such as "Pin the Sword on Steve". We also made pixilated pictures of ourselves and played Minecraft Bingo.
5) Super Mario Party: Another party based on a popular game. We did a Yoshi Egg Race, played "Pass the Bomb" and played Freeze Dance.
6) Duct Tape Crafts: Always a hit with teens and tweens. This is one of the few craft related programs I can get my tweens to come to.
7) Marshmallow Madness: Another "Minute to Win It" style program, this time involving marshmallows. We threw, stacked and taste tested marshmallows. We also divided into groups to see who could build the highest marshmallow tower with a bag of marshmallows and a pack of toothpicks.
8) Potato Chip Science: Science experiments are always a hit, and these all involved potatos. One of the experiments was floating pieces of potato in salt or sugar water. Another was building an aluminum foil boat to sink with potato chips.
9) Zombie Party: This was another program held during the summer of "Dig Into Reading". We played musical graves and made fake wounds. I learned that fake wounds are surprisingly easy to make using tissue paper, Vaseline and red food coloring.
10) Spooky Science: A great Halloween related program. We used static electricity from balloons to pick up tissue paper ghosts. We also made "ghost cups". These were made using the instructions found here. By pulling the wet towel more slowly it makes a ghostlike sound.
I have taken away three main ideas from all the programing I have done for tweens. First of all, they love game, science and food based programs. Secondly, snacks are a must. If you feed them they will come. Finally, I have learned that modifying teen programs is a great place to start.
I look forward to updating about all the fun stuff we do in future ATLAS programs!