Library Programs

Drive-In Movie

Drive-In Movie at the Ela LibraryMy favorite program from 2013 was my drive-in movie. It’s the program that took children’s departments by storm last year, like stuffed animal sleepovers a year or two before that. The concept is simple: turn a cardboard box into a “car” you can sit in. Then you can watch movies sitting in your car, just like at a drive-in!

Drive-In Movie at the Ela LibraryWe did the program for 20 kids in grades K-1. Those grades were perfect, but you could definitely do it for older or younger kids (with preschoolers you’d need the parents there to help). We did a lot of prep work in advance of the program and had everything set up when the kids arrived. The boxes were assembled and there was a ziplock bag with all the necessary supplies for each car. (Pro tip: don’t use tape to assemble the boxes; just tuck the flaps under each other. This way parents can break down the cars for the ride home.) The kids spent about 30 minutes decorating their cars and then watched about 20 minutes of short movies while eating movie snacks (popcorn, candy, water and juice).

Car closeupThere were various decorating options available for the kids. My favorite feature was paper plate steering wheels attached with brads so they actually turned. We made wheels out of discarded CDs, headlights out of plastic cups and foil, tail lights from duct tape and had stickers (stars and flowers) and markers for them to decorate with. A talented librarian on staff made license plates, odometers and gauges the kids could also stick on. We attached shoe boxes to the cars with binder clips to serve as side trays to hold the kids’ snacks.

It was fun for both us and the kids and is one of my favorite programs from the last few years. This program was such a success that we’re doing a similar one next month. Except this time, we’re making train cars with preschoolers!

If you want to do your own drive-in movie, there are few more photos from the program on my library’s Facebook page. And if you’re looking for even more ideas, I created a Pinterest board.


12 thoughts on “Drive-In Movie

  1. What did the kids use to stick the decorations on? Tape? Glue? Thinking of doing this program at my library. What a fantastic idea!

    1. Hi Kate,
      The kids used glue sticks to attach most things (like the wheels). We did print some items, like the license plates, on sticky labels so they were basically stickers. The glue sticks work pretty well–tacky glue would probably be even better but we didn’t want to get glue on the carpet. We considered double-sided tape and then realized that would be complicated. (Do we pre-cut it? Where would we keep the strips if we did?) For the headlights (which were plastic cups), we pre-cut x’s with an X-Acto knife and the kids jammed them in.
      Let me know if you have other questions!

  2. I had a question about what box size we used so I wanted to include that information here. We used boxes that are 24 inches long, 16 inches wide and 16 inches tall. It was a great size for kids this age–they were able to sit in them comfortably. (Comfortably enough, anyway!)

  3. Hi! What size brads did you use that were big enough to go through cardboard? That is such a cute idea to make the steering wheels turn! 🙂

    1. Truth be told, I can’t remember what size brads we used! Maybe 1/2 inch? It was a standard size that we had already. And we might have poked a hole through the cardboard first with something sharp (scissors) so the brad went in easily.

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