Starting last September, I began visiting a Calgary Housing site in south Calgary to provide library programming in addition to the storyvan service I already provided (where I take books and DVDs to the complex to circulate). The social service agency at the complex has partnerships with different after school programs (Boys and Girls Club, Calgary AfterSchool, etc.) to provide activities on site; the Shawnessy Library was added to the roster of partners.
Since this was my first time developing after-school programming, I decided to start from scratch and focus on literacy activities and making reading fun (isn't that what librarians do?). I'm sure you can guess how wildly successful this was with the kids.
Over the course of two months, we rotated from literacy-based games to crafts to storytime and back again. It seemed like I could not find the right mixture of activities.
Finally, I decided to throw my traditional ideas aside and find something new. I began by searching through the program closet at the library and I stumbled upon an obvious answer. The library runs a Lego club on Sundays - the rest of the week, the Lego sits dorment. I packed up a small box of Lego and decided at the last minute to throw in some puppets for the kids who weren't interested in building blocks.
The result will probably seem obvious: the kids loved it! They were split evenly between the puppets and the lego, some bouncing between the two options. The puppets became storytelling tools for the kids and they even wrote a small (10 sentence) play.
The lesson for me is that kids have an appetite for play, imagination and stories (especially after a day at school) and sometimes adults have to stop trying to be the experts. Rather than spending time developing rigid activities, I now let the kids decide how we'll spend our hour together. I'm calling this, "kid-centric programming".