Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Baby Bugs

Lots of librarians say they like school age programs best because they'd prefer that the parents aren't in the room with them, but I'm the opposite! Baby programs are my favorite programs of all, and it's mostly because I love being with the parents!

Baby Bugs was a simple, bug-themed, stories and songs program for the youngest of kids and their grown ups. This was my plan (red = ipodblue = song I sing, green = book):

1. A New Way to Say Hello by Big Jeff
2. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (with storytime prop kit) *
3. Buzz Buzz Buzz by Laurie Berkner (with shakers)
4. Itsy Bitsy Spider  (+ Great Big Spider and Teensy Weensy Spider)
5. Hello Bugs by Smriti Prasadam-Halls **
6. Shoo Fly, Don't Bother Me ***
7. Ants Go Marching by Ralph Covert (parachute + mini bugs) #
8. Colors Over You (parachute + mini bugs) ##
9. Thunder and Lightening (parachute + mini bugs) ##
10. Blow a Kiss by Laurie Berkner (mini bugs + bubbles)

I've written about our wonderful Very Hungry Caterpillar kit in the past before, but it's truly one of my favorite storytime props of all time! It consists of signs with each of the things the caterpillar eats through, all with giant holes in the middle, and a fun caterpillar puppet that turns into a butterfly. Here is a picture I found of it.  When I use this kit, I distribute the signs from it to the kids before I read the book. Then, as I work my way through the story, I make the caterpillar puppet chomp through each child's sign, tickling them a little as I do. The kids LOVE this. They shriek with glee when they get tickled!

I didn't take any pictures while we were reading this book and using this kit, but here are a few pictures that I took two years ago, of kids holding up the signs:

** I have a class set of the board book, Hello Bugs by Smriti Prasadam-Halls. This is such a great book for babies because it has mostly black and white pictures, shiny parts on each page, and really simple, repetitive language. I passed out the books to the parents and babies and they had about 3-minutes to read them together. Then we read it again together as a group.

*** Shoo Fly, Don't Bother Me can best be explained by Dana of Jbrary:

# Ants Go Marching by Ralph Covert was the song I used for the babies to play on top of the parachute. I dumped out some butterfly and firefly finger puppets (these and these, both from Folkmanis) and let the babies and parents play with them together while we all shook the parachute around them and listened to the song. I showed the adults that the fireflies actually lit up if you squeezed them, but it was hard to see in the bright library lights.

## Colors Over You and Thunder and Lightening were bonus, not-bug-related parachute songs. They're two of my favorites and I was only planning to do them if there was time at the end. There was!

What worked least: Eh, when push came to shove, Buzz Buzz Buzz wasn't as lively of a shaker song as I'd imagined it being. It was fine and worked for the theme (and I am always very partial to Laurie Berkner songs!), but I just prefer something that's super super SUPER upbeat with babies and toddlers, as well as something with a simpler beat that easier to shake the shaker along with.

What worked best: I started off really strong with, what I perceived was the best part of the program-- The Very Hungry Caterpillar book and props. These props are such a great way to read this slightly longer book to really young kids without losing them (even babies!) and it really makes the story come alive! It is literally ALWAYS a hit!

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Unicorn Party

I had TWENTY kids from grades K-3 at my Unicorn Party last week! That's a record for school-age programming for me and, despite my (sort of secret) lack of enthusiasm about unicorns, everyone had a great time at the program-- even me!

I had lots of activities planned for the evening-- too many in fact! Kids were taking piles of stuff to go because they didn't have time for the snack or the second craft. The funny thing is that I was worried that I didn't have enough to do. In fact, I was mad-dash, last-minute Googling "Unicorn Party Games" up until about an hour before the program when I finally had to tell myself to just cool it and let the chips fall where they may.

We started everything with unicorn names on unicorn name tags. This was at check-in, before the kids actually came into the program. Thanks 100% to this The Frugal Sisters blog post, I printed this sheet full of names and these tags to fill in. This was a great way to have a good little ice breaker right away. It uses the first letter of your first name + the month you were born to determine your unicorn name. Here are a few kids with their silly name tags:

In case you're on the edge of your seat wondering, my unicorn name is Shimmer Peachy Pie. My daughters are Royal Midnight Truffle and Starlight Peachy Pie. My husband is Sunshine Midnight Truffle. My cat is Prince Lemon Drop. Anyway...

It took me TWO HOURS to set up the room for this program! I had two crafts, two snacks, a couple of decorations, and a small storytime and Bingo area in the corner. Here are some set up pics:

The first thing we did once the program officially started was read a story. And the best part about this storytime was that the book I read was a brand new book that was just released 2 weeks before the program! So it was new to everyone! In fact, I actually read the kids the advanced reader copy! It was such a cute book for this age range with a positive "love everyone" message:

Unicorn Day by Diana Murray

The kids really liked the book! For some reason, I am always sort of surprised when my books go over really well with large groups (Is that a horrible thing to say?), but I definitely love when it happens! The kids all caught on to the story immediately and even liked pointing out things that they saw in the illustrations-- mostly the baby unicorns, but also the horse who was not having too good of a time, and the tiny fairy that appeared on some of the pages. One boy even got up to point out the "teenager" unicorn he spotted. Enthusiasm!

Next up was Unicorn Bingo. I made this! 

Program fun fact: Kids always always always love Bingo! I went a little all out and used these fun pink and purple unicorn M&Ms as Bingo markers and then gave out these cute, bendy unicorn toys as Bingo prizes -- both from Oriental Trading!

Big shout out here to my HELPER who stepped over and around the crowd to help me distribute prizes as needed. One of my favorite library families includes an awesome big sis who's just aged out of many of our programs, but who's offered to "help out" instead. My goodness, I had no idea how much help I needed when I accepted her offer that evening. Zara, if you ever read this, YOU WERE A LIFESAVER!

Once each kid won a bendy unicorn, we moved on to crafts. There were two. The main craft was unicorn mask making, which was a collaging craft. We used these kits and the kids really liked it.

A little note, if there is even the slightest chance it'll help someone: There are a lot-- I repeat, a lot-- of pieces to punch out in these kits. Especially since I had two of them. Learn from my mistake and PRE PUNCH THEM OUT.

 Here are a few finished products:

It was at 5:15pm (which was the technical end time of the program) that we all sort of scrambled to get everything else that we hadn't gotten to in. Another huge thanks to my helper, Zara, as well as our clerk, Mary! It was at this point in the program when things started to get super busy and I really leaned on them! They cut elastic cords, poured cups of water, and collected the Bingo cards from around the room. They opened the plastic bags that craft #2 were in (this super cute wooden unicorn wind chime from Oriental Trading), served cookies, and helped kids glue pieces. This madness would have been actual utter chaos if not for Zara and Mary!

Basically, from 5:15 until 5:30-ish, the kids grabbed and ate cupcakes and cookies, finished up their masks, took pictures, and colored their wind chimes. Phew! Whatever they didn't get to, they scooped up to do/eat at home. We ended in a total whirlwind but everyone loved it and all the parents were super happy at pick-up!

Here are two cute, colored-in wind chimes:

What worked least: Even though this program was a major success, I can think of a ton of ways that I should have run it differently. First, I really should have pre-cut the string for the masks but I just did not anticipate the kind of turnout and madness that I wound up having. Yet this was a small step that I could have taken and, I think, it would have prevented a good amount of craziness. Next, I should have skipped the wind chime craft completely. It was too much. I bought the wind chimes about a week before the program thinking that the mask craft wasn't enough, but I think I would have relaxed a bit if it just wasn't even there. The mask was PLENTY. Third, I needed a person on food duty. Because the end of the program got so rushed, the food serving wasn't very organized and a designated food-server would have made things go more smoothly.

What worked best: Despite the full on paragraph of "what worked least," this program was awesome! The kids loved it and the parents loved it! One mom told me that "everyone was talking about the unicorn party." I love a good program compliment! That's a win!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Little Crafts, Big Kids: A Super Short Blog Post

Overall, I blog about, I'd say, close to 75% of my programs. I'll skip a post for things like, open play and variations of open play; I only rarely blog about my weekly Musical Kids program; and occasionally I'll skip a post because I'm just too lazy! Anyway, it's been several months since my program called "Little Crafts, Big Kids" for children in grades 1-3 and I wasn't going to blog about it, but I've been thinking about it lately. It was super simple, but it was kind of a cool idea, and maybe it's worth noting here quickly.

Little Crafts, Big Kids was literally just that. I set up a bunch of "baby" crafts (one thing at each table) and let the school age kids enjoy. I only had 3 kids show, but everyone had fun!

There was play dough...

...Color-Your-Own Tote bags...

...Finger paint...

...And foam picture frames (these from Oriental Trading) with assorted foam stickers (these from Oriental Trading and these letters, also from Oriental Trading), but nobody did this craft-- except me!

What worked least: I guess this one's simple. Nobody did the picture frame craft so I guess it was the least appealing thing I had out.

What worked best: The play dough by a LANDSLIDE. If I ever do any variation of this again, I'd probably get some more complex play dough toys and just do a play dough for big kids program, skip all the other stuff entirely.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Muffins with Mom

What do moms like? Coffee, snacks (in this case muffins--mainly for the alliteration), a low-stress craft, and light piano music! This is what I tried to deliver at my day-before-Mother's-Day program called "Muffins with Mom."

It wasn't complicated. Moms and their kids ages 3 through 3rd grade came in, sat together, enjoyed coffee and muffins, decorated flower pots, and did a simple hand print craft.

I arranged the room so that the table all the way to one side had the muffins and coffee and the table all the way to the other side of the room had the craft supplies: paint, some small decorations (gems and pom poms), and tacky glue. The tables in the middle were arranged so that each setting had a flower pot and flower pot tray to paint and decorate, an empty paint pallet, and paint brush. Then I also put a small pile of the hand print craft on each table.

I told everyone that only the grown ups would get the paint and craft supplies from the back table and it worked out perfectly. That way the kids weren't even tempted to mess with any of that stuff. Here is a picture of some people getting paint for their pallets:

Unfortunately, I didn't take a picture of my snack table set up but it was pretty! I even artfully arranged the muffins on a platter. But here are some pictures of kids and parents working on their flower pots and eating muffins:

The handprint craft I had came from and was a great, simple, extra small craft. In fact, I have my sample (made by Sadie) hanging above my desk as we speak. People really liked it!

What worked least: This was a total success but I guess, if I'm being super nit-picky, I forgot to put out the water cups for kids to dip their paint brushes in? I mean, this was a two-minute problem that was easily rectified the second I realized it, but I don't know, I'm just looking for a "least," I guess.

What worked best: The crafts! They were the perfect choice!

Overall, this was a really nice program that I left feeling really happy with. Everyone had fun and I genuinely think that I created the sort of "chill mood" I was aiming for (thanks partially to the piano music playlist I found on Spotify!). The patrons definitely played a factor in the success of this program too. I had SUCH a great group of families in attendance! This is a definite must-repeat for next Mother's Day.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Dino Diggers

Is there any match as perfect as toddlers and dinosaurs? They go together like peanut butter and jelly! This would explain the huge sign-up I had for last week's Dino Digger's program, for ages 2-5.

We started off the program with a story-- just one. It was hard to choose which I wanted to read. Because I was only doing one, I kind of wanted a true story book, but I wanted it to be short and easy enough so that even the youngest kids in the group would get something out of it. There are a lot of great dinosaur books, but I wound up picking Roar by Todd H. Doodler, which I'd used (with success) for pre-school visits some years ago. I think everyone enjoyed it, although I'm not sure if they enjoyed it more than they would have enjoyed, say, Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime, How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?, The Super Hungry Dinosaur, or Dini Dinosaur. There are a few good class-roaring opportunities throughout Roar, so it's got that really big perk going for it. (Nevermind the fact that I had a sweet boy afraid of loud noises. Details, details.)

After the book, I opened the room up for a sort of "free play." I had several different activities available and about 30-minutes for children and caregivers to make their way around the room to try it all out.

There were:
-- Two sand bins with sifters and dinosaur skeletons buried for the kids to dig around in *
-- Several dinosaur puzzles
-- A volcano picture made by blowing watered down paint through a straw **
-- A trace-a-dino-footprint worksheet ***
-- Dino eggs to inspect and match up with their corresponding pictures ****

* The sand bins and the dinosaur skeletons are things we own and have on hand. We don't use them very often but when we do, they are always, always, always a big hit. It was time to break them out again and, as usual, they were awesome.

** I got the idea for this craft from Pinterest-- specifically, it came from I had pre-cut volcanoes (although my coworker commented that they looked like poops), watered down red and orange paint with straws for blowing, and these puffy dinosaur stickers, which were cool, though smaller than I'd anticipated. This craft was fun, but way too hard for the younger crew. In fact, I tried it at home with Sadie (who's 2½) and she liked doing it in theory, but was kind of clueless and not really strong enough, physically, to blow the paint around through the straw. The stickers though, now those were easy and fun for her. On the other hand, the 4ish-year-olds in the class had great success with blowing the paint!

*** The trace a dino footprint worksheets can be found here, on I printed a stack and a few kids did them. I also took one home for Sadie and she liked it!

**** The dino eggs were fun! I borrowed these from our county's lending library. They are a total mystery to me. I seriously have no idea how they were made but they're really cool looking! Basically, they're colorful plastic dinosaurs living inside Easter egg-sized, clear plastic homes, with a texture similar to that of a fancy, un-started bar of soap. To go with them, I made some match-up sheets to encourage the kids to examine the eggs and play with them a little. I think it worked pretty well.

This is a picture I took of the eggs and sheets a long time ago. I have since lost my original sheets and the eggs got a little cloudier. But this really gets the idea across:

Some "egg-xamining" in action below. The boy pictured was so smart! Instead of matching the eggs with the pictures, he wrote down the name of every type of dinosaur! I told him that was the "advanced way" to do this activity.

What worked least: As a whole, this was a great program (that I received a lot of great feedback about!) but it's true that the paint blowing craft was probably better for the 4+-ers of the group and not the younger kids. Even despite this, the younger ones watched their parents/caregivers blow the paint and still enjoyed the sticker scene aspect of the craft, so I'm not sure I'd have even changed anything in retrospect!

What worked best: The sand. It's always all about the sand.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

100th Anniversary of Children's Book Week

Children's Book Week is the nation's longest-running literacy initiative and this year--this week in fact--marks its 100th anniversary! To celebrate, I planned a self-directed program revolving around picture books. There were 4 tables, 1 craft per table, each based on a different picture book. So the idea was that the families would move around from table to table, read the book together, and then make the corresponding craft.

You might remember (but probably don't!) that about 4 years ago, I planned a program called Discover Picture Book Art. Inspired by seeing Lois Elhert speak at a conference, that program was basically this same thing: 4 different artists' books displayed and a chance to create art in those similar styles. The only difference is that I missed that program because I was out on disability after a bad car accident. The only other difference is that my colleague set that program up (again, because I wound up having to miss it) and she did it so so so beautifully and, while I really tried, I just don't think I did as nice of a job as she did. She's just got a natural eye.

Anyway, these are the 4 books I used: 

The Hidden Alphabet by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Color Zoo/Color Farm by Lois Elhert
I Spy by Jean Marzollo

The program was for ages 2 and up so I wanted to try to accommodate lots of different ages. Some of the crafts were simple and some were more challenging. Let me get into each one in more detail...

1. Go Away Big Green Monster by Ed Emberly

Perfect for the younger ones, this easy, almost "throw away craft" was, of course, the most popular one we had out. It's always like that, isn't it? The simplest thing is the fan favorite? It was just printed directly from I put out several of their Go Away Big Green Monster black and white printable sheets with crayons, scissors, glue sticks, and paper plates. And that's it! And everyone liked it!

2. The Hidden Alphabet by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

I don't want to say this craft was for the grown ups, but well, this craft was kind of for the grown ups. It was inspired by Laura Vaccaro Seeger herself! I saw her speak at a children's librarian dinner a few a weeks ago and she had this cool craft for all of us to try based on her book, The Hidden Alphabet. Everyone got a piece of paper folded down the middle like a greeting card. On the front, the card had a square cut out of the middle. Laura Vaccaro Seeger told us to draw a picture of something in the middle of that square, then open the card and turn that picture into the letter that that thing begins with.

So... here are some actual examples made by the actual Laura Vaccaro Seeger:

The bottom two panels show balloons that then open to reveal a big B. The top picture shows eggs making an E (the picture with just eggs in the black window isn't pictured).

And here's my awful example:

While I am here, continuing to try to think of more creative ways to turn pictures into letters, I think this was way too hard for the kids. Although some parents got kind of into it.

3. Color Zoo/Color Farm by Lois Elhert

Shapes, shapes, shapes! Super simple, this was just straight up collaging with shapes. I put out pre-cut shapes, paper, glue, and crayons and the kids went to town. The best part about this craft is that it could be for any age! It's easy, cheap, versatile, and open-ended!

4. I Spy by Jean Marzollo

This craft was the one that the older kids seemed to migrate toward. It was making your own I Spy style scene. I collected a bunch of stuff from around the library and also gave the kids paper to create a background scene. Then they could arrange whatever random things on the paper, take a photo of it, and write a little "I spy..." list to go with it. Here is my example:

I spy 12 red hearts, a taco, a bunny ears ring, and a green feather.

What worked least: I hate to say it, but I think the Laura Vaccaro Seeger craft was too challenging. Not only that, but compared to the others, it was also the least appealing on the table. I was really excited about it, but unfortunately, I'm not sure if this was the right venue to debut it. Maybe another time.

What worked best: The super simple Go Away Big Green Monster table was a hit. This one required the least amount of effort for me to set up and was also the one that I think the families enjoyed most! It's always the way!