Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Library Olympics

This morning we held our Library Olympics program.  This is something that I have done for the past three Olympics and it is always highly successful.  Plus, the newspapers love to take pictures and write up stories on something like this because it is current with the Winter Olympics going on.

Registration & Prep
We register 30 6-12 year olds for this program.  Luckily the Winter Olympics fell during midwinter break for the schools, making this an ideal time to schedule a program.  Normally I am pretty strict that you have to fit between the age limits in order to participate in the program, but with this mix of attendees we had a lot of little siblings.  Instead of having chaos where the little ones run around, I let them participate in the program.

With one staff member supervising, stations work best for me.  This way I am not directing the program and can fill in where needed.  What this also means is that you put in some time setting up and passing out supplies.

I didn't need decorations for this program, but we luckily had a staff member who recently had a child's birthday with an Olympic theme.  I ended up with swirly things that had different country flags attached.

We also had the Olympic rings on a piece of foam board.  While not intentional, the families used this as a pseudo photo booth and the kids took pictures with their finished creations.  It was sort of like a medal ceremony.

Station 1: Name Your Country
So I didn't end up with 30 United States teams competing against each other, a coworker (the same one who had the birthday party) suggested that we use street names and add a country suffix to the end.  This sounded great to me so I put out a sign with some suggestions:

I also put out small slips of paper where kids could write down their country name.  As you can see, since I live on Oak, my country name is Oakalia.

Station 2: Design Your Flag
If your country is participating in the Olympics, you definitely need a flag.  I bought cardstock flag shapes from Oriental Trading.  While they may not sell them all the time, they have had them available for the past three Olympics.  Sharpie permanent markers work really well on these flags.  I put out a sign about the station and explaining why flags are important:

I also added my sample to the table.

It was great to see what the kiddos came up with for their flags.  There were a lot of bright colors and designs.  I almost wish that I had gotten a picture of all of them in a row.  My favorite flag, though, was one for Earth (great country name!).

Station 3: Medals
If you are at the Olympics, you definitely need to win a medal.  At this station, I used magic scratch medals from Oriental Trading and let the kids design their own.  These have also been available for the past three Olympics.  Once again, I have a sign:

As you may be able to see, I like to sneak in stealth knowledge.  Here we talk about gold, silver, and bronze medals before we design our own.  You can also see my example on the sign.  I like having medals, because while we may talk about places in our competitions, I don't give out prizes.

Station 4: Marshmallow Stacking

This is our first event.  Since marshmallows sort of look like snow and there is snow in the winter, it sort of fits.  There are three rules to marshmallow stacking-no holding, no smushing, and no getting them wet.  On average we could get 4 marshmallows stacked, but we did have a few kids who did five.  So I didn't have to supervise, I put out a sheet with everybody's names and had them write in how many marshmallows they stacked when they finished.  As an added bonus, marshmallows are kind of like sensory blocks.  If you have a little kids who won't eat them, hand them a stack of marshmallows.

Station 5: Bobsled
We run an event every fall called Zucchini Races and had a track built by a Boy Scout working on a project.  Unfortunately, it sits in a closet for the other 11 months and 3 weeks.  I thought it would make a great bobsled track and we sent Matchbox cars down it.  While we have three lanes, we had extra Matchbox cars.  This was a good thing because the cars kept disappearing and reappearing.  I have been asked if we can pull out the track more often because it was such a huge hit.

Station 6: Indoor Hockey
I bought inflatable hockey sticks from Oriental Trading and we hit crumbled up paper (snowballs).  Now I don't know if you have ever tried to hit something with an inflatable, but because it isn't sturdy, it doesn't hit well.  Personally, I kept laughing as the kids would put lots of muscle into their hits.  We did end up with someone who got their snowball 9 feet (and I am still wondering how that happened).

I also use masking tape on the floor with feet marks to help the kids measure.

Station 7: Downhill Skiing
This station didn't come about until 30 minutes before our program when our teen librarian said, "Hey, do you want to use our Plinko board.  It kind of looks like skiing."  I taped some clip art skiers to each of the Plinko chips and added it to our line-up.  This was the other giant hit of the day.  It became highly competitive as four kids would line up their chips (skiers) and let them fly down the board.

The program was a huge hit.  With all of the siblings in the room, we did end up with 34 kids after we took off those who didn't show.  It was a good balance between action stations (bobsled, skiing, and hockey) and artistic stations (flag and medals).  While everybody did everything, they each had their favorite.  While I thought they were cool, I wasn't expecting the Plinko and the car track being used for a solid hour.  We almost had to force rotation as the kids loved repeating their runs.


  1. This is great! Can you provide any instructions for the bobsled track? Or put me in touch with someone who does?
    Thanks for sharing these ideas.
    Happy day,
    "Miss Lisa," NC

    1. Unfortunately, it is over 5 years old and we have lost track of the creators. I can tell you that it is extremely close to a Pinewood Derby track for scouts.

  2. Super jealous of your bobsled track!


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