Tag Archives: teens

Teen Craft Kit: Bubble Tea

Oh my goodness, can it be????? Michala has actually written a blog post?! 

I have! And it is for a socially distanced Covid time craft that had full attendance and gotten positive reviews from teenagers….via their parent’s emailing me. 😊 

My teens have gotten seriously burnt out of computer time for all the things. And in July or August I tried a grab and go craft program that could be picked up through our drive-up window. (I’ll make another blog post on this one soon – I’m on a roll!) And because it had 16 teens sign up, pick up, and do the crafts I knew I hit the jackpot on programming during this weird time. 

On Monday, September 14, the next teen craft kit went out to registrants; this time they had option of being picked up at the drive-up window or being mailed to registrants. And allowing for mailing is really the way to go! Out of 25 teens that signed up 21 requested the supplies be mailed to them which means I was able to get a fun afternoon project to kids that may not otherwise have been able to get the supplies. (Thank you, USPS, please continue surviving so I can keep this going.)

Looking for more Mail-To-You Kit Ideas? Check out:

Baby-Sitters Club Membership Kits
Camp Half Blood Welcome Kits

This magical Teen Craft Kit for September that had 25 teen registrants?

Bubble Tea!


It was really a simple and cost-effective kit to put together too. Each kit wound up being a little under $1 as I was able to buy my supplies off Amazon. (And while they not my favorite supplier, it is my fastest and most reliable option at the moment.)  

I bought a multipack of milky tea sachets: Prince of Peace 3 in 1 Hong Kong Style Tea Latte (30 Sachets) 


And a combo pack of boba pearls and hygienically wrapped boba straws: BOBA Black Tapioca Pearl Bubble Tea, 2 Pack (Each 8.8 OZ) + 1 Pack of 50 BOBA Straws (Variety Color) 


I then raided our coffee station and took Splenda packets that we had on hand, grabbed some of our tiny weird shaped baggies, and a bunch of DVD cases to start packing things up. 

Every kit got 1 tea sachet, 1 Splenda packet, 1 ½ T of tapioca pearls, and a straw. I also placed my business card in the kit in case of any questions. 

Upcycling DVD cases as packaging, meant that I got to be creative in the design for directions (making sure to include ingredients/allergen information) while also ensuring that no matter which delivery option they chose (mailing or drive-up) the contents would remain secure. 

And for only about $1 per person, we had a simple snacky craft, which reinforced basic cooking skills, following directions, and patience…and the teens loved it! 

Happy Little Painters -Teen Programming

You may have noticed the retro uptrends lately. 80’s band tees and cartoons, scrunchies, vinyl records, fanny packs, and even the Walkman is releasing an updated version for it’s 40th anniversary. The past is alive and well in pop culture and teens are living for the nostalgia…..even if though they weren’t around for the orininals. One case in point is Bob Ross. He is everywhere. There are Bob Ross puzzles, Bob Ross tee shirts, Bob Ross board games, Bob Ross Halloween costumes, and of course Bob Ross library programs. 

I have successfully run Happy Little Painters, a Bob Ross inspired teen painting programin two unique ways with registration filling up in a matter of days. (I prefer to run programs that do not require registration, however when there are specific material needs I have to know how many kiddos I’ll have coming in.) 

My first Happy Little Painters program took place over the summer out on the front lawn. Each participant received a canvas panel, a paint palette, their choice of tempera paints to use (I always use tempera paints for teens because someone always winds up painting themselves, their friends, their clothes, or their friend’s clothes), a brush, and a cup of water and were let loose to sit on the disposable tablecloths I laid out in the various shady places of our lawn. 

There were no rules on what they should paint, but were encouraged to paint what was around them or use it as inspiration. We have many happy little things that can be seen from the front lawn: trees, flowers, clouds, CVS…. and a lot of happy things were created. At the end of the program each teen was able to take home their work and also got a pin for participating.

The second time I ran Happy Little Painters, we were indoors. I started the program watching the intro and 5 minutes of an episode of The Joy of Painting  to show how quickly speed painting actually goes. I then kept a still of the end picture frozen on the screen and allowed everyone  to create at their own pace trying out their own techniques in recreating the picture. 

Most followed the plan and created a scene reminiscent to the original, however there were a few teens that wanted to create original pieces of art. (While not following the idea of the program teens painting to the beat of their own drum were still actively participating and I am not one to dissuade art, expression, or participation simply because it wasn’t the “assignment”) At the end of the program each teen, once again, got to keep their art and also received a certificate for participation.

Since running these programs I have learned that the Bob Ross company is very litigious about the use of the name Bob Ross and the phrase “happy little trees”, so I foresee a title change going forward with additional programs of this vein for me. However, Bob Ross was not mentioned in any marketing for the program. I was vaguely dressed like a certain bearded, afro-ed, painter of yesteryear and spoke in a more peaceful, dulcet tone than my own voice, but I find painting brings out the more meditative side to me anyway… and really, who doesn’t rock a permed wig to work occasionally?

Teen Passive Program: Coloring

Kids have always been afforded coloring sheets, and then adults realized that “hey this is really relaxing” and the adult coloring book craze began…but somehow teens were, for the most part, left out in the coloring cold. When I inherited my teen department it actually came with a a few coloring books for use in house, but they were not really utilized by our teens.

Our current selection of coloring books in the Teen Room

I could tell there was a want, as many times the books would be looked at, but I think they were tired of the books we had and wanted things that were less intricate to color in. So came my quest for some new fun coloring books!

I started trolling Amazon looking for simple pictures, pop culture references, and random odd things. (This can sometimes be harder than it sounds as when the pictures get simplified they can begin to look very juvenile.) However, once you fall down the rabbit hole you can find an amazing plethora of coloring books such as:

Every other week I do wind up going through the coloring books looking for any inappropriate additions to the books, or as I call “my sweep for Ds and Fs”. Any swear words, social media handles, or genitalia drawn in gets pulled from the books. I also will pull any overly scribbled on pages because when there is a lot of scibblage no one will continue to color on that page. I don’t pull all additions from the book though and sometimes you wind up with some greatness.

Occasionally, I will also have a large coloring sheet printed out and I will tape it to a coffee table that I have in the teen room for some “allowed vandalism”. It stays on the table until it is either colored in, has lost the battle to swear words, penises, and “follow me @s”, or my favorite death, having every square inch covered in Old Town Road lyrics and a rainbow of a million “YEETS”. (Does that make it Yeeted to death? Yoted?)

And sometimes you wind up with some gorgeous, collaborative art.

Teen Passive: Concentrate on Charms

Every month I host a passive activity in the teen room. Sometimes they are repeat styles of something like Coloring, Book-in-a-Bottle or Book Emoji Storylines where the shredded or emoji explained book will change, but the concept stays the same: identify the title. But in October, something magical happens at the Westerville Public Library…the whole building turns into a school for witches and wizards of all ages and we showcase the magic of the library during the Wizards & Wands Festival.

2018 was the first installment of this festival and the outpouring from the community was enormous! This year with one magical festival under our belt the Wizards & Wands Festival has grown even larger and features all kinds of fun activities around the building leading up to the night of festivities. One of those activities is my October Teen Passive: Concentrate on Charms.

All across the largest wall of my Teen Room are different wand movements for spells from the Harry Potter Universe, each one labeled with it’s name for identification purposes, as we can’t all be Hermione and recognize each swish and flick or the different spells/charms.(Thank you Potterhead superfans and Wizards Unite! game for the wand movements) Anyone wishing to participate can snag an answer sheet from the Teen Desk and wander through the stacks to the bright green wall in the hopes of finding the correct spells and drawing out the wand movements necessary to successfully cast it.

Searching the wall for the correct spells can take a bit of time as I only ask for 9 spells to be identified and there are 30 gracing the wall.

Each person can participate once per day and when their answers are returned to the Teen Desk they are awarded one prize ticket that can be turned in for a raffle style drawing during the Wizards & Wands event. While most of my passive activities are limited to teens only, the W&W Themed passive for October is open to all ages. The Wizards & Wands event will be this Friday (October 25, 2019 5-9pm), but Concentrate on Charms will remain up through the end of the month.

This passive activity has already had over 250 answer sheets returned to the Teen Desk and there are still 8 more days to play (2 more days if you are collecting those prize tickets!)

Steven Universe Color Party

This coming weekend Cartoon Network is showing every single Steven Universe episode ever, all leading up to the premiere of the new Steven Universe musical on Monday…so this feels like a great time to talk about my Steven Universe Color Party program!

Steven Universe
Steven Universe and the Crystal Gems (Pearl, Amethyst and Garnet).(Cartoon Network)

If you are unfamiliar with the TV show Steven Universe let me try and catch you up to speed, even though I will not be able to do the show justice at all. Let me start by saying that it is the most LGBQT+ cartoon you will ever watch, it is political, diverse, and even though the entire premise revolves around alien gem lifeforms with special fighting powers it is completely relatable.

The first season features a goofy kid named Steven and weird alien adventures that he goes on with his female warrior guardians, the Crystal Gems. Steven is learning to master his alien gem powers as he is half human and half gem. His lovable human dad is a bit of an oaf and the other unique and diverse characters in Beach City are all given decently explored back stories which we learn throughout the seasons.

Then season two drops and you get more back story on the Gems and you begin to think wow there is more to this show than just a fun alien saving rainbow world….then seasons three through five having you question how you were lulled into thinking this was anything but an epicly awesome, equality driven ode to love, diversity, rainbows, and truth.

Steven Universe shows human nature better than any TV show I have ever seen. It may be geared for kids, tweens, and teens, but it does not shy away from big issues or dumb down it’s content. It walks the line of having pop culture appeal and being topically relevant to society which is why I think so many of my kids gravitate towards it. And is why this summer we needed to have a fun, light hearted party to celebrate the alien space gem warriors.

I planned stations and activities based upon the Crystal Gems’s strengths where each attendee got to go through different “training” with each Gem and of course it had to be very colorful.


Pearl is the mom figure of the group. She is always looking out for Steven’s best interest and trying to guide him through life. While she is a stickler for rules, Pearl understands that Steven learns in his own way and helps teach him skills he needs as a Crystal Gem, like bubbling.

(Cartoon Network)

For Pearl’s station we worked on our bubbling skills. I added various food coloring colors to bubble mix and had teens blow bubbles using the colored mixture at white paper. You can also place bubble mix in cups and use a straw to blow bubbles in the cup until the mixture overflows for more intense bubble shadows.

Garnet (Sapphire & Ruby)

(Alexbandria @Mrs_Motionless)

Garnet is actully a gem fusion. She is the combination of Ruby and Sapphire. So for her station teens got to play with my giant spin art machine* and fuse colors together.


Amethyst is a bit of a rebel in the group. She is the gem that pushes boundaries and speaks her mind bluntly. Amethyst also has a fun kid like streak to her perosnality. Since everything is very straight forward, upfront and fun with Amethyst we needed an activity that fit that criteria.

So instead of Steven Tag we played Rainbow Tag!

Rainbow tag is exactly like regular tag only all players are running around with handfuls of color run or Holi Festival powder*. The regular rules of the game still apply, but with a twist. One person is it and will chase other players in a designated area trying to tag someone, if they succeed the tagged individual becomes the next person that is it and the cycle continues. The twist is that instead of tagging someone by tapping them with a hand, Rainbow Tag lets you tag someone by throwing your handful of color powder at another player. The game ends when you run out of powders or out of energy to run around, whichever comes first.

Peridot & Lapis Lazuli

Peridot and Lapis Lazuli are newer members of the Crystal Gems. (Another member of the squad that could have been included in this activity is Jasper, but I had to cut her out of this area as my printer decided it was no longer going to print properly and was unable to have her repped during the program.) Peridot was a mathematical Home World Gem that was converted to the ideas of the Crystal Gems and began to fight to save humanity. Lapis Lazuli is a water based Gem that had been fractured during the first Gem War and was bubbled for safety reasons until freed by Steven. (The militant, Jasper was also a Home World Gem and had a longer redemption arc before joining the Crystal Gems.

File:Lapis Jasper Peridot sketch By Peri.png
Lapis Jasper Peridot sketch By Peri.png

This final station was all about accuracy, power, and water, which could only mean…..water balloons! Teens got to aim and throw water balloons filled with colored water at targets to improve their Crystal Gem fighting skills.

All in all we had an awesome time and there was a lot of very heated discussions about Crystal Gems and their character flaws while having fun with art!

*Giant spin art machine and DIY color run powder directions will be featured in next week’s blog post

Teen Volunteer Training

I am incredibly lucky to have a large base of teen volunteers to help at Westerville Public Library. Part of that is because of school requirements; high schoolers and middle schoolers have community service time as a graduation requirement in Westerville City School District. I also have many teens who are actively seeking scholarships or involved in extracurriculars that require or encourage helping out in the community that they live. All in all I have a little over 350 active teen volunteers every school year. The thing is, all of those teens need to be trained – so, each month, I run Teen Volunteer Training.

On the third Monday of each month, I can be found leading a one hour teen volunteer training session for ages 12-18. During the school year training covers how to help out at library programs and how to shelve materials in designated areas. Teens that attend training can begin selecting desired shifts and putting in some hours at the library for whatever their community service needs they have the very next day. (I really love how streamlined it has become.)

The training session is really simple. We lightly touch on the types of programs that teens can help at (storytimes, parties, special events, etc.) as well as special assignments that can become available throughout the year (making buttons, cutting out crafts, placing stickers, etc.). Because each program and librarian requesting the help is unique and the needs vary we do not spend a lot of time on this subject. However the basics of what is expected for helping at programs is covered, as well as talking about the general personalities; i.e. if you aren’t a fan of little kids….storytimes might not be your best fit. The WPL website also provides a link to a Google doc I maintain listing descriptions of more specific tasks that volunteers would be doing at each event.

The majority of the hour is focused on shelving training. Teens are able to help return materials in 3 locations: J Fiction, Teen Fiction, and DVDs. Spine labels and call numbers are explained, examples of different stickers that may be seen on books are shown, and then we get into the nitty gritty of the ABCs.

Like most fictions sections, our books are organized alphabetically by the author’s last name, then first name, then within that specific area the title of the book and/or series. I annoy my kids with several slides showing exactly what I mean by “author’s with the same last name” and that no matter how awesome you are about know series order they still go alphabetically. And then I up the ante and make them move and do things.

I start out getting groans and mumbles because I have us all sing the ABCs together and will stop or slow down if I don’t get participation from attendees. 

When teens show up at the beginning of the training I have the attendance sheet for sign-in* and everyone receives a beautiful paper with their last and first name on it. This paper comes into play after our lovely a capella, because it is actually their spine label featuring their very own call number. Each teenager is now a book and collectively they need to alphabetize themselves as if they are being placed on a shelf. 

Then comes the next physical movement and moment where teens will have to intereact with each other. Basket sorting! When setting up for the program I pull 10 items from each designated shelving area mix them up so they are out of alphabetical order and place each grouping in a basket for the trainees to sort and alphabetize while working together. Each team of teens will wind up sorting each basket of materials so that they can work with the items in a controlled environment. I, of course, throw some curve balls in the mix to make sure they all understand the order of author’s last name > author’s first name > title alphabetical system that we use and can correct any missteps along the way.

Then we get to do the super happy fun times tour and visit the areas where they get to shelve items! Starting in the Teen Dept. I show volunteers where to collect items needing to be shelved, where they get placed, and how to move book ends around. Most of the shelving in this area has bookends that are connected to the stacks and I teach them how to not only move the brackets back and forth along the track, but how to get them back in when they come out. Everyone get to “break a shelf” and practice moving the brackets and replacing them back properly.

DVD land is next with the same start as Teen, showing where to collect materials they get to re-shelve as service. Bonus time though because I sneak in one more round of alphabetizing training and have everyone select a DVD to shelve, let them loose in the stacks, and follow behind checking their placement to ensure we have it down. While they are winding through the stacks with DVDs in hand I remind them that shelving is not a race and that accuracy is key and what we are really looking for. If they need to sing the ABCs to themselves or take a minute to make sure it is being placed right, then do so. An item not in the correct location is as good as lost until it someone finds it.

After DVDs have been explored the last stop on the tour is the Youth Dept. We learn where materials to be shelved are located and have a look at the unique layout of the stacks in the area and I explain how to shift shelves. Because of our checkout rate and pages staying on top of things, very rarely do our volunteers need to know how to shift materials, however I’d rather have them armed with that knowledge than stumble across over packed shelves later.

At the end of the tour, we go over how to sign up for shifts using our system (which will be explained in a post on another day). And I implore them to please ask any questions and to make sure that they have things spelled correctly on the attendance sheet before I let them escape to the outside world armed with new knowledge, a pocket-sized handout on shelving basics, and my business card.

*Note: I try to keep registered programming to a minimum, however Teen Volunteer Training is one of those I do ask for sign-up. It helps me more easily check for applications and have the spine labels printed beforehand, as well as foreshadows IRL to the teens that they will need to sign up for things…like shifts. Teen Volunteer Training is also the one registered program that is the exception to the rule that only registered individuals can attend. I keep blank spine label forms in case I have kiddos wandering in to go through training so that they can be books too and we talk about responsibilities and signing up for things at the end of the training.

Programming By a Thread

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away I embroidered as a hobby. And occasionally I will come up with the grand idea that I will once again take up this hobby, so I buy oodles of threads and embroidery flosses in anticipation of projects that I will undoubtedly create…..except the actual creating of embroidered objects does not happen.

This means that I’ve got stacks on stacks on stacks, floss on floss on floss and is good news for all of my teens because that makes string art is an easy possibility for a program!

String art is a crazy simple program to produce, all you need is:

  • Wood
  • Finishing nails
  • Hammers
  • Embroidery floss
  • Paint is optional
  • Templates are optional as well

You can always buy wood boards off of Amazon:

Or you can be like me and run to your favorite tool supply store, buy some wood planks and ask them to cut them to your desired lengths for a small fee. After all, you might already need to go there to pick up hammers and finishing nails and why not make it one trip. (Pro-tip: Home Depot and Lowes make the first two cuts for free on each board)

Overall teens are pretty good about waiting for their turn and sharing hammers, but you will need several hammers on hand. You can probably beg, borrow, or steal some from co-workers if you do not have a small cache of them. I currently have 8 hammers in my supply, but after the popularity of my last program for string art I will need to purchase a few more to cut down on the wait times between each teen needing them.

I like to supply some simple templates of patterns as well as blank paper and pencils for those that want to be unique and create their own designs. There are a bunch of templates all over Pinterest, but I have found that designs turn out best when you have nails spaced 1-3 inches apart, depending on the shape. That also means that you can never have enough finishing nails on hand. Whatever number you think each piece will take, double it and make sure you have at least 1 emergency pack squirreled away for use when you run out at the end of the program with a couple of teens still creating things.

I begin String Art by explaining what tools and supplies everyone will have access to and go over basic safety rules for using hammers and nails for everyone. A small stack of planks and a bowl of nails is placed in the center of each table grouping and 4-6 teens can easily sit at station with enough room for their projects.I put paints, tape, and template supplies at a table near the front of the room so everyone can have access to them and distribute hammers to the tables after the general rules and safety talk.

The entire program runs at the pace of the teen creators. Some will be faster than others, some will make more in depth pieces, some will focus painting the board and mapping out their outline, while others will just jump right in and start hammering away like they are wielding Mjölnir. There is no right or wrong way for them to create and as you can see a lot of different creations come out of it.

Teen Advisory Board

Lots of libraries have advisory boards for their teenagers. A place where teens can voice their opinions, ask for materials and programs, and meet peeps from different schools (or even homeschoolers). When I became the Teen Librarian at Westerville, I inherited two: Junior Teen Advisory Board (JTAB) for middle schoolers and Teen Advisory Board (TAB) for High Schoolers.

At my previous library, at the advice and mentoring of my director, I tried to create a Teen Advisory Group. It somehow devolved from a group that met to help brainstorm, create, and inspire programming to being just another program I had to continually create new material for. Over the course of one semester it changed from being TAG: Teen Advisory Group to TAG: Teen Arts and Games, a hangout group that focused on activities and crafts.

It could have been the intense, once a week, schedule I was asked to implement for meetings. It could have been that I was a newly minted librarian and I was still testing the waters on what my program style was. The giant learning curve figuring out my new community coming from Chicagoland to western Kentucky. Or that no one knew what was going to happen with teen programming as I was literally the first Teen Librarian for Henderson Library and County. But somewhere along the way TAG changed and it was no longer an advisory group.

Arts & crafts and gaming programs are important and needed for teens, but that was not what I had prepped for. The new direction meant that I was quickly burning through all my programming ideas, that should have been spread over many months, and quickly burning out. During the small break in programming we had over winter break I was able to regroup and plan out some fun weekly activities without losing my mind but was never able to get a true advisory group off the ground.

And then I moved to Westerville, where there was already a Teen Advisory Board in place. And after acting as a substitute Teen Librarian during a maternity leave, I became the Teen Librarian…and wasn’t sure what to do with the advisory boards I inherited. After all my last foray into this type of programming fizzled out and turned into something completely different.

It was time for my new teens to school me, yo.

I was up front and honest about my experience with advisory groups to the JTAB and TABbers and asked how the program currently ran. Then we talked about what they wanted the group to be like. And over the course of one semester it changed from what I inherited to a hybrid of what my teens and I both wanted and needed.

Things that stayed the same:

  • When we meet – once a month on the last Thursday, for about an hour. JTAB at 6pm TAB at 7pm
  • Who it’s for – JTAB is for middle schoolers, TAB is for high schoolers
  • Service hours – as long as a teen signs in on the attendance sheet and participates in the meeting they get an hour of community service
  • Snacks – are served and enjoyed at the meetings, but can’t be taken home at the end
  • What we do – share wants for programming, library materials, and random conversations/ideas
  • Marketing – All members (including me) talk to teens in the community about coming to check out the fun we have at JTAB/TAB
  • Officers – TAB members elect officers for roles and more or less run the program with librarian guidance as needed
  • ARCs – anyone that attends can snag one ARCs to take home

Things that changed:

  • How to join – Show up! No more applying and interviewing, you show up you get to participate
  • Snacks – options are now a combo of healthy and sugary, but take into account shared allergies, religious dietary restrictions, and packaging (being able to save some snacks for the next meeting is a big plus!)
  • What we do – Create and run programs independently. Teens still help create programs and activities, but the onus of an entire program is no longer on their shoulders
  • Marketing – teens create special campaigns and activities to spread the word on the fun that we have at JTAB/TAB
  • ARCs Frenzy – anyone that attends can snag one or several ARCs to take home
  • Book reviews – JTAB and TABbers can fill out bookmark book reviews stating why they loved or hated a library book that gets tucked into it’s respective title

Small changes in how things went made a big difference for how we all view the advisory boards. Teens still get agency by sharing their ideas and wants, but don’t have the same pressures of having to be present all the time for everything. I don’t have have an overloaded schedule of crazy and have help in coming up with programs. And we all get snacks and hang time with people who’s lives may not cross paths if it weren’t for the library.

The Best Laid Plans

Sometimes, no matter how much you have prepared for a program. No matter how much you promoted it. No matter how excited you are…no one shows up.

It makes you question your teen librarian skills. Are you still cool? Still hip? Still with it?

I had a program like that this past week: Silent Card Castles.

The premise of the program is super easy. Over the course of an hour, teens use index cards to free build structures however they want to. There are no building rules beyond build a thing. Cards can be bent and mutilated beyond repair, ripped in half, stacked however they want. And, occasionally, (every 10-15 minutes) you throw out a challenge to them that they have to complete. Things like:

  • connect your structure to at least 1 other person’s creation
  • everyone stop building and spin around 3 times, then switch places with another builder
  • 30 second dance break
  • lights off, build in the dark
  • destroy those creations Godzilla style, then pick up all the cards

And throughout the hour teens are supposed to remain silent. It is meant to help recharge their brains thinking of ways to communicate without words, help them Zen out a bit with the creative but simple task of building things, and have an almost nostalgic kind of fun where they are completely unplugged for just a little bit. All you need to run this program is a room, a bunch of index cards, and some teenagers.

…..I had 2 of those 3 things on Wednesday.

In the past, when I’ve done this program I have had stellar attendance for something that is not food or tech related. My teens have found the fun in the simplicity of it all. Quietly groaning over the challenges I threw at them. Abandoning the silence rule and laughing hysterically when they smashed everything to the ground at the end.

But even with my promotion in the schools before summer break, even with social media and remind blasts, even with JTAB and TAB members telling other teens that they have come to to this is the past and that “it’s more fun than it sounds”. I was alone in a room until I admitted defeat and closed the program.

I had to enter a 0 in the attendance record and let my manager know that this time, not one teenager came to my program. I felt like I failed as a teen librarian. Like I failed my kids in providing them something fun and educational during the summer months when I am actually able to give them more varied programming. And in my little moment of professional self doubt, I threw the world’s smallest pity party.

But after taking a deep breath and utilizing the same skills I had hoped to foster in teens during the program. I reminded myself that even when a program fails. Even if a program falls of the rails with no hope of getting back on track. Even if in the middle of it all it turns into a dumpster fire. As long as I keep trying to engage teens, advocate for their wants/needs, and continue to grow with them. I am still a good teen librarian.

So when you have a program fail like mine did, take a deep breath, pick yourself back up, make yourself a s’more using that dumpster fire, and try again. Cause you are still a good teen librarian and you got this!

If you feed them, they will come … Cake Pops!

There is a phrase that is bandied about quite often when discussing teen programming: “If you feed them, they will come.” It is on message boards and comment sections and Facebook posts. It is the first response to anyone posing the question: How do I get teens to come to programs?

I am not denying its positive response. Snacks do bring in a bodies for programs, but I also want to have snacks make sense and make sure that my teens are engaged in the program. Creative food programs for the win!

This year, I had a cake pops program lined up as a part of summer reading. It sort of came as a suggestion from my TAB group. I say sort of because I was actually out sick the day of the TAB meeting and my substitute *cough cough, Annamarie* wrote down the suggestion of a cake pop program. It turns out it was actually a suggestion for a K-pop program. And while I still haven’t tackled a K-pop program, cake pops were definitely a hit regardless of how it came to be.

The original concept I was going to try was a Nailed It/Failed It style, and in fact it was even named Cake Pops: Nailed It/Failed It in the library’s program guide. However, when looking at the amount of tools each teen would need to try and recreate sample cake pops, I decided to scrap that and just let my kiddos play with their food.

By dropping the Nailed It/Failed It aspect of the program I was able to focus using my budget solely on basic cake pop supplies, instead of including any piping tips or bags. Changing how my funds would be used also meant that the number of participants could increase as I could buy more delicious supplies.

Now it was time to figure out a list of everything that would be needed to create cake pops and not make a giant mess in the process. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Disposable table cloths
  • Paper plates
  • Disposable bowls
  • Plastic spoons
  • Mini cupcake wrappers (completely optional, and I probably wouldn’t use them in the future)
  • Baggies
  • Sucker sticks
  • Almond bark (or candy melts, or tempered chocolate)
  • Slow cooker(s)
  • Food coloring
  • Sprinkles, mini M&Ms, chocolate chips, etc.
  • Donut holes

I went back and forth on what to use as the actual cake for the program; letting the teens make real cake pops by smooshing cake into balls or with donut holes? Ultimately, due to limited access to a sink and a freezer and the time constraint of the program, I went with donut holes.

On the day of the program I set up tables with groups of 6 chairs, had supply stations at the front of the room, covered everything with tablecloths, and put mixtures of the decorating supplies out on each table. After a brief tutorial on how to make a cake pop (directions in notes field below), I released the teens to gather their melted almond bark, donut holes, and sticks before having fun creating deliciousness.

During all the fun it came up that I had never had a cake pop before, even though I had made them many times in my former career as a pastry chef. So of course it was a momentous event when I had my very first cake pop during the program.

Note: Cake Pop Construction

  1. Dip the cake pop stick into the melted almond bark, wait 5 seconds and then place the stick into the donut hole. Patience is key! If you rush the dry time on the almond bark glue your cake pop can come off the stick very easily.
  2. Once the donut hole has adhered to the stick, dip the pop into the almond bark and gently shake or twirl off excess. Once the almond bark begins hardening you can begin adding your decorations. This part can sometimes be tricky – if you go too fast some of your decorations can slide off, but if you go too slow they could need more glue to adhere.
  3. Enjoy all the cake-y goodness, but remember to snap some photos first!