Thursday, May 25, 2017

Share & Play Babies (5/11/17 - 5/25/17)

I had my last session of Share & Play Babies today and I have to say, this was such an enjoyable program to do! It was a new program that I created for babies ages 3-12 months (with ages 3-5 months being a group previously not serviced at our library!). Inspired by all of Sadie's favorite things, this program crammed a LOT of juice into a three 30-minute windows (one per week).

For every single parent/baby pair in the class... this was their first library program. That means that, in the three Wednesdays that I held this program, I reached a total of nineteen new library users! That is SO awesome. So exciting! So important! So much pressure!

Each week, the format of the class was as follows:

1. Open play (with music) + introductions (8-10 minutes)
2. One book read by me (2-3 minutes)
3. One book, passed out as a class set, read individually between parents and babies (2-3 minutes)
4. Simple finger play songs (2-3 minutes)
5. Baby soccer (with music) + clean up toys (5 minutes)
6. Shaker + puppet song (2-3 minutes)
7. Parachute time (5 minutes)
8. Goodbye song (2-3 minutes)

I'll explain all the details below.

1. Open Play: I have done programs involving open play in the past, but have always thrown it in at the end. In the past, it typically felt awkward and forced for me. And it included a lot of me feeling sort of useless, smiling, and only saying things like "Awww, so cute." But after attending a few baby programs with Sadie while on maternity leave, I learned a lot about well done open play. First, I decided that open play works better at the start of the program. This gives everyone a chance to settle in, get comfortable, even come in a few minutes late without too much pressure. Second, I learned that it works well when combined with introductions. This organically opens up the conversation floor a little and is just a good way to get to know who's in the room. Plus, it turns out that chit-chatting with moms during open play is a lot easier when you have your own baby! Who knew?

This was also the first time I ever had the parents do formal introductions of themselves. I'd asked them to tell the group their name, their baby's name, and how old their baby was. As a program attendee (and specifically one who also attended my first baby program just a few months ago), I liked doing this--it made me feel more comfortable. So for this room full of first time program attendees, I included it. I think it worked well and kind of broke up the open play time, without taking the toys away from the babies. I had them do this each week, even if they'd come before, because it's a good little ice breaker and, honestly, we could probably all use the refresher.

Here are how the toys were typically set up before the start of the class:

2. One book read by me: After about 8-10 minutes of open play, each week I read the class a book. I left the toys out too because (a) I'm not really a stickler for making kids (especially babies) pay attention to me, (b) I believe babies can benefit from hearing a book while also playing with or chewing on a toy, and (c) Just why NOT let them play with a toy a little longer if that's what they're currently in the mood to do?

Throughout the three weeks of this class, these are the three books I read:

Baby Parade by Rebecca O'Connell
Charlie Chick by Nick Denchfield
Pete the Cat: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star by James Dean (Please note: This is a lot of singing.)

3. One book, passed out as a class set, read individually between parents and babies: This was an exciting new thing that we haven't done in our library before (but I'd done in the past when working at a different library). In advance, I ordered shiny new class sets of books specifically for this program, inspired by--you guessed it--Sadie's Top 5 Lists! Throughout the three weeks of this class, I had parents share the following books with their babies:

Sneak-a-Peek Colors by Roger Priddy
Toot Toot, Beep Beep by Emma Garcia
Counting Kisses by Karen Katz

Here are a few moms and caregivers sharing Sneak-a-Peek Colors with their little ones:

4. Simple finger play songs: For most of the parents and caregivers in the program, this is was chance to sing some "old favorites" together with their babies. Both repetition for kids and re-teaching parents childhood favorites are always great! However, for a few moms who were from other countries (at least two, maybe three, in my class) this was a chance for them to learn NEW songs--important, almost vital, songs that their kids will be singing for years to come! Here are the songs we wound up covering over the three weeks:

Five Little Monkeys
Itsy Bitsy Spider
She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star *
Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes
Where is Thumbkin

* I had an embarrassing moment here in week 2 of the program, where I started singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star but accidentally did the hand motions for Itsy Bitsy Spider! It called for a hearty do-over! So grateful for the wonderful families that I work with who aren't too judgmental!

5. Baby soccer: This was really fun! It may have been the highlight of the program! I stole the idea for this from a baby program that I attended with Sadie at my local library. For this, I brought out a decent-sized ball (see below), had the parents/caregivers lift their babies by grabbing them under their arms (also see below), and then making the kids "kick" the ball around the circle to each other. It wound up being a really awesome team building activity, working together, and making sure everyone had a chance to play. We did this for about five minutes and I almost felt bad ending it!

6. Shaker + puppet song: This is 5 minutes of programming that I get to borrow directly from Musical Kids. Here are the songs I used each week:

I Know a Chicken by Laurie Berkner (with chicken puppet)
The Owl Song by Playdate (with owl puppet)
This Land is Your Land by Josh Levine (with dog puppet)*

* There's no correlation between dogs and This Land is Your Land. I just needed another song and another puppet and I like both of these.

7. Parachute time: I am a huge fan of parachute time with babies. It always works in Musical Kids. Always. One thing that changed parachute time from how it usually goes in Musical Kids to how it wound up going in Share & Play Babies, was having the foam mat on the floor. Since I had everyone sitting, tightly packed around the foam mat, the parachute wasn't able to extend out to its full diameter, so there were several bunches and folds in the middle. Basically, a lot of extra fabric going on. It didn't really matter, just sort of changed the dynamic from what I am used to.

Here are all the parachute songs I wound up using throughout the three-week-class. I'll write out all these rhymes/chants at the end of the post!:

The Colors Over You
In and Out the Window
The Wheels on the Bus
Come Under My Umbrella
If You're Happy and You Know It
Let's Go Riding in an Elevator

8. Goodbye song: Another few minutes borrowed from  Musical Kids (and basically every other non-craft program I ever do). Our goodbyes are sung to Laurie Berkner's Blow a Kiss. Always a favorite for me!

Parachute songs, in detail:

The Colors Over You (to the tune of Twinkle, Twinke, Little Star)
Red and green and yellow and blue
These are the colors over you
Red like an apple, green like a tree
Yellow like the sun, and blue like the sea
Red and green and yellow and blue
These are the colors over you

Peek-a-Boo! (to the tune of Frer Jacquez)
Where are you hiding?
Where are you hiding?
I can't see you
I can't see you
Are you over here?
Are you over there?

In and Out the Window
This one's on Jbrary! Watch below:

The Wheels on the Bus (done with babies lying on their backs)
The wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round (move baby's legs in a circle)
The wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish (move baby's legs back and forth)
The windows on the bus go open and shut (open and close baby's legs)
The windows on the bus go up and down (move baby's legs up and down)

Here are a few pictures from Wheels on the Bus, which we ended with every week:

Come Under My Umbrella (to the tune of The More We Get Together)
(Fast shake) There's thunder and lightening and wind and rain
There's thunder and lightening and wind and rain
(Lift the parachute up high in unison) Come under my umbrella, umbrella, umbrella
Come under my umbrella, it's starting to storm

If You're Happy and You Know It
If you're happy and you know it lift it high...
If you're happy and you know it shake it fast...
If you know it shake it slow...

Let's Go Riding in an Elevator
I'll let Jbrary illustrate this one too. I do it with the parachute instead of scarves and sing it a lot slower (for emphasis, I guess):

What worked least: The third/last week of this program (the week that I used the books Pete the Cat: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and Counting Kisses) I zoomed through the open play and the books too fast. By the time I'd finished with everything I had planned, there were still 8 minutes left of the program! And the goodbye song is only only 2-minutes and 47-seconds long! So I wound up doing 5 bonus minutes of open play at the end... which was fine but a little awkward since we'd just cleaned up the toys. What's funniest here is that I purposely didn't read Counting Kisses along with the group after I'd had them read it individually for fear that it would take too long! I should have!

What worked best: Parachute time is always a favorite in any program and this was no exception! And actually I've found that, even as a patron with my own baby, I am sort of bummed when a program doesn't include any parachute time! It's always a great success!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Disney Princess Tea Party

Oh man, the Disney Princess Tea Party that I had this past weekend was SO awesome. The idea came to me while I was shopping for craft supplies on Oriental Trading and got completely inundated with Disney Princess stuff. To that I say, well played Oriental Trading, you DID convince me to buy your products!

I took this program on with my coworker, Andrea, and it's a good thing I did because it was a LOT of work, particularly a lot of set-up. Here is an example of that:

When the kids walked in, they were immediately drawn to our food display (seen above). No tea party is complete without pots of tea (Arizona iced, in this case), tea sandwiches (cheese and jelly), and pastries (or mini cupcakes with pink sugar crowns). We also served cookies and water. More on this later.

Before the kids could eat, we had other princessly duties to attend to. First, story time. Andrea and I settled on a non-Disney story, mainly because all the Disney princess stories that we'd found were long and sort of mediocre. The winning book was Falling For Rapunzel by Leah Wilcox, an all-time favorite for both of us. While I'd never tried this book with kids this age before (I think of it as being for grades K-2), they all totally got it and enjoyed it! It worked!

After story time, it was time for the princesses (and one prince) to make their crowns. We kept things on the sanitary side, since we were serving food, and just did straight up stickers. No markers, no gluing, no nonsense. We used these foam tiaras from Oriental Trading and these Hearts & Flowers Self-Adhesive shapes also from Oriental Trading. Originally I'd planned on including gems as well, but Andrea talked me out of it so we could avoiding using glue, which was totally smart.

So I'll say it again because I really mean it: Skipping glue and markers when serving food was basically genius. We got to avoid a whole mess (pun intended!) of hand washing nonsense. Such a smart move, Andrea!

Here are a few kids working on their crowns:

And here are a few of our princesses in their completed crowns:

Also on the table were two Disney Princess stickers for each kid (these from Oriental Trading)... a party favor!

Once most of the crowns were completed, it was time to play Give Tinkerbell her Wand (aka Pin the Tail on the Donkey). We purchased two of this set from Oriental Trading. Each set came with 8 self-adhesive wands so, while we only needed one of the poster part, we needed two sets of wands in order to accommodate a larger group (we had 12 kids [11 girls and 1 boy] in total).

Here they are playing. Why do kids always cheat at these blindfold games!? Why do I continue to play them!?

Then it was (finally) snack time! Seen below, first, are our cupcakes (from Stop & Shop--a mix of vanilla with chocolate frosting, vanilla with vanilla frosting, chocolate with chocolate frosting, and chocolate with vanilla frosting), topped with pink and purple candy crowns (from Michaels) and lined up nicely on this cupcake stand from Michaels. Second are American cheese sandwiches cut with a cookie cutter into flowers--or possibly suns; the jury is still out. And last, there are (grape) jelly sandwich cut with a cookie cutter into hearts.

We also had water bottles, pre-packaged cookies, and Arizona iced tea served from fancy tea pots. The table clothes are these from Oriental Trading, the plates are these from Oriental Trading, and the napkins are these from Oriental Trading. The cups are dixie cups from a dollar store in Georgia that Andrea picked up while visiting her sister! Lucky find!

Here are some kids enjoying their tea party snacks:

What worked least: Sometimes serving food gets chaotic. This isn't newsworthy or even unexpected--more just like, a necessary evil when food is served. Anyone have any tips for making this more organized? I am very, very open to hearing them!

What worked best: I think the highlight of this program, for me, was the costumes. I put "costumes encouraged" in my newsletter description of the event and 9 out of 12 kids arrived in Halloween-caliber Disney dresses. I think there's just something about doing all these things--hearing a story, making a craft, playing a game, eating a snack--while in costume, that makes a library program extra fun and special. 

Fun anecdote: One mom (not a regular) asked me how often we do this. I said, "This?" She nodded. "This exact program?" I asked. She nodded again. I said, "This is the first time!" To that, she suggested making it annual! Maybe we will!