Friday, October 23, 2015

Watercolor Workshop

This morning I had Watercolor Workshop for ages 3-5. It was easy to do and both the kids and the parents loved it!

This program was inspired 100% by this post on CraftWhack. I saw it on Pinterest a few months ago and the next day Watercolor Workshop was on the calendar for October!

First, I started with a short storytime. I read Dog's Colorful Day by Emma Dodd (accompanied by our golden retriever puppet and my homemade sticky spots, which sadly, are losing their sticky) and Perfect Square by Michael Hall. The kids liked them both, although I think the started to get a little squirmy toward the end of Perfect Square. No problem though! It was time to move on to the painting!

I had five tables set up, each with the supplies for a different watercolor technique to try. I handed each child a watercolor palette and told them to carry it around with them from table to table. Since the kids were with their parents, I let them move around freely between the tables so they could try all the different things. This definitely worked and I think treating each table as a "station" made this all extra exciting for the kids. At each station I had: my sample (see below), a sign explaining what technique to do and how to do it, and all the necessary supplies. A PDF of the 5 signs can be downloaded here! These signs really, really helped because the parents were able to show their kids what to do without having to wait for me to come to them. Again, a PDF of the 5 signs can be downloaded here. I would highly recommend using them or making your own if you do a program like this!

Here are the five watercolor techniques:

Wax Crayon Resist

This is probably the most popular and most "classic" watercolor technique. It's easy to do and especially cool because the crayon drawing is invisible until you paint over it (unless you use a crayon color other than white). It's like a little magic trick, the way the watercolors resist the wax to reveal the drawing. Some kids totally loved revealing their hidden art; some were frustrated by not being able to see what they were drawing. But I think most of the kids didn't feel strongly one way or the other, barely noticing the wax resist at all and just enjoyed painting and mixing colors on the paper. That's cool too!

Draw Over with Pencil

When I made my sample above, more of the watercolor dried than I wanted. I guess I just waited a few minutes too long to start doodling, but actually it was still fun to draw on the colorful canvas I'd painted myself. I told the kids to try drawing on some parts when it was kind of wet and some parts when it was dry so they could see how the two differed, but actually many of them drew on it first and then painted over it. Not exactly what I'd envisioned, but again, it doesn't really matter. The kids had fun being creative with different art mediums so it's all fine by me. This also wound up being the station that the slower working kids skipped, so only a handful of the group even went to this table at all.

Blot with Paper Towel

This requires very wet paint. All you do is wad up a ball of paper towel and blot at the wet paint to make a white, textured shape appear. Some of mine look like sideways hearts! For whatever reason, maybe just that it was a little less cool than the others, I don't know if this station was much of a hit. It wound up being the table where the kids just painted pretty pictures. Eh, again, doesn't matter since everyone had fun.

Masking Tape Resist

This one is always more of a challenge than it should be because ripping masking tape off of watercolor paper is just plain hard. It's definitely an adult job and not for pre-school hands (not even necessarily for all adult hands). BUT today, I figured out a secret accidentally! When I grabbed what I thought was three rolls of masking tape from the draw, it turns out I'd accidentally grabbed a roll of painters tape instead. It wound up being wayyyy easier to pull off! So that's the secret to this! Painters tape! This table was possibly the kids' favorite of all of them. They had a good time painting and mushing around the colors and then were appropriately impressed by their finished products when they saw the perfect, straight, white lines that were revealed upon taking off the tape. Super fun!

Salt on Very Wet Paint

I think this one was one of the parents favorites and one of mine too, although I feel like it was kind of lost of the kids. The effect of the salt doesn't "develop" immediately upon sprinkling; it takes a few minutes and then, as the water colors start to dry around the salt, you really see the coolness of it. Then when the paint is dry, you wipe the all the salt away. For some reason, this sort of reminds me of those Smithsonian crystal growing kits we played with as kids, except in paint form. You can see the results best in the blue part of my sample. Again, maybe this one was just more impressive for the adults than the kids, but they had fun painting anyway and making sure their paint was extra wet for the salt.

Overall, what a great time! The kids all got really creative this morning!

What worked least: What what worked least is actually that this program worked so well, that I should have made it longer! It was scheduled for 45-minutes but some of the more meticulous kids didn't get to try everything. With a little more time, maybe they could have. But I'd say that's a pretty good problem to have though, right?

What worked best: This program was a total success! It was my first time doing it and I wasn't sure what to expect but it was really, really fun (again, thank you x 1000 to this post on CraftWhack). But probably because it surprised me and helped me for the future, but I'd say the best thing about this morning was my accidental painters tape discovery. I can't believe how much easier painters tape is to rip off than masking tape. I mean, it makes sense, as this is painters tape's only job, but man! Of course!

What other art programs can I do? This was awesome!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Stuffed Animal Sleepover, September 2015

I can't believe I forgot to write about the Stuffed Animal Sleepover that I did a month ago! I'm usually super on my blogging game! Anyway, better late than never, right?

About a month ago our stuffed animal patrons had their third sleepover at the library. I blogged about this program once before, but it's been a while and, since each Stuffed Animal Sleepover has its own personality, I wanted to write about our September sleepover also.

This is a pretty simple program--a few books, a few songs, and a craft--but the real fun starts when the kids go home and leave their stuffed animals behind for an overnight sleepover party!

As the kids arrived last month (it's weird to say that), I gave each of their stuffed animals a simple name tag (with the child's name on the back). Usually, this helps me keep track of things later, although this case, the group was so small I'd have been able to keep track of who belonged to who anyway.

Something I did that was new this time, was bring one of my childhood stuffed animals, Jelly Beanie, to the party! He was very excited about staying over. He hasn't been out of the house in years.

Once I took the kids back to the program room, I did a regular, simple sleep-themed storytime. I started with Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson, then sang Five Little Monkeys with the monkey mitt, and then read One Drowsy Dragon by Ethan Long. (Sidenote: This was my first time reading One Drowsy Dragon to a group and they really enjoyed it and giggled throughout the whole story! It's a keeper!)

Then the kids moved on to the craft tables and decorated "sleeping bags" for their stuffed animals to sleep over in. These are just pillow cases from Oriental Trading decorated with fabric markers. This is the same craft I did in all my past Stuffed Animal Sleepovers and it just works. I've considered changing it just so repeat program attenders wouldn't have a dozen fabric-marker-decorated pillow cases at home, but it's always a hit so why reinvent the wheel? The kids like it (even repeat attenders) and it gives them a way to "tuck in" their stuffed animals before they leave them, which, by the way, is totally adorable to watch.

I didn't make my own pillow case but, lucky for Jelly Beanie, Miss Moo Cow was kind enough to share her sleeping bag since she's pretty little. The two then became fast friends.

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 a few more songs. First Itsy Bitsy Spider, then Wheels on the Bus, and then 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, whispered goodbye to me, then tip-toed out for the evening.

There's a very important behind-the-scenes step that comes next. Before taking the animals out for their library adventure, I always photograph each animal with its sleeping bag and name tag. That way, when the children pick up their stuffed animals the next day, I can match everything up right without having to guess. (Like I mentioned earlier, I had a really easy time remebering who belonged to who this time, but this step is always a good idea anyway.)

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

Jelly Beanie read the other stuffed animals a story.
Games: Checkers, cards, and Connect Four.
Coloring and making macaroni necklaces.
Playing with Legos.
Playing computer games.
Doing a big puzzle.
Choosing books.
I also included individual pictures of each stuffed animal enjoying a book solo:

Each stuffed animal got a super-custom-picked book that matched them. I had a clerk stay late with me that night and she helped select the most perfect set of books. Then, as a circulation bonus, when the kids came in the next day to pick up their stuffed animals, I asked if they wanted to check those books out, and guess what? They all did!

As usual, they kids also got their pillow case sleeping bags and a set of photos from the animal's fun night out when they came back to pick up their stuffed animals. Then, in addition to also giving them their animal's book choice, I gave them a coloring sheet too (the one the animals colored during their sleepover). So many goodies!

Anyway, as usual, the kids liked the print outs, but the parents LOVED the print outs. This has held true every time.

What worked least: Rather than something not working, 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 most of the photos while there are patrons in the library. Not only are there very few place you can set the animals up without disturbing people, I just kind of want to keep the magic alive a little too. So most of the hard part is done 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 Publisher document).  I wish I could figure out a way to fix this, but right now, I can't think of a better way to do it. However, I did do it all in record time last month, so maybe practice makes perfect (or, faster, anyway).

What worked best: Singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and then singing it again quietly so the stuffed animals could "fall asleep." We all whispered from this point on and this was a good, natural way to say goodnight and end the program.

Overall, this is a fun, easy-to-run program that is a straight up patron-pleaser. Anyone else do one of these at their library? Let's swap ideas!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Apple Taste Test & Stamping

Inspired by this past summer's Aussie Taste-Test, I did a program called Apple Taste-Test & Stamping on Monday afternoon. I had two sessions: one for ages 3-5 and one for grades K-2. I thought it'd be fun to have a sort of apple buffet so the kids could try all different kinds of apples and see what they liked best, then vote for their favorite.

I had eight different kids of apples: Courtland, Fuji, Ginger Gold, Granny Smith, Honey Crisp, Macoun, McIntosh, and Pink Lady. I cut them up into small pieces and labeled the table in front of them so the kids and parents could walk down the line and sample everything. Then, once they were done, I had the kids place an apple sticker with their name on it in the row for which one they liked the best. So essentially, we made a big picture graph. I had the second class add to the first classes results so we could see the final winner for everyone all together. This is how the graph looked at the end:

After the eating part, which took wayyyy less time than I'd expected (about 5-10 minutes), everyone moved on to the stamping part. I used fall colors and put half an apple (cut horizontally so you see the star in the middle) in each plate of paint. The kids had fun doing this and some got really creative!

Everything moved much faster than I'd anticipated so it was a good thing that I brought Ten Apples Up On Top by Dr. Seuss in the room with me just in case. I totally needed it! As the kids were finishing up almost a half hour early, I told them to keep stamping while I read them the book. This was the first time I read a book without having a designated storytime area but it worked just as well. The kids were engaged and many of them stopped stamping to listen, then started up again after I was done--prolonging the program a little more (yay!). Plus, my past fear of reading Dr. Seuss in general is completely gone now!

In the end, neither session of this program ran for it's full allotted hour, but it wound up being fun and--dare I say--educational anyway. So I'd call it a success!

What worked least: It was just shorter than I'd expected. If I'd advertised the program as being 45-minutes instead of an hour long, it would have been perfect.

What worked best: The taste test part was super fun and I think that having the tasting table as the first thing everyone saw when they walked in the room made it extra exciting. Plus, as the kids continued stamping, they liked going back up to the "buffet" for more apple.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Blackboard Sketch-O-Rama

Blackboard Sketch-O-Rama was one of those programs that I was super excited about doing until about a week before it actually happened...and then I got totally nervous about the details. The concept was easy--it was just simple blackboard Pictionary, but as the program got closer, I wasn't sure how it was all going to actually work. What if I had an uneven number of kids? What if they didn't know what all the words meant? Should I let them pass? If so, how many times? For such a simple program, it actually seemed overwhelming.

But last Thursday night, when it came time to do the program, a new problem arose immediately. It was a gross, rainy (nor'easter) night and I needed at least 4 kids to even play the game at all. And of course, I had three. They waited and waited and about two minutes before I cancelled the thing and disappointed three kids and three parents, I got a patron on the floor to join the program! The show must go on! And it did work out well that my four kids were two boys and two girls--all of whom enthusiastically wanted to play the boys vs. girls. I mean obviously.

I made eight categories--just handwritten words folded up into labeled cups. The categories were:

Sports & Games
Book & Movie Characters
Food & Drink
Miscellaneous 1
Miscellaneous 2

The kids who did come had a great time. I started the program by handing out snacks (veggie chips, iced tea, and fruit punch) and letting the kids pick team names. The girls called themselves Purple Girls and the boys (being second grade boys) called themselves I Am Dumb (and then cracked up every time I said it). Probably just because they were older overall (and at that age, every year makes a big difference. Plus, at that age, girls have a maturity bonus over boys anyway)...but the girls won by kind of a landslide:

What worked least: Nothing worked least specifically, but the program would have just been better with a bigger group. As with any party game, it's just more fun with more people. But what can you do? The weather dictates all!

What worked best: The categories were perfect. It gave the kids an advantage to know what subject they were guessing and I think, when it was their turn to draw, they liked the power of choosing a topic for their team.

Maybe this would be worth giving another shot in the middle of the summer or during a school vacation. Like I said earlier, despite the size of the group, the four kids who came really enjoyed themselves!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Musical Kids (for babies ages 6-16 months) 10/2/15

I love Musical Kids! I have blogged about this program in the past but it is, was, and always will be my favorite part of my whole job. So it's getting another post today!

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 probably the most well-attended program in the department and I seriously love the relationships I have formed with our core group of regular parents and children. Today I am going to write about my baby group (again) who I see first at 10:00.

When I first started doing Musical Kids (about 6 or 7 years ago as a librarian trainee helping another librarian), I did not care for this baby group one bit. The idea of a singing and dancing program with babies intimidated me because, well, babies can't exactly sing or dance. It took me a LOT of time (like, 5 years) to get comfortable with them and even longer to actually enjoy it. But I started to get into this age group once I figured out one key thing--with babies, you get to do an entire category of songs you can't do with the older crew: lap songs! Once I found my lap songs rhythm, I started to love the 10:00 group! You can do so much with them that you can't do with the walkers. They're actually really fun!

Anyway, Friday morning was my second class in a 4-week session. Here's my week 2 playlist: (red = ipod, blue = sing)

1. A New Way to Say Hello by Big Jeff
2. The Moon is Round (lap song)
3. We Wave Our Scarves Together (scarf + handout)
4. My Scarf, It Has Four Corners (scarf + handout)
5. Scarf Dance by Mary Jo Huff (scarf)
6. Where is Thumbkin by r-H
7. I Know a Chicken by Laurie Berkner (shakers + chicken puppet)
8. Milkshake Song by Anne-Marie Akin (shakers)
9. Yellow Submarine by The Beatles (drums)
10. Elevator Song by Mary Lee Sunseri
11. You Be the Ice Cream (lap song + handout)
12. Round and Round the Garden (lap song + handout)
13. She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain (lap song + handout)
14. Go In and Out the Window (lap song + handout)
15. Blow a Kiss by Laurie Berkner

As usual, this program was made better because of good ol' Jbrary, specifically, their Babytime Story Resources playlist, which has pretty much everything you could ever need for a successful baby program.

I like to hand out the words to the parents when I do certain songs that we sing together and I usually do this for my scarf songs.  I have a few different scarf songs handouts that I rotate between. I like the handouts because there are always new parents and I think signing together helps everyone feel involved in the group and like they're getting the most possible out of the program. Here is a link to the PDF for the two scarf songs that we sang on FridayWe Wave Our Scarves Together and My Scarf, It Has Four Corners.

I also have a handout for the four lap songs we sang toward the end of the class. Here is a link to my lap songs PDF, which includes You Be the Ice Cream, Round and Round the GardenShe'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain, and Go In and Out the Window.*

*I make the parents sit in as tight of circle as possible for Go In and Out the Window so the babies really get a chance to check each other out when they go IN the window. It's really cute and wonderful. Here's how it's done:

I think the lap songs and the end, might be both mine and the group's favorite part.

I haven't bothered with a handout for The Moon Is Round (sung in the beginning) because it's really, really easy. Here are the words, if anyone wants 'em:

The moon is round as round can be
Two eyes, a nose, a mouth like me.

Anyway, last note, regardless of how little they are, it's always important that babies be exposed to music and rhythms early! Here are the reasons 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. 

What worked least: I was really on my baby game on Friday so this particular session really worked well. But, as a bonus and so I don't look like I'm trying to cop out, here's something that didn't work in my 17-23 months class at 10:45: I had the group gather in a circle to sing Shoo Fly, Don't Bother Me and one mom, to get her twins into the circle formation said, "Like Ring Around the Rosie!" So then, in an act of trying to please everyone, I suggested doing Ring Around the Rosie next. BUT, oops, I didn't remember the song or the motions at all. Like, I completely blanked. So I just looked kinda dumb and unprepared. I've said this before but I am very lucky to have regular parents who appreciate my usual preparedness and probably understood that this was just me trying to be spontaneous. But darn you, spontaneity! Oh well.

What worked best: The lap songs are great. They're perfect for parent-child bonding and, in the case of Go In and Out the Window, even child-child bonding! Plus, like I said earlier, they're also what makes my 10:00 session special, so I really enjoy them.

Maybe I'll get another post in about one of my other age groups in the upcoming weeks. I'm so happy programming has picked back up to it's regular pace for the fall!