Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Flashback Fridays: Because We Never Really Grow Up

There is a tweener in my house collecting Smurfs.  I wonder what happened to all of mine, I had quite the collection of little blue men.  It turns out, all things old are new again.  Transformers.  Thundercats.  Smurfs.  Strawberry Shortcake.  My Little Pony.  And the other day, there were fluorescent yellow and orange and green clothes on the back to school racks.  Apparently that style is once again a go-go.

Flashback Fridays
Everywhere you look, we’re going retro.  The discussion even came up this week on the YALSA listserv – with some great program ideas.  Who knew that teens would want to get together and play with playdough?  Of course with Lego stores opening up all over those are definitely too cool, and lots of libraries are having lego clubs.  Have you seen some of those Lego sets, they are amazing?  A Lego building competition is a great teen programming idea.  So why not get teens together on a Friday afternoon, or a series of Friday afternoons, for Flashback Fridays.

Recently Marion Public Library held a retro video game night.  They played old Atari and Nintendo games.  There are classic game bundles for the Wii and other popular game systems, too.  You’ll want to brush up on your Frogger, Pac-Man and Donkey Kong skills.

You could also bust out some classic board games for a retro board game night.  Think Monopoly and Scrabble and Life.  Not Words With Friends (which is wicked fun), but an actual Scrabble board where teens sit down in the same room and play together.  Or you could go really old school and get your hands on Don’t Break the Ice, Cooties and Hungry Hungry Hippos.  Throw in some old fashioned checkers and Pick-Up Sticks. 

Actually, think of all the fun you can have playing picnic style games and relay races (if you have a large enough space) like sack races and 3 legged raced.  Throw in a good ring toss or bean bag toss.  Add a couple of hula hoops.

Invite teens to build a better Mouse Trap and create Slinky mazes.  Or see how large a domino train they can make before watching them all fall down.  The hands on fun potential is really quite limitless.  I think it would be wicked fun to have an after party and do this domino activity (think of it as a great way to read the shelves):

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pw5LlSKKG3M]

Don’t forget to show great flashback flicks!

Re-“Craft”ure Your Childhood
Think of all the fun retro crafts you could make in a program.  You can go to your shelves and find the Retro Revamp craft book for some ideas.

Or you could try some of these ideas . . .
Sock monkeys
Make some potholders on a weaving loom
Shrinky Dinks! (you can do them in a toaster oven)
Crochet flowers – they can be made into bookmarks, headbands and more.  American Girl has a craft kid to help you do this.
Cat’s Cradle games
Chinese checkers
Chinese jump rope games
Cootie catchers – come on, everybody loves them!
Make your own playdough, flubber or slime
Friendship bracelets
Decoupage is kinda old school
Paint suncatchers
Painted rocks
Paint old bottles to use as candle holders

You’re Never Too Old to Read This Book!
All this talk of teens wanting to reclaim their childhood (and who doesn’t want that?) got me thinking . . . we spend a lot of time making lists of adult books for teens, but what about children’s books that teens will still like!

Certainly you would want to include Roald Dahl and Judy Blume.  Some other titles recommended include:
The Phantom Tollbooth
Bone graphic novels
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
The Grand Escape by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
A Dog’s Life by Ann Martin
Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardner
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
Catwings (and the rest of the series) by Ursula LeGuin
Kate Shelly and the Midnight Express by Margaret Wetterer
Keep the Lights Burning Abbie by Peter Roop
Cracker The Best Dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata
Howls Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K LeGuin
Lizard Music by Daniel Manus Pinkwater

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
The Soup books by Robert Newton Peck
Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee
Anne of Green Gables books by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
The Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop

Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright
Return to Gone-Away by Elizabeth Enright
Nancy Drew Series
Boy Who Couldn’t Die by William Sleator
Sammy Keyes by Wendolin Van Draanen
Blue Willow by Doris Gates
The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Some More Retro Craft Resources for You:
Online Fun:
Retro Games Online – share this link to help psyche teens up for your program


  1. Retro is such an awesome idea! For some reason the teens absolutely love it. Our Summer Reading Game last summer was themed Retro Rewind, and we had Throwback Thursday programs, featuring crafts from different decades. We did things like tie-dye shoes, cassette tape wallets, baseball bracelets, and vinyl bookends. They were a huge hit!

    • Hi, Bailey!

      I’m planning on offering a Throwback Thursday program this summer, and would LOVE any and all details on how you did your programs!


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