Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Books n Play For Pre-K 9/30/15

Today I had my first class of this fall's Books n Play for Pre-K program. I've written about the format of Books n Play for Pre-K in several past posts. Today, the theme was fall. After our Hello Song (still A New Way to Say Hello by Big Jeff), I started off with the book Stuck by Oliver Jeffers followed by Ten Apples Up on Top by Dr. Seuss. The kids LOVED both! They appropriately laughed all the way through Stuck and were quiet, in that memorized, listening to a good book way through Ten Apples Up on Top (minus a few interruptions to say "That's a lot!" when the animals successfully balanced eight apples on their heads). Success!

This was my first time reading Ten Apples Up on Top in a storytime and, as I've mentioned before, reading Dr. Seuss out loud makes me nervous. Wording is so important when you're reading Dr. Suess because it's so rhymey and sing-songy. If you miss or flub a word, you can't cover it up easily or tell parts of the story from memory. Each word plays a vital role in the rhythm. But after braving one of his books this summer (What Pet Should I Get?), I was feeling confident enough to attempt another today. And Ten Apples Up on Top is so cute and theme-appropriate! So I tried it. In fact, I did flub some words, but the kids didn't notice or care. I just re-read the phrase and all remained ok. Nothing was lost and the funniness of the story still came through perfectly. While I probably should have given this a practice out loud read ahead of time, I managed ok anyway! And I conquered a fear!

After the two books we sang The Leaves on the Tree as seen below, thanks to good ol' Jbrary:

And I added a verse: The people in the yards go rake rake rake.

The kids enjoyed this song because they already knew The Wheels on the Bus. So changing it up was fun for them.

Then it was time to break off for the craft and play time.

Here's what was at the craft table: 
1. Dot-leaf painted trees. (See below)
3. Leaf rubbing with crayons. (See below)

 And here's what was at the toy table: 
2. Big colorful blocks (like Duplos x3). 
3. Florist puzzles (similar to this).
4. Homemade cinnamon slime! I combined several Pinterest recipes for this. (See below for recipe)

The dot-leaf tree craft was super easy! The template was a really simple document made in Microsoft Word. Using the shapes tool, I just drew a circle shape toward the top and then overlapped it with an elongated trapezoid shooting out the bottom. Like the simplest possible tree-shape ever. You can download the PDF here!

The trees might look kind of unimpressive before they're painted but once you use a q-tip to dot the leaf part of the tree with fall colors, and a sponge brush to fill in the bark, the results are pretty cool:

I expected more excitement for leaf rubbing, to be honest. I walked around outside IN THE RAIN this morning, gathering the perfect variety of different shaped and textured leaves. I peeled perfectly good crayons so they'd have good rubbing sides. But despite this, sadly, leaf rubbing was not a hit. In fact the boy below, a good sport, was the only kid to even attempt it and frankly, he wasn't super thrilled to be doing it. So, oh well.

The homemade cinnamon slime was the other big hit of the afternoon. I don't mean to take credit for this slime in any way. All I did was combine a bunch of different slime recipes I found on Pinterest. But here is how I made my particular batch of slime:

In one bowl: 1 teaspoon Borax with 1/2 cup of warm water.

In another bowl: 2 bottles of Elmers white glue, two empty Elmers white glue bottles refilled with warm water (which also gets some of the extra glue out), food coloring (one batch with green, one batch with yellow [which I thought was red-- woops.]), and cinnamon essential oil.

Then toss the Borax mix into the other glue mix and it will immediately get super icky super fast. If you're as lucky as me, you'll have a willing page to do the yucky hand mixing for you. If not, you'll have to get in with your hands and sort of kneed it around. If you let it sit for a minute or two after that, you should find yourself with slime! We made two batches:

Like I said earlier, the slime was a big hit and the kids were awesome at not eating it, even though it smelled delicious. I also decided to let them all take home some slime (because really, what was I going to do with it?) and they were really great about taking only a small amount each. Smart and good sharers-- it's official: I already like this group! 

At the end, of play/craft time, I wrapped up with one more story: Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger. The kids weren't super into it (to be fair, they'd just been given slime) but several of the grandparents and older caregivers called it "a nice story." I guess I should be happy the kids were quiet at all after just playing with the cinnamon slime, really.

Then we did my new favorite goodbye song, Bread & Butter (I still love and use Blow a Kiss by Laurie Berkner in all my other programs, I just needed some variety!):

What worked least: Probably Little Yellow Leaf. It was just too calm and naturey for a post-play session story. I actually had a feeling this might happen. Shoulda listened to my gut.

What worked best: The homemeade cinnamon slime! The kids totally loved just mushing it up and making lines and snakes and balls with it. I need to remember to incorporate more simple, sensory activities with this group. They like it more than I'd realized.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Hugs for Grandparents - Drop-in Craft

Today I had a drop-in craft called "Hugs for Grandparents." Originally, I wanted to do a big Grandparents Day celebration with tea and snacks, a craft and games, but when I learned that the program would wind up falling before our September registration, I almost didn't have one at all.

I hated the idea of leaving Grandparents Day unobserved so I compromised with a toned-down, drop in craft and, actually, it was really fun!
I got the idea from Pinterest, which lead me to Last Minute DIY Valentines Day Ideas from a website called Built by Kids. I figured a life-sized hug would be easy, cheap, and fun for the kids. Plus, it wasn't too much to buy or prepare in case we didn't get much of a turn out--you never know with drop-ins. And we'd get to use up a bunch of old stuff!

I wound up having about 12 people show up and, to start, I had each kid (and one adult) lie with their top half across a sheet of white butcher paper. Then either their parents, grandparents, or I traced around their torso (I warned them before I got near their arm pits) to create their life-sized hug outline. Then they were set to start decorating!

I put out colored paper, scissors, crazy scissors, do-a-dot markers, regular markers, thick crayons, skinny crayons, scraps of fabric, feathers, glue, glue sticks, buttons and gems, heart doilies, and other pre-cut paper hearts we had leftover from Valentine's Day. (I couldn't find the pom-poms!)

The kids had a hard time lying down on the paper just right, but once we figured out the tracing kinks, they absolutely loved decorating themselves. I think this program had the perfect mix of structure and openness. And every single kid told me it was their first time getting traced. So this made it really fun and exciting!

Here are some kids and their grandparents hard at work:

And here are some of the finished projects:

This was super easy and fun. I was worried it would be too simple but even the adults enjoyed themselves!

What worked least: The kids had a hard time figuring out the right way to lie on the paper. I had to tell them to shift right and then shift down and then straighten out a whole bunch of times, but once they were situated, they were amazingly patient as we traced around them.

What worked best: They loved all the random stuff! Like shopping in a bargain bin is to adults, digging through the buttons and the fabrics for just the right things seemed thrilling to the kids. This was a total hit!

Sidenote: I am switching "what worked best" and "what worked least" so I can now end my posts on a positive note!

Happy Grandparents Day, everyone!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Getting to Know You

It's the first day of September! For many of us, that means (unofficially, at least) that summer's over. I'm totally bummed to say goodbye to my favorite season, and although it isn't exactly quiet around the library, I'm enjoying a short yet relaxing break from program planning.

So my blog doesn't go completely abandoned, I figured I'd write about a really simple (yet successful) program I did throughout this summer called Getting To Know You. This program was passed on to me from a librarian who left last summer. I was given the premise of the program: open play for the kids and a chance for community parents to meet and chat with other community parents. I was also told that "this was a new program and I could make it whatever I wanted." I knew this would be easy for me to keep up throughout the summer since it didn't require a lot of weekly planning and, as it turned out, the program was a huge hit with many of our patrons!

In addition to the room of toys, each week I made a different playlist, planned a 10-minute wrap-up mini-storytime, and put up this sign (thanks to Lindsey at Jbrary for the great idea!):

I've struggled with play programs for years. They've always made me uncomfortable because I'd worried about how I looked in the room--awkward, useless, and like I was "just standing around." But knowing the importance of it for kids, over time, I've incorporated small amounts of play in other programs (like Books n Play for Pre-K) more and more. Since doing so, I've noticed that they've gotten easier! I have become more comfortable with it and less self-conscious about how I appear. Making it even easier still, I had personal relationships with many of the parents, caregivers, and children in this particular group because of doing Musical Kids this summer (and there's no standing around there!). So once I sucked it up and more or less got over myself, I was able to really enjoy being part of this program!

I tried to keep this both easy for me and consistent for the kids. Each week, I put out the same toys in the same spots, then followed the same basic mini-storytime format: 1 simple book, Old MacDonald with the puppets, and the Bread & Butter Goodbye Song seen below:

I had two classes each week: 10:00-10:45 for non-walkers and 11:00-12:00 for walkers.

While the non-walkers class was generally a smaller group, I noticed that almost all of the attendees were new moms who were happy and enthusiastic about discussing parenthood with other new moms. In short, they pretty much utilized this program exactly the way we wanted them to. That's a win! Meanwhile, the walkers group was absolutely packed every week! It had a nice mix of regular library users and newer-to-programs patrons who were excited about what we were offering. Both groups were absolutely wonderful.

I noticed that people poured in sporadically for this program, which was totally ok since it was all open play until the last 10-15 minutes. I did wind up sitting for most of the time but I also got the chance to play with blocks, read board books one-on-one, and roll balls with many of the kids. Then, when there was about 15 minutes left of the program, I had the group clean up, then sit back down for our mini-storytime. Each week I read one of the library's big books like Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?, Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?, Where's Spot?, or Freight Train. Next I lead the group in Old MacDonald with the puppets, which the kids absolutely love. LOVE! Of course it helps to have the most adorable selection of Folkmanis puppets on hand at all times. As we sang together, I brought the current animal around and had it kiss (or lick, or nuzzle) each kid and they usually giggled or squealed or smiled. Fun story: One mom told me that her son asks for this at home now. To end the program we sang the Bread & Butter Goodbye Song and that wrapped it up! Everyone enjoyed this so much!

What worked best: The open play was just so perfect for the summer. Attendance was high and, especially in the non-walkers group, this program gave a lot of new moms the chance to really use the library as a community meeting space and to talk about their experiences in parenthood together. You can't really be more for-your-patrons than that! Amiright?!

What worked least: Even though I put time into making the What To Say While You Play sign, I found that nobody really used it. I could have skipped it, really, but no biggie!

After all my nervousness about beginning this program at the start of the summer, I am now sad to see it go. But it's inspired me to create a new half-play program for babies starting this fall, so (hopefully) new parents will get to meet each other again!