What is It?
Participants throw color powder (also called powder paint or Holi powder) at each other, trying to cover everyone with as much of their team’s color as possible.
About $500 for 60 kids.
Number of participants
As many as you can afford to supply with powder!
Why Do It?
When you’re doing something unconventional like this, it’s a good idea to prepare for the possibility that your reasoning will be challenged. You need to justify it to administration as well as to any community members who may challenge you. Here are some reasons to hold this program:
- It generates a lot of hype, which improves the image of the library to kids in the community. It also challenges the common misconception that the Library is boring and only for studying.
- It attracts non-users, and after they visit the library once they are more likely to come back.
- It is an opportunity for supervised fun, socialization, and healthy competition.
- If you want to tie it more directly into reading, literacy, or intellectual/creative pursuits, try making the event part of your summer reading program or some other initiative. My library held this event as an end-of-summer celebration for Summer Reading participants.
Since this program involves running around and making a mess, it’s a good idea to ask for parent permission beforehand. I e-mailed parents and guardians a few days before the event asking them to respond letting me know their kids had permission to come, and I had paper copies of permission forms at the event for them to sign if they didn’t e-mail me.
I like to give everyone a bag with a ration of powder paint. That way, there’s no rush to finish it off. The game lasts longer, and both powder-happy players and methodical players get equal opportunity.
Make goggles and face masks available to anyone who wants them. Make sure there’s plenty of drinking water available. I also offered plastic bags for protecting phones.
You’ll also want to have some water for washing off. I put water in a couple of big trash bins with smaller buckets for scooping and a sign that said “Water for washing. Please use the buckets to scoop water out. Don’t put body parts in water.”
Tell participants to wear clothes they don’t mind getting dirty. Most of the powder washes out, but I do have some permanent colored streaks on the shirt I was wearing that day. Don’t forget about shoes! Shoes can get stained, so wear old ones. While not necessary, it looks cooler if players wear white. I also suggested that they bring an old towel they didn’t mind getting dirty.
Where to Play
When we did this, we were taking advantage of a short-lived opportunity. A new library building is under construction on a piece of land west of our current building. At the time, the library owned the land but had not yet begun construction, so we had a big empty field of our own property to use. We did notify the village and the police of what we were doing just in case.
If you want to hold this event it on public property or on someone else’s property, you will need approval. When my former boss Becca did this program (you can read her write-up here), she got permission to do it on village property. If you want to use a park and don’t think the park district will go for it, you might try asking if they want to make it a joint program.
The Rules and Before You Play
At the beginning of the program, let everyone know that the powder is safe and environmentally-friendly, and that you have face masks and goggles for anyone who wants them. (I got these more as a precaution because I thought parents would like it, but I ended up surprised by the number of kids who decided to use them.) Warn players that the powder may stain skin for up to 24 hours; it comes out faster if you wash with a rough sponge or other exfoliating cleanser. Also, warn them that when they blow their nose, there might be colors in their boogers! (It happened to me.)
I decided if would be easiest and more fun to make the game more or less a free-for-all. There was no scoring system or winner; the goal was just to spread your team’s color to as many people as possible. I had four colors, each with a team of ten players.
A few other rules and guidelines:
When they run out of powder, they are done. No seconds.
NO throwing above the waist or the player is disqualified.
No throwing at spectators.
A staff member will count down to the ending when time is almost up. (I doubt you will need to, though! They’ll use it all without encouragement. 😉 )
If you have any questions or want to talk to me about this program, feel free to leave a comment or email firstname.lastname@example.org.