I was setting up for my recent Toddler Crafts program and realized that we were using some materials that every children's librarian should know about. I am a big fan of things that make our jobs easier.
My first cool thing is giant butcher paper on a roll. We buy ours through Discount School Supply and we use it for almost all of our programs. Our biggest use for it is as a table cover. We put it down before the program and roll it up afterwards (as long as it isn't too gunky) so we can reuse it. Since paper is down on the tables, we tell kids that it is okay to write on it if they finish their crafts early. Kids will draw pictures, practice writing their names, and play Tic Tac Toe (big winner!). Butcher paper is also a great mural background. Anytime you need a quick activity, you can tear off a piece of paper and have kids decorate it. They are fascinated by the large size of their canvas. Our roll of butcher paper lasts 4-5 years so it isn't something that you have to constantly replace. It is definitely worth the investment.
Have you ever used Craft Cups? We used to use foam cups, but sometimes they are too tall for little hands to reach in, grab an item, and be able to pull it back out again. These are relatively sturdy and are perfect for sorting or holding small amounts of materials. They can even hold paint or glue for a one-time project.
You can spread them out or stack them up to keep them together. These are also sturdy enough that they will last through multiple programs so you can stack them up and use them again.
What are your favorite things to use?