Ask an Agent: What are Some Good, Inexpensive Passive Programs?

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Question: What kinds of passive programs will teens and tweens be into that cost, like, nothing? Here’s the deal. I have a ton of middle schoolers in the library after school every day during the school year. I’ve asked them if they’d do an activity if one were offered and they always say yes, but we have no budget. They liked snowflake making, zentangles, and guess which book is shredded in this jar activities in the past, but now that I’m gearing up for Fall I’m having a hard time coming up with stuff that is cool and also inexpensive (ahem, free). We have the basics. And 2 tables to hold a passive activity. Ideas?

Elizabeth (Commerce Township Community Library) says:

Our library has a pretty good supply of board games that we’ve had donated or purchased over the years.  I keep a few out in my teen space and rotate them every couple months.  Also, I keep coloring sheets and colored pencils out in my teen room at all times.  You can find all kinds of Creative Commons (free) coloring pages online including complicated designs like stained glass patterns and images related to various fandoms.  My teens will sit and color for hours!

Jan (Moline Public Library) says:

If you have a lot of leftover craft supplies (or can pilfer from the children’s department) set them out in a box and let the teens come up with something on their own. I call this “Something From Nothing.” Since this pretty much happens no matter what craft activity I put out, it’s a lot easier than coming up with instructions and specific supplies. If there is an activity the kids seem to be into, like chess or Magic or writing, you could try to organize them into an activity where they bring their own supplies and teach the other kids. If you’ve got board games or puzzles you could organize tournaments with those. The best bet is to work with what they are already interested in and build on that.


Jenni (South San Francisco Public Library) says:

Cubeecrafts are cheap – the only cost is printing them, and the tweens/teens LOVE them. Another thing the teens and tweens at my library have taken to is coloring. I set out coloring pages for the younger kids, but the teens are the ones coloring them, so sometimes I set out mandalas or other adult-style coloring pages for the teens. You could also cover one of your tables in butcher paper and leave out some markers – maybe start a drawing or question on the table and then let them go at it!

Faythe (TSU Agent)

Here are a couple of passive programmings that I have done: 1. I bought full adhesive Post-Its and teens/tweens write mini book reviews to go on books.  2. Photocopied pages out a popular book and have the teens/tweens do blackout poetry using a Sharpie.

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