I’ve thrown a couple of toddler dances in the past year, and, I have to say, I purposefully put less effort into this one. The Valentine’s Day dance took over a month’s work, what with the bean bag toss, decorations, playlist, and photo backdrop. Then came the Halloween Dance that took about the same amount of work. This time, I really wanted to frame this event as a “family dance party”. No activities like bean bag tosses or toddler bowling: Just a low-maintenance party store-bought backdrop, a really good dance mix I made with the generous help of the librarians of the Storytime Underground Facebook page, and lots of a drums and shakers. I don’t know if it was a coincidence or the purposeful scaling back of the event, but I saw more adult participation this time around.
Here’s me and the backdrop, which is two layers of that mylar/tinsel curtain, plus some sparkly stars. I’m wearing a tinsel crown, but it’s impossible to see in my already candy-colored hair:
Overall, I was really pleased with this party. While our other dance parties consisted of, for the most part, adults sitting along the walls instead of dancing with their kids, I saw every single adult dancing with their child.
Here is the playlist of all the action-based songs I used. Our biggest hits were Tooty Ta and the Koo Koo Kangaroo songs (it’s worth checking out the Koo Koo Kangaroo videos so you can learn the dance moves beforehand):
I interspersed action songs with family-friendly dance songs, mostly from this mix.
I ended the party with this song, which made everyone mellow out a bit. Brianna, the volunteer, and I blew bubbles with our Gymboree bubble blowers:
Last year, my coworker Leigh and I threw a Toddler Valentine’s Day Dance party. It was a very successful program (well-attended despite the blizzard and full of happy patrons), so my new coworker/partner-in-crime Emma and I decided that a Halloween Dance Party would be a good idea.
Last time, I spent months creating decorations (some complicated tissue paper garlands that I swear nobody even noticed). This time, we went way more low-key. Emma and I offered three basic features in our party:
A dance floor: The most preparation I did for the event was creating a family-friendly playlist. Think light on the Raffi and heavy on the Ray Charles. I feel like props help when you’re getting kids and adults to dance, so I had a big box of multi-colored scarves. They were a hit.
A photobooth: The pumpkin backdrop was created by our coworker Leigh. It was self-run by parents and caregivers. They took pictures of their own children or asked another patron to take group photos.
Toddler bowling: Emma and gussied up some individual toilet paper rolls to look like ghosts. We wrapped them in white construction paper, and then glued on black eyes and mouths. The tp rolls served as pins, and we let the toddlers try to knock them down with a ball.
Here’s Emma and me with the backdrop:
The toddlers dug the toddler bowling, though Emma said toddler bowling quickly turned into toddler building blocks, which is also fine. Stacking up ghost-y toilet paper rolls and knocking them down is a perfect age-appropriate activity.
I hung out on the dance floor where I pretended I could dance for a full 45 minutes. I saw a lot of nannies and parents simply fixing their cellphone cameras on their children and yelling, “DANCE!” while the child awkwardly stood there, not knowing what to do. I encouraged the grown-ups to put down their phones and lead by example. I kept saying, “Hold your child’s hand and dance with them! It doesn’t matter if you can’t dance! They don’t know that!” This was, mostly, to no avail. For the most part, the kids danced if their accompanying adult did. Otherwise, there was a lot of kids sitting next to adults on the floor. I eventually decided to let it go (I literally sang that song in my head) and figured that whoever wanted to dance would and that I should stop pestering people. I had a nice, albeit small, crew of toddler-sized dance machines. It was fun.
We had over 60 people in attendance, some in costumes, some not. A good time was had, even though my feet hurt at the end of it. Some parents signed waivers for their pictures to be posted on our library’s family page on Facebook. Click here to see some cute Brooklyn kids being cute.
Wanna steal my playlist of kid-friendly tunes that’s semi-guaranteed to get booties of all ages moving? Here it is:
FYI, the Labyrinth song has the line, “Slap that baby, make him free”. Does this matter to you? Don’t use that song, then. Labyrinth is kind of nostalgic for people my age, so I included it. It gets everyone jumping.
The most popular song was the Harry Belefonte one, though no one seemed to get the Beetlejuice association.
I also added some other songs that I didn’t put on my 8tracks playlist:
Before I was a librarian, I was a nanny in Manhattan (I was totally like Scarlett Johansson in that Upper East Side nanny movie, except my skin looked like crap). I took care of many kids, mostly toddlers, with varying vocabularies and communication skills. At the time, I didn’t have any academic knowledge about early childhood development, but I had been observing the difference between the kids who could and did talk and the kids who didn’t speak, or who had very few words in their vocabularies. It was simple: The chatty kids had chatty parents. If the parents talked, so did the kids. The kids who hardly saw their parents or the kids whose parents insisted on those awful Baby Einstein videos? They just had very few verbal skills. Of course, I talked to the kids all day long, because I have a really big mouth and needed something to do, but overall, I think it’s better if this behavior is mirrored by the primary caregiver.
In other words, if you want your child to talk, talk to them as much as you can (constantly talking on your cellphone in the near vicinity of your kid doesn’t count, sorry). It really doesn’t matter what you talk about. Point out things you see on your walks. Tell them what you’re going to do during the day. And, of course, read aloud to them.
Ages ago, my coworker Leigh and I came up with an idea to have a Toddler Prom: dancing, paper corsage crafts, and a photo booth. We decided to do kind of a test run of this idea for Valentine’s Day. A couple of things were bugging me: I felt like we had to keep “canning” ideas: We just don’t have enough staff to pull off a lot of ideas. Also, due to the awful weather in NYC (THUNDERICESTORMAGGEDON!), so many events have been getting canceled or postponed. It did snow the day of the Toddler Valentine’s Day Dance/Formal. The commute was crap and we were afraid no one would show up, but they did. A lot of them. And we got down. It was pretty fun.
I even got all dressed up in hearts! I look miserable because of the non-stop snow and ice of the morning:
My original plan included a craft where the kids decorated their own paper corsages, but we had to table that idea. Not enough time or staff to pull that one off this time. After this event was said and done, I realized the craft may have been just too much stuff for what was, at heart, a simple little program. This dance had three components: a dance floor with music that the grown-ups and kids would enjoy (lots of Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder and the Village People, but also stuff like the Hokey Pokey and the Chicken Dance), a photobooth (created and executed by Leigh), and a bean bag toss where the kids won a prize just for trying. The main event, though, was the dancing. This was a dance party.
Caregivers were encouraged to hop into the photos with the kids, and you can see some of the photos here (the parents signed a release to get the photos up on the Facebook page. I don’t feel comfortable sharing them on my blog). I like that the kids showed up in everything from fancy little dresses and bowties to their jimmy-jams. Here’s Leigh and I in our Sunday best in front of the photo booth:
I stole the idea for our pipe cleaner tiaras from here. I didn’t let the kids have them because I was afraid they’d poke themselves with the pointy ends.
Other than creating the extra-fancy tiaras, this was an event that took a lot of preparation work. I had to make the mixed CD (I’d use something like Spotify, but WiFi can be spotty in some areas of the library), the decorations, the tickets, and the bean bag toss. Leigh made the really nice photobooth area.
Leigh found some vintage Valentine’s Day cards in her apartment (I feel like this is the sort of thing a librarian would be hoarding, and I mean that with the utmost respect). We used them as our tickets for the event:
Here’s our giant heart-shaped bean bag toss:
I made it by stapling two pieces of foam core together, painting it red, and gluing it with every pink, red, white, and purple thingy we had in the craft closet. Oh, also lots of googly eyes, too, because I think googly eyes are great and necessary. Two extra pieces of foam core hold up the heart. It took FOREVER to make this thing, so after the dance was over, my boss re-appropriated it for a book display:
I saw a tutorial on Rookie Mag for these super-cute tissue paper garlands. Great, I thought, I’ve got tissue paper AND twine! This will be EASY!
Nevermind! These tassels took up my whole freaking life. Endless twisting and gluing and cutting. Oy with the cutting already. Someone pointed out to me that someone sells garlands like these for $130 bucks (granted, these look a mess classier than mine). I don’t blame them. They’re a ton of work if you want to make a bunch.
They also make a really nice hat.
Despite the absolutely awful weather, which I was sure was going to close the library for the day, we had a full house of happy moms, dads, nannies, and tiny little kiddos. Even though this program required a mess of prep work, the activities themselves were pretty simple. You don’t need to go overboard like I did. Just turn on some up-tempo disco or Motown and shake it with your library kids.