Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Take 5: TV Shows to Inspire Teen Programs

Some of my favorite teen programs have come from TV shows. Remember Minute to Win It? That was a great source of teen programming because it consisted of just putting together a bunch of 60 second challenges and tying them in with something that was already popular. Other TV shows that have inspired teen programs for me have included Top Chef, Cupcake Wars and Jeopardy. But there are some new shows out there that I’m itching to turn into teen programs.

Making It

I love this show. It is without a doubt trying to be the American Version of The Great British Bake Off, but with crafting, and I’m all for it. My family and I are huge GBBO fans, as are many of the teens I talk to. Making It takes the same type of premise but incorporates making/crafting and it’s in a barn instead of a tent. But the challenges are interesting: make a theme wall that tells us something about who you are, decorate a mailbox, make a home for some type of animal.

One of the recent episodes had pairs working together to make costumes. My favorite was Wok and Roll, which involved one person dressing up as a wok and the other as a piece of sushi. This challenge was obviously Chopped inspired (we’ll get to that show in a minute) as it involved a basket full of 5 craft supplies and each team had to use at least 3 items out of the basket. This is a great idea for cleaning out your craft closet of all those miscellaneous supplies!

What I like about this show is that it is a series of challenged for a season and then you take a break. Be inspired by the challenges and use them as jumping off points. But also, I like the idea of having a short series of making/craft programs and then taking a break and having another season.


Speaking of Chopped . . . Chopped has been on for years now, but I have always loved the premise: Here’s a basket full of miscellaneous ingredients, figure out something to do with all of them. You could do this with food or crafting, as mentioned above. The premise is key here: here’s a mystery basket full of stuff, now do something with it. As I mentioned, using the premise for a crafting/making type program definitely is a good way to empty your craft closet of all those miscellaneous supplies. You could do cupcake decorating, cookie decorating, toy mashup programs, etc.

Get Out of My Room

Universal Kids (I just recently learned there was a Universal Kids channel!) has a show called Get Out of My Room which is a room makeover show for tweens. It’s basically the Property Brothers meets Trading Spaces for pre-teens, kind of. In it, siblings who share a room each get their own room designed around their personality and then they make craft projects to decorate their siblings rooms. In one episode, for example, one sister made homemade marquee initials for her Hollywood loving sister’s wall. So there are some easy and affordable craft projects and tips tucked into each show.

Another one of my favorite repeat teen programs that I have done is called Renovate Your Room. In it I invite a local decorator to come and share some basics of decorating. We then cut apart magazines and make mood boards and layouts for our dream room. I then have one small activity that teens can do and take home. For example, you can paint light switch covers or turn old magazine holders that your library is going to discard into cool desk accessories. I’ve even turned old cassette tapes, plastic cups and floppy disks into night lights and pen holders.


Remember when we were kids and your brother would pretend to hit you and if you flinched you got “two for flinching?” No, was that just my brother? Well, the old art of trying to get someone to flinch has been turned into a truly horrific gameshow on Netflix. To be honest, I truly hate the way it’s done because it involves things like low grade electrocuting people and dumping things on them. The contestants are clearly consenting, but it’s the type of challenges that are implemented that don’t sit right with me. My teens love it, but I’m not it’s biggest fan.

Here’s how it works. Contestants are put through a variety of tests and they are supposed to not flinch. Some of the tests are pretty benign. For example, a train goes past that with foul smells and you have to sit there while the train passes by and not flinch at the foul odors. When you flinch you are out. The last person standing without flinching wins. Unfortunately, not all of the challenges or so benign and that is why the show is pretty controversial. I’m not endorsing the show by any means.

However, with a bit of modification and adult supervision, this could be a pretty fun program. For example, my teens love to do a lot of online challenges like the blindfold food challenge, some of which could be safely and easily incorporated into a program like this. More gentle challenges like popping balloons, opening a bunch of cans of nuts knowing that one of them is going to have a pop out snake, or even jack-in-the-boxes would certainly work. Or use your Makey Makey or Little Bits to create a sound board with buttons and some buttons create no noise and others do and the person playing has to push each button and try not to flinch when the noise happens. With a little creativity, the try not to flinch game can work and be fun.

Ellen’s Game of Games, Hollywood Game Night, Match Game, etc.

There is a renaissance of game shows happening right now on TV and there is no real shortage of inspiration to choose from. With a little adapting, they can be an incredibly fun source of tween and teen programming.

When using a TV show or movie for your programming, remember to keep copyright in mind. For example, I didn’t call my Minute to Win It inspired program series Minute to Win It – I called it the 60 Second Showdown. I have seen other libraries use the name of the show as the name of their program, but I like to make it clear that my program is inspired by a certain show while giving it a unique name just in case.

What programs have you done that have been inspired by TV shows and how did you do them? Share with us in the comments. I would love to know what other librarians are out there doing.

Speak Your Mind