Wednesday, March 30, 2016

An Egg Hunt 'Round the Depatrment

I have been meaning to do this for years and, for some reason, I always seem to forget until, like, the day before Easter. But not this year! I planned an egg hunt around the Youth Services Department, ongoing for the month of March... and people really liked it!

Figuring out the logistics took a bit of time. I didn't want to have to continue to re-hide the eggs every time someone did the egg hunt. So I decided on paper eggs, taped up around the room. I was trying to work out something with hints and clues and then, finally I just thought: No, keep it simple, just go for the old school hunt.

No hints, no clues, just good ol' lookin' around. Here is what our sign looked like:

Making a "Family Egg Hunt" was a little trickier than you might think. Three-year-olds and twelve-year-olds have very different finding-things abilities and I wanted to accommodate all ages, having it be challenging yet doable for everyone. No easy task! I wound up making some eggs easy to find, some eggs hard to find, and hoping for the best.
The day after the egg hunt's debut, the consensus from my coworkers was that it was "too hard." But I disagreed. I was happy with it. In fact, I wanted it to be a challenge, wanted it to take a little while. So I kept it like it was. There were four eggs that were easy-ish to find and four eggs that were trickier. To make the whole thing a little easier (a compromise on my part, but I'm glad I did it), after trying it out a few days, we added bunny hints.*

* The bunny hints are easier-to-find, strategically placed pictures of bunnies that point to harder-to-find eggs. Here's an example:

Not too tricky to find this bunny at the end of the shelf of books.
A bit trickier is the under-shelf egg that the bunny points to.

The bunny hints were used for the 4 trickier-to-find eggs (even though one of them was only moderately tricky) and we didn't outright tell the kids about this unless they asked for a hint. If they got stuck, telling them about the bunnies was often the first clue that we gave. But a good handful of egg hunters figured out the bunny thing all on their own, which was really cool!

Then, if (aka, "when") the kids found all 8 eggs, they got to pick a prize from the prize basket:

We were able to use up an assortment of leftover things here, which is always wonderful. There were dinosaur eggs, wind-up robots, 3D geometric puzzles, owl stampers, pirate bouncy balls, atomic bouncy balls, and globe keychains. A nice selection, I must say!

What worked least: Before the bunny hints, the hunt was a little hard. Once the bunny hints made their appearance, the hunt got a little easier and more appropriate for younger searchers. BUT sometimes the bunnies would fall down. We were pretty good about making sure we always replenished them, but, at times, there would be one down, and this actually made the eggs that the bunnies were supposed to point to, even harder to find because people assumed, no bunny--no egg. As the month went on, we all got a little more neurotic about making sure the bunnies were always properly taped up.

What worked best: I actually feel like the difficultly level made this super fun for everybody! We had a great turn out, approximately 160 hunters, and I feel really proud of how well-taken-advantage-of my simple little egg hunt was! It was such a success that I'll be doing a "sports ball hunt" (to take advantage of this summer's reading club theme) from June through August!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Tablet Tales (+ Amateur App Reviews)

This program was inspired by Nicole, my friend and fellow librarian. We ran into each other at the doctor's office one afternoon and, obviously, like everyone does, started discussing library program ideas. In our conversation, she mentioned doing a program called Tablet Tales at her library and for me, that got the wheels turning. I wanted to a program called Tablet Tales. (I've been on an alliteration kick.)

Nicole told me that for her Tablet Tales, she was planning to go through a few apps with the kids, and then, for the second half of the program, to pass out her library's iPads and Nexus 7 tablets for the families to mess around with. Her library has a whole slue of tablets for patron use... but ours doesn't. So I needed an alternative plan.

My program description read:

Did you know that there are tons of fun picture book apps? Let's enjoy "reading a few apps" together and then make a simple craft related to one of them.

So first I picked two apps. I decided on Dear Zoo and Lars and Friends. Then, instead of passing out iPads and Nexus 7s, I had the kids make a Dear Zoo craft, which I took (and modified) from Kiz Club. Maybe not as cool as tablets, but they had fun anyway!

I set up the proxima and had the iPad projected on the wall. The apps went over well!  I did Dear Zoo first, assuming (correctly) that many of the kids already knew the story. I selected the option to read the story myself, then had the kids stand up and take turns prodding the iPad, opening the different packages and making the animals move around and make noises. For this app, I probably could have done without the proxima altogether, since most of the group was focused on the actual iPad in my hand. But it was nice to have it up on the wall anyway. And I did wind up using it a lot for Lars and Friends.

Cute Dear Zoo anecdote: A bunch of the kids knew the story so well that they were able to fill in things like "but he was too grumpy!" and "but he was too scary!" before I even read the words. This was a group of true Dear Zoo fans (including the librarian)!

The app itself has 3 choices when you first open it up: "Read the Book" (that's what I did), "Read to Me," and "Picture Pairs." In "Read the Book" and "Read to Me" (both following the the story, Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell), the animals all make noise and move around a little when touched--which is a cute interactive feature that the kids really seemed to like. In the last scene (the one with the puppy), you get to throw a little red ball and play fetch with the dog. Super cute. The "Picture Pairs" selection brings you to a simple matching game with the animals from the book, which can also be adjusted to "Words and Pictures," where you make matching phrases like "Too Jumpy!" to the monkey picture or "Too Grumpy" to the camel.

Overall, it's a cute app and a great companion to the actual book BUT it's kinda glitchy! Sometimes you get trapped! Two examples: At the end of the story, when you're brought to the game of fetch, sometimes you can't get out. It's just an endless fetch game. You can't even read on to get to the last passage of the book ("He was perfect! I kept him."), because it happens after fetch. Also glitchy--after winning the "Picture Pairs" game, a cute "Congratulations!" screen pops up, but that one's another trap. Neither glitch makes the app unusable, since both occur at (at least somewhat) natural endings, but they're annoying none the less.

Also, is this app no longer available? Does anyone know? I can't find it in the app store anymore.

Anyway, then we moved on to Lars and Friends. I told the group to sit down and I did all the "iPadding" myself this time. They could just relax and enjoy the story. The app ($2.99 on iTunes) has 4 sections: "Storybook," "Puzzles," "Learn," and "Info" (which has to be unlocked by an adult and is basically just the credits).

I used "Storybook" which defaults to letting you read the story yourself but also has a little icon you can press to have it read for you. Each page is interactive, but only slightly. For the purposes of storytime, it was the perfect amount of interaction. There was movement on each page, but not so much that detracted from the story or was so much that the kids wanted to press the iPad themselves.

In the story, Lars, a horse, loves to run around. One day, the other horses are too tired to run with him and Lars has to find other things to do. So he winds up hanging out with a bunch of other different animals. The cool and different thing about Lars and Friends, is that the story focuses on what these different groups of animals are called. Some examples: a school of fish, a mob of kangaroos, a memory of elephants, a tower of giraffes, and a knot of frogs. It's cool and, yay, educational! I'm considering using this app again for future programs, maybe Books n Play for Pre-K?

The other usable sections of the app, "Puzzles," and "Learn" provide simple and educational activities. I didn't use "Puzzles" in my program (but it's exactly what it sounds like: animal puzzles, varying in their degree of difficulty) but I did use "Learn" a little after I finished the story. This section goes through 48 different kids of animals and what their "group" is called. You click the picture of the animal and it says something like, "A drove of goats," or "A mess of iguanas." This is what the screen looks like. There are 2 additional similar screens you can arrow through:

The kids liked touching the pictures and hearing the words, but I'm not sure they cared (or were even old enough to care) about what the app was actually saying. It was pretty clear by the speed at which they were pressing things that they just liked the whole action/reaction thing and not the actual, name-learning element. Eh. As long as their smiling and enjoying, I guess? Maybe a little education subtly crept in there.

Last, we moved on to the craft: Make-Your-Own Dear Zoo Books (modified from these Kiz Club printables). I pre-made each child an 8-page book as well as a pile of boxes/doors/packages printed on cardstock. Then the kids were able to color all the parts and then assemble their books with tape.

You can download the 8-page Make-Your-Own Dear Zoo book here!

You can download the pictures of boxes/doors/packages here!

What worked least: I wasn't sure how I was going to do this until I saw the group I had. Whether or not I would let the kids interact directly with the iPad would have a lot to do with the number of kids I had and also their personalities. I also wasn't sure where I was going to have them sit. Or stand. I wanted them to be able to see the apps projected on the wall, but I also wanted them within arms length of the iPad so they could be part of the interaction. Luckily, when the kids arrived, they were all kids that I knew. I positioned them next to me, sitting as I stood, facing the wall with the projected image. They were a really well-behaved group who, for the most part, understood the concept of taking turns and this helped me a lot. I probably could have looked a little more prepared upon their arrival, but really, I just didn't know how it was all going to go down until I saw who I had! It's ok. It all worked out.

What else was a little awkward: The craft was really time consuming. This program was 30-minutes long and I did the apps for 15-minutes and the craft for 15-minutes (which is what I'd planned). But nobody finished their craft in 15-minutes. Everyone wound up staying late. I think if I'd made the program 45-minutes long instead, I would have eliminated some rushy, guilty type feelings at the very end.

What was the biggest challenge: Picking two apps was nothing. I could have picked 10! But having to come up with an app-related THAT was a challenge. I'd love to do a Tablet Tales program again, especially since the apps were the highlight of the program, but there's just no way kids can sit for 30-minutes of only stories, even if they are interactive, and coming up with a craft was a major challenge for me. Instead though, I want to really make it a point to use more apps in other programs like Books n Play for Pre-K, because sometimes they're just so good!

What worked best: The apps! The kids liked interacting with the iPad a lot and I think it's always fun to see something projected big on the wall. Even when I did Lars and Friends, where the kids didn't directly interact until we did the "Learn" section at the end, they still enjoyed hearing the story and seeing the animals come to life as I read. Like a magic, animated picture book. It was really cool! Plus, I had some moms ask me about the apps, which is always a good sign. Yay!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Musical Kids (for Ages 3-5) 3/18/16

It's been several months since I've blogged about my ongoing Musical Kids program. This is one of my favorite programs (if not my all time favorite one), so I felt like another post was overdue.

This reoccurring program is done in three 30-minute sessions per week: 6-16 months at 10:00, 17-35 months at 10:45, and 3-5 years at 11:30, for either 3 or 4 weeks in a row. In this case, it was 4-weeks in a row. All of the sessions are very well-attended, with a core group of wonderful regulars who I've been getting to watch grow up. Today, specifically, every class was amazing! It must be the opposite of a full moon (a new moon?) out. It all just worked! This time, I am blogging about my oldest crew, the 3-5-year-olds, which was also my smallest group of the day.

Here's my playlist (red = ipod, blue = sing):

1. A New Way to Say Hello by Big Jeff
2. Shake Your Shakers (shakers) *
3. I Know a Chicken by Laurie Berkner (shakers + chicken puppet)
4. The Scarf is On My Head (scarves + handouts) **
5. Popcorn Kernels (scarves + handouts) **
6. B-I-N-G-O by Lynn Kleiner (circle dance) ***
7. My Grandfather Clock by Bob McGrath (rhythm sticks)
8. Bread & Butter (rhythm sticks) ****
9. No More Monkeys by Asheba (drums)
10. Rocketship Run by Laurie Berkner (rockets + handouts) #
11. Thunder & Lightening (parachute) ##
12. Slow and Fast by Hap Palmer (parachute + beach balls)
13. Merry-Go-Round by Wee Sing (parachute) x2 ###
14. Blow a Kiss by Laurie Berkner

* Shake Your Shakers is an easy song to sing. It's to the tune of London Bridges and goes like this:

Shake your shakers, shake, shake, shake
Shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
Shake your shakers, shake, shake, shake
Shake your shakers
Shake your shakers high, high, high
high, high, high, high, high, high
Shake your shakers, high, high, high
Shake your shakers
Shake your shakers low, low, low
low, low, low, low, low, low
Shake your shakers low, low, low
Shake your shakers
Shake your shakers, shake, shake, shake
Shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
Shake your shakers, shake, shake, shake
Shake your shakers

If it's not totally obvious, we hold the shakers up high in the air for "high, high, high," and down by the ground for "low, low, low." Easy peasy! Here's a picture of high, high, high:

** 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 all 3 age groups but these two seem to stand out as the overall favorites. It also seems to work out that every time I decide to mix it up and do something different with the scarves, I hear one kid ask their mom if we're going to do The Scarf is On My Head and then feel bad that we aren't. Variety--can't live with it, can't live without it!

*** B-I-N-G-O is one of my very favorites. I picked it out mainly to be a song to use with my first group (the 6-16-month-olds) but then realized that it's actually fun for all ages! I first saw it on Lynn Kleiner's DVD that came with this instrument kit but there's no video for it online! I've scoured and scoured and it's just not out there. SO. Just the song is on YouTube (below), and I will do my best to explain the actions:

For the verse part, everyone marches around in a circle. Then, at the chorus, everyone stops marching and faces inward. For the letters B, I, N, and G we all take a step in, one letter at a time, so by the time we're at G, everyone is really close together. Then, for O, everyone runs back and the circle gets big again. When we're in the middle, everyone has a good giggle at how close and silly we all are. (When I do this with babies, the parents hold their little ones and, when we get to the middle of the circle, it's a great chance for the babies to do some facial recognition). If you can visualize how this works, I totally recommend it with all ages!

**** Bread & Butter is a Jbrary favorite of mine. It can be seen below:

For this one, I did loud, soft, fast, slow, and nicely, in that order. It was wonderfully quiet during "soft," I have to say.

# I write about Rocketship Run every time I blog about my middle or oldest Musical Kids group. It's an absolute essential. I can't do this class without it. The kids are obsessed with it. When we do this song, I hand out rockets-on-sticks for them to zoom around with, and then also, I hold up signs for all the places we "travel" to. Here is a picture of my gear:

When I hold up a given sign, the kiddos all run up and touch their rocket to the sign, like they're really "going" to the sun/moon/etc. I'VE NEVER TOLD THEM TO DO THIS, and yet every week, it happens. It's so funny! They totally invented it and it's continued on from week-to-week and from class-to-class. Additionally, this song always gets the loudest end-of-song cheer from both the children and the adults. A++!

## 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.

### Like Rocketship Run, Merry-Go-Round has become an essential part of my Musical Kids repertoire for the oldest group. For this, we lay the parachute down flat on the ground and the kids crawl into the middle and sit down flat. 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! When the kids are all in 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. I play the song twice (it's only 28-seconds long) and we change directions for the second time around. Here they are on their ride (apologies for all the backs):

What worked least: Two weeks ago, all three Musical Kids classes were weird and off-feeling. I like to blame things on the phases of the moon, but honestly, I was probably just tired or stressed or sad or in a brain fog or something. Everything about the classes that week was just a little not-quite-right... culminating with me bumping into a 2-year-old and accidentally knocking her down (she didn't cry and was totally fine, but STILL). So, while not every single moment of every single Musical Kids class is a perfect success, today's class totally was. Additionally, sometimes when I have a group on the smaller side (8 kids in total for this one), it loses some of it's pep but not today! Nope! The pep was in full swing! I'm proud and happy to blog about this one. This was my A-Game Musical Kids.

What worked best: I always wind up answering this the same way-- Rocketship Run. However, while Rocketship Run was totally its usual awesome self, I felt like it didn't compete with the giggles that came with the parachute this time. So, to change things up for once....what worked best was the parachute! So much cute laughter! Plus I had my first younger sibling join in for the Merry-Go-Round song (pictured above in navy blue) and she quite enjoyed it!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Leap Day

If you haven't figured it out yet, I have a thing for obscure, under-celebrated holidays, and Leap Day is no exception. Even as an adult (who just celebrated her 8th Leap Day, by the way), I still find it sort of exciting when February 29th rolls around.

As a kid, I read an article in American Girl Magazine that showed pictures of different girls born on February 29th. For each girl, it would list her name, her age (say, 12-years-old), and then state that she was just celebrating her third birthday. Or 8-years-old and just celebrating her second birthday. It boggled my mind. It was SO COOL. I was oddly jealous and insanely fascinated.

Anyway, yesterday's program was for pre-schoolers. And, unfortunately, the concept of Leap Day was completely over their heads. I was able to explain that the date, February 29th, happens only once every four years so it's a special day, but that's about where the explanation ended. So to celebrate Leap Day, I went for the frog angle instead. Because frogs leap!

While, a program about frogs for pre-schoolers may not be quite as impactful as that American Girl Magazine article was for little me, I still think it's fun (and possibly important?) to acknowledge this special day.

So. Leap Day!

I started with a little storytime. First I read The Wide-Mouthed Frog by Keith Faulkner, then we sang Five Green & Speckled Frogs (with the monkey mitt) and last, I read Big Frog Can't Fit In by Mo Willems. I had such a small group that the storytime part of the program lacked the normal "pep" that I'm used to, but I think that deep down, the kids liked the books.

Anyway, then we moved onto the activites. I had two crafts, plus a little game.

The first (and main) craft was a frog mask with a red, blow-out tongue. I am super extra proud of this craft because I designed it completely myself and cut all the pieces out on our new Cricut machine.

The different pieces (pictured below) are: One really large head piece, two big green eye circles, two medium-size white eye circles, two really teeny black eye circles, and a red blow-out (which, no, I did not make on the Cricut but ordered from Amazon).


It's a pretty simple craft. You layer the eye circles from biggest to smallest (black on top), then glue them to the top of the frog's head, above the nose holes (which is where the kids peek out of). Stick the red blow-out through the little hole at the bottom of the head and voila! A frog face! I also put out sticks for holding on to and markers for adding smiles and spots.

Once the masks were made, it became quickly apparent that chasing me around with the blow-outs was going to be the next activity of the afternoon. So this is how it feels to be a fly! Here are my attackers, mid-attack: 

Not everyone moved on to the next craft (like I said, chasing me around with the blow-outs was just more appealing), but this was a simple one. I just put out some pre-cut frogs, lily pads, and little pink flowers, some crayons, markers, and glue, and let the kids create a pond scene. Here's one of the nicest ones. Its shy creator chose to stay unpictured.

Last, I had a super-simple game for them. We had a ton of those little plastic jumping frogs lying around from something a while ago, so I painted a paper plate blue to represent a pond, put a piece of masking tape on the table in front of it, and asked the kids if they could leap the frogs into the pond. It may have been too easy for them because they all did it within one or two tries, but eh, it's nice to feel successful, right? Here's the game below:

Then I let them keep the frogs (because we seriously have a TON of the things). The game was fun but short-lived. Like I said, they were really just more into chasing me around with the blow-outs.

What worked least: I had such a small group (three pre-schoolers, three parents, and two younger siblings) that the whole storytime part of the program was just less lively than I'm used to. And nobody sang Five Green & Speckled Frogs with me! I have to admit, I felt kinda dumb singing it totally alone!

What worked best: The blow-outs. I could have just put those out and nothing else and that would have been enough! Chasing me around with giant "tongues" trumped all. It doesn't take much, folks!

So that's it, Leap Day, see you again in 2020.