Thursday, May 24, 2018

Elephant and Piggie Party #2

Approximately two years ago, my coworker Jen (also of National Oreo Cookie Day Taste Test) and I hosted an Elephant and Piggie Party to celebrate the release of the Thank You Book, the final book in the Elephant & Piggie series. WELL, it was so much fun that we decided to do it again! Just for the heck of it! Because Elephant and Piggie never get old and are always in style. And also because we don't need a stinkin' book release to celebrate our love for these guys! We love 'em all the time!

For ages 4-6 (aka the PERFECT age group for this), we tried this program from 4:30-5:00pm, a time slot neither of us would normally go for. It worked out! We had 15 kids signed up and 11 in actual attendance (two opted out of the group picture below).

We started off with two dramatic readings: First, we did We Are In a Book (because, it's sort of just necessary?) and then we did Waiting is Not Easy (because Jen said it's appropriate for me as an 8.5-month-pregnant person and I sort of agree). I feel like it's almost unnecessary to even say this but, OBVIOUSLY, the kids loved both books-- not because we're so awesome or because we chose the perfect stories (although we are and did), but just because you really can't go wrong with any Elephant & Piggie reading. At all. Mo took all the work out of it!

After our reading, we handed out the supplies necessary for Elephant and Piggie Bingo (made by me!). Here is a sample board, done in Microsoft Publisher:

We used M&Ms as Bingo markers but told the kids NOT to eat any of them until the game was over. Amazingly, they all listened! As usual (for me), I instructed everyone to keep their pieces on their boards between rounds. Then we played round after round until, eventually, everyone was a winner and everyone got a prize (from a basket of leftover stuff we had).

By the time Bingo was over, we had about 10-12 minutes left for a snack and craft. We served animal crackers and water as the kids made their way back to the activity table. We had a bunch of simple stuff out, but the main craft was all thanks to Jen's wonderful prep-work. These: 


Paper bag puppets! She found the templates for these on the blog, Three Little Birds, and had a page pre-cut all the pieces so the kids could easily glue the parts onto the bags. Quick and easy and perfect for this age group in the limited time that we had!

Our other activities out included Elephant and Piggie MadLibs (which you can download here), a Pig Day Scrambler (which you can download here), and a Pig Maze (which you can download here). The MadLib was a Pinterest find, while the Pig Day Scrambler and Pig Maze were both from The Happy Pig Day Kit, available through (under "Grown-Up Stuff").  Also, we had Mo Willems stickers lying around the department so we gave those out too (as sort of a party favor), which was a fun surprise for the kids!

What worked least: I don't think anything worked least about this program! It was all fun, timed out nicely, and, when it was over, one girl left the room asking, "When's the next Elephant and Piggie Party?"

What worked best: I think our dramatic reading really shone here. I'm not sure how we looked to outsiders but to me, Jen and I really became Elephant and Piggie.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Recycled Crafts for Earth Day

I'm not sure why, but I have always been pretty enthusiastic about Earth Day. I've done library programs for it in the past, but took a break for a while when my effort to use only recycled materials became daunting instead of fun. This year I decided to get back into it, only I told myself each craft only needed to include one recycled material, instead of being completely recycled. Plus, as I think I have mentioned many times before, I really prefer to do programs with several simple crafts, rather than one longer one. So that's what I did! Recycled Crafts for Earth Day.

I had a small yet appreciative group of 3-5-year-olds (and their parents) and four crafts for them to make, each including at least one recycled material, in an open, unstructured type of program. There was one craft per table and the families moved around from table to table to try their hands at whatever they wanted for the duration of the time. And, as usual, I accompanied the evening with a playlist! Here's what we did:

Toilet Paper Tube Black Bears

I got the idea for these little guys from (but found it on Pinterest). I was looking for a simple toilet paper roll craft that didn't require cardboard cutting, too many pieces, or too much letting paint/glue dry. In the end I settled on this, even though it required painting, because all the tubes could be painted the same color so I was able to do it ahead of time. Plus LOOK HOW CUTE. I put out the pre-painted black tubes, small squares of brown construction paper, scissors, black markers, glue sticks, tape, and self-adhesive googly eyes (the biggest of these from Oriental Trading). The kids and parents liked this project, however I decided this one was more parent-heavy and required less from the kids than I prefer. Maybe it would have been better for a slightly older crowd. Even still, it was fun for the families and the final product was really cute.

Baby Food Pouch Cap Spiders

From Pinterest again, these were technically a Halloween craft from Plum organics, but were surprisingly the stand out hit of this program! The kids LOVED these little guys. Everyone wound up making several spiders, parents included! And they were so easy! The only things I'd put out were caps from baby food pouches, pre-cut-in-half piper cleaners, and self-adhesive googly eyes (the smallest of these from Oriental Trading). Then, I showed the whole group how to weave the pipe cleaners from one side of the cap to the other (as seen here) and then sort of bend them so they'd stay in place and seem "spidery." The googly-eyes, while self-adhesive, were a little delicate for small hands so I helped the kids out a little there too, but overall everyone really really liked these!

Bubble Wrap and Paper Plate Jellyfish

After an entirely Internet-purchased holiday season, I did a lot of Pinteresting to find a good bubble wrap craft that I felt comfortable with. I had considered just bubble wrap painting and maybe I should have gone that route, but instead I decided on this cute little jellyfish that I found on (from Pinterest) that I really liked! I thought it was perfect: didn't require too much in the way of supplies and allowed for creativity. BUT NOBODY MADE IT! So disappointing! One family took the supplies home and, for everyone else, it was ignored. To be fair, I didn't have a huge turnout to begin with and the program was only 30-minutes but still. Not one kid even attempted the craft at this table. Next time I'll do the painting instead!

CD Sun Catchers

This one was so easy, there's almost nothing to say about it! I put out old CDs, ribbon, and these self-adhesive gems from Oriental Trading and then let the kids go to town decorating! I got the idea from (found on Pinterest), but kept the whole thing super easy by using the self-adhesive gems and eliminating the glue part entirely. Everyone did a nice job!

What worked least: I guess my bubble wrap jellyfish were not appealing since nobody migrated toward that table at all. Maybe it was too much white and nothing colorful to draw people over? Whatever it was, something was amiss. But crazily, I'd try it again! Maybe if I had a bigger crowd and/or more time, the kids would have enjoyed it! Next Earth Day!

What worked best: Those little spiders! Everyone loved 'em!

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.