Thursday, October 12, 2017

Sadie's Top 5, Ages 9-12 months

As Sadie gets more and more mobile, she is, unfortunately, getting less and less interested in sitting still for a book. While that's a bit of a bummer, who can really blame her? There is so much to explore in the world! And I love that she's so interested.

Her 9-12 month book selections are the books that either grab her attention when it seems like no other books will do so, or the books that she makes it all the way through without crying or crawling away. They're the books that she gravitates toward--instead of away from--when she's crawling and fidgeting all over the floor.

I should note that many of her actual current favorite books are ones that have appeared on this list before. In fact her top three are probably A Kiss Like This by Mary Murphy (from her 6-9 month book list), Sneak-Peek-Colors by Roger Priddy (from her 0-3 month book list), and Baby Cakes by Karma Wilson (from her 6-9 month book list). But in the interest of not just listing the same books over and over, I'm not going to count them. So here is a totally new list.

The big running pattern for the 9-12 month book selection is SHORT BOOKS. Unless she's sick, Sadie absolutely will not sit still for a book that takes more than about 60-seconds to read or has more than 1-4 words per page. Even the Spot books are too long for her!

So, for this month, here is a list of really, really short books that (somewhat) hold Sadie's attention:

1. Are You My Mommy? by Mary Murphy is the only book that I have seen Sadie actively choose to sit still for over and over. I can even read to her five or six times in a row and she keeps enjoying it! She engages with the book by turning the flaps and and really looking at the animals underneath them. In fact, it was her love of this book that made me think that all lift-the-flap books would be a hit, but not so, unfortunately (Again, the Spot books totally didn't work). On each spread of Are You My Mommy?, a little puppy approaches a different farm animal, looking for its mom. First it finds a sheep and asks, "Are you my mommy?" The sheep replies, "No, I'm a sheep and..." and then, under the flap, it says, "here's my lamb." The puppy goes all around the farm looking for mom, being told no, until finally, on the last page, it asks a bigger dog, "Are you my mommy?" to which she replies, "Yes, I am! And you're my lovely puppy!" It's SO SWEET and teaches kids both adult and baby animal names. Jackpot!

2. All of the books in the "Look Baby" series by Margaret Miller top the list this month. Sadie will sit through most of them once or twice (which, like I said, is basically about all we can hope for at this age), but her favorites seem to be Baby Talk, Baby Pets, and Baby Food. She'll pick them up from her library book pile and hand them to me and, while she doesn't always actually want me to read them to her, that's more than I can say for a lot of other books. In all of the "Look Baby" books, each spread has one word (or short phrase) opposite one big picture of a baby. Like "Hi" with a picture of a smiling, waving baby. Or "Big dog" with a picture of a baby and a big dog (appropriately). Or "Spoon" with a picture of a baby sucking on a spoon. Easy, short, sweet, and lots of looking at other kids. That's a recipe for a Sadie-approved book.

3. Peek-A Who by Nina Laden is the book Sadie always goes to when I'm trying to get her to read other books.  Each left-side page of the book says "Peek-a..." and then, when you flip open the cut-out (on the right), says something like "Zoo!" (with an appropriate zoo picture). Also in the book: Peek-a Moo (with a cow), Peek-a Boo (with a ghost), and Peek-a You (with a fun mirror!). It's bright, colorful, full of cut-outs (Sadie loves to stick her fingers through cut-outs in books), and has that all-elusive mirror on the last page! That's three points for Peek-A-Who. One funny thing to note though: I have tried Nina Laden's follow up book, Peek-A Choo-Choo (which also has colorful pictures, cut-outs, and mirror...and is basically the same exact book), many times with Sadie and was met with basically no reaction at all. So go figure!

4. Never Touch a Monster by Greening Rosie is our "Target book," meaning the book that Sadie plays with (and I read to her) during our trips to Target but then we don't buy. It's cute and rhyming and bright and colorful, but the main draw of this book is the AWESOME, rubbery, textured monsters on every page! While, yes, Sadie is trapped in the shopping cart while I read this to her, I can tell that she's genuinely interested in looking at and touching the monsters on every page. The textures are thick, elaborate, and just FUN. It's like it's half-book, half-toy. The pictures really grab and hold her attention while I read the cute, rhyming text along. A text example: "You must never touch a monster who is hungry for its lunch. It might just see you coming and decide to take a munch!" This book, I really believe, would be a hit with lots of kids, of lots of ages.

5. Baby Animals Take A Bath by Marsha Diane Arnold, honestly, doesn't seem to have anything that makes it stand out from other, similar books, yet for some reason, it easily makes this list! Each page shows an animal taking a different type of bath: Sun bath (a sea lion), puddle bath (a bird), mud bath (a hippo), tongue bath (a tiger), etc. I really don't know what it is, but this is one of the few books that Sadie seems to be able to sit all the way through. She even points at the pictures. The hippo taking a mud bath alongside the zebra taking a dust bath seems to be her favorite spread. And I'm willing to bet that once Sadie is a little older, with a firmer grip on language, this book will be an even bigger hit in our house!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

International Talk Like a Pirate Day

According to this website, International Talk Like a Pirate Day officially started in 2002, and has been going strong for a full 15 years and counting! Yet for some reason, it took me until 2017 to do a library program acknowledging it. So finally, this year, it happened. I remembered the date, got it in the newsletter, and planned the program in time to acknowledge International Talk Like a Pirate Day 2017-- and it was entirely mediocre! 

In fact, this might officially wind up being my shortest blog post yet because there's just, straight up, nothing to say. I set the room up for fifteen kids but had a total of three + one little brother and three adults. 😞 (Unrelated: there are symbols on Blogger now! Hooray!)

Anyway, I started out with two books: Pirate Pete Lynne Benton (which is an easy reader) and Pirate Nap: A Book of Colors by Danna Smith. I can't say I was totally wild about either book but I had a hard time finding age-appropriate, storytime-appropriate books and these two, at the very least, filled the need. They kids seemed to feel the same way I did about the books-- eh. 

Then we learned some pirate lingo. I made this slideshow, which I printed out front-and-back, so that it would have the regular English on the front and the "Pirate English" on the back. I found that holding up the regular English, having the kids try to guess, and then turning the page around was a lot of fun for everyone!

Then we moved on to hat decorating, which was 100% thanks to this kit from Oriental Trading, but was a lot of fun too!

And last, we played Pirate Ship Ring Toss, which was possibly the highlight of the program. And how could it not be? There was a huge, inflatable pirate ship and throwing things involved!

On the way out, I gave them pirate bouncy balls to take home. We had them in storage so this was a good chance to get rid of them, and the kids were excited about them too!

What worked least: I hate to say it, but I have to: The books were totally the least fun part of this program. They were just blah. I looked through SO many but I just never found any pirate books that I felt excited about. Too bad!

What worked best: Pirate Ship Ring Toss. You can't beat it. The kids were absolutely enthralled with the inflatable pirate ship from the moment they entered the room.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Grandparents' Day Brunch n Craft

For the past two years, admittedly, Grandparents' Day has been a little bit of an afterthought. Because it's in early September, a Grandparents' Day program needs to make its way into the summer newsletter and, for whatever reason, I just don't think about it until about mid-July. Therefore, Grandparents' Day programs of the past have always wound up being drop in crafts

But this year was different. This year MY parents became grandparents and Grandparents' Day was a little more in the forefront of my brain. I totally made a huge deal over it. And so we have...

Grandparents' Day Brunch n Craft! Here is my family (including me!) enjoying it:

The program, I'll admit, was awesome. I'll start with the food spread.

The menu above (which was handed out to each grandparent as they entered the room) lists everything we had. It says as follows: Light roast coffee, hot chocolate, bagels with cream cheese and butter, Munchkins, orange juice, fruit salad, and Cheerios with milk. 

Please note: I advertised this as a "light brunch spread" to make sure nobody had irrational, omelet-station-caliber expectations. 

Everyone loves a brunch!


And now, on to the crafts! In the newsletter, I touted  "crafts for all ages," so I had to make sure there was something for everyone. It's a good thing I did! I had kids as young as under 1 (ahem, that was my own daughter) and kids as old as 4th grade! Here's what we did:

Hug in an Envelope

I found this craft here. Basically, it's two traced hands strung onto ribbon with hearts in the middle. The center heart (the big, pink one) has a message for grandma/grandpa, and the hearts on each side of it say "Grandma" (or Grammy or Nanna or whatever) and "Grandpa" (or Poppy or Pop-pop or whatever). The sample above is a real sample made by a patron to help me out with this program. I also put out white envelopes for the kids to decorate and then put their "hugs" in, and stickers for sealing them up.

Finger Paint Pictures

I did this craft back in June 2016 in a program called Munchkins with Mommy and Donuts with DaddyIt's a quick craft for the younger crowd and was inspired by this gem on Pinterest. To make it, I found a picture of a dandelion stem online, altered it a tiny bit, added some text, and printed it on card stock. Then the kids finger painted on colorful seeds. Easy and fun! They also had fun improvising more finger paint art along the way.

Paper Plate Awards

I swiped this idea from something similar that I found on Pinterest. I kept it easy by using paper plates that were already gold (these from Oriental Trading). Then I put out pre-punched circles for writing on (because you can't write, even with a Sharpie, on these paper plates without it being a total smudge-fest), pre-cut blue ribbon bottoms (I had a page do this), foam hearts and flowers for decorating (these from Oriental Trading), plus markers, glue and tape. It was cute!

Strawberry Foot Prints

Strawberry foot prints was our "baby craft" and I had three babies present to make it! The sample above (taped to the wall next to the sign) was made by my own sweet, little Sadie. The craft is pretty self-explanatory: Paint baby's feet red, stamp them on white paper (pointing inward if possible), paint green leaves, and add a message (which, in my sample, was "You are berry special!") Then, when the paint is dry, the kindly librarian (me) will add black dots for seeds, cut it out, and laminate the whole finished product for you take home! Here are some pre-dotted, pre-laminated, pre-cut foot berries and the babies who made them:

What worked least: This program was SO much fun. It really felt like a true success. If I were forced to decide on something that didn't work though, I'd say that I wish there could have been a more streamlined way to do the strawberry foot prints. Like, I wish there was way to magically have them dry faster so I could have laminated them on the spot, instead of having to hold on to them until later. But, of the three families who did this craft, one came back a few hours later in the day to pick up the print and was super happy to do so, one mom comes in all the time anyway so I just held hers for her until next time, and one was my daughter. So, really, it totally worked out fine!

What worked best: Totally has nothing to do with the program itself, but having my own family in attendance made the day SO much fun! I loved spending Grandparents' Day with so many great family while still getting to be with my own!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Stories in the Garden

My blog hasn't been getting much attention this summer because, instead of exciting-looking, blog-worthy parties and crafts at work, I've been hosting weekly simple programs for lots of different age groups: Musical Kids, Stop In Stories, and--new for this summer and the subject of today's post--Stories in the Garden!

My library is on a busy main street without any outdoor space whatsoever so it's really a special treat to have any kind of program out of the building. When I found out that my coworker arranged for us to be able to borrow the garden from the church across the street, I was SO excited to be part of it! (To be fair, it was March and I was still wearing boots, so it's possible that that played a small roll.) I wanted to make sure we fit lots of different age groups into the outdoor fun, so I did one session for ages 6-16 months, and one for ages 17 months-5 years. 

The big challenge with this program was that, since there were no outlets, I didn't have access to any recorded music--something I tend to rely heavily on in most of my programs for this age group. This meant that I had to come up with some new material: New songs, new parachute games, and--the most dramatic of all--a new hello and goodbye song! (Anyone who's ever stepped foot in one of my programs knows that I have been a loyal fan of Big Jeff's A New Way to Say Hello and Laurie Berkner's Blow a Kiss for what feels like forever).

The program, other than having totally weird-for-me hello and goodbye songs, went really well. On rainy days it was held inside and even then it was still fun, albeit slightly less well-attended. 

Here's me, barefoot (a nice perk), and ready to sing Five Little Ducks:

Since, above all else, this was a storytime, I'm going to list all the books that were read over the course of this program.

B = Baby class (6 - 16 months)
T = Toddler class (17-months - 5-years)

Are You My Mommy? by Mary Murphy (B)
Babies on the Bus by Karen Katz (B, T)
Baby Faces by Margaret Miller (B)
Baby Parade by Rebecca O'Connell (B, T)
Baby Pets by Margaret Miller (B)
Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton (B, T)
Breathe by Scott Magoon (B, T)
Cat the Cat, Who Is That? by Mo Willems (B, T) *
First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger(B, T)
From Head to Toe by Eric Carle (T)
Hello Lamb by Jane Cabrera (B)
Hi Pizza Man! by Virgina Walter (T)
Jump by Scott M. Fischer (B, T)
Peek-a-Boo Zoo! by Jane Cabrera (B, T)
Pete the Cat: I Love My While Shoes by James Dean and Eric Litwin (T)
Pouch! by David Ezra Stein (B, T)
Say Hello Like This by Mary Murphy (B, T)
Toot Toot, Beep Beep by Emma Garcia (B, T)
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (B, T)**

* Mo Willems' books are PERFECT for two-librarian storytimes! Andrea (of Disney Princess Tea and Mall Storytime) and I have totally mastered these! Reading Elephant and Piggie: Elephants Cannot Dance with Andrea feels like straight up acting, which is kind of fun, and Cat the Cat, Who Is That? has a sort of "call and response" feel, which flows a lot more naturally with two readers. Lately I try to work a Mo Willems book in every time I know there will be another librarian able to read with me.

** I've written briefly about our wonderful Very Hungry Caterpillar kit in the past before, but it's truly a wonderful storytime prop! The kids love holding up all the signs and "feeding" the different things to the caterpillar puppet throughout the story. They also like sticking their heads through the giant holes, as seen below.

Doing a storytime outside was SO much fun with both age groups, and coming up with a new hello and goodbye song turned out to be easy enough. Thanks to Jbrary (as usual), here is the song we used:

We Clap and Say Hello/Goodbye (to the tune of The Farmer In the Dell):

We clap and say hello
We clap and say hello
With our friends at storytime, we clap and say hello
We stomp and say hello
We stomp and say hello
With our friends at storytime, we stomp and say hello
We nod...
We jump...
We wave...

(I altered the actions a bit on a whim if it felt right for the group.)

Here's a picture of my baby group (and three moms) melting in the sweltering sun one week:

What worked least: Relying on the weather is something I'm not used to doing for a program. There was really only one week (the last week) where the weather was REALLY good, not to hot, not too wet. And actually, one week, it was so insanely stormy out that, even though I held the program it inside, nobody came to the baby class.

What worked best: The parachute, always! And what's more fun that the parachute OUTSIDE?! Hint: Not much.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Construction and Building Competition

For the past three Julys, my coworker, Corinna, and I have planned a fun, Summer Reading Club-themed competition at our branch library. Two years ago we hosted Super Hero Training Camp; last year we hosted Olympic Training Camp. And this year, we did a Construction and Building Competition. They have all be SO MUCH FUN. (But I am already racking my brain for activities to accommodate next year's music-theme and coming up completely empty).

To start, we gave each kid a hard* hat that was labeled "Construction and Building Competition" on the front and had their name written on the back, which, to be silly, I wrote as their first initial and their last name (ie: S. Jones).

*Hat was not actually hard at all.

We sat them all down and talked to them about things like how Corinna and I were the "site managers" and how they had to follow our rules in their construction projects. Then it was time to begin the activities, which went as follows:

Marshmallow Towers

The goal of "Marshmallow Towers" was to create the most aesthetically pleasing marshmallow-and-toothpick creation possible. It didn't have to be big. It didn't have to be strong. It just had to look pretty. We gave them 10-minutes, and off they went. When the time was up, we had to declare a winner. Corinna and I knew for sure that we wanted one winner and no "loser." We also knew that we didn't want to be the decision-makers. So we had the kids come up to us one at a time, whisper their favorite (other then their own) in our ear so nobody could hear, and then calculated the results. Luckily, there wound up being a clear winner.

Bridge Building

Split into two teams (Boys vs girls, naturally), the goal of Bridge Building was to make a bridge between two tables that supported the most weight. It didn't matter how ugly or pretty it was-- it just had to be strong. We gave the kids 15-minutes for this one (they kept asking for more and more time!) and had them use piles of popsicle sticks (both the thin kind and the thick kind), masking tape, and sticky putty (this kind).

They did a great job and I was surprised how much weight the two bridges were able to bear. Once their time was (finally) up, we tested the bridges--first with one rock, then with two rocks, then with a whole pound of rocks. Although the 1 lb bag had to be place strategically on the strongest part of the boys bridge, both bridges were able to hold an entire pound of rocks! How exciting! Then we tried two pounds and, of course, both bridges broke. So it was a tie!

I got the idea for this contest from The Ardent Teacher.

Human Bridge Tester

The wood plank and baby pool, in some form or another, have become summer competition staples. Two years ago, in Super Hero Training Camp, we dyed the pool water red, called it a lava pit, and had the kids cross over the pit on the plank. Last year, in Olympic Training Camp, we had the kids run through  the pool as the "swimming" portion of our "triathlon" and used the plank as a balance beam. But this year was the easiest! We filled the baby pool with water, put the plank of wood over it (attached with duct tape to two stools), called it a bridge, and had the kids "test" it by walking across it and making a silly pose/face in the middle. There was no judging or winning for this event; it was just for fun.

Ultimate Oreo

The goal of Ultimate Oreo was to build the tallest Oreo cookie possible in 5-minutes. I found this game on Stumingamescom, but decided to have the kids work individually instead of as teams. Using nothing but a bunch of Oreos and a plastic knife, they had to make the tallest, craziest, most ultimate Oreo cookie possible. They needed to have one cookie on the bottom, as much frosting as possible in the middle, and one more cookie on top. Then, after 5-minutes, we stacked the "ultimate cookies" up next to each other to see who'd made the tallest one. This was what it looked like:

Spoon & Block Catapults

This was a catapult building contest that involved wooden blocks, plastic spoons, rubber bands, and  ping-pong balls. The kids had to band the spoons to the blocks, then use that to catapult ping-pong balls across the room. Initially, this was a contest to see who could get theirs to soar the farthest, but it quickly just became noncompetitive catapulting. In fact, it became more of a cooperative game, as the kids were encouraging and helping each other! Great to see!

Cookie Head Tower

After lots of Googling for ideas, this was the last game that I found, here. Again in teams (and again, boys vs girls), the kids had to choose one member from each team to be the "cookie balancer" (ideally, this is the person who can lie on the floor the most still and not laugh). Then the other two members of the each team had 2-minutes to stack Chips Ahoy on the cookie balancer's head, as high as possible. If the cookies fell, they had to start over. The boys definitely giggled less, but in the end, once both towers had fallen and been rebuilt several times, the girls squeaked by--2 cookies to 0 cookies. Mostly though, this was just about having fun and giggling.

Tower Destroying

As a "reward for all their hard work," this final activity gave the kids a chance to destroy something instead of build something. Except the irony here is that, after the tower was destroyed once, the kids were all excited to rebuild it for the next person in line. Again, cooperation and helping each other were big themes here!

At the end of the hour, we gave the kids certificates, took a group photo, and let them snack on some (clean) Oreo and Chips Ahoy cookies.

What worked least: I think this may have been the last year for our wood plank. While everything worked out totally fine, the Human Bridge Tester activity gave me a bad case of wood-breaking anxiety. Our wood plank had a great, three-year-run, but I am ready to say goodbye to it.

Work worked best: Totally surprisingly, Bridge Building was awesome! It was so satisfying to see the kids work in teams (with other kids they'd never met before) and make bridges that could support a whole pound! And they really enjoyed it much more than I'd expected them to!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Sadie's Top 5, Ages 6-9 months

The big theme of Sadie's 6-9 month book selection is GIGGLES. All the books on this list are books that lend themselves to using funny voices, elaborate kisses, lap bounces, and tickles! My Sadie loves to giggle! As usual, I couldn't totally decide this month and wound up changing her picks up until my self-imposed deadline (today!) but here we go...

1. Hello Bugs! by Smriti Prasada is full of fun sounds and tickles. Each high-contrast page presents a shiny bug and simple text--"Hello, Bee! (buzz, buzz)," "Hello, Snail! (slide, glide)" or "Hello, Beelte (scuttle, scuttle)"--until the last page, which says, "Bye bye, Butterfly! (flutter, flutter)" This book has it ALL. Not only does it mean mom makes silly bug noises (Sadie's favorite is "zuzz zuzz" for "Hello, Dragonfly!" which comes with a lot of bonus belly tickles), but the bugs are SHINY. And the pages are otherwise black-and-white. Doesn't get better than that! Ace in the hole, my friends, ace in the hole! (Sidenote: There is another very similar book called Hello Animals! by Smriti Prasada and Sadie likes that one a lot too!)

2. Tap Tap Bang Bang by Emma Garcia is, like Hello Bugs!, full of fun sounds and tickles. Plus, in Tap Tap Bang Bang, we get to slap the pages of the book a bunch of times too. Each page features a different tool and what the tool "says." For example: "We can cree craw, cree craw, cut with the saw and chippety chip with the chisel," "We can zzz zzz make a hole with the drill and twizzle and twist with the screwdriver." Then at the end, we find out that, all this time, we've been making a go-cart! I don't know if it's the tools themselves Sadie likes or if it's just the silly noises and things I do with her while we read that make her giggle (although it's probably the latter). Her favorites are "zzz zzz" with the drill (which amounts to me tickling her belly and saying "zzzzz"), "grabbety grab" with the pliers (which means that I grab her) and "lift lift" with the jack (which means that I lift her up as high as I can). She also seems to enjoy when we "slap and slosh" with the paint brush (which means that we slap the page of the book). Emma Garcia's books really appeal to Sadie, as this is the second one that's appeared on one of her lists!

3. Baby Cakes by Karma Wilson resonates with Sadie because, like most of the other books in this post, it involves singing, bouncing, kisses and tickles. But it's not only that, she's drawn to these pictures too! This whole book is basically chant that, to me, seems to pretty clearly to follow the beat of Pat-a-Cake. It starts with, "Baby cakes, baby cakes, I love you. Baby cake, baby cakes, yes I do!" Along the way we get to "Kiss my little Baby Cakes on the nose/Smooch my little Baby Cakes on the toes," "Nibble little Baby Bakes on the feet/Oh my little Baby Cakes taste so sweet," and "Laugh with little Baby Cakes, Ha, Ha, Ha/Sing to little Baby Cakes, La La La." Of course, like most books for kids this age, it ends with Baby Cakes going night night. This book always draws Sadie in, while a lot of other books I try to read her, really don't. Even when she's super tired and cranky, this book can pull her in for one last hurrah before bed. I also have a feeling that, as Sadie gets older, she's going to continue to like this book and the chanting and tickles that come with it.

4. Baby Parade by Rebecca O'Connell is a book that I've used in baby storytimes many times. It works great for groups, but it also, apparently, works well well one-on-one! The majority of the book's pages say things like, "Wave to the baby in the big, red wagon!" and "Wave to the baby in the bright orange backpack," which is great because Sadie likes my extremely cheery "hello voice" as well as watching my hand while I wave (though she is still a novice waver herself). Of course, we wave and say hi to all the babies as they go by in the parade, which is fun and keeps Sadie's attention completely. But the very best part of this book is the first page! It says, "Here come the babies! It's a baby parade!" and I read it to Sadie in my very silliest announcer voice. She loves it! Sometimes even when we're not reading the book and I'm just trying to make her giggle, I'll say, "It's a baby parade!" and it does the trick!

5. A Kiss Like This by Mary Murphy is full of kisses! But not just regular kisses, silly kisses! One of Sadie's most favorite things is when I sort of "come at her" from a few inches away while making a funny noise and then kiss or tickle her. This book is ALL about that. Each page has a different type of animal kiss: "A giraffe kiss is gentle and tall. Like this! *kiss*," "A mouse kiss is quick and small. Like this! *kiss*," or "A bee kiss is fuzzy and buzzy. Like this! *kiss*" So many different silly ways for me to kiss Sadie! PLUS the last page has a big super-shiny heart that is basically a baby magnet. This book is awesome!

My next installment of Sadie's Top 5 will come when she is ONE YEAR OLD. That is wild. I can't even believe it.