Friday, February 27, 2015

Update on me + Stuffed Animal Sleepover

So quickly after I've started it up, my new LibraryLaura blog has come to a halt. I was in a debilitating car accident last week and am completely out of commission. While my injuries aren't going to be permanent (and I am so grateful for that!), they are going to be for a while and, unfortunately, I am out of work for a good chunk of time as I slowly, slowly work on recovering.

As if there would be any doubt... I miss the library! And I also miss blogging. Thankfully, I have a pretty decent collection of old programs I can blog about to hold me over until I am back at work. So for today, here's one of my all-time favorites-- Stuffed Animal Sleepover!

I've run the Stuffed Animal Sleepover twice in the past and have another scheduled for the spring. The program itself is actually a pretty simple storytime and craft but the real fun starts when the kids go home and leave their stuffed animals behind for an overnight sleepover party!

Both times, I had the kids fill out name tags for themselves and their animals on their way into the program. (This helps me keep track of things later.) Then I started the program off with a book. Once I used Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson and once I used Where's My Teddy? by Jez Alborough. The kids like both books and I like them too because, not only are they cute and age-appropriate, but somewhere in my head "bears = sleep."

After the book, we did one or two quick songs, always including Five Little Monkeys with the monkey mitt. Then the kids made "sleeping bags" for their stuffed animals to sleep over in. These are just pillow cases from Oriental Trading decorated with permanent markers.

As the kids finished up their crafts, I had them come back to the story area to quietly read board books to their stuffed animals as we waited for the whole group to be done. When everyone was finished, we wrapped up with another song or two. I ended the program by having the group sing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and then sing it again as quietly as possible so the stuffed animals could drift off to sleep. Then the kids kissed their animals goodnight and left them for the evening.

There's a very important behind-the-scenes step that comes next. I think it's actually essential to photograph each animal with its sleeping bag (and, in case they fall off, its name tag too). That way, when the children pick up their stuffed animals the next day, you can match everything up right.

Now on to the fun! Here's what the stuffed animals did during their sleepover:

Played computer games

Ate snacks

Played cards

Built with Legos

Put together a puzzle

Made copies of themselves on the downstairs copy machines.

Choose books to read individually
I also included individual pictures of each stuffed animal enjoying a book solo:

The next day, when the kids came back to the library to pick up their animals and their pillow case sleeping bags, I gave them each a print out of the photos from their animal's night out. The kids liked the print outs... The parents LOVED the print outs. This was true both times. I say, hey, nothin' wrong with happy parents!

What worked best: The board books. The first time I did this program (last August), I didn't put board books out and the kids who finished decorating their sleeping bags first had nothing to do while they waited for the other kids to finish. Often I'll have a coloring sheet or something similar to fill in here, but for some reason, I just didn't anticipate it right in August. But adding the board books in the second time not only helped with timing, but really helped create the feel of putting the stuffed animals to bed- much more than a coloring sheet would have. Plus, duh, they're getting a little early literacy in so the books are just a win all around.

What else worked well: Singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and then singing it again quietly so the stuffed animals could "fall asleep." This was a good, natural way to say goodnight and end the program.

What worked least: I genuinely think that once I added the board books in, the program itself was pretty seamless. However, the biggest challenge in doing this program has been trying to do so much of it after hours. I've found that I just can't do the photos while there are patrons in the library; there are only so many (very few) places you can set up stuffed animals without disrupting patrons. Plus, I kind of just don't want any of the kids to see me do it because I want to keep a little magic alive a little. So I've done most of the hard part after the library closes... propping up all the stuffed animals, taking all the photos, matching all the stuffed animals back up with their sleeping bags, and preparing the photo print outs (a 2-3 page Publisher document). There's this nagging go home feeling in me while I'm working (and as it's getting closer and closer to 11pm) that I wish I could figure out a way to fix. But I can't think of a better way. How do other people do this?

Anyway, overall, this is a fun, mostly-easy program that is a straight up patron-pleaser.

I'll see what other programs of the past I can revive since it's going to be a while until I'm back at work. I want to keep blogging! And hopefully these injuries won't keep me out for more than a month. Until next time!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Musical Kids (for ages 3-5 years)

Because they were extra cute today, I decided to discuss the oldest group for Musical Kids Week 2 in this post, instead of the middle crew as I'd planned. I felt like I had to incorporate a little Valentine's Day love into this week's playlist so I found myself doing some songs that were not my regular go-to's.

Here's my week 2 playlist:
(red = ipod, blue = sing)

A New Way to Say Hello by Big Jeff
Pat-a-Cake (using each child's name and first initial, eg: "...Mark it with an E and put it in the oven for Ellen and me.")
We Are the Dinosaurs by Laurie Berkner (drums)
Can’t Buy Me Love by The Beatles (tambourines)
Stop & Go by Greg & Steve (*Heart Freeze Dance*, paper hearts)
You Are My Sunshine by Lisa Derosia (shakers)
I Know a Chicken by Laurie Berkner (shakers)
5 Little Monkeys (mitt)
Blow a Kiss by Laurie Berkner

Honestly, I don't know if a single child knew or cared about my special songs for Valentine's Day but I think the parents appreciated the mention and the kids really liked doing the Heart Freeze Dance! (Plus it beat focusing on the fact that it was also Friday the 13th.)

"Heart Freeze Dance," was borrowed from Sunflower Storytime's "Love" themed post. It was fun! It's just like regular freeze dance except when the music stops, instead of freezing, you hold your heart up over your face. We listened to Stop & Go, which is a freeze dance song itself and I had tons of leftover hearts from my Valentine's Day Party last night so it was a no-brainer and a hit! That's them in the photo above mid heart-over-face.

I'll discuss the middle group next week. I mean it this time!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Valentine's Day Party

I had a Valentine's Day Party for the kids in grades K-2 tonight. It was fun, but unfortunately, the turnout was on the small side.

I started it off by reading them Smitten by David Gordon, mostly because I wanted a story about friend-love and not something overly lovey dovey. I've read Smitten to children in this age group in the past and it's been pretty successful each time. Today was no exception. Everybody always likes this book.

After the book, I passed out Love Bingo cards, which I tediously labored over using Microsoft Publisher. This is what the cards looked like:

The kids marked off boxes on their boards as I held up corresponding full-sheet pictures at random. Between rounds (of which there were very few due to the small class-size), I told them to keep the pieces on their boards so they could just continue to fill them up until everyone eventually had "Love". Then I gave out mini heart stress balls (these, from Oriental Trading) as prizes. 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 the mask shown below) and one by one, they had to try their best to draw a heart on the oak tag. Below is a fierce competitor as well as a picture of the results. Because I only had a handful of kids, I let them each go twice.

After the two games ended, we moved onto valentine-making. I put out a whole array of things: heart-shaped doilies, pink, red, white and purple hearts in two different sizes (using Ellison Die cuts), conversation heart foam stickers, glittery heart foam stickers, markers, crayons, popsicle sticks (why not?), scissors, glue sticks, and white glue.

Toward the end of the valentine-making, I handed out cherry heart-shaped fruit snacks and water. Because it's not a party unless there's a snack, right?

I also had a shiny heart banner up for the kids to take pictures in front of (Oriental Trading again, cut into two layers). It seems like most children like photo backdrops, so I try to put one up when it's possible.

Last, I thought it'd be fun to have the kids fill out a "Why I Love My Library" postcard (leftover from another program) for a chance to win a free book and a lolly pop. I've done raffles in programs in the past and it's always been fun. But this time it didn't work. There were tears and hurt-feelings. I gave extra heart stress balls as consolation prizes to the non-winners, which did seem to help, but I felt bad! So this may have been the last of the raffles for me. It's too risky.

All in all, it was certainly fun, but not one of my all-time best. It didn't have the energy that I was hoping for and everything moved faster than I'd expected-- both because I had so few children.

What worked best: The games. The kids really really enjoyed both of them.

What worked least: The raffle! Ack! I'm taking a raffle hiatus.

What worked the second least: The timing. I wish I had planned a few back-up activities (or at least activity sheets) to fill in extra time. We just zoomed through the whole program because of the group-size and it kind of tapered off at the end with too much extra time to spare. Still fun though! Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Musical Kids (for babies ages 6-16 months)

First, let me say that I absolutely LOVE doing Musical Kids for all age groups. This is a reoccurring program done in three 30-minute sessions per week: 6-16 months at 10:00, 17-23 months at 10:45, and 3-5 years at 11:30, for 3 or 4 weeks in a row. They're very well-attended with a core group of wonderful regulars and I seriously just adore all of them. Each age group comes complete with its own set of funny quirks and I feel like I can really appreciate them all equally but differently. For this post, I am going to focus on the babies I get first at 10:00.

A singing and dancing program with babies can be intimidating at first, mainly because children this young can't exactly sing or dance. It took me a LOT of time to get comfortable with this age group but I think I am 90% there now. Regardless of how little they are, it's still important that they're exposed to music and rhythms early! Here's why:

1. Singing helps children to hear the smaller sounds that make up words, because each note gets its own sound.

2.  Moving, marching, clapping, and playing instruments helps with children’s motor skills.

3. Singing helps children build vocabulary through song lyrics. For younger children, “naming songs” where you are singing a list of animals, foods, or any other objects are beneficial.

4. Singing different pitches helps children think spatially because the notes of the melody move up and down.

5. Singing different rhythms helps children think mathematically because the beats are timed and precise.

6. Singing with young children helps them to learn critical communication skills such as reciprocal dialogue, speech sounds, and how to associate sounds with objects, events and feelings.

This week was the first class in a 4-week session, and for those I like to go around and introduce everyone. For this, I use our lamb puppet and all the parents sing Mary Had a Little Lamb, replacing "Mary" with each child's name as I make the lamb kiss and hug and dance for each baby we're singing about. (Side note: This is a massive time-sucker if the group is large but so worth it when you see the tiny ones giggle! Plus, it's a really good way to learn all the children's names.)

Here's my week 1 playlist:
(red = ipod, blue = sing)

1. A New Way to Say Hello by Big Jeff (almost exclusively the only Hello Song I use)
2. Mary Had a Little Lamb/__ Had a Little Lamb (lamb puppet)
3. Aiken Drum by Baby Genius (drums)
4. Whole Lotta Lovin’ by Fats Domino (drums)
5. Scarf Dance by Mary Jo Huff (scarf)
6. Popcorn Kernels (scarf + handout) *See below
7. The Scarf is On My Head (scarf + handout) *See below
8. Elevator Song by MaryLee Sunseri
9. I Know a Chicken by Laurie Berkner (shakers)
10. Itsy Bitsy Spider
11. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
12. Blow a Kiss by Laurie Berkner (again, my go-to Goodbye Song)

And here are the fun scarf songs that we sang:

Popcorn Kernels (to the tune of Open Shut Them)
Popcorn kernels, Popcorn kernels,
In the pot, In the pot,
Shake them, shake them, shake them,
Shake them, shake them, shake them
‘Till they pop! ‘Till they pop!

The Scarf is on My Head!  (to the tune of The Farmer in the Dell)
The scarf is on my head, the scarf is on my head!
Hi ho the dairy-o, the scarf is on my head!
The scarf goes up and down, the scarf goes up and down!
Hi ho the dairy-o, the scarf goes up and down!
The scarf goes fast and slow, the scarf goes fast and slow!
Hi ho the dairy-o, the scarf goes fast and slow!
The scarf is on my head, the scarf is on my head!
Hi ho the dairy-o, the scarf is on my head!

What works best: The Elevator Song by MaryLee Sunseri is always a favorite with this group. I use the recording, which goes faster, but here is a video from Jbrary that shows the jist of what the parents do with their children during this song:

What works the best #2: I find that singing two sing-a-long type songs before the Goodbye Song (Itsy Bitsy Spider and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star today) makes ending the program seem less sudden. This might be a weird, personal thing though. Either way, I like it.

What works the least: Sometimes giving back the instruments is hard for the babies (and the middle group also, actually). There's a fine line between giving one child special privileges and prying a shaker from a tiny hand. This is always tricky for me and I am super-grateful that the parents are both helpful and understanding in this situation.

What specifically worked the least this morning: Ugh, somehow the "Shake to Shuffle" mode on the iPod was set to "on" and something happened where, if we moved around too much, it would shuffle in the middle of the song. I don't know. It actually seemed to be shuffling arbitrarily mid-song and it was jarring for everyone. We were enjoying a nice round of I Know a Chicken and suddenly the song just cut off. I tried to recover by enthusiastically having everyone shake your shakers in the air (YAY!) and then shake them on the floor (YAY!) and then shake them in a circle (YAY!), but it was clearly a band-aided situation and a little embarrassing. Again, I am super-grateful for nice parents!

Ok! I'll discuss the middle group next week!