Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Easy Art

Just this morning I did a program called Easy Art! I'd been wanting to do a program like this for sooo long and I was excited about it! This was all about process, not product. It was meant to be a place where kids (ages 12-35-months) could get messy, be creative, and have fun! (In the newsletter, I wrote "dress for a mess.")

I had four "creative stations" set up (plus a grown up station for parents wanting to make hand and foot prints to take home, but it wasn't very popular). These stations consisted of covered tables, sitting flat on the floor, resting on a big tarp. Then, when the crowds (hah!) came in, I put on some music and let them move freely around the room, from station to station, making crafts and exploring with their hands. It totally worked! 

Here are the stations that I had:

Edible Finger Paint

This was sooo easy and fun! Edible finger paint is literally just Greek yogurt mixed with food coloring. That's it! My age group started at 12-months and, with a 12-month-old at home, I know that sometimes things get eaten. Often things get eaten. I wanted to make sure that even the youngest kids in the program could really get into the finger paint fun, so I mixed a few batches of this up and it really worked well! Then I put out some watercolor paper (I needed something thick to handle this thick paint) and let the kids have at it. Easy as pie!

Simple Collage

Another easy one: I put out different color construction paper, Elmers glue, big pom poms (picked the big ones out of this mixed bag from Oriental Trading), giant buttons (these from Oriental Trading), pieces of cut-up foam (I ordered these, these, and these from Oriental Trading, then just cut them into random shapes) and tissue paper circles (these from Oriental Trading). That's it. Maybe it was just all the STUFF in bright colors, but the kids really enjoyed this station. And spend a long time at it! And I loved seeing them get totally creative with this. I was a little worried that some of the parents might try to make this craft too "nice" (like, try to make a pom pom-button flower or something) but all the adults really sat back and lets the kids go to work. It was really great to see!

This was this little one's first craft ever!

Edible Marshmallow Play Dough

The edible finger paint was easy. The simple collage was easy. But the edible marshmallow play dough could have been a lot easier. If I was making one blob of this at home for one-on-one play, I actually WOULD call it easy. It's just marshmallows, coconut oil, corn starch, and food coloring. And each ball of it shown above took about 4-minutes to make. But scrambling to make a class set of this before the program (when you also have to clean up all the mess and three people called out sick that day so you're totally on your own with nobody to help) was a veritable nightmare. Also, I should have gotten another bag of marshmallows and made double this amount. 

The edible marshmallow play dough recipe can be found here (or literally like 75 other places on the Internet. This is very Google-able). Some trouble shooting type things to note:

1. This (the picture shown above) is how much I got from one regular size bag of Jet-Puffed marshmallows. For a library program sized quantity, I should have gotten two bags to make double this amount. But (a) there is no way I would have had time to make double this amount before the program started anyway, so I guess it's for the best? and (b) it really did work out fine anyway. We didn't exactly not have enough, it was just more that the kids were forced to do a little more sharing and a little bit less "building" than they would have otherwise. But it was totally still fun!

2. The play dough got really firm, really quickly. This recipe is kind of meant for immediate play, I guess. I made 7 balls of dough (see picture above) starting at 9:00am when I walked in the building. (It was the first thing I did in terms of set-up.) When the program started at 11:00, most of the balls were already so hard they were difficult to work with! I gave them a quick microwave--about 4-5 seconds for two on a plate--and this seemed to help a lot, but then they needed to cool! Overall, I found that if the play dough was being actively played with, it stayed soft, but if I just let a ball of it sit out, it firmed up quickly and needed to be microwaved back to squishiness. Luckily, the kids were playing with this pretty much nonstop for the whole 45-minute program, so most of my microwaving was done in the beginning.

3. I microwaved one ball for, I guess, too long? I don't know what happened, really, but when I took it out of the microwave, it was SO HOT and SO STICKY. I mushed it around a bunch of times in my hands to try to get it to be more normal, but finally I wound up having to add more corn starch and that did the trick. When in doubt, add cornstarch!

With all that said, this was the most popular table by far! Everyone loved it! I would 100% do it again in the future with (a) more marshmallows and (b) more time.

Giant Paper and Crayons

Paper and crayons = If it aint broken, don't fix it! I made a last minute call to also toss just big, giant paper and crayons out on a table-- nothin' fancy at all. As a kid, I never discriminated between things like cool, homemade play dough (that took the all of the librarian's energy for the entire day to make), and just a plain old basket of crayons, so I figured these kids probably wouldn't either! And it couldn't hurt to have one more activity out. With the 1-3's age group, this was a perfect extra-- especially for the younger end of the age range! What's better than just a basket of crayons and giant pieces of white paper? (Maybe marshmallow play dough is slightly better, but this really is fun too!)

What worked least: While the post above might make it sound like the answer to this question would be the edible marshmallow play dough, that is not the case! While, yes, the marshmallow play dough was a headache (And a lot of rushing. And a lot of stressing. And a huge mess), it was seriously just SO MUCH FUN, that it was worth it! The fun outweighed the bad! What actually worked least was the foot and hand printing (not even mentioned above)! Mostly, because it just didn't get used.


Originally I'd planned my four stations to be: (1) The edible finger paint (2) the collage (3) the marshmallow play dough and (4) the "bonus foot print craft" (which was meant to be a strawberry footprint, borrowed from my Grandparents' Day Brunch n Craft). But, at the last minute, I decided to change it up. I decided to keep the "real" paint up on a high table (off the floor) so that the grown ups could use it if they wanted but that it was away from the kids, and to instead, use the big paper and crayons as the last station on the floor. I think, because of this, it just went largely unnoticed, even though I did point it out several times. I had to include it today it because I'd advertised a "bonus foot print craft" in the newsletter but next time, I think I'd skip it entirely and just make the coloring station a little more elaborate instead. Maybe I'd include different mediums like markers and colored pencils, in addition to the crayons. And maybe even some stickers. Why not!?

What worked best: The collage! It was awesome and just absolutely perfect for little hands and creative brains! I think the nature of the stuff I put out was perfect for inspiring kids this age, and also perfect for keeping adults away from trying to create something "pretty." Like I said, this was meant to be all about process not product. And it was! It was seriously great! I'm really happy with how it worked out.

All in all, I DEFINITELY want to do this program again in the future but with a few tweaks and more set up time for sure! 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Sadie's Top 5, Ages 9-12 months

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

International Talk Like a Pirate Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Grandparents' Day Brunch n Craft

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everyone loves a brunch!


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

Hug in an Envelope

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

Finger Paint Pictures

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

Paper Plate Awards

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

Strawberry Foot Prints

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Stories in the Garden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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