Is there Anything Free at this Book Fair?

By Sarah Svarda, Book Fair Chairperson and Librarian at Central Magnet School in Murfreesboro, TN

Limbo ContestHow many times do you hear that question?
Why not make a plan so that you can have a really good answer? Wouldn't it be nice to be able to say, "All of the stuff set up over there (on the other side of the library) is totally free and it's lots of fun." If you create a fun area for your kids at your book fair with free activities that they'll love, everyone will feel welcome and you'll end up with more shoppers.
I'm going to share the setup that we created at our school this year. Our school is a middle/high school combined. When teachers brought their students for a walk-through preview, the students could look through the books at the fair and visit the stations. We also let students visit the stations anytime they visited the fair during the week.

Your teachers will need to be aware that students will have the stations available when they come to shop. They may want to set specific times for students to return to class so that they next group of students can visit. Most of these materials can be re-used yearly and borrowed from your gym teacher so almost everything should be free.

If you're feeling crafty, you could change your stations (games) to match the Scholastic theme. Here are the stations we provide to our students:
Face painting
We asked for a donation of a $25 Wal-Mart gift card and used the money to buy paint. We had student CREW members assigned to the face painting table during all hours that the book fair was open. If you have middle school students and feel comfortable letting them paint themselves, you can leave pictures out that they can paint on themselves or friends.
Limbo is super easy to set up and requires no clean up. This has become a favorite spot for some of our flexible teachers to face off against the kids!
Photo booth with props
We like to set up some type of photo op every year. You can easily have your CREW members create all of the props or bring items in from home to use. The year we had the Groovy Book Fair we had some students whose parents still had clothes from the 60's and 70's that they brought in for props. We also bought some big glasses and a wig.

The kids love using the photo op to take pictures with their friends. We also made a big blow-up picture of one of our English teachers dressed as a hippie. The kids were all so excited to see that it looked like he was driving the bus and they all wanted to have their picture made by him. Try to include a fun teacher or your principal in the photo op area.
This is a student favorite! It's easy to re-use every year and the kids look forward to facing off against teachers at this station. We have one teacher who boasts having the top score every year so students are always challenging him to play during his planning time.
Hula Hoops
These are so easy and free. Just borrow several from your gym teacher and send them back at the end of the week.
We brought our Twister game in from home. I do have to say that you'll probably need to get a new one if you plan on re-using it each year. Ours was worn out by the end of the week. We taped it in place on the carpet the best we could so it wouldn't move around on the floor while the kids were moving around.
Logistical note: We have a very long and narrow library. That gives us room to set up concessions and free games on one side of the library and the books on the other. I'd suggest keeping the two separated if at all possible. It helps the shopping area to be nice and calm and enjoyable for those wanting to browse and read.
Do you have different ideas for activities to offer to your kids for free at your book fair? If so, comment below and share your thoughts!