Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What Pet Should I Get?

Yesterday I did a program to celebrate the release of the new Dr. Seuss book, What Pet Should I Get?. It was really fun!

Over the winter, while I was home on disability, my colleague found out about the book's big release. During a phone conversation one day, she asked me if I'd like to do a program to celebrate it and, naturally, I said yes.

Inside though, I wasn't sure. To be totally honest, I wasn't a big Dr. Seuss fan as a kid and I have always carried that with me. Even putting my personal bias aside, the wording is really important when you're reading a Dr. Suess book. You can't tell parts of the story from memory or ad-lib like you can with most other books. His writing is sing-songy and therefore, it has to have its intended rhythm. Every word plays a vital role; you can't miss one or change one or shorten a wordy section if the kids look bored. This all made me super nervous. I've never read Dr. Suess with the kids before and I was afraid I would have too many stumbles, and worried that my dislike for the book would subtly come through.

Leading up to today, I waited (im)patiently for the big release, with no idea what I had in store for me. Once I saw the book the morning of the program though, I was SO relieved. I liked it! It was sing-songy but was manageable enough and the story was funny, cute, and more realistic than other Dr. Seuss books--which, I think, was my gripe as a kid. I liked realism.

Reading the story out loud went well. The kids were all interested and engaged throughout the book and I didn't flub the sing-songy text too much at all!

At the end of the book the kids got to "make a pet." I had them start by coloring their pet's habitat, made out of these white Treat Boxes from Oriental Trading, crayons, and brown tissue paper to line the box with, like a blanket or a rug. Once they finished decorating their box, I gave each of them a handful of Crayola Air Dry Clay and told them to make an animal. Whatever animal they wanted. As a sample, I'd made a cat, (side-note about me: if I can incorporate cats, I will.) but the tail (and later two legs and an ear) broke off before I could take a picture.

The kids made a nice assortment of pets: a cat, dog, beehive, elephant, and some others. The clay was a total hit! Some kids took the full hour to do their craft (even a little longer!) but many finished more quickly and we all had a good time making other stuff out of the clay after that. We made pretzels, challah bread, lollypops, pizza... mainly food items, really. I used clay once before in a program and I didn't remember it being quite as much fun, but everyone (including me) enjoyed making stuff yesterday. It's like playdough for older kids! For adults, even!

Here is a sampling of pets in their habitats:

What worked best: The story! I can't believe it! Maybe it's because relief is clouding my judgement, but the story really really worked great.

What worked least: The air dry clay got a little too messy as we played with it more and more. There were tiny flakes of it everywhere and a wad of it on the bottom of a brand new sneaker. But other than more mess than I'd planned for, everyone really enjoyed sculpting and being creative!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Picture Book Celebration

Yesterday I had my Summer Picture Book Celebration. This was a repeat of a program I did last November for Picture Book Month (before I started my blog). Even though July isn't any kind of official picture book-themed month like November is, the library is always picture book-themed, right? We're the library--we're every kind of book themed. In all months! So why not?

When I originally planned this program back in November, I thought it would be fun if the kids got to hear "guests" from other departments in the library read their favorite picture books. All adults have a favorite picture book and the idea of different people's choices being diverse, in the same way that they are, was just so interesting to me. I loved the idea of a group of adults being different in many ways, yet all feeling enthusiastic about children's literature--sharing books they love with a newer generation, almost like sharing a family heirloom or a recipe. I imagined it like letting a group of kids in on a secret. I liked the idea of the "guests" explaining who they are and why their favorite was their favorite, and I secretly wanted their books to vary as much as possible.

This is big dreamin' because in real life, adults don't want to give a whole speech before reading a book, kids don't want to hear a whole speech before listening to a book, and people's favorites change as new books come out. Even my favorite picture books have changed over the years. So instead of a fantasy program where adults share bits of their childhood or their children's childhoods, I wound up with something else--the sharing of a bunch of fun, newer picture books! And really, that's even better! Showing the kids that a group of diverse adults can still discover and love newer picture books--that you're never too old to enjoy them--is awesome!

The first time I did this program I had 4 guest readers from around the library. Yesterday I had 3, which actually, was more manageable for the kids. I had representation from Circulation, Adult Reference, and Technical Services and the books read were The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli, Pout Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen, and The Peanut Butter Jam by Elizabeth Sussman Nassau.

After the three stories, the kids got a chance to make their own picture books. I put out these Publish Your Own Book Journals from Oriental Trading and bins of colored pencils (markers didn't work on the covers of these) and the kids went to town. Easy peasy! Let the creativity flow!

Turns out, this is more of a girl thing. And I'm pretty sure that was the case in November too. The girls got a lot out of it; they made nice books about things like horses, unicorns, dogs, flowers, and Frozen. The boys, both in November and yesterday, started off strong with books about crazy Three Little Pigs,evil chicken nuggets, and caterpillars who got sick of eating leaves, but then lost interest 10-minutes later and instead chatted loudly and poked each other with colored pencils, ignoring the books completely. That's just how they are at this age, I guess. That's ok though, they still enjoyed the stories, made their own books, and had fun!

What worked best: The variety of picture books was great. I really think it was nice for the kids to hear stories other than the usual ones that we, the children's librarians, tend to pick.

What worked least: For the boys, the book making craft just didn't cut it. Maybe the simplicity of just a blank book and colored pencils didn't inspire them the same way it did with the girls, I'm not totally sure. If I were to do it again, I'd put out different kinds of art supplies for the kids to work with (stickers, stamps, collage materials) in the hopes that it'd keep the attention of the both the girls and the boys for the duration of the program. But even so, it was nice to see the creative juices flowing in everyone, even if it was only for a short period of time with the boys.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Super Hero Training Camp

This past Saturday, my coworker and I had our Super Hero Training Camp program and it was awesome! While it took a lot of planning, a lot of shopping, and a lot of setting up, it was totally worth it. And although the turnout was smaller than I'd have liked, the kids that did come had a great time. Plus, I think the smaller crew was easier to manage, since a program like this automatically riles everyone up.

In the early planning stages, we started by scouring the internet for different "obstacles" for the kids to do. After lots and lots of Pinteresting, we narrowed it down to a collection of things that seemed both fun and do-able for us. We decided to have eight obstacles in total--mainly, because eight looked neat and pretty on the certificate. We also decided that, as the kids completed each obstacle, they would earn a star sticker in the given spot on their certificate. Here is what that looked like (sans stickers):

The day-of set up was rough. We wound up only having an hour to do it, which was tight for sure since there were so many things to set out and assemble. But with the two of us plus a super-handy page, we were able to hustle and get the program together quickly.

When the kids came in the room, we started by having them put their names on their certificates. Once they did that, we took the certificates from them and then had them color a super hero mask (punched from the Ellison Die machine) and a name tag that included information like their super hero name and their super hero powers. I found these name tags on Sunflower Storytime.

It should be noted that, from this point forward, I only referred to the kids by their self-appointed super hero names: Ice Girl, Fire Main, Girl in Red, etc.

Here is the crew, about to complete their official super hero training.

And then it was time for... drum roll please... the obstacles!

1. The Brick Smash

This was inspired by a story about my husband who, as a child, regularly pretended to be The Incredible Hulk, setting these brick blocks up in a wall and then busting through it with his Hulk Hands. For our first obstacle, we set the brick blocks up like a wall, sitting them on top of the box we store them in so that the whole formation would be kid-height. Then we let the kids just straight up punch through the wall (although we lacked Hulk Hands). They were all totally into it. Who wouldn't be? And as it turned out, the quick re-setting-up of the wall between kids wasn't even that annoying.

2. The Ring of Fire

I was excited for this, but also kind of nervous that (1) someone was going to dive carelessly and hurt themselves or (2) the structure would fall apart after the first kid dove through it and then it'd be ruined. There was no need for me to worry though; they LOVED it and it stayed together perfectly! We made it by setting up a hula-hoop up between two chairs, with Gorilla Tape holding it in place. Then we taped yellow and red streamers from the top and this Firehouse Heroes Fire Garland from Oriental Trading along the the upper rim. It was complete with an air mattress for landing and it was ready to be flopped on!

Fun-wise, I'd say this was the highlight of the afternoon for the kids.

3. The Kryptonite Search

Fun-wise, I'd say this was the opposite of the highlight of the afternoon for the kids. The obstacle was simple, but not the most exciting of the bunch. For this one, we filled a cooler up with black, shredded paper, then stuck green glow sticks from the dollar store, "kryptonite," in the mess for the kids to find. We told them they could only use kitchen tongs to search, not their hands, but it still wound up being too easy. I think the main problem was the glowstick/shredded paper ratio. There were just too many glow sticks--so many that it was almost easier to find one than to not find one. Next time: A larger container with way more shredded paper and way less glow sticks would make this a little more of a challenge, and thus, probably more fun.

4. Bomb Destroying

For this obstacle we had the group work as a team to destroy all the black balloons, "bombs," as fast as possible. This was good in that it was a bit of a lesson in problem solving, but bad in that the bigger and more athletic kids naturally took over. As a former non-athletic kid, I could feel the smaller kids' frustration here. Luckily, the smaller kids had two super hero librarians to make sure that everyone had a fair shot and that wound up being just fine. There were 12 "bombs" to destroy and in general, I think the kids really enjoyed the challenge of destroying them by stepping on them, pushing them up into corners of things, and, as seen below, sitting on them. They were excited and giggling throughout this whole obstacle and I was really impressed with their unabashed ability to pop balloons with all their might, as opposed to cautiously slicing the bottom with a scissor while holding it as far away from them as some non-athletic librarians may do.

5. The Super Drill

The Super Drill was our take on football's Tire Drill. We used pool noodles taped into circles instead of tires so there'd be less height to leap and less chance of injury (also, they're cheaper). The kids enjoyed hopping through the circles in different ways. This was a quick one to set up, made no mess, and the kids enjoyed it--a win all around. Plus, if we ever do this program again, the noodles are already taped.

6. The Laser Maze

I have been looking for an excuse to do a masking tape Laser Maze for probably two years now. It's a little bit of a challenge to set up because it has to be done in a hallway or other narrow area, but it's every bit as fun as it looks--I tried it! (Sidenote: If no hallway is available, you could probably improvise by attaching the lines of tape between a wall and a row of chairs but I think it'd be restrictive, height-wise, so a hallway is best if you've got one.)

The one problem we had here was that, by the time we got to the Laser Maze, some of the tape had fallen down. Next time, I'd use a stronger tape, possibly book tape or duct tape to attach the red masking tape to the walls. Luckily, the kids didn't care at all and had a good time going through anyway. So did the non-athletic librarians.

7. Target Practice

This was an easy and fun obstacle because we already owned this Tar Grip Toss Game from S&S. We had the kids stand in one of the pool noodles from the Super Drill above and toss 3 tennis balls each. They liked this and probably could have kept tossing for a while if there wasn't the incredibly tempting next obstacle...

8. Lava Pit Crossing

Throughout the entire program the kids were asking us what the pool, "lava pit," was filled with. Like, no matter what we were doing, their attention kept going back to the lava pit. Over and over we told them it was hot lava but eventually they deduced that it couldn't be hot lava because then, if they burned themselves, we'd get fired. This was probably true. So then we told them it was cold lava, but one of the kids said, "No, because when lava gets cold it turns into rock." Hm. So it stayed a mystery because telling them the truth would kill the magic; it was water with pool dye for color and Alka-seltzer tablets for fizz. We set this one up by first filling the pool*, then using a wood board from Home Depot attached with Gorilla Tape to two stools we had in the library already. The board was pretty wide, so walking across was pretty un-challenging, but I think the kids enjoyed it anyway since it hovered over the mysterious, red liquid lurking below.

*Sidenote: When we filled up the lava pit initially, we used a 3-gallon water bottle from a water cooler, dumped it in, and refilled it 4 or 5 times. We had some help from our Maintenance Department, mostly just because we were in a hurry, but overall, filling the pool wasn't a tough job. Emptying it, however, was a whole other challenge. We couldn't figure out how to do it without spilling water (red water) all over the place. So we wound up asking Maintenance to use their mop bucket and somehow, they emptied the lava pit and it didn't even take that long. They're really amazing sometimes.

After the eight obstacles, we had water bottles ready at the Hydration Station, which a kids few took and a few kids didn't. Then last, we ended the program with some cape decorating. The capes were made of garbage bags (found on Our Life in Action) and the kids decorated them with different kinds of tape, scissors, and sheets of foam. Then we trimmed the capes to fit each child correctly and attached them around their necks with Velcro. They had become official super heroes! Even though these were made at the very end of the program, it still allowed the kids to go home with one more thing and also, it looked cute in our group photo.

What worked best: The Brick Smash, Ring of Fire, and Laser Maze were definitely the three most fun obstacles of the day. If we do this program again in the future, I would do those three obstacles again exactly as they were. And I'd probably not change the Target Practice or Lava Pit Crossing either really.

What worked least: The kids were a little bonkers by the end of the program because, well, how could they not be? After doing things like popping balloons and diving through a hula-hoop onto an air mattress, what could we really expect? While yes, this program was one hype-up after another, I think that if we ever do it again, I'd want to do it as a family program, so more kids of different age ranges could be included but their parents would be there to keep them in check. This would help keep the crazy down, I think.

At last, we can all rest easy knowing there are six young super heroes patronizing our library!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Books n Play For Pre-K 7/15/15

This morning I had my second session of a four-week-long Book n Play for Pre-K program. My theme was Things That Go. Last week's class (summer-themed and including both an Elephant and Piggie book and a sandbox) went so well that I was afraid I couldn't top it today. I was actually nervous--thinking that the only direction I could go this week was down. But it went well! I wouldn't say it topped last week, but I would say that maybe it tied. And everyone had a great time!

I've written about the format of my Books n Play for Pre-K program in several past posts. This morning I started off with Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems. This And then I read In The Driver's Seat by Max Haynes, which I accompanied with paper steering wheels I made, shown below:

This particular group loves books. Both last week and this week I started the program off with two books in a row and they were literally captivated the whole time. It's not something I did or didn't do--it's just this particular group. But they were basically every children's librarian's dream. (FYI: Last week I began with How Will We Get To the Beach by Brigette Luciani and Elephant and Piggie: Should I Share my Ice Cream? by Mo Willems.)

After the books, I considered singing Wheels on the Bus, but in Musical Kids, Laurie Berkner's Rocketship Run + rocket handouts is always the star of the show, so, really, why not do more that? Not only that, but doing Rocketship Run instead of Wheels on the Bus gave me the opportunity to read Lenny Hort's Seals on the Bus after play/craft time without it all being too much of the same thing. So this was perfect. Rocketship Run, like I have said before, is always everyone's favorite.

Then it was time for play and craft time.

Here's what was at the craft table:
1. Toilet Paper Roll Cars: Made with toilet paper rolls (obviously), this template, crayons, scissors and tape. (See below)
2. These "Fabulous Foam Self-Adhesive Transportation Shapes" from Oriental Trading with white paper and crayons.
3. Bottle Top Boat making supplies. (See below)

And here's what was at the toy table:
1. An array of wood blocks and matchbox cars so kids could set up different types of tracks and race cars around them.
2. Our neighborhood/streets rug (similar to one of these) and a bunch of wood cars (similar to these).
3. A large bin of water for floating the Bottle Top Boats mentioned above. (See blow)

Here's my sample Toilet Paper Roll Car (And again here is the template.):

And here's the scoop on the Bottle Top Boat making and Bottle Top Boat floating:

This was fun in that cool, science experiment way, but also kind of frustrating in that it was probably too hard for the kids. Every single Bottle Top Boat that was made sunk on the first try. The craft I had in mind went like this:

* 1 bottle top
* 1 small ball of play-dough, glued down for security
* 1 toothpick stuck into that blob
* 1 masking tape flag/sail near the top of the toothpick

In actuality, it played out like this: The kids packed the bottle top full of play-dough, stuck in the toothpick, carefully cut a masking tape flag with their parent or guardian, excitedly carried it over to the bin of water, and then watched as the whole contraption sunk to the bottom like a stone.

For many of the kids, it took two tries to get it right, but once they realized it was a matter of using less play-dough, it worked! And it was exciting! We all cheered! So really, the trial and error thing was cool. Dare I say, it was educational. I think I subtly (and accidentally) gave the kids a bit of an early hands-on science lesson. So in that regard, the Bottle Top Boats did work. However, for one or two kids, the thing just never floated. The concept of the tiny play-dough ball was just too hard for their little fingers. And that was probably frustrating for them.

Additionally, this was M-E-S-S-Y. Like wayyyy grosser than I'd realized. I didn't anticipate it. The mess happened when you pulled the sunken boat out of the water bin. The combination of wet play-dough + wet glue + wet masking tape turned into a paste that got under your finger nails and was both sticky and crumply at the same time. Yuck. I had to pull out the emergency baby wipes.

Anyway, here are the first two boats to successfully float and their makers:

And here's a picture of the craft table in action:

After play/craft time I wrapped up with Seals on the Bus by Lenny Hort, the Hokey Pokey, and my go-to goodbye song (Blow A Kiss by Laurie Berkner). The kids and parents both got a kick out of Seals on the Bus. I think you're never too old to make animal noises.

What worked best: It's no surprise that Rocketship Run stole the spotlight, as usual. I explained this in an older post also, but the kids are so funny when we do this song. When I hold up a given sign (the sun sign, moon sign, stars sign, and Earth sign), they all run up and touch their rockets to it, like they're really "going" to the sun/moon/etc. I've never told them to do this yet in every class--and in many different sets of children--it happens. It's so cute and funny!

What worked least: The Bottle Top Boat making and Bottle Top Boat floating-- for reasons explained above. The science experiment element of it was fun, but I'd imagine it was frustrating for the kids to make "duds," especially those whose "duds" never turned into "non-duds."

Two more Books n Play for Pre-K classes in this session, then I'll be taking a break from it until the fall! Next week's theme is animals so I'll present this question: What's your favorite animal song or simple animal craft?