Crafts Vs. No Crafts, The Great Storytime Debate

There’s been a lot of discussion about this in various circles. When it comes to arts & crafts, librarians often fall into one of two camps.

There’s the “We don’t do crafts in storytime!” bunch and the, “We love crafts! Glitter for everyone!” crowd.

This is how I feel when I hear about libraries that don’t do art or crafts.

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I should say, this is how I feel on the inside because, well, I work in a library.

There are so many reasons to do art and crafts in storytime. The benefits certainly outweigh any cons. Before going any further, it’s important to know that there is a difference between art and crafts. Art is open-ended and focused on the process being used and each child’s work will look different. Q-tip painting with sparkly puffy paint is an example of process art.

Sparkly puffy paint -Courtesy of the author

Crafts are more structured, more concrete. They’re projects that are representational. A paper plate house or construction paper taco are examples of this.


Why do art and crafts?

Let’s start with the obvious.

Most children in the preK to second grade age group like being crafty. I say up to second grade because after that, while kids may enjoy art, they can sometimes be reluctant to participate having had enough life experience by then to think that they’re not good at it which is a whole other conversation and a moot one because they’re past storytime. Kids like to make things. Throw out paper, glue, scissors, crayons and let them have at it and they’ll design their own whatchamacallit. They’ll be proud of it. They’ll want to show it to you. At storytime, the art/craft station-no matter what it is-is always popular.

One of the best reasons to do crafts specifically is that it’s a storytime souvenir. It’s a reminder of what we did and what they learned. It’s an invitation to retell and recreate at home. Besides appealing to a child’s natural desire to use their hands to create, there are plenty of developmental benefits to arts and crafts for kids.

  1. Social Skills: Creating with others gives kids an opportunity to learn how to share, cooperate and work well together.
  2. Motor skills: Tearing, coloring, cutting, painting and gluing help little hands to develop hand/eye coordination and muscle strength.
  3. Problem solving skills: Creating and crafting involves making decisions, trying new methods and figuring out how to make it work.
  4. Language skills: Lots of language-rich conversation happens around the art table as kids and caregivers talk about what they see, what they’re making and how it looks/feels/sounds.

How do I make a craft worthwhile?

  • Connect it to something that was done in storytime: literacy focus, book, song or rhyme.
  • Let kids and their adults know that there is no right or wrong way to do it.
  • Keep it simple but more than just cut and paste.
  • Encourage them to make it however they want. (This can’t be emphasized enough!)

But it takes too much staff time/supplies/money!

The easiest and cheapest method is open-ended process art. It requires you to have materials like paint, chalk or crayons on hand, but you probably do already. It doesn’t take much staff time other than what it takes to find an idea then set it up at storytime. A simple Google or Pinterest search for ‘process art for kids’ will give you more ideas than you could use in year.

Crafts are at a disadvantage here because they do take time and supplies. You can still do crafts; it just takes a little more planning. Do them occasionally. Plan ahead. I once did a cute craft that was tied to a book and I knew kids would like it. Each craft had 10 pieces. I had 35 kids in storytime, and I always make 5-10 extra just to be safe. You do the math. Put library volunteers to work cutting out pieces.  If you don’t have volunteers, recruit them from local middle and high schools. These days, many students are required to have a certain number of volunteer hours to graduate.

Doing art and crafts in storytime gives kids an opportunity to practice early literacy skills, interact with other children and models for caregivers the kinds of literacy and play-based activities they can do at home. And you can always make a case for that.

How do you feel about doing art and crafts in storytime?


5 thoughts on “Crafts Vs. No Crafts, The Great Storytime Debate

  1. Travis Ann Sherman says:

    I started doing art process related activities after storytime years ago and as you say, it’s super cheap and easy to do. One big point in favor of these things is that children take home something FROM THE LIBRARY. A vibrant chalk painting, a puffy paint snowman, a penguin on a toilet roll (no, that’s not art, but I just can’t resist). These things become part of the children’s home environment, and that something to be very proud of.


    • CJ says:

      Agree totally! I think there’s value-on many levels-in having something from storytime to take home. Thanks for commenting!


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