Library Bonanza

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Baby Art Playground: Natural Taste-Safe Fingerpaint Play

Taste-Safe Fingerpaint Play

Part of the Baby Art Playground series

“Allow baby to explore the texture and beauty of paint without worrying about toxins or unnatural additives. Baby will be painting with food-based paint so be prepared to dress for mess!”

Oooo dis one was fun. With all of my Baby Art Playground programs, I’m looking for a fun 45-minute activity for the patrons that they may duplicate at home on a later date. This means the craft must be enticing enough for them to come (marketing for the win) yet an easy, quick, and inexpensive craft for them to redo at home. I also have to tweak the recipes for 50 babies, so there’s also that.

While there are a lot of baby-safe paint options out there, I found the recipes from Fun at Home with Kids to be enticing and perfect for large scale production. And while the name of this program is a bit of a mouthful, it’s just enough key phrases to catch a caregiver’s attention. Here are the deets for the program:

Why fingerpaint play?

Writing is a key componenet of the Every Child Ready to Read 2nd Edition program from the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) and the Public Library Association (PLA). By introducing our children to fingerpaint play, we are giving them the fine motor skills needed to be able to hold a crayon and, later, a pencil to write and share their creativity with others.


  • Beets
  • Turmeric
  • Blueberries
  • Carrots
  • Spinach
  • Flour
  • Almond Milk
  • White butcher paper
  • Ladle
  • Wipes

Adapting for a library

Adjusting for a larger audience can always be a challenge. First, I did a trial run of all 5 paints from the book produced by Fun at Home with Kids called 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids (highly recommend!). Prep time was quite involved when you take into account purchasing of the supplies, the trial run (week before), and the mass creation of paint for the program (day before). I decided that the pink paint (beets) and the yellow paint (turmeric) were the cheapest and easiest to mass produce.

I believe I did 40 servings of the original recipe which was waaay too much (MRW I dumped 3/4 of my midnight procrastination paint). We had approximately 25 babies per session (106 participants total) and each child got about 2 tablespoons of paint so keep this in mind when you are making the paint for your group. For 50 babies total, I used about 4 cups of paint per color.

I rolled out three long sheets of white butcher paper for the babies to paint on the floor. This was perfect but we did need to keep an extra eye on the babies if they tried to walk away with paint all over their bodies and feet. Wipes were an essential purchase.

Storytime component     To tie in the power of the library and early literacy, we sang a song at the beginning of the program. I encouraged parents to use this song if their baby was getting fussy, scared, or weirded out by the paint.

Tune: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

Painting, painting with our hands.

Let’s explore all that we can.

Let’s create and have some fun.

Make some art before we’re done.

Painting, painting with our hands.

Let’s explore all that we can.

Handout     On the handout, I included the source of the art activity, the EL song, and the recipe for all 5 paints for caregivers to duplicate at home.

Tips for next time

  • Create less paint. Believe me. Do not multiply the recipe by the amount of kids you expect will come. You will need emotional support later as you pour buckets of paint into the trash.
  • Recommend babies wear onesies. This was important because we were taking pictures for our photosharing website and I did not include any nakey babies online. The paint was all natural but the turmeric does permanently stain. I offered to share the cute pictures of the shirtless babies via email but this became quite the hassle because I had to communicate with a dozen photo-lovin’ mommies.
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Baby Art Playground: Footprint Art

Footprint Art for babies ages 0-14 @ librarybonanza

Footprint Art for babies ages 0-14 @ librarybonanza

Dress for mess! This messy sensory art exploration exposes baby to a variety of textures. Education toys provide further enjoyment, play, and exercise for developing senses. Siblings are welcome to help, but supplies are limited to the age-appropriate child.

Bring home a keepsake of your baby’s darling feet. Canvas and paint provided.

Everyone, please feast your eyes on an alluring yet potentially catastrophic craft program for babies: footprint art. Don’t worry–it can be done!

The motivation behind this program was purely product-based. I am slightly obsessed with process-based art (that develops fine and gross motor skills along with early literacy skills and brain development) so I felt a bit guilty as I put it together. But, the parents were ecstatic and signed up in droves and libraries are here to make the parents happy, too, right? We still had educational toys out for play but most of the space was dedicated to a potentially messy craft. Tarps lined the floor but the paint was miraculously well contained.


  • Fifty 8×10 canvases = $115.71
    • Note: I ordered these the cheapest I could through an outside company via Amazon but never receive 6 and had to go to Hobby Lobby anyways to get the total I needed. They were on sale at Hobby Lobby for about 50 cents more per canvas soooooo….
    • You could easily do this on paper, but I wanted the craft to be wall-ready to maintain its longevity and save parents the time of having to get it mounted.
  • 8 bottles of Sargent Art Tempera Paint = $15.92
    • All tempera paint is nontoxic and washable. If you want absolute certainty, check for the AP certified standard on the bottle that conforms to ASTM-D.
    • I chose paint over ink stamps because the stamps were waaaay too light for the canvas.
  • 10 Large Kitchen Sponges = $5.55
    • Note: I wanted to take the ease of ink pads with the results of paint. These sponges were perfect for fully and quickly applying the paint without tickling the sensitive feet (as a brush may have done). Staff prepped the sponges in advance and reloaded as needed.
  • 4 containers Baby Wipes (about 2 wipes per child) = $3.67 (on sale at Aldi, what what)
    • Note: These were a quick, baby safe way to immediately clean the foot once baby had stamped their footprint on the canvas.

Total Cost = $140.85

Attendance = 106 people, ROI = $1.33 per person

Overcoming Concerns for a Library Program

Two main concerns exist with this program:

  1. The fickleness of babies’ moods. Most all blogs discuss one-on-one footprint art where a caregiver is at home and they have an ability to control the environment or return back to the painting later when baby is ready. Not so in a time-sensitive program at the library. However, I encouraged caregivers to bring snacks, milk, or any other distractions for baby as they had something wet and cold slopped on their feet. I asked caregivers to pair up so that they could help each other press baby’s foot on the canvas while another held the baby, hopefully avoiding too much frustration from the caregiver (which radiates into baby). Lullaby music also played over the speakers. All in all, only 3 or 4 babies per class cried from the experience, but were quickly soothed.
  2. Messy, messy, messy. Remarkably not so if given the right precautions. Babies and caregivers were asked to sit on the ground atop tarps spread throughout the room. Paint was then handled by 1 volunteer and 2 staff members. A brief introduction to the craft was given including several tips for getting a decent footprint:
  • While you hold or another caregivers holds your baby, hold by the ankle and press firmly on the foot.
  • Bring snacks or bottle for distraction
  • Practice footprint on paper
  • Press heel onto paper and roll the toes or press them down
  • Lift quickly so paint doesn’t smudge

With baby wipes in ample supply, cleanup was quick and easy for caregivers, preventing the spread of paint over clothes and the tarps.

Tips for Next Time

I wish that I had written our library at the bottom of the canvas somewhere to remind parents where they made the craft.

Some parents were go-getters and created artwork from the footprints (such as a butterfly or a heart) but I wanted to avoid too many stipulations which may have caused nervousness for making the artwork perfect. It was nice to have it more open ended. As the patrons left, the canvases felt rather bland but I encouraged them to decorate them more at home when baby was sleeping or they had some “off” time.

Until the next round of Baby Art Playground in the summertime! I’m super stoked for natural taste-safe fingerpaints, teething rings, and mesmerizing mirrors!

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Baby Art Playground: Tummy Time Painting

Blog Featured Pic

This was definitely one of the easiest (and most inexpensive) Baby Art Playgrounds to whip up on the fly–and it achieved the same happy results. Supplies were things we already had around the library including acrylic paint, cardstock paper, and ziploc bags. Prep was minimal and involved cutting the paper to fit inside the bag and gathering a bit of research around the benefits of tummy time for babies. So why tummy time?

  1. Strengthen their upper bodies. Due to carrier convenience (from car to stroller) and the new campaign for babies to sleep on their backs, most babies are not getting enough tummy time. Holding the weight of their upper body up with their hands develops muscles that will later grasp a pencil and hold scissors.
  2. Provides a new perspective on the space they live in. As a sensory experience, babies are engaging their hands, torsos, and legs in a new, unique way that develops valuable tactile and proprioceptive input on their bodies.
  3. Motivate baby to crawl. With toys scattered around, baby may gain motivation to inch towards something truly enticing. And crawling is essential for building brain development (cross-lateral integration) and gross motor skills.

In addition to playtime distractions such as painting through a bag, here are some other easy-to-use tips from I Can Teach My Child that you can give to parents.

And now for some squishy babies with squishy bags:

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Broke Holidays: 20s and 30s Craft Night

And now a break from my regularly scheduled baby programming. Presenting a millennial program so delightful, so utterly essential to providing age diversity to your adult programming that you will find these elusive millennials crawling out of their microbrew pubs, detaching themselves from their cat collecting apps*, and scrambling for a babysitter just to come to your program. Inspired by Sacramento Public Library’s Alt Library group and met with great fanfare, my library hosted a free Broke Holidays program meant to provide a fun, crafting, sociable experience for those jostling for an inexpensive gift. Here was the description:

Here come the holidays and there goes your money. Save some extra bitcoin this holiday season and craft your frugal heart out for that special someone, or for that 3rd cousin who insists on getting you something every year. Supplies and an escape from home are provided.

*Hot trend subject to change.

Pitching the idea

I have been wanting to do this program for a very very long time. When I revealed my inspiration to a coworker and she grew equally as excited, my dreams were slowly on their way to reality. Pitching the idea to my superiors went more smoothly than expected for two reasons: (1) we already had a successful 20s/30s book club, and (2) I tied the purpose of the program to lofty goals of the library as a whole. As a millennial myself, I notice that the majority of adult programming at my library (and most others) focuses on lecture-style educational enrichment and musical performances that are geared to an older audience. While these are well-attended and certainly valued within my library’s community, they may not appeal to 20 & 30 year olds. By providing a practical program with a fun/silly advertising bent, this age group may identify the public library as relevant in their lives after years of separation.

I originally pitched the idea as Broke A$$ Holidays, but was given some slightly hesitant looks by my manager. Other names came up like Thrifty Holidays, but I really liked the self-deprecating attitude of the original, so an easy compromise was forged with Broke Holidays.

Program Prep

There was a decent chunk of planning for this program. We had to choose the crafts and how many we were going to do, buy the supplies in bulk, and market. We decided to go with three crafts to provide an enticing diversity. Although I had gathered a plethora of fun and unique ideas (found here on my Pinterest board), the crafts we finally selected had simple instructions, lower costs for buying in bulk, and we already had some supplies from past programs.

And here are the Broke Holidays Instruction Handouts that were at each station.

Program Execution

We had a remarkable turnout for a first-time event. Twenty-five people showed from a variety of places. While the program didn’t reach many eyes through the newsletter (it came out 2 weeks before the program), we were able to recruit people through, baby storytimes, our millennial book club, a paid Facebook ad (only about 2-3 people from this one–but they were all brand new users!), and many staff members helped pad the numbers (hey, some were also patrons!).

Our decorations were slightly lackluster, but we did make a Festivus pole which was VERY IMPORTANT. We also played a great holiday playlist from Songza (which is now part of Google, but, ugh, whatever) and provided coffee, snacks, and a hot chocolate bar. I think we also found a red, circular shag rug that we used. CAN’T FORGET ABOUT THAT.

We provided a 3 question survey at the end to gauge future interest. Here are the top three programs that they would like to attend in the future:

  1. Craft Programs
  2. Bad Art Night
  3. Wine and Canvas Event

Clearly we are getting ready for the Feats of Strength.

What Worked

  • Have a partner in crime. If you are able to, co-organize this program with a coworker so that you have someone to share the labor love and to bounce ideas off of–especially if this is the your first time venturing into territory such as this.
  • Have at least two craft options and publicize the crafts.  I truly believe that the variety enticed patrons to the event–with only 2 cancellations–because they really wanted to come and make what was advertised. We didn’t publicize the crafts in the newsletter because they weren’t finalized by the time it was published, but we were able to promote the crafts through social media, at our book club, and to friends.
  • Market to your baby mommas and daddies. We got about 10 parents from our storytime group by promoting it within the storytime to young parents. I also put up a link to our sign-up page on a Facebook networking group which garnered a lot of interest.
  • Provide an ample amount of socializing. We received positive feedback from participants that appreciated the more relaxed atmosphere that allowed them to socialize while crafting. We had instructions sheets available and gave a brief introduction to the crafts with essential instructions, but then left the hour and a half open to crafting and socializing.

What I Must Drink to Forget

  • Buy more Scrabble tiles. If you want to do the Scrabble tile coasters, you are going to need an insane amount of tiles. I ordered 200 tiles and maybe 15 were made, leaving almost half without a coaster. Participants could only make one due to the limited supplies and limited time, so consider having this be the only craft or 1 of 2 options available. That way, they can make a pair of coasters to gift.
  • Perler bead craft first. Encourage people to do the 8-bit ornament/perler bead craft first as this requires the most staff time to complete by sealing the beads with an iron.

Are you doing any millennial programming at your library? Post below if you are! Let’s brainstorm!


Baby Art Playground: Texture Blocks

Part III of the Baby Art Playground Series

Texture Blocks

Oh oh oh, this was one of my favorite baby crafts. LET ME TELL YOU EVERYTHING.

Why texture blocks?

Textures are a wonderful early learning experience for growing senses. As babies explore their world, they are building curiosity, strengthening eye sight, and being able to discriminate between objects. We can increase their joy and excitement by providing language for the experience and engaging with their playtime.

I received my inspiration for texture blocks from Fireflies + Mudpies, two very inspirational things.

Caregiver Reception

Caregivers were in LOVE with this craft. While they were gluing and affixing, baby could squeeze and scrunch something that was ready to be put on the block. The options were colorful and fun to sift through. Babies were immediately interested in the final product and it was the perfect size to tuck away inside a diaper bag.

Things to keep in mind as a library program…

There was a LOT of prep time for this one. I purchased the cheaper (but lighter) blocks for the program. For extra security, I sanded down all sides of 100 blocks which took a considerable amount of time. My recommendation? Enlist the help of volunteers for this prep. Also involved in the prep time was measuring and cutting 2×2 squares of fabric, foam paper, fuzzy tape, and bubble tape. The sticky tape was the best because one side was already measured out to 2″ so this saved some time. If it’s readily available, a circular paper punch would work wonders with time management.

To save money, I went to the store at the end of the summer season and got a ton of clearance items. I also used leftover fabric, stickers, and foam letters. The foam letters were divided by letter into baggies which saved the caregivers some time as they juggled baby with their brick crushing arms. Also a time saver? Items with one adhesive side.

I have been advertising these special programs on a local caregiver networking group through a nearby hospital and it has worked wonders in bumping attendance. I would highly recommend seeking on out via social media!

Supplies List

  • 100 2″ square blocks ($70) – I preferred these over the “square blocks” because they were lighter and cheaper. I wanted every caregiver to leave with 2 blocks to stack, but you can easily cut the cost by providing only one block.
  • Sticky Foam sheets ($1.49 each)
  • Fuzzy Tape rolls ($6.99 each)
  • Foam stickers (on sale, < $1.00 each)
  • Bubble wrap roll (on sale, $1.19 each)
  • Fabric patterns cut into 2″ squares
  • Foam letters
  • Felt
  • Any other random items including buttons, pipe cleaners, pom poms, sand, rice, gem stones, etc. I tended to avoid these due to potential chocking hazards and time needed to affix the items

Total Cost = $133.08

ROI (price per 80 participants) = $1.50

Idea for next year

Get more animal stickers. Parents can play a game where they roll the dice or simply turn it about in their hands. Whatever animal comes up, the parents can make the sound!

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