Winter Toddler Drive-In

I did a couple toddler drive-in's this summer (see here, here, and here for inspiration on how others are doing the program), and knew it would be the perfect low-key "post-storytime, pre-Christmas" event for my library. I stop regular storytimes the second week of December because things start to get hectic for families, and it usually snows a bunch and gets cold, so program attendance is hit or miss. But the great thing about this kind of "unprogram" is that with minimal effort, you have a fun program for 5 or 40.

45 minute program for 2-4 year olds. The first 30-35 minutes are car-making. The last 10-15 minutes are watching animated picture-book movies (think Weston Woods, Scholastic, etc). I register for the program so that I can have a manageable group for our space.

-1 box per kid (we save all our Ingram boxes, but if you don't do book receiving/processing at your library, printer paper boxes or the big boxes diapers come in would be good substitutes).
-Stuff to decorate:
  • Dinner-sized paper plates make great steering wheels
  • Dessert-sized paper plates are great for wheels
  • Stickers are a big hit with this age-- the bigger the better (easier to handle)
  • Markers
  • Tape or glue to bond the items to the cars
  • Duct tape (optional, but always fun)
  • License plates* (optional, but a big hit with parents. Also makes any arguing over boxes moot, since ours are not always the same size)

I wanted to do something special to acknowledge the holiday season without having an explicit Christmas program. So many fun decorations are used around the holiday time that I thought it would be a natural fit for the Drive-In program. I went to a thrift store and purchased bags of tinsel, gift wrapping bows, cool foam snowflakes, ornaments**, and some decorative wire ribbons. Many thrift stores put their holiday items on sale around December 15th, so this can be a very cost-effective program. You could even solicit donations from staff or patrons. 

I typically show 2 movies, each around 5 minutes. I couldn't find many winter-themed videos that were toddler-friendly (I chose Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson), and I elected to play the song "Drivin in My Car" by Ralph Covert before the movie while the kids sat in their cars and acted the song out.

*To make the license plates, I Googled for an image of our state's standard plate. I added a text-box with a white background to cover up the placeholder text in the middle, and using a License Plate font, type each child's name into the box. I stick the plate on the back of the car so the kids/adults see the names on the cars as they enter the space.
**In hindsight, I would have chosen more carefully. I focused on color and shape: simple blue and silver balls, but realized when I opened them that I had purchased the glass kind. Thankfully no ornaments were broken, but next time I'll definitely look for plastic first, then something color/shape neutralish.



  1. Oh, we have to try this one! And I think I know just the box for it too! Thanks for the wonderful idea!


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