Tuesday, June 20, 2017

New Book Storytime

I've talked about this thing I do a few times on this blog before. It's this thing were I plan a program and then, as soon as I commit to it (newsletter commit to it), I immediately regret it and don't feel any excitement for it whatsoever. New Book Storytime was one of those programs. I thought it was a smart idea when I came up with it, but as soon as it was in stone, I was like, Ugh, WHYYYY did I sign up for this? The good thing about this thing that I do though, is that most of the time, the program is fun and successful anyway. And luckily, that was the case (for the most part anyway) with New Book Storytime.

The newsletter description of the program left a lot of room for flexibility: Do you feel like you've read every book in the library? This storytime is for you! We'll read a new book or two, plus some old favorites, then make a craft. 

Despite all that flexibility, for whatever reason, I just couldn't muster up any enthusiasm for this program.

In planning the program, I knew I wanted to do a different theme each week. However, instead of my usual first choosing themes and then looking for books to fit in that theme, I perused the new book section of our library for good new books, since that was the ultimate requirement-- at least one new book per week.

The program was for ages 3-5 and was 3-weeks-long. That meant that I needed at least 3 books appropriate for that age group from the new book section. After a lot of reading, the ones that piqued my interest were: Chicken Storytime by Sandy Asher, Go to Sleep, Monster by Kevin Cornell, and Bitty Bot by Tim McCanna.

This meant my themes were:

Week 1: Chickens
Week 2: Monsters
Week 3: Robots

Then it was time to fill in the details. I needed 2 more books and a craft for each theme. Here's a break down of what I did each of the 3 weeks:

Week 1: Chickens

Chicken Storytime by Sandy Asher (New)
Egg by Kevin Henkes (Also pretty new! Bonus!)
If You're Happy & You Know It (Unrelated song break!)
First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Craft: Found on Pinterest here, I had a page do all my cutting--egg halves in all different colors and little yellow chickens. When I set up, I put one chicken and one paper fastener out at each spot, plus crayons and leftover foam stickers (these from Oriental Trading) for each table to share. Then I came around to each kid and had them choose their two egg halves from the stack (mostly because there was a distinct top half and a distinct bottom half which would be easily confused, but also because I learned this as a tip for letting kids choose at a workshop I attended about a year ago). Here are a few of the results:

In conclusion: This was a good week. All three stories were great, totally age-appropriate and engaging and also, the craft (while very simple) seemed to really be a real crowd-pleaser!

Week 2: Monsters

Go to Sleep, Monster by Kevin Cornell (New)
Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems
Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes (Unrelated song break!)
Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberly

Craft: I did a classic Go Away, Big Green Monster! craft this week. I put out paper plates and had the kids color them however they wanted, then loads of pre-cut shapes (thanks to our super cutter page) to glue on. Then, because I hate when crafts don't involve any element of creativity (and I didn't think coloring a plate was enough), I also put out popsicle sticks for them to decorate and and tape, so they could make their faces into masks. Here are a few of the results:


In conclusion: I was worried that the monsters theme would be too scary for the kids, but it totally was not at all. The kids liked all three stories, but I think they might have been a tiny bit too young to full appreciate Leonardo the Terrible Monster. The craft, though, was fun and totally age-appropriate for this group.

Week 3: Robots

Bitty Bot by Tim McCanna (New)
If You're A Robot and You Know It by David A. Carter
Wheels on the Bus (Unrelated song break!)
Robot Smash! by Stephen W. Martin

Craft: I made this week's craft up completely by myself, but I think it was possibly too complicated. I used a whole bunch of stuff for this: paper bags, old CDs, the tops of baby food pouches (like these), foam rectangles (for robot mouths), pipe cleaners, strips of paper, pre-cut printed robot circuit boards (this one, specifically), crayons, tape, and glue. Phew. This was my sample, which I think pretty accurately represents what I had in mind for the craft:

And here are a few of the finished products:

In conclusion: This was not such a good week. I felt like, other than If You're A Robot and You Know It, my books were too weird and probably also too advanced for this age group. PLUS my craft was way too hard. I even heard one grandma complaining about the glue not sticking. I wish I just did another theme entirely, but what's done is done. Just... thank GOODNESS for If You're A Robot and You Know It. This book works for a lot of different age groups but the 3-5's are definitely the perfect audience. It was really a light in a dark week of storytime.

What worked least overall: It's a tie between the book Robot Smash! and my robot-themed craft. I think the book totally lost them and the craft was way too hard and way too glue-y. You live, you learn though, right? Not everything can be the best.

What worked best overall: Again a tie. This time it's between If You're A Robot and You Know It and my Go Away, Big Green Monster! craft the second week.

Overall, this was mostly a fun program but I don't think I'll be having it again. Also, it should be noted that this program was at the exact same time and for the exact same age group as Musical Kids and every single week, the kids seemed to be disappointed that we weren't singing and dancing.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Unbirthday Party

I have been itching to do birthday party type stuff with the kids at work for a while and, finally, one week ago, I got the chance the host an Unbirthday Party!

First: Set up. I needed to accommodate a lot of stuff in this program--a dance party, parachute play, a photobooth backdrop, two crafts, and a pretty elaborate snack table. Our program room is a decent size but certainly not huge by any stretch of the imagination, so this required some planning. I wound up putting out crafts for 15 kids (5 kids each at 3 tables) with the tables shaped like an L, plus some extra chairs around the room for the grown ups. This left a big square of open space for a (somewhat tightly packed) dance/parachute party.

On the snack table, I put out, most importantly, our unbirthday cake! Also out were water bottles, happy birthday napkins, dessert plates, and pre-poured snacks (Goldfish crackers, Goldfish pretzels, and chocolate covered pretzels) for me to bring around to the tables at snack time. The craft tables (covered in these table clothes from Oriental Trading) were set with everything for our two crafts: Decorate-your-own party hat and color-your-own pinwheel. More on these later.


Like I said, this program had lots of different parts to it. We started with the dance party, which lead into the parachute play. This was my favorite part of the program and was probably the kids' favorite also. Plus it was SO easy! I just did all my favorite Musical Kids stuff! Like MEGA Musical Kids, except a little shorter (about 20-minutes).

Starting with the dance party portion of the evening was a smart move (if I do say so myself) because it helped to accomplish exactly what I'd hoped it would accomplish: a fun party vibe. When the kids entered the room, the very first thing they did was let loose and be silly. One girl even had to change into her dancing shoes.

Here's my playlist (red = ipodblue = sing):

Jumping & Counting by Jim Gill
I Know a Chicken by Laurie Berkner (shakers)
We Are the Dinosaurs by Laurie Berkner (drums)
Toast in the Toaster (parachute + balloons)
Slow and Fast by Hap Palmer (parachute + balloons)
Wheels on the Bus (parachute + balloons)
Hula Hula Baby by The Wiggles (parachute + balloons + bubbles)
The Balloon Game by Music for Little People Choir (balloons + bubbles)

(For more on this, I discuss these songs a lot in my various Musial Kids posts.)

The balloons are what made this dance party special and different from just an ordinary week of Musical Kids (I used these from Oriental Trading, but any would be fine). The kids loved tossing and bouncing the balloons all over the room, even after they were done with their craft and snack. Sidenote: A balloon party would be a great program all on its own! Too bad I totally despise blowing up balloons.

After the dance party, it was time for the crafts: Decorate-your-own party hat and color-your-own pinwheel. Everything was out and I told the kids they could do the crafts in either order.

I took a cue from my Disney Princess Tea Party and kept the crafts free of super messy stuff like paint and glue, since the evening's events included eating. For the party hat decorating, I started with these party hats from Oriental Trading because they were simple, shiny, and good quality. Then I let the kids decorate them with these Rainbow Self-Adhesive Letter stickers from Oriental Trading and these Self-Adhesive Shapes, also from Oriental Trading. It was fun, but quick. Here are two of the finished products:

The other craft, color-your-own pinwheel (using this kit from Oriental Trading) was less successful. It was just wayyyy too complicated for this age group. In fact, it was even kind of complicated for me! First, the folding was sooo tricky! I wound up having to fold pretty much every kid in the class's pinwheel. Second, there were just way too many small parts for kids ages 3-5, including one itty-bitty, pencil-eraser-size cap per pinwheel that wound up just rolling off the table and getting lost in the abyss. So, the pinwheels, unfortunately, were kind of a dud (although probably would be nice for older children who could handle the folding and small pieces with less assistance).

That being said, each kid still colored, assembled, and took home a pinwheel (with help from an adult).

And no worries about any of that anyway because it quickly became time for...(drum roll, please)... unbirthday cake!

I had everyone gather around the cake (as seen above) and sing: Happy Unbirthday To You/Happy Unbirthday To You/Happy Unbirthday Dear Everyone/Happy Unbirthday To You. Then one little girl told me it was almost her brother's birthday so we also sang Happy Birthday to him too. Then I had everyone pretend to blow out birthday candles and it was time for snacks!

This was the best and most orderly food-serving I ever did in a program. I had a page cut little pieces of cake, while I passed around the plates, napkins, and water bottles. Then I gave each table one bowl of pre-poured Goldfish crackers, one bowl of pre-poured Goldfish pretzels, and one bowl of pre-poured chocolate covered pretzels. A minute later, our page started passing out the cake!

Everyone really had fun feasting and finishing up their crafts. I enjoyed seeing everyone wearing their party hats while they ate (seen above). It really seemed like a party!

Like every program I have ever done that involves balloons, the night wrapped up with just a lot of kids bouncing and throwing balloons around the room. You can't go wrong with this. Then I took a few pictures in front of the back drop (this one, also courtesy of Oriental Trading), and we all said goodnight!

What worked least: The pinwheel craft. It was just too complicated and had too many small parts.

What worked best: The dance party and balloons. Like Musical Kids and all my Toddler Dance Parties of the past, this is just a really simple, no-fail program that kids love. And the balloons too. They are so simple and so well-loved. Like they say, if it aint broken, don't fix it.

A big, giant thank you to Oriental Trading for sponsoring this post! All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Colorful Crafts

It's finallyyyyyy getting warm out and it was just the right time for an hour of colorful, springy crafting! Last Saturday's aptly named Colorful Crafts program consisted for 6 stations that the kids (and adults) could freely move between to make different...well, colorful crafts.

Here's what I set up:

1. Hand Print Color Mixing
2. Rainbow Crayons
3. Watercolor Tape Resist
4. Watercolor Crayon Resist
5. Fingerprint Doodle Art
6. Rainbow and Cloud Wall Hangings

This kind of craft program is my favorite kind of craft program because there isn't too much weight on one craft. You can use up leftover stuff, do repeats of old projects, and try new things you're not totally confident about. Less pressure because if one thing is only okay, there are a bunch of other projects to make up the difference. Here's the breakdown:

Hand Print Color Mixing

This is an oldie but a goodie for me. I've used this project over and over again and I just always love it. Apart from the mess, I think the patrons like it too. It's quick, totally fun for kids, and even educational! I found this one years ago on Pinterest, but I've done it enough times that I sort of consider it mine now (apologies to the original brain that came up with this!) All you do is paint one hand one primary color (say, red), one hand another primary color (say, blue) and stamp down. Then you lift your hands, rub 'em together, and stamp again to see what it makes (in this case, purple). Here's a link to another time I did this craft.

Rainbow Crayons

What's to say? This one is just rainbow crayons (these from Oriental Trading) and white paper. The supply is the craft. Despite its simplicity, it's no less awesome and well-liked than the other stuff. In fact, it might have been the all-around favorite for the kids last week! More complicated does not equal more fun!

Watercolor Tape Resist

I did this project a few times before, most notably in my Watercolor Workshop in October 2015 (when I discovered the secret to making this work was to use painters tape instead of masking tape). This was probably the favorite project craft among the kids who were more patient, meticulous, and on the older end of the age group. For this project, you cover the paper (we used watercolor paper) with strips of painters tape (see the first picture above) and then paint in all the shapes. Then, when the paint is at least mostly dry, you rip off the tape to reveal a cool finished product. So cool! Everyone was appropriately impressed.

Watercolor Crayon Resist

Also from my Watercolor Workshop, watercolor crayon resist is an easy-to-do-craft and especially cool because the crayon drawing is invisible until you paint over it, like a little magic trick. Saturday's Colorful Crafts program, however, consisted of no watercolor crayon resist paintings. Instead, the white crayons I put out remained untouched and a few very enthusiastic painters just enjoyed using watercolors to paint freely. Hey, that's cool too.

Fingerprint Doodle Art

Thank you, Ed Emberley and your Fingerprint Drawing books. For this craft, I put out stamp pads, paper, black pens, baby wipes, and lots and lots of examples, and let the kids (and parents) be creative. It was fun, but for whatever reason, this table was less popular than the other tables. Totally not what I'd expected! I do, however, feel the need to say that (1) I REALLY enjoyed making my sample for this project and (2) This may have been more fun for the adults than the kids (and probably would work really well with the school-age crowd). But it's ok, I mean, adults deserve a little fun too, right? The kids can have the other 5 crafts, the adults can take this one. I'm okay with it.

Rainbow and Cloud Wall Hangings

My coworker, Jen (of Elephant and Piggie Party) made this craft for one of her programs a while ago and I totally swiped it from her (thank you). It consisted of pre-cut strips of paper in lots of different colors and pre-cut clouds. Add in some glue sticks, string for hanging, and you've got yourself a Rainbow and Cloud Wall Hanging.

What worked least: The watercolor crayon resist craft didn't happen, which was kind of a bummer. Maybe it wasn't enticing enough? Or maybe the watercolors themselves were just TOO enticing to bother with those silly white crayons. I don't know, but the crayons remained untouched and therefor, that's what craft worked the least.

What worked best: It's a tie between the watercolor tape resist and the rainbow crayons. I think almost everyone in the program colored with the rainbow crayons for at least a few minutes and some kids made like, 15 different pictures with them. So those were definitely a hit. As far as the watercolor tape resist, not everyone did this craft but those who did really, really enjoyed it!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Share & Play Babies (5/11/17 - 5/25/17)

I had my last session of Share & Play Babies today and I have to say, this was such an enjoyable program to do! It was a new program that I created for babies ages 3-12 months (with ages 3-5 months being a group previously not serviced at our library!). Inspired by all of Sadie's favorite things, this program crammed a LOT of juice into a three 30-minute windows (one per week).

For every single parent/baby pair in the class... this was their first library program. That means that, in the three Wednesdays that I held this program, I reached a total of nineteen new library users! That is SO awesome. So exciting! So important! So much pressure!

Each week, the format of the class was as follows:

1. Open play (with music) + introductions (8-10 minutes)
2. One book read by me (2-3 minutes)
3. One book, passed out as a class set, read individually between parents and babies (2-3 minutes)
4. Simple finger play songs (2-3 minutes)
5. Baby soccer (with music) + clean up toys (5 minutes)
6. Shaker + puppet song (2-3 minutes)
7. Parachute time (5 minutes)
8. Goodbye song (2-3 minutes)

I'll explain all the details below.

1. Open Play: I have done programs involving open play in the past, but have always thrown it in at the end. In the past, it typically felt awkward and forced for me. And it included a lot of me feeling sort of useless, smiling, and only saying things like "Awww, so cute." But after attending a few baby programs with Sadie while on maternity leave, I learned a lot about well done open play. First, I decided that open play works better at the start of the program. This gives everyone a chance to settle in, get comfortable, even come in a few minutes late without too much pressure. Second, I learned that it works well when combined with introductions. This organically opens up the conversation floor a little and is just a good way to get to know who's in the room. Plus, it turns out that chit-chatting with moms during open play is a lot easier when you have your own baby! Who knew?

This was also the first time I ever had the parents do formal introductions of themselves. I'd asked them to tell the group their name, their baby's name, and how old their baby was. As a program attendee (and specifically one who also attended my first baby program just a few months ago), I liked doing this--it made me feel more comfortable. So for this room full of first time program attendees, I included it. I think it worked well and kind of broke up the open play time, without taking the toys away from the babies. I had them do this each week, even if they'd come before, because it's a good little ice breaker and, honestly, we could probably all use the refresher.

Here are how the toys were typically set up before the start of the class:

2. One book read by me: After about 8-10 minutes of open play, each week I read the class a book. I left the toys out too because (a) I'm not really a stickler for making kids (especially babies) pay attention to me, (b) I believe babies can benefit from hearing a book while also playing with or chewing on a toy, and (c) Just why NOT let them play with a toy a little longer if that's what they're currently in the mood to do?

Throughout the three weeks of this class, these are the three books I read:

Baby Parade by Rebecca O'Connell
Charlie Chick by Nick Denchfield
Pete the Cat: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star by James Dean (Please note: This is a lot of singing.)

3. One book, passed out as a class set, read individually between parents and babies: This was an exciting new thing that we haven't done in our library before (but I'd done in the past when working at a different library). In advance, I ordered shiny new class sets of books specifically for this program, inspired by--you guessed it--Sadie's Top 5 Lists! Throughout the three weeks of this class, I had parents share the following books with their babies:

Sneak-a-Peek Colors by Roger Priddy
Toot Toot, Beep Beep by Emma Garcia
Counting Kisses by Karen Katz

Here are a few moms and caregivers sharing Sneak-a-Peek Colors with their little ones:

4. Simple finger play songs: For most of the parents and caregivers in the program, this is was chance to sing some "old favorites" together with their babies. Both repetition for kids and re-teaching parents childhood favorites are always great! However, for a few moms who were from other countries (at least two, maybe three, in my class) this was a chance for them to learn NEW songs--important, almost vital, songs that their kids will be singing for years to come! Here are the songs we wound up covering over the three weeks:

Five Little Monkeys
Itsy Bitsy Spider
She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star *
Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes
Where is Thumbkin

* I had an embarrassing moment here in week 2 of the program, where I started singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star but accidentally did the hand motions for Itsy Bitsy Spider! It called for a hearty do-over! So grateful for the wonderful families that I work with who aren't too judgmental!

5. Baby soccer: This was really fun! It may have been the highlight of the program! I stole the idea for this from a baby program that I attended with Sadie at my local library. For this, I brought out a decent-sized ball (see below), had the parents/caregivers lift their babies by grabbing them under their arms (also see below), and then making the kids "kick" the ball around the circle to each other. It wound up being a really awesome team building activity, working together, and making sure everyone had a chance to play. We did this for about five minutes and I almost felt bad ending it!

6. Shaker + puppet song: This is 5 minutes of programming that I get to borrow directly from Musical Kids. Here are the songs I used each week:

I Know a Chicken by Laurie Berkner (with chicken puppet)
The Owl Song by Playdate (with owl puppet)
This Land is Your Land by Josh Levine (with dog puppet)*

* There's no correlation between dogs and This Land is Your Land. I just needed another song and another puppet and I like both of these.

7. Parachute time: I am a huge fan of parachute time with babies. It always works in Musical Kids. Always. One thing that changed parachute time from how it usually goes in Musical Kids to how it wound up going in Share & Play Babies, was having the foam mat on the floor. Since I had everyone sitting, tightly packed around the foam mat, the parachute wasn't able to extend out to its full diameter, so there were several bunches and folds in the middle. Basically, a lot of extra fabric going on. It didn't really matter, just sort of changed the dynamic from what I am used to.

Here are all the parachute songs I wound up using throughout the three-week-class. I'll write out all these rhymes/chants at the end of the post!:

The Colors Over You
In and Out the Window
The Wheels on the Bus
Come Under My Umbrella
If You're Happy and You Know It
Let's Go Riding in an Elevator

8. Goodbye song: Another few minutes borrowed from  Musical Kids (and basically every other non-craft program I ever do). Our goodbyes are sung to Laurie Berkner's Blow a Kiss. Always a favorite for me!

Parachute songs, in detail:

The Colors Over You (to the tune of Twinkle, Twinke, Little Star)
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

Peek-a-Boo! (to the tune of Frer Jacquez)
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?

In and Out the Window
This one's on Jbrary! Watch below:

The Wheels on the Bus (done with babies lying on their backs)
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)

Here are a few pictures from Wheels on the Bus, which we ended with every week:

Come Under My Umbrella (to the tune of The More We Get Together)
(Fast shake) There's thunder and lightening and wind and rain
There's thunder and lightening and wind and rain
(Lift the parachute up high in unison) Come under my umbrella, umbrella, umbrella
Come under my umbrella, it's starting to storm

If You're Happy and You Know It
If you're happy and you know it lift it high...
If you're happy and you know it shake it fast...
If you know it shake it slow...

Let's Go Riding in an Elevator
I'll let Jbrary illustrate this one too. I do it with the parachute instead of scarves and sing it a lot slower (for emphasis, I guess):

What worked least: The third/last week of this program (the week that I used the books Pete the Cat: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and Counting Kisses) I zoomed through the open play and the books too fast. By the time I'd finished with everything I had planned, there were still 8 minutes left of the program! And the goodbye song is only only 2-minutes and 47-seconds long! So I wound up doing 5 bonus minutes of open play at the end... which was fine but a little awkward since we'd just cleaned up the toys. What's funniest here is that I purposely didn't read Counting Kisses along with the group after I'd had them read it individually for fear that it would take too long! I should have!

What worked best: Parachute time is always a favorite in any program and this was no exception! And actually I've found that, even as a patron with my own baby, I am sort of bummed when a program doesn't include any parachute time! It's always a great success!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Disney Princess Tea Party

Oh man, the Disney Princess Tea Party that I had this past weekend was SO awesome. The idea came to me while I was shopping for craft supplies on Oriental Trading and got completely inundated with Disney Princess stuff. To that I say, well played Oriental Trading, you DID convince me to buy your products!

I took this program on with my coworker, Andrea, and it's a good thing I did because it was a LOT of work, particularly a lot of set-up. Here is an example of that:

When the kids walked in, they were immediately drawn to our food display (seen above). No tea party is complete without pots of tea (Arizona iced, in this case), tea sandwiches (cheese and jelly), and pastries (or mini cupcakes with pink sugar crowns). We also served cookies and water. More on this later.

Before the kids could eat, we had other princessly duties to attend to. First, story time. Andrea and I settled on a non-Disney story, mainly because all the Disney princess stories that we'd found were long and sort of mediocre. The winning book was Falling For Rapunzel by Leah Wilcox, an all-time favorite for both of us. While I'd never tried this book with kids this age before (I think of it as being for grades K-2), they all totally got it and enjoyed it! It worked!

After story time, it was time for the princesses (and one prince) to make their crowns. We kept things on the sanitary side, since we were serving food, and just did straight up stickers. No markers, no gluing, no nonsense. We used these foam tiaras from Oriental Trading and these Hearts & Flowers Self-Adhesive shapes also from Oriental Trading. Originally I'd planned on including gems as well, but Andrea talked me out of it so we could avoiding using glue, which was totally smart.

So I'll say it again because I really mean it: Skipping glue and markers when serving food was basically genius. We got to avoid a whole mess (pun intended!) of hand washing nonsense. Such a smart move, Andrea!

Here are a few kids working on their crowns:

And here are a few of our princesses in their completed crowns:

Also on the table were two Disney Princess stickers for each kid (these from Oriental Trading)... a party favor!

Once most of the crowns were completed, it was time to play Give Tinkerbell her Wand (aka Pin the Tail on the Donkey). We purchased two of this set from Oriental Trading. Each set came with 8 self-adhesive wands so, while we only needed one of the poster part, we needed two sets of wands in order to accommodate a larger group (we had 12 kids [11 girls and 1 boy] in total).

Here they are playing. Why do kids always cheat at these blindfold games!? Why do I continue to play them!?

Then it was (finally) snack time! Seen below, first, are our cupcakes (from Stop & Shop--a mix of vanilla with chocolate frosting, vanilla with vanilla frosting, chocolate with chocolate frosting, and chocolate with vanilla frosting), topped with pink and purple candy crowns (from Michaels) and lined up nicely on this cupcake stand from Michaels. Second are American cheese sandwiches cut with a cookie cutter into flowers--or possibly suns; the jury is still out. And last, there are (grape) jelly sandwich cut with a cookie cutter into hearts.

We also had water bottles, pre-packaged cookies, and Arizona iced tea served from fancy tea pots. The table clothes are these from Oriental Trading, the plates are these from Oriental Trading, and the napkins are these from Oriental Trading. The cups are dixie cups from a dollar store in Georgia that Andrea picked up while visiting her sister! Lucky find!

Here are some kids enjoying their tea party snacks:

What worked least: Sometimes serving food gets chaotic. This isn't newsworthy or even unexpected--more just like, a necessary evil when food is served. Anyone have any tips for making this more organized? I am very, very open to hearing them!

What worked best: I think the highlight of this program, for me, was the costumes. I put "costumes encouraged" in my newsletter description of the event and 9 out of 12 kids arrived in Halloween-caliber Disney dresses. I think there's just something about doing all these things--hearing a story, making a craft, playing a game, eating a snack--while in costume, that makes a library program extra fun and special. 

Fun anecdote: One mom (not a regular) asked me how often we do this. I said, "This?" She nodded. "This exact program?" I asked. She nodded again. I said, "This is the first time!" To that, she suggested making it annual! Maybe we will! 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Sadie's Top 5, Ages 3-6 months

It's already time for installment two of Sadie's Top 5! Six months old today, I have learned that there are books that hold her interest enough to read over and over and over, and books that she can barely stand to look at at all. In the end, I feel a bit on the fence about her top 5 this go around, but these are my best guesses. Presenting, Sadie's Top 5 for ages 3-6 months:

1. 1 2 3 Counting by Maxine Davenport and Cindy Roberts is ALL about the super high-contrast pictures + stand up combo (as is #2 on this list!). Due to a birth injury, we have to work extra hard with Sadie on gross motor skills and, physically, this book is a wonderful motivator for her when we're doing so! I don't even have to read it sometimes! The pages fold out like a fan, rather than turn like a traditional book, which allows it to stand and also allows lots of pages to be on display at one time. Then, between each page, there are black-and-white checkered borders that I swear are like baby eye magnets. (Click the link above to see what I'm referring to.) The combination of everything is just absolutely perfect! This book has it ALL. Even at the older end of this 3-6 month age range, we're big fans in my house!

2. Black & White by Tana Hoben is essentially another version of the book above. In fact, Tana Hoban's collection of high contrast books were most likely the inspiration for 1 2 3 Counting. Like 1 2 3 Counting, the pages of this book open up like a fan so it can stand up by itself and motivate Sadie during her exercises. The first half of the book has pictures that are black silhouettes on a white background; the second half has white silhouettes on a black background (while 1 2 3 Counting uses bold, bright colors in addition to black and white). Of all the pages, Sadie seems the most drawn to the picture of the butterfly, which also happens to be the picture with the most detail.  Overall, this is another really easy-to-look-at book for Sadie, although (according to her) just slightly less cool than the book it most likely inspired. This one might have even worked better as a 0-3 month book (but we were too busy reading and re-reading Sneak-a-Peek Colors to notice).

3. Counting Kisses by Karen Katz means LOTS of kisses from mommy. If you're not familiar with it, this book markets itself as "a kiss & read book," and it really, truly is. The book counts down from "ten little kisses on teeny tiny toes," "nine laughing kisses on busy, wriggly feet," all the way down to the one last kiss on baby's "sleepy, dreamy head." The illustrations are vibrant, sweet, and just seem to reflect love. Sadie's personal favorites are the toe kisses, feet kisses, and belly button kisses. Sometimes I cheat and give her a few extra on those (Don't tell Karen Katz!)--although lately she prefers to have her feet and belly "chomped on" instead. This book is AWESOME for mommy-baby giggles!

4.  Toot Toot, Beep Beep by Emma Garcia is all about the noise-making, so it needs to be read with a lot of enthusiasm. Each page asks the reader to make a silly car noise (such as, appropriately, "Toot toot," and "Beep beep") and, even though I've used this book in storytime for years, I've never seen a small baby's reaction to it until I read it to Sadie. Her favorite noise is the first in the book--"beep, beep"--but even the other noises don't seem to elicit the exact same reaction, the entire book is really engaging for her. Each page says something like, "Beep beep goes the little red jeep. And off he zooms," and "Vroom vroom goes the sleek black sports car. And off he speeds." So there are lots of opportunities for noise making! The vibrant colors, short text, and different tones of voice really seem to be the right combination for her. Maybe she'll be one of those kids who really likes cars. Maybe I am fostering a love of cars in her right now.

5. I had a hard time settling on a #5 for this list but ultimately realized that the answer was Sophie la Girafe: Colors from DK. This was a book that I (naively) assumed was just a marketing ploy to sell more Sophie toys (which, naturally, we own). While, yes, it may be that, it's also a book that Sadie genuinely seems to love. The text of the book says, for example "Who's hiding behind Sophie's green boat?" then you open the flap and see that it's "Margot the turtle! She loves green. She's resting on her green towel." Then at the end, the book recites all the animal friends and their favorite colors again: "Gabin loves blue. Josephine loves  yellow. Kiwi loves red. Margot loves green. Lazare loves orange. Sophie loves purple." I don't know what it is exactly, but there's something really engaging about this book. There's the usual simply drawn illustrations and bright colors, but what I think it is mostly are the really thick, cool, colorful lift-the-flap pages that Sadie is really into grabbing. They're not the ordinary thin, glued on flaps we're all used to, but almost like mini doors on each page. Like page within a page. They're so enticing! So, marketing ploy? Maybe. But enjoyable board book? Absolutely.

And that's it! More of this again when Sadie hits her 9-month-mark!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Musical Kids (for ages 30-months through 5-years) 3/17/17

It's time for another good ol' Musical Kids post! Can you ever have too many of these? Possibly, but we're not there yet!

If you haven't been to my blog before, allow me to briefly explain Musical Kids: This is a reoccurring program done in three 30-minute sessions per week: 6-16 months at 10:00, 17-29 months at 10:45 (this used to be 17-35 months), and 30 months-5 years at 11:30 (this used to be 3-5 years). We did a bit of age group modification recently due to overcrowding in the middle group--not a bad problem to have! This all goes on for 3 or 4 weeks in a row, takes a week or so off (or sometimes doesn't!), then starts agin for another 3 or 4 weeks in a row. I love Musical Kids and, even more that, I love the relationships that I've formed with the patrons who attend it! I am so so lucky to get to work with such wonderful kids and parents regularly.

Today I'm writing about last week's session with my oldest crew, the kids who are 30-months through 5-years-old.

Here is my playlist from that class: (red = ipodblue = sing)

1. A New Way to Say Hello by Big Jeff
2. Wave Your Scarf  (scarves) *
3. Row, Row, Row Your Boat by Rob Newhouse (scarves)
4. Anyone Can Sing by Playdate (shakers + cat puppet)
5. Rocketship Run by Laurie Berkner (rockets) **
6. One Little Froggy Goes Hop (drums) ***
7. Yellow Submarine by The Beatles (drums)
8. My Ball Rolls Over the Ocean (parachute) #
9. Stop & Go by Greg and Steve (parachute) ##
10. Wheels on the Bus (parachute) ###
11. Blow a Kiss by Laurie Berkner

* Wave Your Scarf comes from, you guessed it, Jbrary! It's to the tune of London Bridges and goes like this:

Wave your scarf up and down, up and down, up and down
Wave your scarf up and down, wave your scar-arf.
Wave your scarf left and right, left and right, left and right
Wave your scarf left and right, wave your scar-arf.
Wave your scarf fast and slow, fast and slow, fast and slow
Wave your scarf fast and slow, wave your scar-arf.
Wave your scarf around and round, around and round, around and round
Wave your scarf around and round, wave your scar-arf.

** I write about Rocketship Run every time I blog about my middle or oldest Musical Kids group. It's an absolute essential with these kids. I can't do the class without it. When I do this song, I hand out rockets-on-sticks (which I made, probably, three years ago at this point) for them to zoom around with, and then also, I hold up signs for all the places that we "travel" to. Here is a picture of my gear:

When I hold up a given sign, the kiddos all run up and touch their rocket to the sign, like they're really "going" to the sun/moon/etc. I'VE NEVER TOLD THEM TO DO THIS, and yet every week, it happens. It's so funny! They totally invented it and it's continued on from week-to-week and from class-to-class. For years! Additionally, this song always gets the loudest end-of-song cheer from both the children and the adults. A++ for Rocketship Run! Here are a few pictures of the kids last week as they "traveled" to the sun:

*** One Little Froggy Goes Hop is a song I stole from this video (at the 9:30-mark):

I didn't have access to the recorded song above so I just sang it myself. It was SO GREAT. It was especially good for getting the kids to work on paying attention and following rules. I told them we were going to "make a big deal" about the word "stop." And encouraged them to not only stop playing the drums when I sang "stop" but to also to freeze. And if there's one thing a 4ish-year-old likes, it's a freeze dance song. (You want kids in silly poses? Freeze dance!) Unlike with the recorded version, singing the song myself also allowed me the luxury of varying the spaces of the pauses. It's fun to throw a really silly, long pause around occasionally.

# My Ball Rolls Over the Ocean is a variation on My Bonnie. In the song, we rolled the ball around on the parachute from person to person. It was my first time trying it. The idea came from the video below and can be seen at the 4:33-mark:

It was fun, but hard. The grown ups were better at the actual ball rolling than the kids and the kids seemed a little competitive about grabbing up the ball every time it fell off the parachute. I think if my group was even a little bit brattier, this may have lead to a problem, but luckily they were a fairly easy going bunch who shared and didn't complain when other kids took a turn with the ball. That said, it was fun to try to roll the ball around from person to person... even if it was slightly more fun for the grown ups than the kids. Here's a picture of me explaining what to do:

## This was the first time I used Stop & Go as a parachute song and all I have to say is: What took me so long? Is there any combo better than freeze dance and being under a parachute? I don't think so! Folks, if you need a new song to do with the parachute and you don't already do a freeze dance song, DO A FREEZE DANCE SONG. It works.

### My parachute version of Wheels on the Bus is a song where the kids get to go on top of the parachute. We lay the parachute down flat on the ground and the kids crawl into the middle and sit down flat. There are usually 1 or 2 kids who are either afraid of this or who would just prefer to stand outside the parachute with the grown ups, but the majority of the group likes this part the best of all! When the kids are all seated in the middle, the grown ups pull up from the parachute's handles and we all walk around in a circle, giving the kids a ride as we sing the first verse of Wheels on the Bus. We do 4 verses in total: 

1. The wheels on the bus go round and round (walk around counter clockwise)
2. The wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish (swish the parachute around the kids)
3. The doors on the bus go open and shut (pull the parachute down then snap it closed around the kids on the word "shut")
4. The wheels on the bus go round and round (walk around clockwise)

The kids love this and, of all the on-top-of-the-parachute songs in my (rather small) repertoire, Wheels on the Bus may be the overall favorite, since it includes several different actions for the grown ups to do around the kids.

What worked least: My Ball Rolls Over the Ocean was, I guess, the least successful song of the day, but it was still fun for a change and the kids definitely got a kick out of using the big ball (aka "chasing after the big ball").

What worked best: This was a super fun playlist full of successes. I'm going to call it a three-way-tie between Rocketship Run (which is always a favorite), Stop & Go, and Wheels on the Bus.