Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Petite Parachute Play


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

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

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


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



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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

Where are you hiding?
Where are you hiding?
I can't see you
I can't see you
Are you over here?
Are you over there?
Peek-a-boo!
Peek-a-boo!

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

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

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

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


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

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

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Valentine's Day Party


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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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

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

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Musical Kids (for ages 6-16 months) 2/2/18


Ladies and gentleman, I cannot resist. Both my daughter and my neighbor's daughter visited me for Musical Kids last week and I've got to blog about it! I know I've written about the 6-16 month-olds repeatedly and no other Musical Kids groups for a very long time, but they're such a sweet and fun group, with such sweet and good-natured parents, I just can't resist sharing. Especially when my own sweet Sadie makes an appearance for the day!

Anyway, here's my playlist (red = ipodblue = sing):

1. A New Way to Say Hello by Big Jeff
2. We're Going To The Market by Kathy Reid-Naiman (shakers)
3. Let's All Shake 'Cause Sadie Is Here (shakers)*
4. Gimme Some Lovin' by the Spencer Davis Group from the Sing soundtrack (tambourines)
5. Popcorn Kernels (scarves) **
6. Elevator Song by MaryLee(scarves) ***
7. Moon Moon Moon by Laurie Berkner(scarves) ***
8. B-I-N-G-O by Lynn Kleiner (circle dance) ****
9. Aiken Drum from the Five Little Monkeys CD (drums)
10. Heartbeat Drumbeat by Joanie Bartles (drums) #
11. Colors Over You (parachute) ##
12. Let's Go Riding in an Elevator (parachute) ###
13. I'm a Little Groundhog (parachute + balls + groundhog puppets) ####
14. Slow and Fast by Hap Palmer (parachute + balls + groundhog puppets)
15. Blow a Kiss by Laurie Berkner (parachute + balls + letters + bubbles)


* Let's All Shake 'Cause Sadie Is Here is the made-up-name I gave to the Jbrary song seen below (originally titled Let's All Clap). I just swapped "clap" for "shake" to make it a shakers song and it's been working really well for introductions (done the first week of each session) since January. Until 2018, I have always used Mary Had a Little Lamb for introductions, subbing out Mary for each kid in the class, but after a 4-year-old told me "hates that song," I traded it for Let's All Shake 'Cause Sadie Is Here and I haven't looked back! (To be honest, I got a little tired of it too.) It's much faster and more efficient than Mary Had a Little Lamb, so it's here to stay!



** Popcorn Kernels: About two years ago I was in a scarf-rut and, to combat it, heavily researched new scarf songs for a few days. Then, of course, I wound up introducing a whole batch of new songs all at once. As time passed, the two that stuck around most prominently for the long haul were called The Scarf is On My Head and Popcorn Kernels. The handout for both of these songs can be downloaded here. The Scarf is On My Head goes to the tune of The Farmer in the Dell and is possibly the reigning favorite scarf song, but Popcorn Kernels, to the tune of Frère Jacques, is a close second favorite! It goes like this:

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

*** Elevator Song by MaryLee (from the CD Baby-O) and Moon Moon Moon by Laurie Berkner: These are two of my favorite sitting down/lap songs for this age group and, as it turns out, they also make wonderful scarf songs! I like to do some basic lap and hand motions for each-- gentle bouncing and lifting in Elevator Song and most of the stuff Laurie Berkner herself does in the Moon Moon Moon video. I usually hold the scarf for both, waving it around bit, and let the parents and babies sort of interpret all of it in a way that works best for them. Different levels of scarffing/bouncing/watching me do hand motions work differently for each kid, so this works in different ways for everyone. It's nice. Here are two videos for reference:



**** B-I-N-G-O makes an awesome and easy circle dance for the parents and babies to do together. I'm going to try REALLY hard to explain it:

For this song, heard on YouTube here, the parents hold their babies and walk around in a circle. For the verse of the song, everyone just kind of dances their kids as they face out. Then, the song slowly goes through the letters, B, I, N, G, and O. For B, I, N, and G everyone takes a step in--one step per letter. So by the end of G, everyone's in a tight circle with all the babies looking at each other up close. Then, for the letter O, we all scoot quickly back out of the circle to our original spots.


# Heartbeat Drumbeat: I got the idea to do Heartbeat Drumbeat from a library program I took Sadie to at my local library. The (real) song, however, is a little long for kids, and if I am remembering right, the library programmer who used it wound up just cutting the song off when it got too long. I just can't do that. I am too particular. Enter... YOUTUBE 💜💛💚. I've encountered this dilemma a few times over the years (mostly when I do holiday programs, actually) and, when I do, I turn to YouTube. I found the PERFECT version of Heartbeat Drumbeat here. A little finagling and it's made its way into my playlist. It even has audience applause at the end, which is a fun bonus!

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

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

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


#### A groundhog's day special song! I'm A Little Groundhog goes to the tune of I'm a Little Teapot and was easy enough for me to memorize! We bounced mini groundhog puppets around in the parachute as we sang:

I'm a little groundhog short and stout
February second I will come out.
If I see my shadow hear me shout: 
"Six weeks more winter without doubt!"



What worked least: I'm a Little Groundhog wasn't the highlight of the program, as the song was quick, nobody knew it, and the babies totally don't care about groundhogs day, but when Musical Kids falls on an actual holiday (even groundhog's day), I feel like I have to acknowledge it in some way. Plus, we had such cute little finger puppets from Folkmanis (no longer available but similar to this beaver) that we never get to use and bouncing them around on the parachute a bit was fun!

What worked best: Everything worked with this group. I love my baby classes! But, as usual, I'd call the highlight of the program the parachute in general. It's just so much fun and so much great stimulation for the babies!

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Build a Stuffed Animal


While there isn't a ton to say about Build a Stuffed Animal, this program was just wayyy too cute to leave out of my blog entirely.

So here's a short and sweet (seriously, so sweet!) post:

Mostly thank you to Noah's Ark Animal Workshop and my colleague, Andrea, for actually organizing the order from them, for me the biggest challenge of this program was selecting books to read for storytime. Andrea did the mass stuffed animal order--half snow owls, half polar bears--and we were provided with most of the stuff we needed from Noah's Ark: the unstuffed animals, stuffing, wishing stars, birth certificates, and hats for the stuffed animal pals to wear. They also provided a book for us to read but it was definitely not something I'd ever choose for a storytime, so I put that off to the side, and decided to pick my own.

Some things about the program, in chronological order:

1. As the kids arrived and signed in, I asked them to choose their animal immediately. Having this done ahead of time really minimized fighting and confusion later on. This way, once we were in the program, I was able to just go down the attendance list and hand each kid the animal they'd chosen in advance. It was easy and painless!

2. To match our selection of unstuffed animals, I decided that I wanted to read one book about polar bears and one book about owls (Snow owls were a little too specific for book-finding). Since I had kids all the way from age 4 through 4th grade, I had to choose very carefully. Ultimately, I chose Adrif: An Odd Couple of Polar Bears by Jessica Olien and then Wow! Said the Owl: A Book About Colors by Tim Hopgood. They both really worked well! Yay!

3. Once I finished the books, I handed out the pre-chosen stuffed animals. Then I put pile of stuffing in the middle of the circle and let them dive in and get filling. Except I made the mistake of saying the words "Dive in," and got some literal diving in. I've since learned my lesson.




4. The whole process went pretty quickly. They stuffed their animals, made a wish on a wishing star (which I didn't get a picture of--man!), tossed the star inside, and Velcro-ed up their animals. It all happened so fast! It was cute but I think I should have found a way to slow it all down. The whole thing took probably took 10 minutes.

5. I handed out hats for the animals (to the kids that wanted them) and had the kids fill out their birth certificates. This was cute but also kind of quick. Then they put everything in an (included from Noah's Ark) tote bag, and were set to go! Here are some finished products:




What worked least: I was a little quick. Even after reading two stories, this program still ended almost 10-minutes early.

What worked best: I mean, they made a stuffed animal. The finished product was the program. I could have literally just put out the animals and stuffing, and done nothing else, and everyone would have been happy. It might seem redundant but the best part was, well, building a stuffed animal!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Concepts For Kids


Throwback post! Now that I am totally back on a roll with blogging, I thought it would be a good time to write about a program I did back in November but never blogged about called Concepts For Kids-- admittedly not my most creatively named program, but fun and definitely worth the blog post.

Concepts for Kids is really just a very specific version of an ongoing program I did for a long time (but stopped about a year ago) called Books n Play for Pre-K. Each week, in Books n Play for Pre-K, I would do a different theme--anything from winter to colors to food to dinosaurs. Generally, the time was broken down like this:

~15-20 minutes: Hello song, two/three books, two/three songs
~15-20 minutes: Open play time with craft table and activity table (with music playing)
~5-10 minutes: One more book or song, Goodbye song

I modified my plan a little for Concepts for Kids, but at its heart, this was the same program, except with four very specific weekly themes: Colors, Numbers, Letters, Shapes. You know, concepts!

Here's a week-by-week breakdown of the books, songs, crafts, and toys that I used each week:

Week 1 – Theme: Colors

Books:
Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh
Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin

Song:
Picked a Strawberry (not color-related but fun Pete the Cat tie-in!)*

Craft Table:
1. Color hand prints**
2. Rainbow print outs + dot markers
3. Thanksgiving turkey craft ***

Activity Table:
1. Farm sorting (similar to this)
2. Bee hive game (seen below)
3. Rainbow discs-- CDs with flashlights ****
4. Light table with colored blocks (seen below)



* Picked a Strawberry: This is a cute song that comes from--you guessed it--Jbrary! It's not a color song but it's just SO perfect for pairing with Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes that I broke the rules and sang it during the color-themed week anyway! Here it is:


** Colored Hand Prints: These are an ongoing craft favorite of mine, but (in my opinion) too simple to be a stand-alone activity. However every time I have a colored-themed-anything, for preschool aged kids, this one makes an appearance. It's totally simple. The picture below sums it up nicely, I think.


And this picture, seen below, is the one I found online years ago that originally inspired this activity:


*** Thanksgiving turkey craft: This one was a total last minute add-on when one of my other crafts fell through (due to my supply-checking negligence). I made the simple template seen below, and had the kids color it, cut it out, and glue on pre-cut feathers that I made from construction paper. It was nice and I think people enjoyed having something to do for Thanksgiving.


**** Rainbow discs: These were literally just some old CDs with flashlights to shine on them-- nothing fancy at all. I borrowed everything from our library system in a big Science Buddies kit (that came with other things too, including the light table seen above), but any CDs and flashlights would work just fine! Parents and kiddies enjoyed shining the flashlights on the CDs and exploring the rainbows that were made together. It's a cute, quick, age-appropriate little science experiment!


Week 2 – Theme: Numbers

Books:
Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma Dodd
10 Little Kittens by Megan Borgert-Spaniol

Song:
Five Little Monkeys

Craft Table:
1. Dogs Colorful Day sheets and dot markers *
2. Cotton ball cloud gluing collage **
3. Flower petal finger paint counting sheets ***

Activity Table:
1. Early Math Activity Center (this from Lakeshore Learning)
2. Peg boards (these from Lakeshore Learning)
3. Smart Snacks Number Pops (these from Oriental Trading)
4. Dough boards (seen below)


* Dogs colorful day sheets and dot markers: These were were simple and fun and have been a hit time and time again. They can be downloaded here and seen below:


** Cotton ball cloud gluing collage: Using the picture below (which I made quickly in Publisher), I had the kids glue cotton balls on the clouds and then count them. Also, of course, color the sheets. Basically, I left this totally open ended since the parents were doing it side-by-side with their kids. I figured they could make of it whatever they wanted!




*** Flower petal finger paint counting sheets: I made this craft myself (see below), again using Publisher, but totally stole the idea from this unattainable link on Pinterest.


The idea was to finger paint the correct number of flower petals one each stem. This craft was a little less obviously open-ended than the cotton ball cloud gluing collage, but the kids and parents made of it what they wanted anyway... which is always ok! Here are some hand-printing twins:


Week 3 – Theme: Letters

Books:
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.
ABC T-Rex by Bernard Most

Song:
ABCs with parachute and balls *

Craft Table:
1. Letter Stampers + paper (these from Learn365) **
2. Letter foam stickers + foam sheets (similar to these from Oriental Trading) **
3. Letter stencils with pictures that match + paper (these from Oriental Trading) **

Activity Table:
1. Dough boards (like the number ones used above, but letters!)
2. Play dough and letter-shaped cookie cutters
3. Melissa & Doug ABC Letter puzzles (these from Amazon)

* ABCs with parachute and balls: This is pretty self-explanatory, but a little funny. I had a hard time coming up with a song this week at first. I kept thinking, "why aren't there any good songs about the alphabet?" And then I remembered there's a VERY FAMOUS song about the alphabet that kids this age all know and are happy to sing. So, to make things a little extra exiting, we bounced balls around in the parachute as we sang the ABCs together. Everyone liked it!

** This picture shows all 3 crafts for this week at once! So all-encompassing!



Week 4 – Theme: Shapes

Book:
Perfect Square by Michael Hall *

Song: 
A Circle is a Shape **

Craft Table:
1. Gluing collage craft with pre-cut shapes
2. Shape stencils + colored pencils and paper (these from Oriental Trading)
3. Shape worksheet ***

Activity Table:
1. Flower magnets ****
2. Shape sorting bins (similar to these)
3. Blocks

Perfect Square by Michael Hall: This wound up being the only book that we read for our last week of Concepts For Kids. I wound up with a younger, more restless group this week and decided to call it quits after only one story because there was just no way they were sitting through another. To be honest, I had a hard time choosing my second book for the week anyway and wasn't 100% happy with my choice in the end, so it was just as well!

** A Circle is a Shape: This is to the tune of The Wheels on the Bus and, yet again, comes from our friends at Jbrary. Here it is:


*** Shape worksheet: While, I guess, this was a bit half-hearted, I wanted a simple, age-appropriate activity to partner with college and stencils and this fit the bill. This is the sheet that I used:


**** Flower magnets: The kit we have can be found here (although I have no idea where we originally found it!) and the kids always seem to really like making their own little flower garden. Check out how the flowers in the second picture match the chart in the first picture! 👏👏


What worked least: This program just didn't wind up getting the kind of attendance I'd hoped for. Ranging from 2-6 kids per week, it required lots and lots of planning and set up, for a minimal reward. I'm not sure that there's anything I would change about the program itself, just maybe try it at a different (morning) time in the future.

What worked best: The craft/activity time was certainly the highlight of each week. In fact, I sort of felt like the kids were just politely sitting through my (relatively short!) story time so we could get to the good stuff. I think the open play format really works for toddlers.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Pre-School Art


Back in October I did a program called Easy Art, which was the inspiration for this similar version of the program. This program was all about process, not product. Like Easy Art, it was meant to be a chance for kids (ages 2-5) to get messy, be creative, and have fun! (In the newsletter, I wrote "dress for a mess.")

I had four "creative stations" set up. Then, when the kids came in, I put on some music and let them move freely around the room, from station to station, making crafts and exploring. Same format as Easy Art and tons of fun for everyone!

Here are the stations I had set up:
Watercolors


To accommodate different ages and abilities, along with the watercolor palettes, I put out sponge brushes, skinny paint brushes, and white crayons for a little wax resist fun. The white crayons went largely unused but a few parents wrote little messages for their kids to uncover and it was cute. This was probably the most "challenging" station of the bunch, but the kids really had fun and did great!




Stamping


This station was the easiest for me to set up. Kids ages 2-5 don't need anything too fancy here. I put out some big white paper, 4 stamp pads, and an assortment of rubber stamps and let the kids go wild. It was enough! Everyone had fun!



Collage


I think the collage table was consistently one of the most crowded stations of the afternoon. I put out colored construction paper (yellow and baby blue), scissors, pre-cut shapes, glue sticks, Elmers glue, a TON of assorted pom poms, and colorful pre-sticky-backed buttons. The kids really got creative here (see below). I wound up seeing a really big variety of completed projects. Some kids did lots of cutting; some kids built pom-poms up to make really neat 3D art; and some kids wound up making a lot of things that looked like happy faces. The kids spent a lot of time here. This station, again, was a total success!


Play Dough


What can I say? It's play dough. Easy to set up, fun to work with, and the only station that required a tarp on the floor below it. This was the only station where the kids didn't get to take their product home, but nobody seemed to mind-- play dough is worth it! Plus this wasn't a program meant for taking home an awesome craft, but a program meant for playing and being creative!





 

What worked least: A few years ago I let myself put "nothing" for what worked least and today, I am doing it again. This was an easy program that, despite taking a decent amount of set-up, didn't take a lot of planning, money, supplies we didn't already have on hand, or exhaustion on my part. The kids liked it and the parents liked and--what can I say besides it just worked?!

What worked best: I'd say, while again, all of this program felt like a success to me, the two "best" stations of the hour were the play dough and the collage.

Overall, this was really fun! I definitely need to do more programs like this one and Easy Art in the future.