Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Musical Kids (for babies ages 6-16 months) and Last Post Before I Have My Own Baby!

It has been exactly one year since the last time I blogged about my baby group of  Musical Kids!

As pretty much everyone ever knows, I love Musical Kids. I have blogged about this program many times in the past but it's continued to be my favorite part of my job. Since I am leaving for maternity leave next week, I wanted to do one last Musical Kids post, before I go. And since it's been exactly one year since, why not have this post be about the babies (6-16 months) again this time?

The lowdown on Musial Kids, for those not in the know: 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 programs 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 because, for the first time, they were my biggest group. Also, they've been so so SO wonderfully sympathetic through my pregnancy and I kind of just love them.

Here is my playlist from last Friday morning: (red = ipod, blue = sing)

1. A New Way to Say Hello by Big Jeff
2. This Land is Your Land by  Josh Levine (shakers)
3. I Know a Chicken by Laurie Berkner (shakers + chicken puppet)
4. Mix a Pancake (scarves) *
5. Scarf Version of Early in the Morning (scarves) **
6. Wheels on the Bus (with big book)
7. She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain (lap song) ***
8. Can't Buy Me Love  by The Beatles (tambourines)
9. Whole Lotta Lovin' by Fats Domino (tambourines)
10. Grand Old Duke of York (parachute) ****
11. One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Kathy Reid-Naiman (parachute) x2
12. Blow a Kiss by Laurie Berkner

This was the first time in a long time (or possibly ever) that I didn't use the drums in a class of Musical Kids! I was a little worried about it because I feel like everyone has kind of come to expect them, but nobody seemed to miss them at all! Plus I included the tambourines instead, which are also really fun. So I guess a little instrument variety is ok after all.

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.

* Mix a Pancake is thanks to (of course) Jbrary, although using it with scarves was my idea! Here it is:

** I actually can't remember where I got the Scarf Version of So Early in the Morning from (apologies if it was you!) but it goes like this:

This is the way we wash our arms, wash our arms, wash our arms. This is the way we wash our arms so early in the morning... (and we pretend to use our scarves as a wash cloths).

Then we go through and sing it over and over with other body parts. Popular on-the-spot body part choices for me are knees, elbows, head, feet, and belly.

*** I got this wonderful version of She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain from, you guessed it, Jbrary! It's pretty no-fail and everyone usually enjoys it (minus a few complaints about tired arms):

**** I found this parachute version of The Grand Old Duke of York from The Kids Music Experience YouTube channel (although I modified it a little):

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 sing or dance. It took me a LOT of time (like, 5 years) to get comfortable with this group and even longer to actually enjoy it. But I started to really dig 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! Plus they're just totally wild for the parachute.

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.

I can't muster up a "What worked best" and "What worked least" for this post. Musical Kids always feels like a success for me and racking my brain to come up with a "worked least" just seems pointlessly negative.

Anyway, I'm going to sort of sign off here for the next 2-3 months. I'll be back at work and back to blog posts in no time, but for the next bunch of weeks, it's time for me to have a baby and love a baby. <3

Friday, September 30, 2016

Books n Play for Pre-K 9/28/16

I haven't written about a session of Books n Play for Pre-K in SO long, and since this week's class was my last one for a while, I decided that it was time for a post.

I've written about this program many times in the past, but I've never blogged about my dinosaurs theme before! Coincidentally, this week's theme was just that... dinosaurs! A real crowd-pleaser, I must say. My group was small--only six kids--but they were a really great, attentive, and rule-following six kids (unlike how they were the last time I blogged about Books n Play for Pre-K), so I was happy!

As usual, I opened the program with our Hello Song (still, as always, A New Way to Say Hello by Big Jeff), and then I moved on to books and songs. The first book I read was The Super Hungry Dinosaur by Martin Waddell (which I read with a raspy, throat-hurty dinosaur voice, obviously), and then Dini Dinosaur by Karen Beaumont. The kids liked both, definitely, but I'd actually go as far as to say that they loved The Super Hungry Dinosaur. The whole room was completely attentive as I read it, totally engaged!

Then we sang a song that I found online called All Around the Swamp. Basically it's a dinosaurs version of Wheels on the Bus. I modified it a tiny bit and this is what we wound up singing:

The Pteranodon's wings went FLAP, FLAP, FLAP… All around the swamp.
The Tyrannosaurus Rex said GRRR, GRRR, GRRR… All around the swamp.
The Triceratops’s horns went POKE, POKE, POKE… All around the swamp.
The Stegosaurus tail went SPIKE, SPIKE, SPIKE… All around the swamp.

The kids were very eager to move onto our crafts and play time. I had a lot of good stuff for them this week, if I do say so myself. As usual, this part of the program lasted for about 20-25-minutes. Here's what I had out:

The craft table:

1. "Fossil" making (aka play dough and a bunch of shells) *
2. Construction paper, crayons, and colorful, foam dinosaur stickers to make a prehistoric scene (see picture below)
3. Stuff to make the Stegosaurus Puppet from this set of free printable dinosaur puppets on PagingSuperMom.com.
4. Trace a Dino Footprint free printable, also from PagingSuperMom.com

And here's what was at the toy table:

1. Sand box and dinosaur fossils to dig up**
2. Dinosaur puzzles
3. Dinosaur "eggs" + matching sheets and crayons ***
4. Dinosaur bones kit + matching and measuring cards ****

* Fossil making with play dough and shells is one of my favorite prehistoric activities. It's a true process over product kind of craft and I like how it's just totally different from the usual coloring or drawing. For this, all I put out were shells, play dough, and paper plates (which you don't really even need if your tables are covered). It's pretty self-explanatory, I guess:

The kids liked this and I think the little siblings might have liked it even more. Plus, it's a good sensory activity!

** I've used the sandbox (and other sensory bins) a bunch of times before in Books n Play for Pre-K and usually, the whole program basically revolves completely around it. Like, the kids eye it before the play time starts and pretty much have to be peeled away from it after it ends. Thank goodness we have covers for these bins or I would have no control at all in the room. Here is some quality dino diggin':

Coupled with the sandbox, I used this Dino-Dig Excavation Kit from Lakeshore Learning. Because our sandbox isn't exactly huge (and neither was our group of kids), I only buried 8 dinosaur skeletons for the kids to dig up and, since they're so young, I didn't even bother with the paint brushes.

*** The dinosaur “eggs” I had are a total mystery to me. I seriously have no idea how they were made (or why they smell kind of funny), but I got them on loan from our county library system and they're really cool! Basically, they're colorful plastic dinosaurs living inside Easter egg-sized, clear plastic homes, with a texture similar to that of an un-started bar of soap. To go with them, I made some match-up sheets to encourage the kids to examine the eggs and play with them a little. I think it worked pretty well, although only one or two kids wound up doing it.

Some "egg-xamining" in action:

**** The dinosaur bones kit + matching and measuring cards were also a loan from our county library system. They're super-cool, but didn't get a ton of attention during the program (but, to be fair, they were competing with a sand box). Basically I received a canvas bag filled with pretty realistic-seeming (both in weight and in texture) dinosaur bones and some cool cards to match them up with to make different dino parts or measure the different bones. STEM central.

At the end of play/craft time, I wrapped up with one more book: Dinosaur Vs. The Library by Bob Shea, which went over ALMOST as well as The Super Hungry Dinosaur, but nottttt quite.

What worked least: I don't know if there was really anything in this program that I'd say "didn't work", per-say. It was really a great group! However, I think for the amount of time and brain-power that I spent trying to find and learn All Around the Swamp, it wasn't super-appreciated. Mostly the kids were ready to move on to the toys and crafts at this point. But now that it's in my repertoire, I'm happy to have it. So no big deal!

What worked best: The Super Hungry Dinosaur by Martin Waddell was SUCH a hit! I highly recommend it for the ages 3-5 crowd! They seriously adored it.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Back(packs) to School

A few weeks ago (before school actually started), I did a program called "Back(packs) to School." There's not a lot to say about; it almost isn't even worth a blog post... except that despite how completely simple the whole thing was, it went really, really well!

This was for kids entering grades 1 through 5, and the books I picked were PERFECT (if I do say so myself). I read two of them: Frankie Stein Starts School by Lola M. Schaefer (a story about fitting in but from a cool, kind of gothy, monster perspective) and Jake Starts School by Michael Wright (a story about first day jitters with super funky illustrations and, BONUS!, it also includes a fart).

The kids seriously loved both books. They didn't even try acting bored to be cool (which at least a few kids usually do in this age group), but fully embraced the storytime! It was awesome.

Then we moved on to the craft: decorating canvas backpacks (these, from Oriental Trading) with fabric markers. Simple, no frills, and a crowd-pleaser!

Here are a few of the finished products:

Aaaaand the last finished product pictures I want to share can be seen at the top of the post. I did take a picture of this sweet kid (who also has a sweet family) solo-- but then he specifically requested a selfie with me. And even though I am 8-months pregnant and haven't seen a picture of myself that I've liked since Valentine's Day, I had no choice but to oblige. How do you say no to a selfie like the ones above?

What worked least: Nothin'. This was easy to do, easy to set-up, and the kids genuinely had a great time! I always worry that I'm going to have lots of clothing disasters when I use fabric markers, but with a steady record of firm, pre-craft warnings under my belt, so far so good. Hopefully I didn't just jinx it!

What worked best: Again, this program was so simple that there weren't a ton of elements that could go wrong. The books worked and the craft worked! A+ for Back(packs) to School!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Andy Warhol Paintings

Andy Warhol Paintings were a fun idea that came from (1) me having leftover canvases (these from Oriental Trading) after my Tape Resist Paintings back in April, and (2) seeing that Andy Warhol's birthday was August 6th and wanting to do a program to (at least kind of) commemorate it.

I went for a classic Andy Warhol style painting with the school-age crowd. See my sample above.

But, before the kids got started on the craft, I showed them a few of Andy Warhol's famous pieces so they could be at least somewhat familiar with his art-style, since it was the inspiration for what they'd be making that day. I showed them: 100 Cans (Just a selection of these. Let's be reasonable.), Marylin Diptych, Ten Foot Flowers series, S&H Green Stamps, Banana, and Eight Elvises. You can download a PDF of my print out of those pieces here!

Then we got started on the craft! I had pre-selected 10 picture options that I thought the kids would maybe want to trace, and measured them out so that 4 would fit on a canvas. Additionally, I put out blank squares that were also the correct size so that, if they wanted, the kids could draw their own picture instead.

Based on my experience with using the cat for my sample, I advised the kids to stick to some of the simpler pictures so things wouldn't get too yucky when we moved on to the paint. Perhaps the snake? Pretzel? Flower? Realistically, the hot commodities of the hour were the snake, dog, sun, and pineapple. And nobody chose to draw their own picture!

I told them to first divide their canvas into 4 sections (by tracing the side of the pre-cut squares). Then they had to hold their canvases up to the light with their pictures underneath, and trace the square once in each section of the canvas--a not-so-easy task, it turned out!

Once they finished tracing, it was time to paint! I had them go over their outlines in black paint first:

Then add color...

Everyone got pretty creative and each painting truly looked unique!

The one thing I wish I could have changed was the fact that there wasn't a lot of paint drying time. It's a lot easier to color in a black-painted line, when the black paint isn't still wet and yucky. But we only had an hour, so what can you do?

Here are two of the finished products:

Pretty good despite a few black smudges, huh?

What worked least: The tracing was hard and, unfortunately, the kids didn't have the same kind of patience that I (an adult) had. So it was frustrating for them. But I think it helped that I reassured them that the drawing was the worst part and, in the end, I think the finished products were totally worth it.

Also the black paint thing.

What worked best: I feel like this craft really let the kids be creative while not being a total free-for-all. They got to pick pictures, pick colors, and use several different types of art supplies. Plus real canvases! And even though my group was a little on the small side, I definitely had a handful of kiddos who really got something out of this program.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

My First Story Time and Stop In Stories

My First Story Time and Stop In Stories are two peas in a pod, two of a kind, a perfect pair. In fact, they are more or less the same exact program with a few small differences:

1. Stop In Stories is a summer-only program. My First Story Time is all year long.
2. Stop In Stories has no registration. My First Story Time does (and is, specifically, for one and two-year-olds).
3. Stop In Stories is at our Main branch. My First Story Time is at our Station branch.

Other than that, the actual flow of these two programs is identical. And I have to say, I've really come to love this simple, no-frills storytime. It's a real "less is more" kind of program, covering lots of early literacy skills without a lot of mess, set-up, or supplies.

Basically each week consists of books (four or five), songs (three or four), at least one prop (scarves, shakers, drums, or the parachute), and a valiant effort to always include at least one puppet.

For a complete list of my favorite books for this age group, view my "Baby Time" list on the Recommended Storytime Books by Topic page. I try to (but don't always) update it every time I use a new book with the 1-2-year-old crowd.

Here's some scarf fun that we had at My First Story Time around May/June:

My top five favorite My First Story Time/Stop In Stories books are:

Cat's Colors by Jane Cabrera
Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell
Freight Train by Donald Crews
Jump! by Scott M. Fischer
Baby Parade by Rebecca O'Connell

Again, for a complete list of my favorite books for this age group, view my "Baby Time" list on the Recommended Storytime Books by Topic page!

My top five favorite My First Story Time/Stop In Stories songs are (red = ipodblue = sing)*:

The Scarf is on My Head (scarves) **
Popcorn Kernals (scarves) **
Elevator Song by Mary Lee Sunseri (lap song)
I Know a Chicken by Laurie Berkner (shakers + chicken puppet)
Old MacDonald (with 5 or 6 animal puppets)

* This list does not include any parachute songs (despite my love of the parachute)! I have a list of my top five parachute songs at the end of this post!

** The handout for The Scarf is On My Head & Popcorn Kernels can be downloaded here. The Scarf is On My Head goes to the tune of The Farmer in the Dell and is possibly the reigning favorite scarf song. Popcorn Kernels goes to the tune of Frère Jacques and, for this one, we start out by waving our scarves over our heads, then crumpling them into balls in our hands (the pot), then we shake them up in their crumpled balls, and then toss them up in the air for them to "pop." It's fun. I've done a handful of different scarf songs with this age group but these two seem to stand out as the overall favorites.

What works least: I've learned over time that you can't come back from the parachute. It excites the kids so much that if you try to do something like read a book after it, you might as well just sit and silently read to yourself. It doesn't work. It's been a long time since I have even attempted anything post-parachute--I've learned my lesson--but unfortunately, sometimes this problem happens when books follow any song. Or even sometimes when they don't. Yet, you need songs to break up the books and hold the kids attention! It's a catch 22, I guess, but it's to be expected. I try really, really hard to pick easy and/or interactive books to immediately follow songs and that definitely helps ease them back into listening mode.

What works best: The parachute. Like I said, nothing can come back from it because it's really always such a success. In fact, here is a BONUS list of my top five favorite (and most-used) parachute songs, not only from My First Story Time and Stop In Stories, but also from Musical Kids (red = ipodblue = sing):

Thunder & Lightening *
These Are The Colors Over You **
Slow and Fast by Hap Palmer 
Let's Go Riding in an Elevator ***
Wheels on the Bus ****

Thunder & Lightening is a short parachute song to the tune of The More We Get Together. We start out by shaking the parachute low and fast for the first verse, then lift up high for the second. It goes like this: 

There's thunder and lightening and wind and rain,
There's thunder and lightening and wind and rain,
Come under my umbrella, umbrella, umbrella,
Come under my umbrella, it's starting to storm.

** These are the Colors Over You, thanks (as usual) to Jbrary, is a nice, calm, song, perfect for the smallest babies. Here's how it goes:

*** This is Let's Go Riding in an Elevator, again, thanks to Jbrary:

I sing this a lot slower for suspense. Then I have the kids go under the parachute as the floors move up higher and it works really, really well. They love it!

**** Wheels on the Bus is an on-top-of-the-'chute song. I have all the kids sit down flat in the middle of the parachute. There are usually 1 or 2 kids who are either afraid of this or who would just prefer to stand outside the parachute with the grown ups, but the majority of the group likes this part the best of all! We do three verses: 

1. The wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round
2. The wipers on the bus go swish swish swish
3. The doors on the bus go open and shut

When the kids are all seated in the middle, the grown ups pull up from the parachute's handles and we all walk around in a circle, giving the kids a ride. We do this for the first verse (the wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round). Then, for the second verse, the adults "swish" the parachute around the kids as we sing. For the third verse, we lift the parachute up around the kids like a big barrier and then, on the word "shut" we snap the barrier down, basically creating a little peek-a-boo game. Last, we sing verse #1 again, walking in the opposite direction from the we did the first time. This works well for babies (6 months and older) as well as the 3-5's crowd!

There are a bunch of others that I use frequently (take a look through some of my Musical Kids posts for more ideas!), but these five are, for sure, my favorites!

Happy story time-ing!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Gravity Painting

Inspired by this way nicer version of gravity painting (care of Let The Wild Rumpus Start: Adventures of a Children's Librarian) that I saw on Storytime Underground's Facebook, I expanded the idea and did my own kind of Jackson Pollock-y art with the kids last week. This was for those entering grades K-2.

I had two different kinds of "gravity painting" for the kids to try. I'd planned on first telling them all about Jackson Pollock, even brought in books to show them them pictures of his work, but I wound up diving right in and skipping the lecture part all together. It just didn't feel right. Anyway, here are the crafts:

Gravity Painting #1

For Gravity Painting #1, I used liquid watercolor, these plastic paint pipettes from S&S, and watercolor paper taped (with painters tape) to the bottom of tables. When the kids came in the room, I asked them to each sit/kneel/stand on the floor (which was covered with butcher paper in preparation for massive drips) in front of a sheet of watercolor paper. I showed them how to use the pipettes--a not-too-difficult-task that they got the hang of immediately--then they started to drip paint down their sheets of paper, letting it make crazy lines and then pool into the paper on the floor. It was easy, but cool! The kids were way more free and uninhibited with this than I was when I made my sample. They totally just kinda felt it! Here are some action shots:

Cool, right? I only wish I didn't run out of watercolor so quickly. I failed to account for the fact that a lot of it would wind up spilled over on the table because, well, these are kids we're talking about. Also, it was messy. I'm not a total dummy, but I hadn't expected this craft to get as messy as it did. I'm talking paint on the walls, paint on the floors, paint on faces, and paint in hair. PAINT EVERYWHERE. It was a lot of paint. And a lot of spills. 

But I guess that means they had a good time? Here are some awesome finished products:


Gravity Painting #2

For Gravity Painting #2, we used pieces of twisted paper cord from Paper Mart, dipped into paint (washable tempra), and dragged/splattered across black construction paper with no rhyme or reason. Some kids got really into it. Most kids wound up just straight up using their hands, like creative little messy geniuses. It's amazing how free and artistic kids can get. Why can't I just be a kid? No inhibitions. Look at them go:

What worked least: The mess--so much mess. I actually felt a lot of guilt sending the kids home looking how they did, all covered in paint. I assured the parents that everything was washable and all of them seemed understanding, but still, those kids came in the room clean and left dirty, and I felt bad. And that's not to mention the straight up destruction of the room. Some of the wall paint can be seen in the photo above. Look around head-height on both the left and the right of the artist. My coworkers totally loved this, especially the Maintenance Department.

What worked best: I think I gave the kids a place where they could freely make abstract art without rules or restrictions. And I think for many of the kids, it really filled something in them that may not have otherwise gotten filled. Also these paintings are COOL. I even like my own, lame, adult ones!

Yay, gravity!