My colleague Wil Fryer at the DeSoto (WI) Public Library shares this fun on-going and very mellow program idea. This is a wonderful way to encourage staffers who may be a little shy to interact more and get to know kids. Here's Wil:
I've got an ongoing game that I play with the kids that come into the library. It's a "dictionary word" game. Every time they come in children get a chance to play the game - but only one time, for that visit or that day. I open the dictionary and find an age appropriate word for the child. If he/she can tell me what this or that word 'means' they get something from the prize bowl I keep behind my desk. In it are prizes such as balloons, sticks of gum, pencils, erasers, stickers, hard candy, and various small inexpensive toys. If they don't know the answer, I read it or explain what the word means, and then give them 'another chance'. There are no losers, although some children have to listen to the definition of several words before they get one they know.
The first time that a child comes in I'll ask him/her if they would like a dictionary word and to win a prize. The next time they come in they already know the drill. They'll come right up to the desk and ask for a word, or a question. Teens like the game too, and mostly take a stick of gum, or a little temporary tattoo. Some kids enjoy the challenge of a difficult word, while others need encouragement just to answer something simple that I'm sure they must know. The game is a good ice breaker with kids, and gives me a chance to interact with those who are generally shy. Their little egos also like to hear things like, "Wow, that was a good answer. You nailed it". or "Well I'm not surprised that you didn't get that one, that was a tough word."