Summer Program Preview

This is my first year at my new location, so I’ve come up with I hope are a lot of high interest options for the teens to start getting them in the doors! Here’s what I’ve come up with, feel free to steal or save for later!

Monstrous Cupcakes:

I’m still in the planning stages on this (I’m going to consult with someone who knows more about the fancy decorating than I do) but we’re going to be decorating cupcakes with a creepy sea-theme. My current thoughts are to provide a lot of frosting they can dye with food coloring, and hopefully some fondant they can also dye then shape into creepy arms and creatures. Along with providing some candies. I’ll probably go over some basic tips and tricks, but otherwise let them go wild, with free range to make this the frosting version of a Bad Art event if desired. We’re probably going to get box mix for the cupcakes and I’m going to check at the bakery to see if they’ll sell us some white frosting in bulk.

Dive Into Trivia:

I always love to include one trivia night—I’m either going to use Factile or my teens recommended Blooket (which I’ll have to look into). In my experience I create questions ranging from how likely someone is to have experienced the source material to how unlikely. For instance, an easy Percy Jackson question would be low points, while an easy Island of the Blue Dolphins would be hard. I’ve found it better to avoid getting too fancy or tricky, simply because I want everyone to have fun and feel like they have a chance. For example, I picked O’Dell’s book for the example because while the name might be familiar, the odds that someone has read and remembered it is not high. And I never stick only to book questions—I like to cover a wide range of media/knowledge.


You have no idea how pumped I am for this. If you don’t know what HEMA is, HEMA stands for Historical European Martial Arts. They don’t just do sword fighting, but all sorts of ancient weaponry. We were supposed to have them come to my old library the year COVID 19 hit, but instead our local group recorded this epic video for us to share. They were incredible, and I am so excited to finally be able to have them come in person. The information they’ve just sent to me to write up for their description is: “We are going to focus on the naval swordsmanship of the golden age of sail. We’ll take observers through the interesting niche of ship combat and how the tight quarters of  deck to deck fighting had a great impact on the manner in which sailors conducted themselves. Occasionally we shall recreate first hand accounts from these periods taken from newspaper articles of the time.”

Just. So excited for this. SO excited. If you have a local group, reach out to them. The HEMA link above will help you check to see if there’s a club around. Obviously mileage will vary, depending on the group in question, but it’s worth checking out.

Sand Art:

I wanted to include some art projects here, but I’m still getting a feel for the art scene. So why not a sand art event? I feel like this is a pretty scalable event in terms of both size and artistic skill. You can just do lines of colored sand, or you can try making some art! I found this artist who has a variety of videos showing different techniques. While I am NOT going to try for anything as complicated as this, something like this or this actually feels feasible. I like the drawing technique on the first video (the idea of giving myself guidelines is appealing), and I think it will give teens an idea of how to actually make something that looks cool. I’m  hoping to get some small bottles on sale, this is the sand I’m thinking about, and then probably bamboo skewers and maybe some wire bent to make a pick shape similar to what is used in the video.

Water Marble Bookmarks:

One of my early summer programs was a Suminagashi program, and it was wildly successful. Almost too successful. All the teens wanted to do was churn out design after design instead of taking their time to come up with something incredibly detailed. Lesson learned. This time…bookmarks. This lets me save on paper while teens get to make more, smaller projects. I’m going to try it with acrylic paints this time, using thickened water (with cornstarch) to help the paint float. If you do do this, I’d recommend cutting the paper a little big, as it can be tricky to get the design all the way to the edges, and that will let teens trim things down to size later. I’m planning on aluminum bread loaf pans to save on containers, plus you don’t really want containers too much bigger than your working surface. I’m also going to have more tables set up for drying, and probably have everyone put their name and have their own area to put their projects. Still, it’s a fun project and I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes!

DIY Jellyfish Lanterns:

I’m leaning kind of hard into crafts this year, but, well, I want them to have something to take home and I’m still getting to know the teens in my area. Plus, these are just so fun! It looks like you can get a lot of the supplies from the dollar store, which I always appreciate, and the only fun bit is going to be all the hot glue involved. Still, I think it’s more than doable, and there’s a lot of room for self-expression and variation. I honestly can’t wait to see what all they come up with!

Jellyfish Lanterns

Treasure Hunt:

This is an involved project, but I love my scavenger/riddle hunts. Always an after hours event, I get teens running around the library, familiarizing themselves with the card catalog, and having fun while they’re at it! I normally set it up that they need 8 pieces of a map, with the last piece they get to be the one with the final clue that leads them to the prize or goal. I come up with 16 riddles and challenges, typically 12 riddles and 4 challenges. Challenges consist of things like mini games, a short karaoke piece, and a tangram puzzle. Feel free to get creative-my first one was Stranger Things themed and they had to reach into the Upside Down! Each team can ALWAYS skip a riddle or challenge, but there’s a catch-solving a riddle or completing a challenge only gives you a 50/50 shot with a die to earn a map piece. They have to weigh how well they’re doing against how much trouble they’re having. They can always come back and try again, of course, but it’s a time management consideration.

If you want to try this out, I have a few tips:

Teams should preferably be 2-4 people, with probably a max of 5 teams, MAYBE 6 teams. You might need to tweak if you’re doing more than that.

If it’s a location you want them to find, I normally tape a team number there for them to bring back. If you’re not sure how many teams you’ll have, I’d go high instead of low.

Avoid having them running down the same clues at the same time. One way of doing that, if you don’t have too many teams, is to only have one set of clues to draw from and marking it down on the clue itself which team has completed the challenge or riddle with their team number. They draw, and keep the clue with them until they’re done. I haven’t had too much trouble with one team being so far ahead they absolutely need a clue another team has, but if you want you could always have extras just in case. It’s just hard when you’ve got three teams trying to solve the same puzzle and also keep the other teams from piggybacking off their results.

If you want them to find a fact or something out of a book, I’d recommend including some clues or terms they can use to search in the catalog even if they’re not familiar with the book in question.

If you have them looking any facts up in books, try to make it something they can’t just google. I do ask everyone at the start to not use their phone, in a, “Let’s keep to the spirit of the game and all have fun!” way, but still, it is nice to make it a little harder. Page numbers is one option!

Make a list of all your ideas of hiding places, and then narrow it down before you start making clues. Sometimes one won’t work out and it’s nice to have backup options.

If you’re hiding anything in books, or they need books to reference…check them out beforehand and just check them back in after the library’s closed the day of the event. Don’t forget to check them out…and don’t forget to check them BACK in.

A couple of example clues from my Discount Valentine’s Party:

“It isn’t summer but do try to dream. Of a comedy where nothing is quite as it seems. Where Puck mixes up lovers (and confuses the rest), we’ll be lucky if they manage to fix up this mess.”

Worst comes to worse, if they search summer, dream, and Puck, one of the results is the needed one.

“You don’t need a heart to rule. You don’t need love to marry. Less a heart and less all love, she is also less a fool.”

Again, don’t know the book? Less and heart are bolded, and you can find the book Heartless by Marissa Meyer pretty quick. You can always specify that if there are two options, check the teen one.

That’s everything I’ve got going on! I hope everyone else is looking forward to this summer-I certainly am!

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