Toddler Tech is a community event where multiple organizations with services for families with children ages 0-5 are able to come together, put up their booths, and engage with families. It is a time for organization representatives to participate in a community outreach program, a time for families to connect with these organizations and learn about the services that are available to them, and finally a time for young children to have fun and play together by participating in the interactive activities each organization prepares for families that come to their booth. It is a lot of fun, very low cost, and a wonderful way to cross-promote organizations in our community.
We hosted our first Toddler Tech event on Saturday, April 1st. This event had been hosted for the past 10 years by the hospital. However, they were looking for someone to take it over, and thought of the library. Of course I said yes when they asked if we would host it. The idea of dozens of families coming into the library on a Saturday was more than any librarian could pass up!
To set up the event, I designed a poster using Canva.com. We chose to host this event two weeks before Easter, which is also the week when our school district schedules Spring Break. This way, I knew that families would not be out of town (probably). This year, that date was Saturday, April 1st, 2017. I then sent out letters to multiple community organizations that serve families. If you are interested in doing this in your community, here is a list of organizations that I contacted:
- Dental offices
- Domestic Violence Shelter
- Home Educators
- UW-Extension Family Living Agent
- Birth to Three
- Parks and Rec program
- WEAP (Autism Support Network)
- Saint Mary’s 3k and 4K program
- Richland Christian Fellowship 3K and 4K program
- Lincoln School 3K and 4K program
- Crime Stoppers
- Fire Department (they brought a fire truck!)
- Police Department
After sending out the letter, I waited to see how many organizations would contact me back. In total, I heard from 11. Those that contacted me received a follow-up letter detailing set-up time on the morning of Toddler Tech.
For promotion, I created a Facebook event, shared the poster on multiple community Facebook groups, hung up the poster at the library for three months before the event, contacted the paper and asked them to put in a small article about the event, and also was interviewed by our local radio station who very generous did a short promotion on the news at noon program for us.
We planned our event to begin at 10:00am and continue until 1pm. Set-up was available beginning at 9am (This was an hour before the library opened). You may not think it will take a whole hour to set up, but I was surprised to see how long it did take our organizations to arrange their booths, and thankful that we began an hour before we opened. The fire department brought a fire truck, and they were able to park it in our parking lot before it filled up with patrons. I bought white plastic table cloths for all the tables for our organizations to use on their tables. I think this is one of the cheapest investments to make tables look professional. Most organizations already had table cloths, but a few did not, so it was nice to be able to provide this.
The event was a big success! Families loved it clearly came to spend hours out of their morning meeting with organizations and playing with all the activity stations. Here is a list of the different activity stations that organizations offered:
- Pete the Cat cookie decorating
- Face painting
- Tambourine decorating
- Musical instruments petting zoo
- Finger printing
- Quiet space
- Sensory table
- Obstacle course
- Meet the fire truck and the firemen!
- Meet a police officer
This was a very relaxed event because I did not have to plan everything! Also, we did not have to pay anything to plan the program, so it was also great for my Youth Services Programming budget.
We had a library table with calendars, table toppers giving dates for our Storytime and Baby/Toddler Play Times, as well as sign-up sheets for the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten Program. Our theme was music, so I had a small bin of musical instruments with me. Kids joined me on the floor, testing out instruments and hearing the different sounds (and picking up valuable fine-motor skills along the way!).
One of my friends is very talented in photography, and offered to come and take pictures at the event. She received verbal permission from the parents as she mingled with the crowd to take photos of them and their children for the library to use in promotions. Everyone was thrilled to have their kiddo photographed, and it made the day just that much more special. After the event, she made the photos available to save, share, and print for the families for free.
If you have any questions about this event, just let me know! It was a wonderful time, and I am already brainstorming ways to make it better next year. I would like to ask the Police Department to offer car seat checks ask part of the program, and to set up a table for the police officer to play with the kids at a free-play table with blocks so that they can talk with the kids and parents without having to prep anything.
On to planning Toddler Tech next year!