In November of last year we put up this velcro wall hanging “activity center” in a very small and unused half wall near our reading bench:
It was used a lot to the point of letters being torn and the whole thing began to come apart in a few months. It was also a distraction during the toddler storytimes since several tykes wanted to play with it more than anything else (like pay attention to the storytime that was going on).
It was around this time that I saw a great sign (scroll down the post to see it) that Lisa shared in her Libraryland blog that helped parents understand how to direct their children to play with the magnets at her library’s giant magnet wall. It was at this point I realized that we could turn our area into a tiny magnetic wall.
I looked to see if there was such thing as magnetic paint (like chalkboard paint) and it turns out there is such a thing! I then asked my team what they all thought about it, and everyone liked it. Our Children’s Librarian especially liked that she could take the magnets down right before her storytimes so that any easily distracted attendees would have one less distraction.
I went ahead and got the supplies to make this happen (all except for the roller that the paint manufacturer recommended – we already had brushes on hand), and used one of the two cans I purchased during a time that we were closed and I was on the clock.
Things that I learned:
- Ventilation! I’m so glad that I brought an oscillating fan from home. This paint is noxious.
- Skip the upper body workout that day because the amount of stirring this paint needs is crazy. It’s thick and clumpy and HEAVY. I think I spent a cumulative half hour stirring this paint to make sure it was all nicely blended.
- Biggest lesson? USE THE RECOMMENDED SMOOTH ROLLER!!! With the first can I tried using both a regular brush and a sponge brush. The amount of drips was crazy (and this paint makes a loud “thunk” when it drips because of how heavy it is), and I was covered with paint splatters from my fingertips to my elbows.
- If the space was any bigger, then I think it would be best to go with a metal board – it would be cheaper and take up less time.
Here’s what it looked like during that first painting session:
Not too shabby! However, it wasn’t very sticky in terms of magnetism. I hoped that several more coats would make it work better. Unfortunately, for the next month my scheduling was erratic and I never did have a period of time where I could be in the library for several hours after close. So the magnetic wall had to wait.
Finally, I had a Saturday afternoon where I could finish the wall. This time I had the correct roller and it was HEAVENLY. It was so much easier, faster, and cleaner (not a single drip). After six or seven coats total it feels like a true magnetic surface.
Ready for the reveal?
We purchased quite a few different magnetic sets (letters, numbers, animals, etc.) that we plan on switching out the different sets from time-to-time.
I also did a riff on Lisa’s fantastic sign (thank you Lisa!):
I’m very excited about this wall and can hardly wait to see both kids’ and parents’ reactions. Unfortunately, I will be working at our Main Library most of this week wearing my Trainer hat, and so I won’t be there to see what people initially think.
I’ll be sure to update here when I finally do get feedback! Also, don’t hesitate to ask me any questions about this process – I’ll happily answer. Overall it was really simple project that I hope will be a fun area for kids to discover and play in for years to come.
Update: Well, it’s been over a year and I can tell you that this was (and continues to be) a HUGE MEGA hit! I’ve really enjoyed hearing parents interacting with their children and using the play tips.
The paint has held up nicely. It does scuff, but I’d compare the scuffing to looking more like what a chalkboard looks like when erased.
One other concern was that part of the magnet wall is shared with the office. Yes, it gets noisy with the sounds of magnets being dragged or put on with enthusiasm, but I really don’t notice it unless it sounds like someone’s really doing damage.
And mostly the magnets get put back up before the patrons leave. I mean, one of the favorite activities for the youngest crowd is to “wipe all of the magnets off.” Some times the magnets aren’t cleaned up, but that really is a rarity.