Saturday, April 7, 2018

Sadie's Top 5, 12-18 months

While, yes, this post is coming a couple of days early, I can't believe we're just a couple of days away from a year-and-a-half! Where does the time go? I cannot BELIEVE how fast the past 6-months have gone!  Since Sadie's birthday, she's gotten SO much better at sitting through books and will even sit for several books in a row! Some of her very favorites are still some of her past picks (A Kiss Like This by Mary Murphy, Toot Toot Beep Beep by Emma Garcia, Sneak-a-Peak Colors by Roger Priddy, Five Little Elves by Dan Yaccarino, and the Margaret Miller Look Baby! books), but in the interest of variety, I've set my rule about only posting books one time each and I'm sticking to it! So with that, here are Sadie's Top 5 for ages 12-18 months, which have not been posted in past lists:

Three Little Mermaids by Mara Van Fleet-- and also the similar Little Color FairiesNight-Night Princess, and Mama's Pajamas (also all by Mara Van Fleet)-- have all really piqued Sadie's interest on the later end of this age bracket. I tried a few of these with her when she was about 10-months-old and, while she certainly enjoyed them even then, she is really the perfect age for them now, at 18-months. In fact, Sadie is intrigued by these books from the moment she sees the pull-tabs on the covers! She is constantly handing them to me to read to her. They are each SO interactive; the pull-tab covers are just the start! On the first page of Three Little Mermaids, for example, there is an octopus holding a fun, sticky lollipop that Sadie likes to touch over and over again. The book also has fuzzy seals, bumpy star fish, flaps to open, and--best of all--MORE PULL TABS! What's crazy is that, while these stories themselves seem like they'd be too long to be interesting to a child this age (in Three Little Mermaids, all the sea friends help the mermaids prepare for a tea party), I think Sadie is actually focused on the stories! Even when we come across a rare non-interactive page, she still seems engaged. It's so crazy! We can read any of these four selections over and over, or switch between them, and she's happy for a while. So thanks, Mara Van Fleet, for letting this very pregnant momma sit for a few minutes while her active toddler actually interacts with a few books in a row!

Pete the Cat: The Wheels on the Bus by James Dean has been a hit in our house since Sadie was a newborn, but only now has it become one of our solid, regular go-to's. Or should I say, one of Sadie's solid, regular go-to's. She is always yanking this one off her (fairly tightly packed) bookshelf and handing it to me to read to her. She'll sit nicely in her chair while I sing The Wheels on the Bus song (with some fun variations thanks to Pete) over and over, and occasionally point out things like the bird, the dog, and Pete's guitar. Sadie definitely learned the word "guitar" because of Pete the Cat. She's even just begun to mimic The Wheels on the Bus hand motions that I try to do along (as I also hold the book). This is one we're gonna read again and again for a long time in our house!

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell is a CLASSIC that I have been just waiting for Sadie to be old enough for. And now she is! In fact, I think this book has helped Sadie hone in on some of her animal sounds. She's mastered the elephant noise, lion noise, and snake noise, I'm certain, thanks to Dear Zoo. If you're unfamiliar, the premise of this story is simple. The narrator wrote to the zoo to send him/her a pet and each pet that comes back is unfit. The elephant is too big, the lion is too fierce, the frog is too jumpy, etc. But, at the end, the zoo sends a dog (finally!) and it's just perfect! Sadie loves to lift the flaps as we read and she has an easier time finding which end to lift from in this book that in other books. (If you look carefully, there's a small, half-circle cut out next to each flap that guides little fingers to the right spot and I think it really helps!) Just like the dog at the end of the story, this book is perfect for us!

This exact "Slide and Find" version of Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle is a book that Sadie keeps migrating toward, especially toward the second half of this age-range. She lovessssss to slide the little tabs to reveal the animals underneath. Then, when we finish reading it, she almost always asks for, "More?" so we read it again! Also--here's something crazy-- her favorite animal in the book is not an animal at all but the teacher on the second to last page! She LOVES the "chee chee!" Maybe it's the glasses? Who knows! Another classic book, making our top 5 list today!

That's Not My Kitten by Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells is a favorite from the earlier end of this age range-- one that Sadie still definitely enjoys now but really stood out as a favorite when she was about 12-14-months-old. The first time we read this, the day after her birthday, I pointed out all the "touchy-feely" spots in the book for her and then every time we've read it thereafter, Sadie's felt the spots herself, without any guidance. The "plot" is simple. Each spread says something like, "That's not my kitten, its ears are too soft," or "That's not my kitten, its bell is too shiny," or "That's not my kitten, its paws are too rough" until the last page, when we finally find the narrators kitten and it has a big, soft belly! This is another one I am able to read to her a few times in a row without her getting too antsy. Side note: Sometimes (often), when I read this, I change the word "kitten" to "cat" because  I feel like it makes things simpler for Sadie, but I'll probably stop doing this soon.

Next up... Sadie's Top 5 as a TWO-YEAR-OLD. 😳

Monday, March 12, 2018


There's not much to say about last Tuesday's Block-a-Palooza! It was so simple, yet so great-- an all around win for a repeat in the future! For ages 2-5, here's what my newsletter description said:

Mix and mingle lots of different types of blocks and figurines to create whatever you can imagine! This program is self-directed, so work at your own pace.

This sums the morning up pretty accurately. I put out lots of blocks--possibly every block in the library--the big, cardboard brick kind; the traditional, simple wood kind; colorful, wood ones that kind of work with the traditional wood ones; the soft, rubber kind; and some foamy ones that might be meant for the bath. Plus matchbox cars, different plastic animals, mini stuffed animals, and some plastic boats. Then, when the kids arrived, I handed them a (plastic) hard hat, put on a playlist I'd made for the occasion, and told them to just enjoy! THAT'S IT!

What worked least: I felt like this program was too easy. After I set it up and looked around the room, it seemed so... mediocre. It was just a room of blocks and little toys. Blah. But when the families came in, everyone LOVED IT. They were so happy! They even told me it was a great idea! I guess sometimes simple is all you need!

What worked best: The mix of different blocks and toys really allowed the kids (and parents) to get creative. I would do this program again and I wouldn't change a thing!

Fun note: I specifically told everyone that they didn't have to worry about clean-up, that the luxury of making a mess and leaving it was part of the fun of this program. But these families were so sweet. They all insisted they help put things away. We have the best patrons ever! 💜

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

National Oreo Cookie Day Taste Test (Plus ANOTHER subtle yet important announcement).

Happy National Oreo Cookie Day! I am celebrating by having Oreos at my desk while I work the entire day. But last night my coworker, Jen (of Elephant and Piggie Party), and I celebrated early by hosting a delightfully sweet Oreo taste test. The idea for this had been brewing for a while in our office full of sweets-lovers. In fact, every time my department head brought in a new Oreo flavor for her staff (us) to sample, we always talked about how we should "make a program out of this one day." Then one day, one of us (me? Jen? My department head? Someone else?) noticed that March 6th was National Oreo Day and--poof!--a program was born!

We spent the next few months collecting Oreos as we saw them, trying to grab all the flavor possibilities and they shifted into and out of season.

Oreos anyone? I've got almost a years-worth!

The plan was to have the kids walk around and sample each flavor, then quietly vote on what they thought each one was. It was a guessing game. In the end we wound up with 15 options for tasting:

Cinnamon Bun
Red Velvet
Pumpkin Spice
Apple Pie
Cookie Butter
Chocolate Hazelnut
Birthday Cake
Hot & Spicy Cinnamon
Coconut Thins
Salted Caramel Thins
Peanut Butter

Last night, to set up, we put each of the 15 flavors out in little sample cups with signs that said "Taste #1," "Taste #2," etc. We also had a table in the middle for water bottles and voting. The set-up room looked like this:

Peek-a-boo! I have a 6-month pregnant belly again! I'm due in June!

Then, as the kids entered the room, we had them each start in different spots and move around the tables to sample the 15 different Oreos. It was A LOT OF OREOS. Almost an irresponsible amount of Oreos, really. As they sampled, they wrote down what their flavor guesses were on their voting sheets. I whipped this sheet up in 10-minutes on Publisher. It can be seen below and downloaded here. (Enjoy!)

Some kids really put time and thought in, smelling the cookies and closing their eyes as they nibbled. Others just wrote things like "I have no idea" and "Really yummy" on their sheets. Kids are funny.

After about 25-minutes of sugar consumption, when we saw that many of the kids were wrapping up their flavor guessing, we had them come up to anonymously vote for their favorite. We decided it was better to have them vote before we revealed the answers so nobody could be biased (because Oreos clearly have different cool and uncool ranks?). Jen made the CUTEST ballot box. Look:

Then it was time to reveal the answers! The kids sat down and, cookie flavor-by-cookie flavor, I had them tell me their guesses for each sample. This was fun! A lot of them were really surprised by some of my "big reveals!" Cinnamon Bun, Cookie Butter, and Coconut were some of the biggest shockers.

In the background, while I was revealing all the answers, Jen was totaling up the favorites and compiling a first place, second place, and third place. Just for fun, she and I each took a guess at the winner before the program. My guess was mint, hers was chocolate hazelnut. The actual winner? MINT! Props for me! Here are the group's top 3:

That's #1 Mint, #2 Cinnamon Bun, and #3 Peeps!

What worked least: Does a room full of kids consuming a lot of sugar in less than 30-minutes count for this? If so, that.

What worked best: I think having two of us who were equally responsible for the program in the room-- as in having two librarians as opposed to a librarian and a page-- helped keep what could have been chaos, in some order. Going forward, I don't think I would do any taste test programs solo ever again. This was so much better. It's a two librarian job!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Stuffed Animal Sleepover

I'm not sure if Stuffed Animal Sleepovers are old hat in the library world by now, but I'd taken a fairly extensive break from them for while and, over time, wound up getting so many requests from patrons to bring them back that, finally, I did! Even though I've blogged about this program a bunch of times before, it's been a while (a year and a half!), and since each Stuffed Animal Sleepover has its own personality, and also because the pictures are SO DARN CUTE, I wanted to write about it again.

The idea of the program is pretty simple--a few books, a few songs, and a craft--but the real fun starts when the kids go home and leave their stuffed animals behind for an overnight sleepover party! SO HERE IT IS: My fifth Stuffed Animal Sleepover! Can't believe it!

As the stuffed animals and their owners arrived for the evening, I gave everyone a name tag. I've changed the name tags up a few times over the years but resorted back to my first ever version, because I think it's the best. I don't often use name tags in programs but they're important for the Stuffed Animal Sleepover so I can make sure the right stuffed animals match up with the right kids at the end. In fact, I take a lot of measures to make sure this is done correctly.

Once I took the kids back to the program room, I did a regular, simple bedtime-themed storytime. A list of my favorite bedtime-themed books can be found on my Recommended Storytime Books by Topic list. For this program I started with Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson (as usual), then I sang Five Little Monkeys with the monkey mitt.

After this, the kids moved on to the craft tables and decorated "sleeping bags" for their stuffed animals to sleep over in. In the past these have been pillow cases from Oriental Trading decorated with fabric markers, but this past time I changed it up and used canvas tote bags from Oriental Trading instead. Aside from this slight change, this is the same craft I've used for every Stuffed Animal Sleepover since I started them, but it just works! So why reinvent the wheel? The kids like it (even repeat attendees) and it gives them a way to "tuck in" their stuffed animals before they leave them, which I'm not sure I could do without.

Then, when everyone was finished (and when there was about 5-minutes left of the program), we wrapped up with one more book: Tuck Me In by Dean Hacohen. Then, to end the program, I had the group sing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star twice-- once normally and once as quietly as possible so the stuffed animals could drift off to sleep. Then they kissed their animals goodnight, whispered goodbye to me, and tip-toed out for the evening. 

There's a very important behind-the-scenes step that comes next. Before taking the animals out for their library adventure, I always always always photograph each animal with its sleeping bag and name tag. That way, when the children pick up their stuffed animals the next day, I can match everything up right without having to worry or guess. Sometimes matching the sleeping bags isn't so easy so this step can be very critical!

Now on to the fun! Here's are the picture from the seven stuffed animals' big night out at the library:

Telling secrets in their sleeping bags.

Playing computer games.

Playing Gin Rummy

Playing other games: Connect Four, The Very Hungry Caterpillar Game, and Checkers.

Making Valentines.

Building at the Lego table.

Doing puzzles.

Choosing books to read.

Thanks to Mary, our clerk who stayed most of the night with me, each stuffed animal got a super-custom-picked book that matched them. Then, as a circulation bonus, when the kids came in the next day to pick up their stuffed animals, I asked if they wanted to check those books out, and guess what? 6/7 of them did! Here are a few of those animals and their books:

Upon pick up the next day, each kid went home with a pile of goodies: their stuffed animal, sleeping bag tote bag, name tag, a book chosen for them, and a set of photos from their animal's night out. As usual, the kids liked the print outs, but the parents LOVED the print outs. This has held true every time. In fact, I have copied and pasted this exact sentence from post to post.

What worked least: Rather than something not working, the biggest challenge in doing this program has been trying to do so much of it after hours. I've found that I just can't do too many of the photos while there are patrons in the library. Not only are there very few places you can set the animals up without disturbing people, I also just kind of want to keep the magic alive a little too. So most of the hard part is done after the library closes--propping up all the stuffed animals, taking all the photos, matching all the stuffed animals back up with their sleeping bags, and preparing the photo print outs (a Publisher document). I wish I could figure out a way to fix this, but right now, I can't think of a better method. It's not hard work per say; it's just hard because it's late at night and I'm super tired.

What worked best: Singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and then singing it again quietly so the stuffed animals could "fall asleep" is sooo cute. We all whispered from this point on and this was a good, natural way to say goodnight to the animals and end the program.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Petite Parachute Play

Greetings from the blog post of my first EVER parachute-only-focused program. Despite the parachute always being the resounding favorite part of every program I've ever used it in, a parachute-only-focused program has always petrified me! I just didn't think I had enough stuff to fill a half-hour. But, as it turns out, I didn't have to!

In my research for Petite Parachute Play, I stumbled across this blog post from Laughter and Literacy. The librarian who wrote it didn't fill an entire 30-minutes with specifically parachute stuff. She did other songs and stories too! When I read that, I thought Oh! Of course! I'm TOTALLY allowed to do other, non-parachute-specific stuff, while the kids are still sitting AROUND the parachute! It's the parachute itself that's fun, not the songs the grown ups sing while we lift and lower and shake it! The pressure was off! In fact, in the end, this program actually most closely resembled Share & Play Babies. It was for the same age group and, aside from a little more parachute, wound up really including a lot of the same stuff. It was held at our Station branch library and the 30-minutes broke down like this:

1. 5-minutes of open play and toy time as everyone came in and got settled. I put out a small assortment of baby toys-- not quite as much as I use for Share & Play Babies, but a few things. But to be honest, I'm not sure any of it got touched.

2. Hello Song. In my last post I wrote about a song I used called Let's All Shake 'Cause Sadie Is Here (which was the made-up-name I gave to the Jbrary song seen below [originally titled Let's All Clap]). This time I used the song as is and we all clapped for each kid. I had five sweet babies in total and this was a great and quick way to make sure we all had everyone's names down.

3. Songs with the babies under the parachute. After our introductions, we cleaned up the toys and lifted the parachute up over the babies for a few songs. The littler ones laid on their backs and the bigger ones sat up or crawled around. First we did The Colors Over You *, then Let’s Go Riding in an Elevator **, and last Slow and Fast by Hap Palmer.

* The Colors Over You is to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and goes like this:

Red and green and yellow and blue
These are the colors over you
Red like an apple
Green like a tree
Yellow like the sun
And blue like the sea
Red and green and yellow and blue
These are the colors over you

** Let's Go Riding in an Elevator can be found in the video below and works just as well (if not better!) with the parachute and the kiddos underneath it:

4. Mini storytime. At this point, I announced that it was time for "a little story time break." First, I read the big book version of Freight Train by Donald Crews. Then we did She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain as a lap bounce.* And last we read Are You My Mommy by Mary Murphy as a class set of board books passed around (then once together as a group).

* Whenever I do She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain as a lap bounce, I start by explaining that there will be four moves that we'll be doing with the babies: Lifting for "Yee-ha!," Tilting for "Woah there!," Tummy rubbing for "Yum yum," and kissing for "Kiss, kiss." Then I sing! It can all be seen below:

5. Scarf songs around the parachute. I just love the scarves with the super young baby group. First we sang Popcorn Kernels* and then did Laurie Berkner's Moon, Moon, Moon**.

** Popcorn Kernels is to the tune of Frère Jacques and goes like this:

Popcorn kernels, popcorn kernels (wave the scarf around above your head)
In the pot, in the pot (crumple the scarf into balls in your hands)
Shake them, shake them, shake them (shake your tightly wrapped scarf around in your hands)
Shake them, shake them, shake them
'Til they pop, 'til they pop (toss the scarf up in the air and watch it fall slowly to the floor)

** Moon Moon Moon by Laurie Berkner has quickly moved up the ranks to become one of my favorite sitting down/lap songs for this age group and, as it turns out, it also works great as a scarf song! I like to do some basic lap and hand motions for each-- most of the stuff Laurie Berkner herself does in the Moon Moon Moon video. I usually hold the scarf for both, waving it around bit, and let the parents and babies sort of interpret all of it in a way that works best for them. Different levels of scarffing/bouncing/watching me do hand motions work differently for each kid, so this works in different ways for everyone. It's nice. Here is the video for reference:

6. Songs with the kids on top of the parachute. This was the last part of the program and also how I almost always end Musical Kids. First, we sang Itsy Bitsy Spider, then did Peek-a-Boo!*, and Wheels on the Bus**. Then I threw the mini beach balls on and played Popcorn by Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights while the grown ups kind of shook the 'chute around a little. I always feel like everyone loves this, even though it's so simple! The kids get lots of stimulation with the beach balls, the music, the colors, and the other babies, and the grown ups get a good photo op! Last I added the mini black sheep into the mix and everyone sang Baa Baa Black Sheep. Then I  did my goodbye song (Blow a Kiss by Laurie Berkner, as usual) and walked around the circle, blowing bubbles at the babies-- another crowd pleaser for the same reasons listed above.

* Peek-A-Boo: This baby song, to the tune of Frère Jacques (again), goes like this:

Where are you hiding?
Where are you hiding?
I can't see you
I can't see you
Are you over here?
Are you over there?

It winds up being a fun little game for parents and babies to play together and is particularly good for the babies on the younger side of the age range.

** Wheels on the Bus is another one of my favorite "little baby" songs. For this song, I have the parents lay their babies down on their backs in front of them, feet toward mom or dad. Here's what we do:

The wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round (move baby's legs in a circle)
The wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish (move baby's legs back and forth)
The windows on the bus go open and shut (open and close baby's legs)
The windows on the bus go up and down (move baby's legs up and down)

I didn't take any pictures but here are a few pictures from when I did Wheels on the Bus during a different program about a year ago (what's crazy is that the babies pictured on the right have both recently turned one!):

What worked least: The 5-minutes of open play at the very start of the program was actually kind of awkward! Usually I have a great group of regular moms who all have lots to say, both to me and to each other. And usually I'm a lot better at driving the conversation! But it didn't flow this time and it felt kinda weird. I was happy to cut it short and move on to the structured activities!

What worked best: I think the songs with the babies on top of the parachute at the end were the most enjoyable for both the babies and the parents. It's such a simple thing, but this is the resounding favorite part of  Musical Kids as well. I guess just having a pile of stuff in the middle and letting the kids play is, ultimately, the most fun thing for everyone!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Valentine's Day Party

For some reason, over the course of my life, Valentine's Day has moved up the holiday ranks and landed in a comfy spot near the top. I just really enjoy it! Maybe it's because I'm partial to "girly stuff" like hearts, pink, flowers, and chocolate. Or maybe it's just that I will just cling on to anything at all that breaks up the monotony of winter. I'm not sure. But whatever the reason, every year I find myself getting more and more pumped about Valentine's Day. And even more so at work! I think Valentine's Day with kids is the ultimate cutest and most fun thing. I look forward to it and, more or less, call "dibs" on it every year.

So last week I had my Valentine's Day Party for kids in grades K-2 and, while I only had three kids in attendance, it was awesome! Here's how it went:

I started with story time and dragged it out a bit in the hopes that my group of two would get a little closer to the 18 who were signed up. I read Crankenstein Valentine by Samantha Berger first, then followed it up with Smitten by David Gordon.

After the books we moved onto our game of "Love Bingo." I made these for a Valentine's Day Party about 3 years ago and they look like this, for example:

I was clever and got candy hearts as Bingo markers too. The kids marked off boxes on their boards as I held up corresponding full-sheet pictures at random. Between rounds, I told them to keep the pieces on their boards so they could just continue to fill them up until everyone eventually had Bingo. As the kids won, I let them pick from a basket of assorted prizes--which were things leftover from programs and reading clubs that we had in the library basement. If it even needs to be said, of course, every kid was a winner.

Next, we played "Blinded By Love" (which is a game I borrowed and modified a bit from Cul-De-Sac Cool's post, "12 Coolest Valentine's Day School Party Games"). Basically, each kid got "blinded" (using a paper mask I cut out and drew heart eyes on, and, when that got annoying and I realized that these were three really fun and honest kids, was replaced by just eye closing), and one by one, they had to try their best to draw a heart on the oak tag. There are no winners or losers in this game. It's just fun for a good little giggle. And giggles it got!

Then we took a craft and snack break. I put out a whole array of things for them to make valentines with: heart-shaped doilies, pink, red, white and purple hearts in two different sizes, conversation heart foam stickersglittery heart foam stickerslove bug foam stickers, markers, and glue sticks. Then I let them just go to town. I also served delicious Entenmann's Valentine's Day cookies + water bottles.

Last, I told the group that, if we could either spend the last 10 minutes playing one more game, or they could use the last 10 minutes to finish their valentines and snacks. The two girls chose game, which was totally enough to play if I modified it a bit, while the one boy of the group finished decorating his valentines. Also from Cul-De-Sac Cool's post, "12 Coolest Valentine's Day School Party Games," I modified a game called "Heart Hop." The original game calls for the kids to split into two teams and race across the room to a pile of pre-written-on hearts. Each kid picks up a heart, reads what it says--something like "hop like a bunny"--and makes their way back to their team, doing whatever the heart instructs. The first team to use up their pile wins.

In preparation, I made two identical piles of hearts with commands written on one side-- hop like a bunny, walk backwards, crab walk. etc. But when I found out we were playing the game with just two kids, I just used one pile and had them play just to be silly. No racing.

What worked least: The size of my group was the only thing that kept this program from being as good as it could have been. However, the QUALITY of the three kids I got couldn't have been better! If had to have a party of only three, these were the three to have!

What worked best: The games, by far. I was surprised! I always expect the crafts and snacks to be the highlights of my programs, but the games really shone for this one. In fact, these kids were barely even interested in the cookies! Crazy!