Multigenerational Programming

The cardboard building challenges at our February 2017 meeting were fun, but what does cardboard have to do with multigenerational programming? Turns out that building with cardboard makes a great multigenerational program. We talked about how to do that, and how to run a great multigenerational program.

How would you turn one of the cardboard challenges into a multigenerational program?
Attendees suggested leaving supplies out in a common area of the library for open play. Some librarians mentioned having trouble getting adults interested. One solution? Staff, sans nametags, start building. Adult patrons will join in! Once patrons have shown an interest, or shown up at a program, encourage them to solve a real world problem, or to create fashions out of cardboard. Marble runs were also suggested.

Which age combinations?

  • All ages
  • Teen-child
  • Senior-child
  • Parent-child

Which kinds of programs work best?

  • Pop-up programs in common areas
  • All-ages Maker programs
  • Family Maker programs
  • Parent-child robotics. Kids get started, parents join in later in the program to help but end up having just as much fun as the kids.
  • Farm teams for high school robotics clubs. Teens work with younger kids to get them started learning about robotics, in the hopes that they’ll join the club when they get to high school.

What are some pitfalls of multigenerational programming?

Attendees reported some problems achieving age balance in multigenerational programs. For instance, a teen-child program might attract more teens than children, creating uneven activity groups. Or an all-ages program might not attract single adults. To solve such problems, consider different marketing channels for reaching different groups, and consult different age groups (or the staff who work with them) about topics for programs.

In programs involving children and adults, keep an eye on kids on their own and adults on their own, ensuring safety and appropriate interactions between the age groups.

What are the benefits of multigenerational programming?

Multigenerational programming can encourage family togetherness. It also is a chance for people of different ages to learn from each other. Adults may be able to share professional expertise with young people. Or teens and tweens can share their interests with even younger kids and build some responsibility. Of course adults can learn from kids, too! For teens and tweens, multigenerational programming can break down the barrier between young people and authority figures—young people have the opportunity to feel comfortable with approachable adults. All of this comes in addition to learning whatever the program is about—it’s a win-win situation.

Questions? Contact tinkerfolks@gmail.com or Janet Piehl, piehlj@wilmettelibrary.info.

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