Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Summer Dance Party (AKA My Birthday Party)

Yesterday I had my Summer Dance Party, a program we all affectionately called "Laura's Birthday Party" around the office. It was super-fun! Because it was my birthday, I really wanted the program to go well and (selfishly, maybe) I really wanted to have fun too!

The program was exactly what it sounded like: a giant dance party. We played instruments, sang songs, and topped it all off with the parachute and a big ol' bag of balloons. The sign up was massive and the turn-out was too! There were 38 people there and every single one of them participated. You can't really ask for a better birthday program than that!

Here's my playlist:

(red = ipodblue = sing)

1. A New Way to Say Hello by Big Jeff
2. Jumping and Counting by Jim Gill
3. Aiken Drum by Little Genius (drums)
4. The Tempo Marches On by Jim Gill (drums + parade)
5. Rocketship Run by Laurie Berkner (rockets)
6. Bread & Butter (sticks) *
7. Whole Lotta Lovin’ by Fats Domino (sticks)
8. I Know a Chicken by Laurie Berkner (shakers + chicken puppet)
9. We’re Going to the Market by Kathy Reid-Naiman (shakers)
10. Hot Poppin’ Popcorn by The Wiggles (parachute + balloons)
11. If You’re Happy and You Know It Lift it High (parachute + balloons) **
12. The Balloon Game by Music For Little People Choir (balloons)
13. Sunglasses by Joanie Leeds And The Nightlights (sunglasses)
14. Oh Children Ring Your Bells by Kathy Reid-Naima (bells)
15. Happy Birthday ***
16. Blow A Kiss by Laurie Berkner

This was only my second time ever using balloons in a dance-type program and they worked really well. I used them in the center of the parachute instead of balls and then used them again with a song called The Balloon Game from an album called Birthday Party Singalong (coincidentally). They actually worked so well that I needed some casual bribery to get the kids to move on after the song was over. Good thing I was prepared with giveaways (in true birthday party fashion). I gave them these rainbow sunglasses from Oriental Trading to dance around with and take home and I and told them they could only receive them if they put their balloons down until the end of the program (but then they could keep those too).

Overall, the kids and parents were happy and smiling and having fun the entire 45 minutes I had them. And I was too! Score!

* This is Bread & Butter thanks to Jbrary (although I modified it a teeny bit):

** If You're Happy and You Know It Lift it High, is just a variation of regular If You're Happy and You Know It, but for the parachute. The next verses are: "If you're happy and you know it shake it fast," "If you're happy and you know it shake it slow," and last, "If you're happy and you know it get below," in which I encourage all of the kids to go under the parachute. This was awesome! And I had the words up on the board so all the parents could sing along.

*** My sneaky coworker and my sneakier boss alerted a few of the regular moms to the fact that it was my birthday and (I assume) suggested they sing to me. Whatever sneakiness happened--I'll never be sure--one of the moms lead the whole crew in a round of Happy Birthday and I just about melted into a pile of happy-yet-embarrassed mush on the floor. It was very sweet.

Have you ever seen a more excited and happy group of parachuters? 

What worked best and least (a two-in-one answer!): The parachute can get crazy! But I think it's always sooo worth it when it's a success. This time it was both crazy and a success. I've found, in the past, that the kids tend to get overly-psyched at just the sight of the parachute. So yesterday, when both the parachute and the balloons came out, they were even more psyched than the usual parachute-psyched. So it was kind of loony in the room, but it was such a happy loony! Also, it can be hard to coordinate such a large group in one, totally uniform activity. But then, during the periods of synchronized lifting and dropping that does work out, it's just the best thing! Everyone loves it and there's such a sense of teamwork. Nothing beats it.

And also: The last verse of If You're Happy and You Know It Lift it High, where we all sang "If you're happy and you know it get below," was an absolute success. When it doubt, have the kids get under the parachute. It's no-fail.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Welcome Summer

I did a program last night called Welcome Summer. It was done in two sessions: one at 6:00 for ages 3-5 and one at 7:00 for grades K-2.

The sign-ups for both sessions were mediocre, and the attendance was, of course, even less still. I wasn't expecting the night to be as much fun as it was, because, well, it's usually just less fun with a small group, but these small groups really did enjoy themselves!

Both session had the same general plan:

20-25 minutes storytime
20-25 minutes craft

In the first session, the ages 3-5 one, I read How Will We Get to the Beach by Bridgitte Luciani (accompanied by a felt board I made a few years back) and then we sang Five Green and Speckled Frogs with the monkey mitt.

After the storyime potion, I let the kids decorate plain white beach balls from Oriental Trading with permanent markers (a scary concept with children this young, but it's the only way!) and, because some kids work really fast, I also put out some fan templates that I found on Aylee Bits.

It all worked better than I had anticipated. How Will We Get to the Beach has been a tried-and-true storytime favorite for me for years. It requires the children to pay attention. It's interactive, it's  silly, and it's a real story with a real plot. It's just all around perfect and always works. Last night was no exception.

Moving along to the craft: There have been times in the past where I've felt like the kids weren't into whatever craft I had for them. Or times where they finished it quick, got bored, and asked to leave early. I think it was this fear that drove me to put out the fan templates as a second craft. However, I didn't actually need them! As the kids finished decorating their the beach balls, they just straight up played with them. They threw them up and around and kicked them and bounced them and totally could not have cared less about whether there was a second craft or not. So simple! And they all had a really great time!

Next it was time for the K-2 session. I struggled a lot with planning this one because I got hung up with the fact that it was advertised as including songs. I've never done songs with this age group before and I agonized about what songs I could sing with the older children, mainly those who are in 2nd (and now almost 3rd) grade.

In the end, I decided no songs was best, and (at the suggestion of my colleague) replaced the singing with a giant group Madlib. Mostly, it worked.

Despite the kids at the younger end struggling with the parts of speech, they definitely enjoyed the Madlib. They weren't in complete hysterics for the entire story like I was when I did Madlibs as a kid, but they giggled appropriately when I read the line "Last summer, my little brother fell in a chalkboard and got poison sunflower all over his belly."

They were antsy though, so I moved them on to the craft after this.

Again, they could not have cared less about the fan craft. In fact, I don't even think they acknowledged the fans. After they colored the beach balls, they moved right on to playing with them, just like the younger group did. They were so funny and giddy, bouncing and throwing the balls all over and then wildly chasing them around the room. Why did I not realize it would be so simple? They were making a toy. Of course.

What worked best: I was nervous about using the Sharpies with the younger kids, but I told them to be careful and, somehow, they were! Also, due to the smallish sign-up, there was a lot of empty "playing space" in the room, and that also really worked. The time at the end of the programs when the kids played with their beach balls, was definitely the highlight for everyone.

What worked least: The Madlib with the second group was just ok. There was only one girl in the group had actually ever done a Madlib before, and although she had assured the other kids that it was "so fun and really funny," it felt a little school-ish for a while as I asked the kids to come up with various parts of speech on the spot.

Anyway, this was a fun night. Even though I wouldn't call it one of my all-time greatest programs, the kids definitely had a good time and left happy.

Welcome summer!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Little Helpers (Craft)

Last week, I did a program called Little Helpers. Previously, I wrote a blog post about some of the details involving our Early Literacy Summer Reading Club, also called Little Helpers. Since the whole theme this summer is helping, I thought what better way to tie things nicely together than to have our "little helpers" help create some Summer Reading Club decor for us?

Naturally, the text of the decor read:

Little Helpers!

This took a little more prep than it may look like. First, I printed out the letters in the words (approximately one letter per page) and then traced them in pencil onto thick poster board. I did this two times for each word so we could have four signs in total. Next, I had one of our pages go over my pencil lines with thick black paint. This basically created four, thick, massive coloring pages. After that, I asked one of our maintenance guys to drill two holes in the top of each board (for hanging later) and I was set to go!

I debated about what craft supplies to put out for the kids to use. I wanted a variety of things, but I didn't want anything to overpower the words Little Helpers too much. Finally, I settled on crayons, stamp pads for hand prints, colored pencils, and do-a-dot markers.

Then it was time for the little ones to come help decorate!

They had such a good time! And I got four beautiful and original signs out of the deal!

Once the signs were decorated, I decided to ask a page to go over the black letter outlines one more time since a few were kind of buried under the colors. It was only really necessary on a few of letters (most severely of all being the "I" in the lower "LITTLE" seen below) but it really made all the letters pop a lot. Here are the finished products:

And here they are, all hung up in their home for the summer:

So beautiful!

What worked best: Everyone was really into the hand printing. And it was so easy too!

What worked least: One of my regular storytime kids said "the difference between this program and other programs is that we don't get to take any craft project home." It wasn't a complaint really, just a normal 3-year-old observation. But if I ever do a program like this again (which I would like to do!), I'd probably make matching coloring sheets so the kids can take something home also.

All-in-all, this was a super-fun craft that both the children and the adults really enjoyed!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Candy Builders

Here is the room all set for my Candy Builders program last night. This program is exactly what it sounds like: a bunch of candy, a bunch of toothpicks, and a bunch of kids who enter the room somewhat tame and leave like happy little sugar monsters.

I did this one once in the past and have righted some of my previous wrongs. Last summer, when I invented this program, I put the candy out at each table in communal dishes, like a (very unhealthy) family style dinner. In my head, this would allow for maximum creativity. So each kid could use whatever candy most inspired them.

But in actuality, this was gross. This meant they either couldn't eat the candy because too many sticky fingers had touched it, or ate the candy anyway despite the sticky fingers. No good either way.

I considered doing the unhealthy family style dinner method again this year, but then also giving them goodie bags with a few of each candy in it to eat, but then I had an idea: Why not just make all of it in goodie bags and take the unhealthy family style dinner away altogether? Yes, it would mean they all started with the same materials instead of giving them options, but in a way, that's probably more fair anyway!

So goodie bags it was. Each baggie had:

Long pink and blue striped marshmallows, candy Legos, watermelon Twizzlers Pull n Peel, peach rings, and gum drops. Plus they all got a stack of toothpicks.

The kids came in, I threw on a playlist, and the candy building began:

The sticky fingers problem was solved! However, it didn't occur to me that the kids might want to build something larger than the size of a paper plate. So, while we do wipe the tables down frequently, they probably should have been covered. There are so many things to remember when you deal with edible craft supplies! I'll get it totally right next year!

Anyway, everyone had fun. Even the few parents that stuck around enjoyed themselves! In fact, I would say that everyone actually had more fun than I was expecting! Here are a few stellar examples:

What worked best: The "goodie bag method" definitely worked better than last year's "unhealthy family style dinner method." And not one kid was upset about there not being options. It just made way more sense like this.

What worked least: This one just worked out. Turns out you don't need anything fancy when candy in involved. Yes, I should have covered the tables, but in reality, it didn't matter. Everyone had a blast!

I'm hoping to keep this as an annual event. So until next summer with this one! 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Early Literacy Summer Reading Club 2015 (Little Helpers)

It's time for summer reading! Registration for this summer's reading programs starts tomorrow and I finally have everything organized, set out, and ready to roll. I was in charge of organizing this year's early literacy reading club (which I called Little Helpers) so I decided, hey, why not blog about it?

I named our early literacy Summer Reading Club Little Helpers since the Collaborative Summer Library Program theme for children this year is "Every Hero Has a Story," and the early literacy art seemed to focus more on community helpers. I had my graphic designer husband (shameless plug), make me a quick Little Helpers logo as well as some other matching text and, combined with the art from Jarrett J. Krosoczka, I started creating the pieces of the sign up packet. (Also, while we're on the plugging of my husband, he also made me the fabulous header seen at the top of my blog).

Anyway, here's what you get for signing up for the Little Helpers Read-to-Me club:

From left to right: Brochure & Activity Book, Vintage library stickers, Bookmark, Letter to the parents, Reading log, and the envelope it all comes neatly packaged in.

 ** The full Brochure & Activity Book can be downloaded here! **

** The reading log can be downloaded here! **

The bookmark is from CSPL Reads and the vintage stickers are really because we have SO MANY OF THESE, spools and spools, taking up space and honestly, they're still cool. So if the kids don't care for them, I hope they'll at least be a fun throwback for the parents. They were a throwback for me.

This year, the children earn prizes for every two books they read, up to 12 books, and a bonus prize if they hit 20 books. The prizes are:

2 books-- Fire Chief hat + Invitation to our wrap-up Brady Rymer concert
4 books-- Coloring Placemat
6 books-- Rubber Duck Community Hero
8 books-- Police Station Sticker Scene
10 books-- Hand Clappers
12 books-- Super Hero Sunglasses
20 books-- Beach Ball
Alternative prize-- Mini ABC book

I decided to add in the alternative prize because my reading club's ages range from birth to 5-years-old. Something like the Police Station Sticker Scene might be great for the older end of that range, but maybe not as good for the tiny babies. So, for any prize listed above, if the parents choose to, they can request the alternative prize as, well... an alternative.

This is what it looks like if you earn all 7 prizes:

From left to right: Brady Rymer concern invitation, Police Station sticker scene, Fire Chief hat, Clapping hands, Rubber duck community hero, Superhero sunglasses, Beach ball, Coloring placemat, Sign-up packet.

And these are the ABC books for the alternative prize:

Our final wrap-up party is a Brady Rymer concert, but unfortunately it coincides with my summer vacation so I'll be missing it.

Happy summer, everyone! We finally made it to June!