Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Books n Play for Pre-K 1/21/15

Books n Play for Pre-K is my current favorite ongoing program. This is the kind of program that almost 100% depends on the kids who sign up-- it could be quiet and kind of slow or it could be lively and utterly adorable. The kids make this one. Weirdly, I used to dislike this program so much that I almost ditched it entirely a few months ago. It was actually by mistake, that it wound up getting included in the newsletter for January, but I'm SO happy that it did! This month's group is, well, completely perfect.

I do this program about every other month in three or four weekly sessions, each 45-minutes long. The kids are ages 3-5 (aka, my absolute favorite age group ever) and I do a different theme with them each week. The time is broken down like this:

~20 minutes: Hello song, two books, two songs
~20 minutes: Open play + craft/coloring table (with music)
~5 minutes: One book, maybe one song, Goodbye song

Obviously, this isn't a perfect breakdown because, with kids in this age group, you never know what kind of cute and funny distractions might present themselves but this is the basic breakdown that I plan for.

This afternoon's class was the best Books n Play For Pre-K yet. The theme today was Colors (other themes of the past: Animals, Transportation, Shapes, Whatever season it just became, Funny Books, Water, Bugs, etc.).

Today, after our Hello Song (A New Way to Say Hello by Big Jeff), I started with Dog's Colorful Day by Emma Dodd (coupled with corresponding "spots" [contact paper covered card stock] that I made to stick on our adorable Golden Retriever puppet from Folkmanis). Next I read Pete The Cat, I Love My White Shoes by James Dean and Eric Litwin. About 50% of the kids had never had Pete The Cat read to them before and they totally got a kick out of it. As long as you're open to singing and looking silly, this book is always a hit. Hands down. Always. It's like a little librarian magic trick.

Next, I moved onto our songs. We did the shakers this week, which, for whatever reason, I tend to do the more often than any of the other instruments. The first song we played shakers to was Laurie Berkner's I Know a Chicken (a  longstanding favorite with the kids in my storytimes) and then we tried a new song that I'd never done before: De Colores sung by Martin Enciso from the Songs for Wiggleworms album (side note: I sang De Colores in the the third grade chorus and still weirdly kind of know it). It wasn't the greatest shakers song, rhythmically, but it was short, good enough, and nice for filling in the colors theme. I like when at least one song can at least sort of correspond with the theme for the class. So, for that, it worked.

After that we broke up for 20ish minutes of crafts and play. I used to try to keep the toys in the theme of the class but, as I don't have an unlimited supply of toys at my fingertips, I abandoned that idea for this 3-week session and it's been quite liberating, I must say. On the craft table, I put (1) Dog from Dog's Colorful Day and do-a-dot markers:

(2) Pete the Cat, I Love My ____ Shoes coloring sheets, and (3) Blank rainbows on card stock and water colors. I always try to include a few different kinds of creative/good motor skill activities. Various crafts that may appear on the coloring table are paints, crayons, markers, stamps, colored pencils, easy collage, secretly educational activity sheets, do-a-dot markets, and learn-to-draw (I only did this once when I found a "Learn to Draw Pigeon" worksheet online. Nobody actually did it so maybe it was too hard, but I'll probably try it again anyway.)

The kids always migrate to the crafts more than to the toys. I used to have a small craft table and a big toy table but today I swapped the tables around and I definitely think it was a good move. I admire these kids' creative tenancies.

After the clean up song (Clean it Up by Laurie Berkner, NOT the Barney song. This is to maintain my sanity), we gathered in a circle again for one last book and our goodbye song. I read Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh. This one's also always a hit because they get to name colors and I get to secretly teach them about the color wheel. Win, win. Usually I'd try to cram one more song in before the Goodbye song (Blow A Kiss by Laurie Berkner-- yes. I do love Laurie Berkner), but today we took the adorable group photo seen above instead. 

This is a nice, easy-to-run program with the absolute cutest age group. I'm glad I didn't give it up and I'm excited to keep doing it! Happy books-ing and play-ing!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Winnie The Pooh Day Party

My coworker and I just co-ran a Winnie The Pooh Day Party to celebrate A.A. Milne's birthday.

We started by reading Winnie-the-Pooh's Colors, followed by a brief discussion of all our favorite Pooh characters (Tiger was the overall favorite).

While the book definitely went over really well, I sort of wish I'd taken more time to find a Winnie-the-Pooh book that was more of a story and less of an interactive activity. It's always fun to have the kids name colors (and of course it makes them feel smart), but it may have been more fun to start off with more of a story book and less of a lesson. Either way, these were a cute and easy-to-please bunch.

After the book, we played a game of "Pin the Tail on Eeyore." This is when having two librarians in the room came most in handy-- we forgot the tape. Both of us! Between the two of us, we managed to help the kids write their names on the tails, blindfold them, and give each tail a dot of glue. Some kids weren't into the blindfold so we wound up ditching it about halfway through and my coworker just covered the kids eyes with her hands. They seemed to like this better. This was the (pretty impressive) result:

We gave all the kids a bunch of Winnie-the-Pooh stickers as prizes. We overbought so we were able to be overgenerous, which was not a bad thing.

Next up, the kids colored top-halves and bottom-halves of Winnie-the-Pooh faces (which I drew out, copied onto cardstock, and pre-cut for them). Then we glued the pieces onto red lunch bags (these, from Oriental Trading) to make hand puppets.

The kids liked doing this probably best of all. During this time we put on music (I had pre-made a playlist but, woops, forgot to sync it up to the iPod. I wound up just putting the whole iPod on shuffle though. It was fine). As the kids were finishing up their craft, my coworker and I came around with snacks: Goldfish crackers and fruit snacks (leftover from the Noon Year's Eve Party) served on cute Pooh Bear napkins and water out of matching Pooh Bear cups.

What worked the best: The craft. It was good.

What worked the least: The forgetting of the tape, although glue really did work just fine in the end. And, although the book worked for the kids and parents, I sort of wish I'd chosen a different one.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Hi & Noon Year's Eve Party

Happy New Year! Or, in the case of this blog post, Happy Noon Year! It's 2015 and it's about time I started a librarian blog. I'll introduce myself quickly first, then get on with the Noon Year's Eve stuff.

First, my name is Laura. I have been a children's librarian at the Huntington Public Library in New York since April 2008. I got my MLS from Long Island University, where I specialized in all things children's and all things public libraries. I live in a fairly new house about 45 minutes from my job with my husband (Elliott) and my cat (Benjamin). I also work one night a week at the Hauppauge Public Library. At work, I focus most of my time on the children who are five-years-old and younger, although, having gotten the opportunity to watch some of the little ones grow up over the years, I really enjoy doing an occasional school-age program as well...which brings me to Noon Year's Eve!

My Noon Year's Eve Party was, to throw all modesty aside for a second, a roaring success. It was just perfect-- really-- it just worked out great on the first try! The room was set up with a few key elements, the most important of those being (a) the balloon drop (specifically this one, $10-ish) and (b) a countdown to noon projected on the wall to build anticipation (made with, no fills necessary). I also had a backdrop (this one from Oriental Trading) hanging on the wall so I could photograph the kids against it. The parents wound up posing against it too when they came in to pick up their children, which was fun! Here's a picture of the room set up:

When the kids came in the room, after getting over the initial joy and anticipation of seeing the balloon drop hanging from the ceiling, they started by coloring "2015" crowns (which I had pre-cut for them).

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 fold it up small and put it in a bag. Then they sealed it up with a sticker (which were just printed on blank labels) that said "Do Not Open Until January 2016."

This all happened from 11:30am to noon. The more meticulous kids didn't finish everything by the time I dropped the balloons but I told them they could finish up after that. Then... the count down! At 11:59, the whole room got very excited. Without any instruction from me, the kids made their way over the to the balloon drop, placing themselves strategically as close to directly under it as they could. Then we counted down from 10-seconds. I was super grateful for the clerk in the room and the one mom who decided to stay with her kids, because ripping the bag open and fishing all the balloons out was wayyyy easier with a few extra sets of hands-- especially because I was afraid to pull the string too hard and rip the whole bag down completely. The kids loved it. The bag's a little glitchy (although for $10, can you expect much more?) but with extra help in the room, it was totally fine. The kids didn't care one bit. They were so so so excited about the balloons, grabbing for them as they fell to the ground, like they were pieces of candy falling from a piƱata. It was awesome.

Then I served the snacks (fruit snacks, goldfish crackers, water bottles, and sparkling cider served in plastic champagne glasses!) and the party wrapped up with the kids snacking and finishing their time capsules. As the parents came in the room to pick up their children, some of them posed against the backdrop together, which was really fun actually. I wound up offering family photos around as the adults all came in.

A few minor things to note:

1. I forgot to hand out the instruments. I wanted there to be noisemakers and I thought I'd save a few bucks and just use the instruments that I use with the little ones in storytime. But in the heat of everything, I just completely forgot to pass them out. It didn't matter though, really. I don't think they were missed. I might even skip taking them out next year just to keep it easy.

2. I didn't know how to line up the music with the timing right. In my head, I wanted "Auld Lang Syne" to start playing when the balloons dropped but I couldn't figure out how to get the timing right. And therefor, it wasn't. But again, it didn't matter. It played a minute later as I was passing out the snacks and I don't think anyone knew it.

Anyway, they're not all this perfect. But it's nice to open this blog up with a post almost entirely made up of successes. Until next time! Happy New Year, Happy New Blog!