Library Bonanza

Ready, Set, Program!

Hands-On Busy Bags


Busy bags are little kits of pure 10 minute happiness. They’re meant to be stowed away in your diaper bag or purse until that moment when you need a quick distraction for the kids. Another benefit to busy bags? They are educational through play!

At my library, I hosted a busy bag party for two groups: one-year-olds and two-year-olds. The activities for two year olds were very easy to find but the ones proved a bit more difficult given their limited capabilities. But never fear! I have the programs right here!

Although putting the busy bags together was labor intensive, it is a great, simple activity to ask one of your teen volunteers to help you stuff the bags with supplies.

Hands-On Ones

  1. Styrofoam & tees – $5 bag of tees, $12 for foam
  2. Waterbottle and sticks – $0 Recycled water bottles, $3 colored sticks
  3. Paper Play – $0 left over paper supplies


  • Foam blocks
  • Golf tees
  • 20 Water bottles
  • Colored sticks
  • 20 sheets of
    • Foil
    • Sandpaper
    • Felt
    • Wax paper
    • Wrapping paper

Hands-On Twos


  1. Pipe Cleaner shapes
  2. Felt Pizzas – $10 yard of brown and red felt
  3. Velcro sticks – $18 for velcro dots
  4. Button Snake

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  • Cardstock
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Cut up felt
  • Colored popsicle sticks
  • Velcro dots
  • Ribbon
  • Buttons
  • Needle and thread

Hands-On with Finger Paints, Balls, and Textured Baggies

At the end of every storytime session, Fremont Library hosts a Hands-On craft program for one- and two-year-olds. Check out the details on my Hands-On page. Patrons are required to register (to know how much supplies we need) but the program is pretty free flowing, where parents and kids can enjoy two crafty activities at their leisure. Very chill, man.


At least that’s how I dream it to be. Oftentimes, when all 20 kids and 20 parents show up plus 5 siblings, and they start needing things (like more paint–so needy!!) I resort to the following:


No, actually the program is pretty awesome and the kids have a fantastic time. Your role as librarian is directions-connoisseur and supplies replenisher. And sticky hands liberator. Every once in awhile you might be able to take a few pictures, but do it fast!! I highly suggest having a volunteer or coworker helping you out.

So what did we do this time? The one-year-olds had a messy activity and a (slightly) no-mess activity, while the two-year-olds had all mess.

1- and 2-year-olds & Finger Painting with Taped Words

Source = As Time Flies


  • 20 sheets of “artist” paper or thicker paper than printer paper
  • Carpenter’s tape (so that it removes easily from the paper)
  • Non-toxic finger paint

Prep Work:

1) Tape words onto the sheets of paper. I used “love,” “hugs,” and “joy.” I thought about letting the parents do this themselves but it took about 5 minutes to do each paper and having a wriggling baby on your lap that long will not make for a fun time. I’d also need to supply each parent with a roll of tape, and I did not have 20 rolls. On this note, reserve about 2 hours to do 40 sheets. I swear, it’s worth it.


2) Paint one yourself. This will give you an idea how much paint you need to dish out onto each sheet of paper. Let your beautiful creation dry (about 4 hours) and remove tape. This sample will provide many gasps of elation and wonder, motivating the caregivers to take home a sopping wet sheet of paper.

About this much paint should be sufficient

About this much paint should be sufficient

I made this stunning work of art--and it's not for sale!

I made this stunning work of art–and it’s not for sale!


  • Smooth the tape down before you add the paint
  • Add two colors that mix well to create another color (pro-tip: don’t use orange and green, as seen above)
  • Add the name and age on the paper before it’s entirely covered in paint
  • Tell the parents to make sure the youngin’ paints around the taped letters, not necessarily the border
  • Some of the younger 1-year-olds might be hesitant towards dipping their fingers in paint. If encouragement doesn’t work by showing the babe how it’s done, then suggest they move onto the other craft.

1-year-olds & sensory bags with aloe vera

Source = Falling Flannelboards


  • Sandwich size ziploc bags
  • Aloe vera (blue is preferable) – about 1/4 cup per bag
  • Brightly colored buttons, pony beads, smooth vase stones, anything small and smooth
  • Duct tape (patterned is preferable)

Prep Work

1) Create your own as a sample to understand just how much aloe vera each bag needs.

2) Prep the bags by taping three sides.


Finished product


  • Less is more! Show the parents the amount of aloe vera you used by showing them the amount taken out of the bottle. This is a good visual and reminder that less is more.
  • Remind parents to not take exorbitant amounts of beads, buttons, etc. because the other half of the class still need to make theirs.


One 1-year-old had the ol’ meltdown during the finger painting but came back to the sensory bag after he was ready. Still a little cranky, he became obsessed and thoroughly entertained with it once the bag was completed. His mom said they were going on a road trip to Pennsylvania in a week and she was inspired to make simple, easy crafts like this one to keep him entertained. She was thinking a zippered pencil case with objects inside should do the trick. Brilliant!

2-year-olds & box painting with balls

Source = Kids Activities Blog


  • Paper boxes
  • Legal sized paper
  • Tempura paint (or any paint, really)
  • Textured ball work best


  • Add the name and age on the paper before it’s entirely covered in paint

Hands-On Ones & Twos: Bag Art, Pasta, and Play Dough

My patrons are totally digging these Hands-On programs. In my previous post, I gave a bit more detail on the structure and how to use this Hands-on Ones & Twos program within a library setting. This time, I’ll focus on the particulars of bag art, pasta, and play dough–my most recent venture.

Set-up: I always find inspiration online. Books are an excellent resource but online blogs are much more truthful, detailed, and usually provide more pictures of the craft in-action. For librarians, keep in mind that these crafts MUST be able to be modified to large groups. The other day, I pinned a picture of a “baby drum circle” and then went, “wait…there’s going to be 20 1-year-olds in one room…”

  • 1-year-olds & Bag Art: The Hippie Housewife provided this splendid, no-mess craft. I’ve stated before that 1-year-olds in a big group with a time “structure” of 30 minutes are a little too hesitant to get messy. So are the parents, particularly the new parents. So this craft was great. Our camera was slowly dying during this program so I wasn’t able to get any good pictures, sadly. However, the Hippie Housewife blog pictures are pretty accurate. At the beginning, we had a few kids jabbing the sharpies into the bags (because, hey, why not?) and that created minor holes but after that there was no leakage.
    Materials: Sharpie for writing the name on the bag, freezer Ziploc bag, finger paints (have a bit thicker consistency), white paper underneath bag to provide contrast, duct tape
  • 1-year-olds, 2-year-olds & playdough & pasta: Spice up playdough with pasta! Holly’s Arts and Crafts Corner presents an alternate activity that combines dried pasta with playdough. All the different names, shapes, sizes, and toughness of pasta is a great talking activity for contrasting and comparing. 2-year-olds can also practice threading or use their imagination to create something.
    Materials: Playdough, all different types of pasta, place mat/wax paper/parchment paper, the right state of mind to not worry about Playdough getting mixed together
  • 2-year-olds & pasta brooms: Blog Me Mom offered this “no mess” painting option. She covered a whole table with poster paper, but I used individual, thick paper so the kids could take their art home. The pasta brooms are a great way to show parents that art can be created with anything.
    Materials: Spaghetti, rubber bands, stove (Bind bunch of spaghetti with rubber band, submerse whole wand in water and cook 10-12 minutes periodically stirring and separating ends), “artist” thick paper, globs of tempura paint in the corners

Feedback: A great time was enjoyed throughout and there is definitely a demand for more. I see my numbers climbing each time I have one and rarely anyone is absent from the attendance list. Fun and easy!

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Hands-On Ones & Twos: Crafts for Very Teeny Tiny Hands

From the youngest age, children learn through all 5 senses. They are touching different textures, tasting different books, hearing the cadences of their language, refining the images they see in front of them, and smelling new aromas of the world. Fremont provides two programs that focus on the sense of touch and allowing an infant to interact with the world around them–and mess is surely welcome. Our Hands-On programs are offered to one-year-olds and two-year-olds.

Structure: These are offered in between storytimes, generally on the same day of the week that this age group’s regular storytime is offered in order to align with patron’s schedules. Two or three crafts are offered, and I try to divide the group in half, so that one craft is not bombarded with the whole class at once. For the one-year-olds, I prefer setting out the activities after the announcements in order to discourage distractions. Two-year-olds can generally show constraint (don’t laugh). The program is free flowing, so patrons may leave whenever they want. After the beginning announcements, I serve as a photographer, guide, and general booster of pride (“that looks AWESOME!”).

Beginning Announcements: I start the program by reminding parents to sign up for storytimes. Then I give a general overview about the importance of art and play in a young child’s development. I emphasize that the PROCESS is much more important than the product. We’re not throwing pottery on a wheel or knitting a sweater. The development is in the process. Additionally, parents should expose their child to as many different materials and processes as possible. I then explain the activities we will be doing today and what skills their child will be developing through these activities. Then I open it up to full-out warfare! Not really. Everyone does stay fairly calm and engaged throughout the process.

Activities!: For the one-year-olds we did sensory bins with colored rice and flour and tactile boards with all sorts of fun feeling stuff. For the two-year-olds we played with cars by first painting with tire tracks then having a car wash.

One-year-olds: Sensory Delight

Two-year-olds: Cars, Cars, Cars

Feedback: The parents loved this opportunity to come and play and talk with other parents. They loved the simple ideas that they could take home and use.

Lessons Learned: My one-year-olds are not comfortable with sticky, very messy, or completely unfamiliar materials. I had a pumpkin guts Hands-On Ones and they were not into it, unless it was in a ziploc bag. Either the infants have a problem with it or their parents do (and the kids are picking up on that).

Inspiration & Resources: Pinterest. Duh. Check out my Pinterest wall for Hands-On inspiration.

Any other librarians doing craft-like programs for infants? Let’s share!

And one more thing–My handout–March2013 Handout!

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