We had a lot of fun celebrating summer readers at Meadowridge and Goodman South this past week, and there were some amazing creations. But instead of highlighting the students, we thought we’d talk more about the specifics of the Amulet Parties: the preparation, the setup, and little tricks or tips we’ve learned so far. We want to offer insight for those of you who might want to do Amulet Parties for your readers, or for parents who think this would make a great birthday party theme. (P.S. It totally would.)
This year, the Maker Corps decided to reward young readers with books and a making experience rather than a pizza coupon. We wanted to provide them the materials to make something special that they could keep forever as a token of their hard work. We decided on amulets because they are common in many books, can appeal to a diverse group of kids, and are easily scaled to accommodate the age of the reader (meaning the object can be as simple or complex as the kid wants to make it).
So! What does our Amulet Party kit look like? We have four tote boxes with materials that will provide the base for an amulet, ways to construct the amulet, and tons of things to decorate with. Here are some pictures:
We have found that the pyramid paper, the cardboard cutouts, and the origami are very popular, and offer an easy way for kids to get started. As far as decorations go, we’ve noticed the shinier the better. Kids love the glitter paper, glitter paint, and glitter glue. They also really like the gems and sparkly stars. But perhaps the most exciting part of our kit is the variety of tape we offer. One kid was absolutely tickled by the fact that we had a roll of tape with mustaches and glasses. Fewer kids use the Minecraft stickers we have available, but the ones who do recognize and use them are really into them.
Now, for a peek at our setup.
For our first Amulet Party, we set out a bowl of glitter paint at one of three working tables, along with the glitter glue, scissors, and glue sticks. We had two other tables set up with all the rest of the materials. We tried to encourage kids to take their materials to their work tables instead of loitering in front of things other kids might want. But walking between tables led to a lot more clean up, and having so much glitter paint out led to little supervision of it. Ultimately, we decided to have one table for painting/ glitter glue-- the messy stuff. The materials tables now double as workspace tables. The only thing that hasn’t changed throughout these two weeks is that we have one area for hot glue guns. This setup allows for easy clean up, it is suitable for rooms of different shapes and sizes, and it encourages conversation between readers who may not know each other.
Beyond the physical setup of the room and the way we lay out our materials, we found that the celebratory decorations we provide are also very important. We always intended to have a banner and party decorations to help transform the spaces we inhabit, but we didn’t realize how crucial this would be until we had done it a few times. The sparkly banners that read, “Congrats Readers,” and “Amulet Party” really change the atmosphere of the community rooms we hold the parties in. The photo booth with a sign that says, “Wow” makes the kids feel even more celebrated. The gold tablecloths (which are also practical for clean up) give the room a regal feeling. Not only do the kids and their parents seem to appreciate the transformation, but other librarians have also commented on it. One remarked, “Wow, you’re really going all out.” To which we replied, “Yep! The kids deserve it.”
Figuring out the best setup for this kit has helped everything run much more smoothly. And here are some other helpful tricks we picked up along the way:On our first ever day of Amulet Parties, we spent a long time (over an hour!) just getting the party set up. We realized right away though that this wouldn’t be sustainable, we couldn’t get to every party an hour early just to set up! We had to figure out a way to shave down some of the time.
To help solve this, when we packed up all the materials, we left them in the trays instead of putting all the materials back in their own separate bags. This did mean we needed four tote boxes instead of the original three as the materials did not fit as neatly into their storage units, but for our next Amulet Party it was so satisfying to take out the bulk of the materials and have them ready to go. Now we can set up in about half an hour!
Another important trick we had to learn the hard way was pouring out the glitter paint for the kids instead of letting them have free reign over the bottles. On the topic of paint, we also learned to put out small bowls of paint with a color coordinated paint brush to also help avoid a mess. Having the brushes start in the proper bowls of paint helped keep the kids from mixing the colors.
One last thing we had to work through was whether or not we wanted to play a video during the Amulet Parties. To add to the fun of the event, our Maker Corps coordinator came up with a video compilation of movie scenes showing different characters discovering and using amulets. At first, Caide was hesitant about this idea. Wouldn’t a video be too distracting and overstimulating to kids making amulets? For the first week Caide and Kai didn’t play the video partly because they didn’t have time to set up the technology, and partly because of this concern. However, this week at Goodman South Caide and Kai ran the video multiple times through the party with success. We played the video once with sound, and then afterwards muted the video and played movie soundtracks over the video footage. Kids sometimes stopped what they were doing to watch the video, but for the most part the video just added to the fun and atmosphere of the event and kids still came away with some great amulets.
Whew! Well, this certainly was a lot of information, but we hope you all found it insightful. No go forth and make your own Amulet Party. Good luck!