15 Tips for Story Time Crafting

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15 Tips for Story Time Crafting at LibraryAdventure.com

My Story Times are held in a library that was never intended to accommodate children. Or women for that matter, but that is a different post! Of course since 1760 we have made many improvements and for many, many, many years have encouraged and embraced having children (and women) join us!

Including a craft in our Story Times is still a challenge – our space is fairly small and we are surrounded by historic books (and we have no budget). More and more I am finding that other Story Time Leaders face similar challenges (and budgets).

Tips to Reduce the Mess

* Glue sticks are much easier to control than liquid glue. I particularly like Elmer’s Disappearing Purple Glue Sticks. The glue is purple when placed on the paper making it easier for little hands to guide and control. When the glue dries the color fades to clear.

* If I use paint I place very small amounts in Mini Aluminum Pie Tins. They are not easily tipped over and wash out well so they can be reused. I don’t use paint brushes for this age group – too unpredictable. If a craft here calls for paint it is applied with a stamper of some sort or fingers.

* My favorite ink pads are the Ultra Washable Stamp Pads made by Hampton Art. They come in a variety of colors, wash off with a baby wipe and I have never had a problem getting the ink off of clothing.

* Do-A-Dot Markers are wonderful. If these are beyond your budget look for Bingo markers at the dollar story – just check that they are washable and non-toxic.

*Baby wipes are your best friend. I keep a box on hand, but most grown-ups have a stash with them.

Tips to Keep Costs Minimal

*Use recycled materials whenever possible. Start saving your TP rolls now. Juice jug lids, cereal boxes, egg cartons, etc. can be used in hundreds of crafts for kids and help you make story time extras on budget.

* Dollar stores and the Target dollar aisle are a great place to find all sorts of crafty items.

Tips to Keep Things Safe

*Use only non-toxic paints, markers, crayons, glue, etc.

*If an item can fit down a toilet paper tube it is a potential choking hazard to kids under the age of 3. Some slightly older kids will still mouth items too and many will be taking the craft home with younger siblings. If a craft uses a potential choking hazard item offer an alternative – for example googly eyes can be replaced with paper cut-outs, stickers or drawings.

*Avoid food items for crafting. Many kids have allergies to food items even when they are not ingested.

*I don’t let the kids use scissors during Story Time. According to Parent’s Magazine, scissor skills are not fully developed until age 6. Pre-cut whenever possible or ask grown-ups to do the cutting during craft time. Encourage scissor practice at HOME!

* Use what you have. Substitute markers for paint, have kids decorate plain paper instead of buying fancy patterns, etc.

Tips to Keep Things Fun

*Use age-appropriate crafts!

*Encourage grown-ups to guide and not do the project. Emphasize that process is what matters, not product!

*Prepare as much as possible ahead of Story Time and have everything set up and ready to craft if possible.  It is hard for kids this age to wait.

About Anne McKernan

Once upon a time Anne McKernan, a very tired mother of two, walked in to a library ... the next thing she knew she was leading her town library's story time programs. Read more at http://itsybitsymom.wordpress.com


  1. Hi Anne, I agree with everything you wrote, except for the scissor bit! I know that it’s rough on a three year old to do some cutting, but I find that it’s better to let them try to do it than saying “practice at home!” Parents are SO AFRAID of handing their kids scissors, even in a safe environment such as story time where the parent is sitting next to the child. Many of the crafts I do in my storytimes are very open ended, so I understand perfection if you’re doing items that are supposed to be die-cut precise…but then again that’s the reason the crafts I provide are open ended in the first place. Great article!

    • Hi Michelle! Thank you for your comment. I understand your point and I know how hard it is for care givers to take the step to let their kids use scissors, but in a crowded room with kids of varying ages it is just too much for me to teach, handle and supervise. Even in my programs where the kids are accompanied by their grown-ups it can get chaotic quickly (truth be told, sometimes more so!). Though I try to avoid “product” crafts in favor of “process” crafts every now and then there is a piece or two that it is just easier to pre-cut in the interest of time and safety. There are a myriad of wonderful fine motor skills that can be practiced in Story Time – tearing paper is wonderful for small hands, coloring, folding, pinching, gluing, etc. so I don’t feel like the kids are missing out. I’ve seen more kids over the age of two who have never encountered a crayon or marker much less a glue stick! But, I am a firm believer there is no one way to hold Story Time, so I am happy you have found a way to make scissor practice work for your groups! Glad you enjoyed the article and thanks for visiting The Library Adventure!

  2. Scissor practice is VERY important in preschools–remember my daughter’s preschool teacher working on it, because the same skills tie in to writing. I have a ton of the basic, either handed, paper only kid scissors and there’s never been a problem amidst the chaos of craft time. I put them on the table, let the caregivers/parents know it’s a good idea to let the kids try doing it themselves, and leave it be. And I put lots of cutting related crafts in my take home bags and remind parents/caregivers this is an important skill.

    • I agree it is very important! I am not in any way saying scissor skills are not important; scissor skills are a precursor to writing skills. I am just suggesting that crafting in some Story Time settings might be made easier if items are pre-cut. This is especially true with my baby/toddler groups, even with one-to-one adult supervision. My preschool group, however, attends without grown-ups so I am the only adult supervising crafting with that grou. It is a very mixed group in terms of fine motor, listening and developmental skills. I am not able to teach and supervise scissor skills to the whole group at once and I certainly don’t want anyone going home having picked up bad scissor habits. Pre-cut pieces save time and resources – two things many Story Time leaders have little of! I think it is great others have been able to find a way to safely incorporate using scissors with Story Time crafts, and I especially love the suggestion to put cutting skill items in a take home bag!

  3. Yep…I vote for scissor use too…but I get your point about why you don’t have them and I respect that. I have small groups, and I do allow the kids to use scissors, as I figure it is a practice time. I love when I have new parents come and I get out the scissors!!…. 🙂 btw….we use Sharpie permanent markers, too!!!! LOL

    • SHARPIES?!?!?! That is CRAZY! We are too close to the BOOKS to try something wild like that in my library! LOL – funny story, I had an awesome grandmother who brought two girls to ST and one week we broke out some new dot markers. They said WASHABLE on the label but of course I had never tried them…. this grandmother was so great, she always joined in and always let her girls get messy and loved helping them. Come cleanup time her hands were COVERED in color. She was desperately trying to get it off with baby wipes and confessed she was getting MARRIED later that same afternoon!! Thankfully, she was a great sport about it! Personally I would have skipped ST on my wedding day!

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