One of my colleagues reported that Mother Goose on the Loose is going strong at her library. However, she likes having 12-15 children and is finding it overwhelming when over 50 people attend a session (even though two sessions are offered on the same day). She has cut out the interactive part of Humpty Dumpty because there were just too many people for all of them to be patient, especially after sitting through the drum name game and Hickory Dickory Dare.
She asked if I had any tips for staying motivated or dealing with large crowds and I will post my answer to her below:
On one hand, it is great that you are getting so many people. On the other hand, it definately compromises the quality. Is there any possibility of adding in another program so you can keep smaller groups?
The question of large crowds has come up a fair amount frequently. One suggestion is to find a volunteer (another librarian or a friend of the library or one of your friends with free time when your program is taking place.) That person would be in front of the crowd, but they would be sitting on the floor on the other side of the flannel board. When it is time to do the drum game or to pass out instruments or scarves, you start at your end, and they start at their end. Go around the circle and you will meet in the middle. Regina and I used to do this and it cuts the time in half!
Rather than skipping Humpty, try skipping Hickory Dickory Dare. You are right; they are both very time consuming. Humpty is at the very end of the program so when there is a big crowd, parents sometimes leave once their child has had a turn pulling Humpty off. I never take it personally — it’s better if they leave just before the end of the program while they are still interested and having a good time, than having them feel obligated to stay when they (and their children) have had enough. By saving your individualized activity for the end, you are giving them choice to leave or to stay.
In terms of staying motivated, look for new rhymes that you can use for standing up that don’t require moving around the circle (i.e. I’m a Little Teapot). Find new illustrations for rhymes you are already using (look beyond nursery rhyme books – picture books can provide some great illustrations for nursery rhymes. For instance, Lucy Cousins has a wonderful fish illustration that I show when reciting “One, two, three, four, five, once I caught a fish alive.” If you don’t already use nametags, put out labels and permanent markers at the beginning of the program so parents can make nametags for their children. Even if you don’t know each child personally, you can still call them by name and this makes for a more intimate environment.
Lastly, if you can, invite everyone to stay for a 30 minute free play session after your program has finished. Take out just a few toys and chat with people who have stayed. Don’t worry, not everyone will stay. Kids are tired, they need to nap, eat, etc. But you will be able to get know those parents and kids who stay afterward on a regular basis, so you can still feel like you have that personal connection.
I hope these suggestions help!
If any readers of this blog have other suggestions, please feel free to post them here or on the Mother Goose on the Loose Fan Club page. It’s great to share and learn from our colleagues!