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!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Olympic Training Camp

Following the success of last year's Super Hero Training Camp, my coworker, Corinna, and I decided to do a similar program to correspond with this year's reading club theme (as well as the upcoming Olympic games). It was SO MUCH fun. Presenting... Olympic Training Camp!

We came up with 9 "Olympic type" events:

1. Passing of the Torch (aka Opening Ceremonies)
2. Balance Beam
3. Hurdles
4. Target Practice
5. Long Jump
6. Super Drill
7. Cross Country Skiing
8. Triathlon
9. Passing Out the Medals and Certificates (aka Closing Ceremonies)

While it got a little wild in the room (what can you really expect?), it was a total success. The kid's LOVED this stuff!

First, we gave each kid a score sheet, downloadable here, so we could have them all keep track of their progress. (Even though we gave them all 10's for everything that required judgement and scores like "green" and "orange" for things that required actual aim or agility.) I think the kids may have caught on to the fact that the score sheets were sort of bogus, but they were a fun way to keep track of the events anyway. Plus, I think they contributed to making it feel slightly more like a competition.

Here are more details on each event:

Passing of the Torch

First, we explained the details of the (real Olympic) opening ceremonies a bit to the group. Then we had them run a relay around the room with our homemade Olympic Torch. They got in a line, then one at a time, ran around the perimeter of the room, passing the torch to the next kid as they returned to the start. They got silly and started tossing the torch and we all giggled about throwing fire. Ah, making light of fire... good times, good times.

Here's a close up of the awesome torch we had, thanks to our super-artistic page:

It's made from two toilet paper rolls taped together and construction paper. I really can't comment any further on the making of the torch as our page is more or less a craft wizard.

Balance Beam

Our first "real" event was the balance beam, made from a wood beam taped on each end to a stool. It was kinda wide and really didn't require much balancing skill. In fact, it was the same beam we used last year for our Lava Pit Crossing so, to make things slightly less boring, we told the kids to do a pose when they got to the middle of the beam, and that it was that pose, not their ability to walk across, that they'd be scored on (a 10, of course). This was fun, but I think the kids felt sort of silly doing it. Also, they were all a little nervous about the beam breaking under them--rightly so, probably, though all was fine.


Visually, I think the hurdles were one of the highlights of the program. They just looked irresistible. Look at them set up in all their lime green glory:

They were made with pool noodles, these traffic cones from Oriental Trading, and a fair amount of duct tape. In fact, not only were the noodles duct taped to the cones, but the cones were also duct taped to the floors. We alternated high and low to keep it challenging, but not too challenging.

We let the kids get across however they wanted, either over or under, and we timed them. Then we had them write their times on their score sheets. It was fun and there was justttt the right amount of competition.

Target Practice

This was an easy one for us because we already owned this game from past events. In fact, did you know that both Super Heroes and Olympians train using the same target for practice? True story. The Tar Grip Toss Game is from S&S and can be purchased here.

This was one of the events where we had the kids write a color on their score sheets. I think every one of them scored either "red" or "orange." It was very scientific.

Long Jump

This was the other event where the kids wrote colors on their score sheets. The Long Jump was fun, basically free, only took a few minutes to set up, and was well-liked! Score! We simply used masking tape to make lines (somewhat arbitrarily) on the floor and bam--the Long Jump was born!

Super Drill

The Super Drill was our take on football's Tire Drill and a repeat event from last year. We used pool noodles taped into circles instead of tires so there'd be less height to leap and less chance of injury (also, um, they're cheaper). The kids enjoyed hopping through the circles in different ways, and this year there was an added challenge: the pool noodles weren't all taped to each other. So, as the kids went, some of the noodles sort of shifted or lifted up around them. Lots of giggles! Everyone gets a 10!

Cross Country Skiing

I got the idea for Cross Country Skiing from Mrs. Bretz Music Room blog. I needed one more event and, when I saw this, I knew it was the one. Of course, we changed it a little. I made a bunch of skis pretty easily from oaktag and, once we were in the program, we decided to up the competition and have the kids go two at a time and race each other.

So two raced, then everyone kept racing the winner until we had an overall champion. Here is where everyone's competitive spirits really came out! They had to get across the room, touch the wall, and have both their skis still under their feet--the last proving to be the biggest challenge for these eager beavers. It was a fierce competition and there was even cheering from the sidelines!


Running, biking, and swimming. Those were the events of the triathlon--the last event of the program. First, we had the kids run in place for one minute. Next, we had them get onto their backs and do the bicycle (as seen above) for one minute. Then last, it was time for swimming.

The kids had been eyeing the pool from the second they walked in the room, yet when the time finally came time to use it, everyone was pretty shy and squeamish. We used the kiddie pool that we've had a while. It's the same one we used last year for our Lava Pit Crossing (and used to use for catching rubber ducks at our summer carnival). For the swimming portion of our triathlon, we told the kids to take their shoes off, then walk through the water and also move their arms to pretend that they're swimming. Most of them opted out of the arm part. A few asked if they could leap over the pool (uhhh, no).

This was surprisingly not a huge mess. Here's the event in action:

Passing Out the Medals and Certificates

Upon completion, everyone got one of these medals from Oriental Trading, one of the certificates seen above (both designed and signed by yours truly), a water bottle, and a hearty handshake. Then we took the group picture seen at the top of these post and sent them all on their merry ways! Overall, an absolute success!

What worked least: The overall level of chaos in the room grew and grew throughout the hour, coming to head just before it was time to send the kids home. It was annoying, but also, it's irrational to expect a group of kids this age to be completely calm and quiet when presented with a room of obstacles like pool noodle hurdles, the long jump, and a kiddie pool filled with water. So while it was a little crazier than ideal, it was totally fine. Really, they were pretty good kids.

What worked best: The hurdles and the long jump were probably the two most successful events of the day. Not only were they really visually appealing, but they were the most fun too!

Click here to view all the pictures from this program!