Tuesday, July 26, 2016

British Party

Last summer, I did a super-fun program called Aussie Taste-Test. The kids loved it, I loved it, and the parents loved it. Basically, it was an all-around win! So I thought that this summer, to piggy-back off it, I'd try a similar British Party! Unfortunately, though, I was not met with the same success.

Here is the craft we did:

It's one of the Queen's royal guards! Thanks, Pinterest!

It's made from old fashioned clothes pins (these from Amazon), clothes pin woodies (these from Amazon), red and black paint, 1.5" black pom-poms (these from Amazon), 1/8" white ribbon, and gold fabric paint (this from Amazon). And I did the eyes in Sharpie.

When the kids first arrived, I told them to paint the bottom half of their clothes pins black and the top half red and then let it sit, with the hopes of giving the paint a chance to dry. Then later on, they could add the details more easily.

Welp, the kids painted super-fast and some actually made the entire thing, despite my instructions and despite how gross and wet the paint was. Off to a good start! By the time we were 10-minutes into the program, everyone was already itching for the next activity. And eyeing the food.

But it wasn't snack time yet! First we had to play "Guess The British Slang," downloadable as a PDF here! This was a PowerPoint presentation I made that consisted of  words like "sausages," "elevator," "sweater," "ice pop," and "flashlight," followed by their English equivalents ("bangers," "lift," "jumper," "ice lolly," and "torch.")

Last year's game of "Guess the Aussie Lingo," downloadable as a PDF here was such a success, I assumed this year's would flow similarly. But it didn't.

I will say that, while this seemed less exciting than last year's equivalent, it was still probably the best part of the program. It was definitely enjoyable and absolutely held the kids' attention. Plus, they did the same funny thing they did last year which was to guess each word by using our word, but saying it with an accent. Example: "Sweatah."

Anyway, it was fun, I just felt like it lacked the overall enthusiasm that last year's Aussie Lingo game had. Maybe I should have started with the snacks.

Once I made sure everyone had clean hands it was time. Finally. On to...

THE SNACKS (aka "sampling of the English sweeties"). Here's what we sampled:

This was fun and, if the kids weren't so sugar-crazed, it would have been the best part of the program for sure. They went absolutely WILD for the Cadbury Fingers--so much so that I actively cut them off even though we still had an unopened box--and they said the Refreshers were too sour, which struck me as odd because I honestly don't feel like they are sour at all. But it was fun and everyone tasted everything.

After the snacks, the kids finished the details of their crafts (ahem, those who hadn't already done so, finished the details of their crafts): the pom-pom hat, the ribbon belt, and the gold, fabric paint buttons. This took about 60-seconds and mostly came out messy.

And then I was fresh out of activities.

I'm usually a better planner than this! I felt mad at myself as things slowly slid to chaos. THANK GOODNESS for Mary, the clerk who stayed in the room with me, who quickly decided we should play "Pin the Pence on the Flag."

If you haven't guessed, this game is Pin the Tail on the Donkey but with an English coin and a Union Jack napkin. Make shift? Yes. Life saver? DEFINITELY. The kids were giggly and surprisingly less cheaty than they usually are with pinning games. It worked! By the end of the game we only had about 10-minutes left in the program and I was perfectly content with letting them scoot out a bit early.


What worked least: The craft. I think it just required too much meticulousness, a trait that kids in grades 1-5 just don't yet possess. And it was this lack of meticulousness that made them rush through the craft and got my timing all wonky.

What else worked least: I feel sort of embarrassed that I did such a bad job with timing in this program (although we're blaming the kids for that, right?). I'm usually a really good planner with these things but I just did NOT prepare enough stuff to occupy an hour of time. And it totally showed.

What worked best: The PowerPoint game of "Guess The British Slang," though even that wasn't as fun as Guess the Aussie Slang last year.

What worked too well: The food. Man. It was ALL about the food.

And on that note...you win some, you lose some right?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Campfire Stories

What's better than camping as a kid? The smell of the fire, eating totally different food, s'mores, sleeping bags, and walking a quarter of a mile to use the bathroom--it's the BEST! (Please note: As an adult, I hate camping and always will).

Last week, I channeled everything I loved about camping as a child and did a program called Campfire Stories! 

I had the lights out as the kids came in the room, and I told them all to sit around the fire with me. They were totally intrigued by this! Why was this thing there? What was it made out of? What is hot? Once they were totally sure it wasn't real fire, they couldn't stop touching it--just because they could!

While seated nicely around the fire, I conducted a camping-themed storytime. First I read Curious George Goes Camping by Margret and H.A. Rey, which may have been a little too long. For this very reason, it was my first time doing a Curious George book in storytime, but I think it at least partially worked. Also, who even cared what I was reading with that AWESOME FIRE in the middle of the circle?

After Curious George, I introduced my childhood favorite camp song: Down By the Bay. I just loved this one in pre-school. I made a simple Down By the Bay felt board (using photo copies from this Raffi book) many years ago and I used the pieces from it as we sang. Have you ever seen a whale with a polka dot tale?

Last, I read Scare a Bear by Kathy-jo Wargin, which again, I think just couldn't compete with the fire! What can ya do?

Then it was (finally) s'mores time:

I used marshmallow fluff instead of marshmallows so the s'more would stay together without having to deal with any kind of cooking. It worked well and the kids were definitely not shy about taking seconds and thirds. And there were a lot of marshmallow fluffy faces by the end of the program.

Last, we did our craft. I'm always very self-conscious when I do just an Oriental Trading craft. I'm afraid it makes me look lazy but this one was really cute and actually fun to do:

It can be found here, from Oriental Trading. It's actually a little complicated! First you have to spread a glue/water mixture (not included) over the clear, fire-shaped "belly" of the thing. Then you place squares of tissue paper wherever you want over the mixture. If the squares come up the edges, you have to cut them neatly(ish) once they're kind of dry enough. Then you glue on the ribbon for hanging and the included foam outline. And last, you add the other foam pieces, the logs and rocks, on top. It's an effort! Here are a couple of samples:

What worked least: I searched really hard for good, camping-themed books and even still, I wasn't wild about my selection. And it seems the kids weren't either. The books were ok, but I could see that as I read, all the kids wanted to do was play with the fire. And some did. 

What worked best: The fire! Hands down! Apparently, the secret to a successful program is a fake fire.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Stuffed Animal Sleepover #4

I'm not sure if Stuffed Animal Sleepovers are old hat by now, but I'm still holding on a little longer. It's a good thing I have been too; I had my biggest turn-out ever last Thursday--for my FOURTH Stuffed Animal Sleepover.

blogged about this program twice before, but it's been a while and, since each Stuffed Animal Sleepover has its own personality (and also because the pictures are SO CUTE), I wanted to write about it again. So. Here I go.

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

As the stuffed animals and their owners arrived, I gave everyone a name tag. I've changed the name tags up a few times over the years but resorted back to my first ever version, mainly because I had a ton leftover and couldn't stand to look at them anymore. I don't often use name tags but they're important for this program so I can (a) know the stuffed animals' names and (b) make sure the right stuffed animals match up with the right kids. This is especially crucial for next-day returns!

Something I did that was new last time (that I repeated this time), was bring in one of my childhood stuffed animals. Last time I took Jelly Beanie (seen below) to the party! He really did a great job. Here he is reading to the other stuffed animals:

Even though Jelly Beanie did great, I decided to spread the wealth a little and bring a different old friend this time around: Simba (from the Lion King) also did a wonderful job!

Once I took the kids back to the program room, I did a regular, simple bedtime-themed storytime. A list of my favorite bedtime-themed books can be found on my Recommended Storytime Books by Topic list.

I started with Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson (as usual), then I sang Five Little Monkeys with the monkey mitt, and then I read Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime by Bob Shea.

After this, 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. Again, this is the same craft I've used for every past Stuffed Animal Sleepover, but it just works! So sue me! I've considered changing it just so repeat program attendees 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 attendees) and it gives them a way to "tuck in" their stuffed their animals before they leave them, which I'm not sure I could do without at this point. Also, it's totally adorable to watch.

I didn't make my own pillow case but, lucky for Simba, Kitty Kitty was kind enough to share her sleeping bag since she's pretty little. The two then became fast friends and I made sure to let Kitty Kitty's mom know how good Kitty Kitty was.

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. The parents always like this part.

Then, when everyone was finished (and when there was about 5-minutes left of the program), we wrapped up with one more book: Tuck Me In by Dean Hacohen. Then I ended by having the group sing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star twice, once normally and once as quietly as possible so the stuffed animals could drift off to sleep. Then the kids kissed their animals goodnight, whispered goodbye to me, and 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. Sometimes matching the sleeping bags isn't so easy so this step can be very critical!

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

First, Simba read the other animals a story (He went to special Stuffed Animals Library School for this).
Then they played cards. Some played Uno.
Next they played computer games. Some played Snoopy and some played Star Wars.
It was 8 against 7 for checkers, but everyone was a good sport.
Everyone cooperated nicely at the Lego table.
Next up, it was puzzle time.
And last, the animals chose books to check out.
I also included individual pictures of each stuffed animal enjoying their book solo (or in some cases, with their sibling):

Thanks to Mary, our clerk who stayed most of the night with me, each stuffed animal got a super-custom-picked book that matched them. 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! 

This means each kid went home with a pile of goodies: their stuffed animal, sleeping bag pillow case, book, name tag, and set of photos from their animal's night out.

Anyway, as usual, the kids liked the print outs, but the parents LOVED the print outs. This has held true every time. In fact, I copied and pasted this exact sentence.

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 method I'd like to add, also, that doing this while 6-months pregnant was even extra awful. I was exhausted and achy. So yes, this was my biggest challenge for sure.

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.