Tips for a Successful Stuffed Animal Sleepover

I was recently reading through Library Laura, a new blog by a children’s librarian in New York. Her post on stuffed animal sleepovers caught my eye, this part in particular: “The biggest challenge in doing this program has been trying to do so much of it after hours.” I can totally relate to that, so I thought I’d offer some tips on making a stuffed animal sleepover run as smoothly as possible.

Pizza at the Stuffed Animal Sleepover

I’ve done a few stuffed animal sleepovers; they took the library world by storm a few years back because they are simple to plan but a lot of fun for the kids. (And possibly for the librarian. More on that in a minute.) Kids drop off a stuffed animal at the library for an overnight stay; the librarian takes pictures of the animals doing silly things and shares them with the kids the next day. There might be a storytime or other program for the kids, either at drop-off or pick-up. For my first stuffed animal sleepover, another librarian and I stayed late to do the pictures and we recruited a high school shelver and my husband to help. We ordered pizza, which we “fed” to the animals and ate for our own dinner. We spent ages staging funny photos all over the library. The unfun part was when we were scrambling to get the pictures onto the computer before the library closed and had to come in early the next morning in a mad rush to get everything done in time. The lesson was that we needed to figure out a way to make this go faster, even if it meant a little less fun for the librarians.

Playing with Cars at a Stuffed Animal Sleepover

Tip 1: In advance, make a list of the photos you want to take.You can arrange the list by where in the library you’ll be taking each photo, so you can zip quickly and methodically through the list. You can re-use this list for future programs.

Tip 2: Get any props you’ll be using ready in advance. Gather together board games, crayons, picture books, whatever you need, so you’re not looking for things during your precious photo-taking time.

Tip 3: If you can/depending on your space, set up shots in advance. I would set up board games, tea sets, etc. in a part of our program room where the kids wouldn’t see them when they dropped off their animals. When it was time for photos, I could plop the animals down, take the photo and move on.

Tip 4A: Either don’t print photos for the kids (a major time saver) or just print a couple for each child. I would take a group shot of all the animals together and print for each child that photo along with one that featured their animal. As I took pictures I had a checklist to make sure each animal was featured doing something special. For example, if four animals had tea together, I’d give those four children the group shot and the picture of their animal having tea (so I would just print the same two photos for those four kids and move on).

Tip 4B: Make the photos available online so the kids can look at them later and print more if they want to. The photos were always a huge hit on our library’s Facebook page. SlideShare is also an option (the link is to photos from one of my sleepovers!). Bonus: you don’t have to do this until after the kids come to pick up their animals. You can tell parents to check the library’s Facebook page, or that you’ll email them a link later.

Tip 5: I always showed a slide show of the photos, with captions, to the kids when they picked up their animals the next day. If you want to do that, make a file in advance that you can just plug your photos into. I used Power Point and, since I had a list of the photos I was planning to take, I put in captions in advance so I could just add the photos when I was done.

I just saw that the Bellingham, MA library already has a stuffed animal sleepover scheduled for October: it’s “a HAUNTED sleepover, and we ask that you bring your stuffed animal in a Halloween costume. We will premiere the video at the Pumpkin Stroll on the Town Common!” HOW FUN DOES THAT SOUND?! I haven’t done a sleepover in a while, but this sounds like an awesome reason to do one again soon!

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