Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Valentine Babies

I'm still riding the high of last week's awesome baby program I did called Valentine Babies. It was SO CUTE, like, really one of those programs that is just fun and feels like a success.  It was for ages birth-16 months. First we read some "love-ly" books and sang some "love-ly" songs, and then we all broke off and worked on a craft-- which I almost never ever do with babies, but totally worked!

Here's the breakdown of time:

Book: A Kiss Like This by Mary Murphy

2 songs: You Be the Ice CreamLove Somebody, Yes I Do (Click each song for a Jbrary video where you can see and hear how it goes.)

Book: Counting Kisses by Karen Katz (in the form of a board book class set read individually between babies and caregivers)

2 more song: Yo Te Amo, Put Your Puppet on Your Heart (Click each song for a Jbrary video where you can see and hear how it goes.)

I had all four songs written out on a handout that I passed around so the adults could all sing along and then (if their copy wasn't too destoroyed by their baby) also sing the songs again at home.

You can download this handout here!

I only had 7 babies signed up, which I was happy with. That's pretty average for kids this age and for this time of day... BUT I had 12 babies show up! Such an awesome surprise considering this age range!

Like I said, I very rarely do crafts with teeny babies (despite the fact that I kind of just did one the week before this program in Littlest Learners). I guess this craft was more for the parents than the babies, but it was awesome either way! We truly made a Valentine's Day decoration keepsake that families could use and reuse year after year. See below:

The samples above were made by my kids (and me). The top was done by Sadie, age 3, and the bottom was done by Callie, age 1.5.

To prep for this craft, first I cut "L" and "E" shapes out on the Cricut. Then I pre-glued down and pre-laminated a handful of "E" sheets, since that one was the same for everyone. Then I set out the rest of the craft supplies: A ton of cardstock (in a Valentine's Day-ish color palette), two laminators that were hot and ready, a pile of laminator sheets, four bowls of white paint with sponge brushes, one hole punch that made its way around the room, a bunch of glue sticks, and a Sharpie for personalizing with something like "Sadie, February 2020."

To begin, I had the adults in a line in front of me and we worked together to stamp each of the baby's hands and feet, then we passed the stamped sheets over to Mary (our clerk) who helped with laminating. There was absolutely NO WAY that I could have done this without her help. We had such an efficiant little assembly line going. I can't even begin to comprehend the organized system that Mary had when she was laminating all these prints and somehow keeping track of whose feet and hand prints were whose, but whatever she was doing, it worked. 

After stamping their baby's feet, the adults wrote their name and date on the "L" sheet and then gave that to Mary too. When they had all four laminated papers, we punched holes in the tops and strung them together with string.

Seriously, all in all, this was AWESOME, albiet a little chaotic due to having 12 babies and planning for 7. Here's how I'd improve upon it next February:

1. This is the most important: I would DO THE CRAFT FIRST. The biggest hiccup in this program was that the paint didn't have time to dry and it ran a little in the laminating sheets. If we did all the stamping first, then there'd be a few minutes to let the paint dry before we ran it through the laminator. 

2. I'd make the program 45-minutes long instead of 30-minutes long. First we'd do the hand and feet stamping, then we'd sing the 4 songs and read A Kiss Like This by Mary Murphy. Then, I'd let the parents start coming up and assembling the rest of their craft and also have the class set of Counting Kisses by Karen Katz out for them to read on their own if they wanted to while waiting their turn with the laminator.

3. I might pre-laminate the "L" sheets also and just have the parents write on either the "O" or "V" sheets. That way there are only two sheets to laminate on the spot for each patron, instead of 3. I do like the way the written text looks on the "L" but it might not be worth it, considering the amount of time we could save.

Here's what I'd do the same:

1. Same actual craft product. It was so cute and the parents loved it (har har, no pun intended). I was hearing about what a hit this was for days and up until today in fact!

2. Definitely, I'd need Mary to help me again. This is not a craft program for only one staff person.

Aaaaand I will let the above few sentances suffice as my "What worked least" and "What worked best" for this post. This is a program that I feel super proud of and one that I will totally be doing again next year!

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Snow Much Fun

Full disclosure: This was a straight up repeat program! The only thing I changed was the book that I read. You can read my original post here, and read on below for the *new* and (juuuust barely) updated version:

As usual, we started with a book. This time I read the classic, Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. It's perfect for this age group, and, in fact, perfect for lots of age groups. Just about a week before this program we had an actual snowy day, which I think was a good reference point for making the story sort of come to life for the kids. I was was able to ask things like, "Did anyone else make angels in the snow the other day?" and the kids could actually remember if they did or didn't.

Next, was the craft. I did the same thing I did last time: snowflake tape resist paintings. For this, mom/dad/caregiver puts down painters tape in the shape of simple snowflakes and then the kids can watercolor over the whole sheet however they want. This time I added dot markers to the mix too. Then, later, when the tape is pulled up, it looks like a snowy sky! Just a thing to note: Don't have patrons pull the tape off until their paint has dried. It's way easier and there's a much lower chance of the paper ripping this way. Here are a few craft pictures:

Last, when there were about 20-minutes left in the program, I took out the "snow" bins. These were cooling for about 30-45 minutes in the fridge ahead of time, just for fun. This was the part of the program that we were all the most excited about. It was a chance for the kids to get some good sensory play in. The snow wasn't made with the kids, but rather made ahead of time for the kids. There are a lot of homemade snow recipes floating around online, but my go-to one is ridiculously easy! It is made with only baking soda and white conditioner:

Two 1-lb boxes of baking soda + 1 cup of conditioner.  

2 boxes. 1 cup. Mix. Done. 

You wind up with something the consistency of dense snow, possibly just a little less wet and "pack-y." I also added a few plastic toy animals and matchbox cars to each bin, and, like I said, let them chill in the fridge for a little bit and--viola!--snow that's fun to play with inside! 

What worked least: I'll say the book worked least, but not because it was a bad book or even because it just wasn't a success. It was, in fact, probably about as successful as reading to 2-4 year-olds can be! But compared to the craft and the homemade snow, I'd call the book the least exciting part of the program.

What worked best: The snow! IT was SNOW MUCH FUN! We even played with it at home the next day, as seen below:

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Littlest Learners

Littlest Learners (for, quite literally, the littlest learners-- ages 6-16 months) was a program that I was SO EXCITED about. It was a chance to do some of that cool, Pinteresty stuff that I always think about but never actually try. 

The program breakdown went like this:

Circle time - 5 minutes
Parachute time - 10 minutes
Sensory play - 30 minutes
Bubbles - 2 minutes (during sensory play)

I had a relatively small crew, 5 babies in total ranging from 6 months to 12 months. This was the absolute perfect allotment of time for each thing. I wouldn't change it a bit. I'll go into detail below (but try to be a little more concise than I usually do!): 

Circle time:

Five Little Monkeys (with the monkey mitt)
Itsy Bitsy Spider
If You're Happy and You Know It

Parachute time:

The Colors Over You, with babies under the parachute *
Twinkle, Twinkle, with babies under the parachute
Peek-A-Boo, with babies on top of the parachute **
In & Out the Window, with babies on top of the parachute *
Wheels on the Bus, with babies on top of the parachute *

* You can read about these songs in lots of detail on other posts I've made if you want, but here are a few shortcuts:

** Peek-A-Boo is quite literally what I am saying when a patron snapped the photo of me seen above. This is a cute little song that encouraged playing peek-a-boo. To the tune of Frère Jacques, it goes:

     Peek-a-boo, Peek-a-boo 
     I see you, I see you
     Are you over here?
     Are you over there?
     Peek-a-boo! Peek-a-boo!

Then it was time for sensory fun! Here's where I got to be a little creative! I had 4 distinct stations:

1. Edible finger paint, which I have made a handful of times in the past. This is just Greek yogurt with food coloring on finger paint paper! SO easy, although a word to the wise, it doesn't dry so great. It gets kind of peely and cracked. So it's really more of an "process, not product" activity. The parents are not going to be taking home a lasting piece of art.

2. Bubble wrap paintings, inspired by this post: https://www.artycraftykids.com/art/baby-bubble-wrap-art/. Only one baby attempted this, but I was still happy to have it. When I set it up, I taped down the paper to the table cloth, then put paint on the paper, then taped the bubble wrap on top of that. One thing I noticed was that the packing tape was REALLY strong. It was impossible to avoid ripping the paper when we pulled it up. I think if I ever do this again, I wouldn't tape down the paper, but instead cut bubble wrap pieces that are slightly larger than the paper and let the paper just sit under it instead. No tape on the paper. That way, when I pull up the bubble wrap, it only rips apart the table cloth.

3. Shredded paper pool! SO COOL. I was a little worried about potential paper eating and choking but with lots of adults and lots of watchful eyes, it didn't happen. All was good and the kids had a BLAST. One boy was literally rolling around in it!

4. Sensory toys that I borrowed from our county library system. This included stress disks (seen in the photo below and also seen in the photo at the top of this post), sensory tubes (these from Lakeshore Learning), Sensory shapes (these from Discount School Supply, also seen in the photo below), and squishy numbered disks (these from S&S).

Then I did bubbles at the very end, sort of to signal the end of the program in a way that felt natural to me, but also because bubbles are fun and babies love them. I played Laurie Berkner's "Blow A Kiss," which is always my go-to for ending a program.

What worked least: The bubble wrap paintings went the most unused but I still feel like they really worked. I liked having a mix of messy and not-so-messy activities for the kids and a lot of the moms liked it too. I think I would still include the same activities if I chose to do this program again in the future.

What worked best: The shredded paper pool was SO GREAT. I think that, with the parents there to supervise, it was a wonderful activity to get to try together and definitely the kind of thing people aren't likely to have done at home.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Noon Year's Eve, Biggest Ever Edition

Better late than never... I'm going to try to be a little less verbose here from now on, so that I don't fall so far behind on my blog posts. But with that said, here's a super lengthy one about Noon Year's Eve 2019-2020.

This was my biggest Noon Year's Eve Party ever, with SEVENTY-EIGHT patrons in attendance! That is a huge number for our library! It was so much fun to host such a large-scale program, and it was made even more exciting by my own family joining the party!

Before the program, I set the room up with a few key elements:

1. The balloon drop (After trying a couple, this one, $10-ish on Amazon, is still my favorite).
2. The countdown to noon projected on the wall to build anticipation (made with timeanddate.com).
3. The green screen (I've use a photo backdrop from Oriental Trading all the years before but decided to spice things up a bit this year and use the green screen for the "photobooth" instead).
4. Plastic champagne flutes, sparkling cider, water, and snacks.
5. Craft stuff (The same craft I've done in my Noon Year's Eve Parties since I started them!).
6. Bingo + Bingo prizes
7. Music.

Now I'll discuss everything in more detail.


When the patrons first entered the auditorium, I immediately guided them over to the craft tables. I didn't reinvent the wheel; I used the same two crafts that I used for all of my past Noon Year's Eve Parties-- the time capsule sheets and the crown seen below:

I started the kids off by having them decorate 2020 crowns (which I had pre-cut for them) so they could be festive when the balloons dropped at 12:00. I had also created a two-sided worksheet which I called a time capsule. On one side of the sheet it asked kids to list their favorite things (favorite color, favorite book, favorite movie, etc.) and on the other side it asked them to draw a self-portrait. When they were finished with it, I had them put it in an envelope, which they could also decorate. Then they sealed it up with a sticker (which were just printed on blank labels) that said "Do Not Open Until January 2021." One difference this year: I made a "pre-school sheet" and a "school age sheet" but really, they were pretty similar.

Here are some completed crowns:


This was, by far, the largest Bingo game I have ever conducted. I really had to put my full teacher voice on. I'm also gonna mom-brag a second here and say that it was my first time seeing Sadie play Bingo and, with the help of a much older friend (my coworkers 9-year-old daughter), she did really great!

I actually made brand new Noon Year's Eve Bingo boards this year and bought special prizes just for this game! All from Oriental Trading, we got little blind bags, little stuffed animals, and (seen below), Cute Poop Slow Rising Squishies, which were scented... VERY VERY SCENTED. 😩

Balloon Drop:

Like I said, after trying a couple of different balloon drop bags, this one, $10-ish on Amazon, is still my favorite. It holds about 40-50 balloons, I'd say. Once the countdown (made with timeanddate.com) hit 12:00 noon, I pulled the string and the balloons fell down on the kids, who were gathered below in anticipation. Then I played Auld Lang Syne (specifically the version by Glenn Miller). I'm not sure if the kids noticed, but I think the adults did!

After the balloons dropped I did a little balloon game, having the kids bounce them in different ways. This is to a song called (creatively) The Balloon Game by Music For Little People Choir on the album, "Birthday Party Singalong." Some song lyrics go, "I can bounce it on my finger, yes I can, yes I can," and "I can bounce it on my nose, yes I can, yes I can." Only a handful of kids joined in, but that was ok! Everyone had fun bouncing and tossing their balloons around.

Green Screen Photos:

I've been super into the green screen lately! For the past few months I've been doing a bunch of different kinds of photoshoots with the patrons (The Halloween ones were best of all!). But, because there was so much going on and there was such a large group of people at Noon Year's Eve, I only had one background option (normally I have a bunch) and I wasn't able to get too creative. It was still lots of fun though! Look at the photo above of the room set up to see the green screen standing in the back of the room. Here are two pics that get the point of what we with it did across:

"Champagne" and Snacks:

Of course, I hardly took any pictures of the snacks. We had sparkling cider in champagne flutes, mini cupcakes (from Stop & Shop), individual goldfish bags, and water. It was perfect.

What worked least: The green screen, which ordinarily I really love, was probably more trouble than it was worth for this program. In the past, when I've done photoshoots, I've had the time to choose backgrounds with families, pose them a little, and then take multiple shots. In this program, it was just too chaotic and a regular background would have worked the same or possibly even more efficiently, since patrons would have been able to just take their own photos, as opposed to relying on us. In years past, I used this one from Oriental Trading and would totally use it again in the future.

I feel like I have to share that we HAVE had some amazing green screen photoshoots on other days (seriously, a good amount of them!), but that it was just the wrong fit for this particular program. This also seems like a good time to share my top 3 from Halloween (that's us in the bottom one!):

What worked best: The countdown + balloon drop combo. So. Much. Excitement.

Overall, I think this may have been my most successful program ever, in terms of numbers. It's too bad it took me so long to get it up on my blog!

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Sadie's Top 5, 3-Years-Old

At the end of my last "Sadie's Top" post, I wrote the sentence "Hopefully I will have enough non-TV/movie character books for another post around Sadie's third birthday!" At the time that I wrote it, most of the books Sadie gravitated toward were books based on TV and movie characters-- Paw Patrol, Moana, Frozen, etc. We were in a not-so-great reading phase and I was sad about it. Now, at three-years-old, Sadie definitely still does enjoy those character books, but she has totally come back around to reading other things! She asks me to bring home new books constantly! And, even though our bedtime has changed, we're back to reading books together at night! Hooray!

Once again, I'm going to omit the books based on TV and movie characters (although, FYI, she's REALLY into this specific Frozen book with a spinning Elsa in the middle.) because the reason those books are hits are because of the recognizable characters, not because of the quality of the writing or the story-line. So, those books aside, here are Sadie's Top 5 books, as a sweet, big-girl, three-year-old:

Little Bear Needs Glasses by Bernd Penners is super fun. It's about Little Bear, who, as the title suggests, need glasses. He asks to try on all his friends' pairs but none are quite right. The cool thing about this is that you can actually try each pair of reusable sticky glasses on Little Bear's face! It comes with 5 plastic, reusable stickers! So it's totally interactive! In the end, Little Bear does find the perfect pair (spoiler alert: It's the red, circle pair that none of the other animals are wearing) and everyone is happy! Also, if you like this and your kid is really into the whole reusable sticker thing, try All Better! by the same author. This one is the "original" removable sticky story book and has pretend bandaids instead! Both great!

Hi, Pizza Man by Virginia Walter is a storytime favorite of mine! I have been using it for years in programs and I'm so excited that Sadie likes it now too! The story is about waiting for pizza and greeting whoever brings it. The first pizza deliverer is a human man, so we say "Hi, pizza man!" Then it's a human woman, so we say "Hi, pizza woman!" Then we say things like "Meow meow, pizza cat!" and "Ssssss, pizza snake" when a super formally dressed cat (including a cape!) and a friendly snake in three bow-ties and a top hat deliver the pizzas. There are a total of 8 greetings and then, finally, the pizza comes! Who's going to deliver it? It's a surprise! I love this book because it includes animal sounds and silliness, plus a gentle nod to children having to wait patiently from time to time, even though it's difficult.

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems-- Yay! We're finally reading Mo Willems! Even though sometimes Sadie immediately allows the pigeon to drive the bus the very first time he asks to, every time we read it, it clicks a little more in her brain. In case you're not familiar with it, this book is about a pigeon who's begging the reader to allow him to drive a school bus. The book very specifically starts off with the bus driver asking the reader to keep an eye on things for him until he gets back and to make sure NOT to let the pigeon drive the bus while he's gone. So then, as soon as the driver walks away (on page 2), the pigeon pokes his head in and says "I thought he'd never leave." Then he asks, "Hey, can I drive the bus?" (to which the reader is supposed to answer "Nooo!"). His pleading with the reader gets more and more dramatic until he explodes about halfway through the book with, "LET ME DRIVE THE BUS!!!!!!!" Other pleading attempts include "I bet your mom would let me," "I'll be your best friend," and "How 'bout I give you five bucks?" It's a great storytime book and a great one-on-one book and is probably good for kids until, at least, first grade. I'm even inclined to say that there is no upper age limit, except that there comes a point where kids would find reading picture books super uncool. Also, FYI, there are a ton of other Pigeon books like Don't Let The Pigeon Stay Up Late, The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog, and The Pigeon Wants a Puppy, so there's no shortage of chances for kids to have control over the character in the book while giggling along the way! I can't wait to introduce other Mo Willems books to Sadie soon!

Rock-a-bye, Baby by Jane Cabrera ticks all the baby love boxes for Sadie. I'd say that this book is probably great for kids a lot younger than she is, but Sadie really enjoys it too. Maybe she finds it comforting. It's the classic song we all know, but re-imagined with lots of woodland animals and extra verses. For example: "Rock-a-bye Squirrel, high in the tree, in Mommy's arms, cozy as can be." I always sing (instead of say) the whole book and when I do, Sadie always pretends to scoop up and rock all the different animal babies on the pages in her hands. Then she goes "Awwww! So cute!" while pretending to pet them. She really loves babies and therefor, she really loves this book!

Can You See What I See? Seymour Makes New Friends by Walter Wick is one of many search-and-find books and magazines (hello, Highlights!) that Sadie enjoys. She seems to like these particular ones best because they're a little easier than some of the others that we've tried. Like, she can actually find the stuff. I think that they're better for her age. There's even a little story about Seymour along the way, although that part is totally lost on Sadie and even kind of lost on me. This was the first Seymour book that we tried and was, possibly, her favorite one, but all of them are great... and basically the same familiar thing!

Quick aside: I just had a patron ask me for potty books for her daughter and it reminded me of the potty book that really really sealed the deal for Sadie as far as potty training books go. I figured I'd recommend it here in case anyone else is looking for a great potty book recommendation. It's called A Potty For Me by Karen Katz. There are a lot of potty books out there, and a lot of other great ones too, but this is, by far, the one that Sadie always both enjoyed reading the most and the one that, absolutely, made using the potty a feasible and relatable experience for her. This book was a game changer for us-- and we read a lot of potty books!

Anyway, Sadie's Top 5 will be back in 6-months with her 3½-year-old faves!