Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Summer Solstice Stories

June 21 is my favorite day of the year--the summer solstice, the longest day of sun, the OFFICIAL start of summer, and the day before my birthday! Last Wednesday, to mark the day, I did a program called Summer Solstice Stories with my favorite age group, the 3-5 year-olds.

I started by reading three summer themed books: First, How Will We Get to the Beach by Bridgitte Luciani (which I lost my felt board for! It was such a good visual aid in the past and I was afraid the book wouldn't work without it, but luckily, the kids totally got it anyway), then Duck Dunks by Lynne Berry, and last, my favorite, Elephant and Piggie: Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems, of which I must say, I do a mean dramatic reading.

These books worked. I wasn't completely confident about Duck Dunks going in, but even that one was a total success.

Then it was time to decorate beach balls. I ordered these from Oriental Trading. I made sure to include in the newsletter description of the program that we would be using Sharpies. This is not exactly my craft medium of choice with the pre-k crowd, but I really wanted to do this craft and Sharpies are the only thing that will work on this material. It worked out fine. I made sure to tell everyone that these markers did NOT come out of clothes and to be very careful. They were.

The kids LOVED decorating the beach balls! Most decorated it after their parents/caregivers inflated it first (I don't have the lung capacity to pre-inflate more than one or two beach balls) but a few chose to decorate it flat and blow it up after.

After they were done coloring, they kids just loved bouncing and tossing their balls around the room. Like playing with the balloons in the Unbirthday Party was, this was probably the best part. It's always the simplest thing that is the most fun!

What worked least: This program was simple and successful. There wasn't really anything that didn't work! Yay!

What worked best: The craft. I was worried about the Sharpies but everyone was careful and, in the end, they got to take home something cool! Better still, they got to play at the library with something cool. And play catch with the librarian! Super fun!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

New Book Storytime

I've talked about this thing I do a few times on this blog before. It's this thing were I plan a program and then, as soon as I commit to it (newsletter commit to it), I immediately regret it and don't feel any excitement for it whatsoever. New Book Storytime was one of those programs. I thought it was a smart idea when I came up with it, but as soon as it was in stone, I was like, Ugh, WHYYYY did I sign up for this? The good thing about this thing that I do though, is that most of the time, the program is fun and successful anyway. And luckily, that was the case (for the most part anyway) with New Book Storytime.

The newsletter description of the program left a lot of room for flexibility: Do you feel like you've read every book in the library? This storytime is for you! We'll read a new book or two, plus some old favorites, then make a craft. 

Despite all that flexibility, for whatever reason, I just couldn't muster up any enthusiasm for this program.

In planning the program, I knew I wanted to do a different theme each week. However, instead of my usual first choosing themes and then looking for books to fit in that theme, I perused the new book section of our library for good new books, since that was the ultimate requirement-- at least one new book per week.

The program was for ages 3-5 and was 3-weeks-long. That meant that I needed at least 3 books appropriate for that age group from the new book section. After a lot of reading, the ones that piqued my interest were: Chicken Storytime by Sandy Asher, Go to Sleep, Monster by Kevin Cornell, and Bitty Bot by Tim McCanna.

This meant my themes were:

Week 1: Chickens
Week 2: Monsters
Week 3: Robots

Then it was time to fill in the details. I needed 2 more books and a craft for each theme. Here's a break down of what I did each of the 3 weeks:

Week 1: Chickens

Chicken Storytime by Sandy Asher (New)
Egg by Kevin Henkes (Also pretty new! Bonus!)
If You're Happy & You Know It (Unrelated song break!)
First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Craft: Found on Pinterest here, I had a page do all my cutting--egg halves in all different colors and little yellow chickens. When I set up, I put one chicken and one paper fastener out at each spot, plus crayons and leftover foam stickers (these from Oriental Trading) for each table to share. Then I came around to each kid and had them choose their two egg halves from the stack (mostly because there was a distinct top half and a distinct bottom half which would be easily confused, but also because I learned this as a tip for letting kids choose at a workshop I attended about a year ago). Here are a few of the results:

In conclusion: This was a good week. All three stories were great, totally age-appropriate and engaging and also, the craft (while very simple) seemed to really be a real crowd-pleaser!

Week 2: Monsters

Go to Sleep, Monster by Kevin Cornell (New)
Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems
Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes (Unrelated song break!)
Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberly

Craft: I did a classic Go Away, Big Green Monster! craft this week. I put out paper plates and had the kids color them however they wanted, then loads of pre-cut shapes (thanks to our super cutter page) to glue on. Then, because I hate when crafts don't involve any element of creativity (and I didn't think coloring a plate was enough), I also put out popsicle sticks for them to decorate and and tape, so they could make their faces into masks. Here are a few of the results:


In conclusion: I was worried that the monsters theme would be too scary for the kids, but it totally was not at all. The kids liked all three stories, but I think they might have been a tiny bit too young to full appreciate Leonardo the Terrible Monster. The craft, though, was fun and totally age-appropriate for this group.

Week 3: Robots

Bitty Bot by Tim McCanna (New)
If You're A Robot and You Know It by David A. Carter
Wheels on the Bus (Unrelated song break!)
Robot Smash! by Stephen W. Martin

Craft: I made this week's craft up completely by myself, but I think it was possibly too complicated. I used a whole bunch of stuff for this: paper bags, old CDs, the tops of baby food pouches (like these), foam rectangles (for robot mouths), pipe cleaners, strips of paper, pre-cut printed robot circuit boards (this one, specifically), crayons, tape, and glue. Phew. This was my sample, which I think pretty accurately represents what I had in mind for the craft:

And here are a few of the finished products:

In conclusion: This was not such a good week. I felt like, other than If You're A Robot and You Know It, my books were too weird and probably also too advanced for this age group. PLUS my craft was way too hard. I even heard one grandma complaining about the glue not sticking. I wish I just did another theme entirely, but what's done is done. Just... thank GOODNESS for If You're A Robot and You Know It. This book works for a lot of different age groups but the 3-5's are definitely the perfect audience. It was really a light in a dark week of storytime.

What worked least overall: It's a tie between the book Robot Smash! and my robot-themed craft. I think the book totally lost them and the craft was way too hard and way too glue-y. You live, you learn though, right? Not everything can be the best.

What worked best overall: Again a tie. This time it's between If You're A Robot and You Know It and my Go Away, Big Green Monster! craft the second week.

Overall, this was mostly a fun program but I don't think I'll be having it again. Also, it should be noted that this program was at the exact same time and for the exact same age group as Musical Kids and every single week, the kids seemed to be disappointed that we weren't singing and dancing.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Unbirthday Party

I have been itching to do birthday party type stuff with the kids at work for a while and, finally, one week ago, I got the chance the host an Unbirthday Party!

First: Set up. I needed to accommodate a lot of stuff in this program--a dance party, parachute play, a photobooth backdrop, two crafts, and a pretty elaborate snack table. Our program room is a decent size but certainly not huge by any stretch of the imagination, so this required some planning. I wound up putting out crafts for 15 kids (5 kids each at 3 tables) with the tables shaped like an L, plus some extra chairs around the room for the grown ups. This left a big square of open space for a (somewhat tightly packed) dance/parachute party.

On the snack table, I put out, most importantly, our unbirthday cake! Also out were water bottles, happy birthday napkins, dessert plates, and pre-poured snacks (Goldfish crackers, Goldfish pretzels, and chocolate covered pretzels) for me to bring around to the tables at snack time. The craft tables (covered in these table clothes from Oriental Trading) were set with everything for our two crafts: Decorate-your-own party hat and color-your-own pinwheel. More on these later.

Like I said, this program had lots of different parts to it. We started with the dance party, which lead into the parachute play. This was my favorite part of the program and was probably the kids' favorite also. Plus it was SO easy! I just did all my favorite Musical Kids stuff! Like MEGA Musical Kids, except a little shorter (about 20-minutes).

Starting with the dance party portion of the evening was a smart move (if I do say so myself) because it helped to accomplish exactly what I'd hoped it would accomplish: a fun party vibe. When the kids entered the room, the very first thing they did was let loose and be silly. One girl even had to change into her dancing shoes.

Here's my playlist (red = ipodblue = sing):

Jumping & Counting by Jim Gill
I Know a Chicken by Laurie Berkner (shakers)
We Are the Dinosaurs by Laurie Berkner (drums)
Toast in the Toaster (parachute + balloons)
Slow and Fast by Hap Palmer (parachute + balloons)
Wheels on the Bus (parachute + balloons)
Hula Hula Baby by The Wiggles (parachute + balloons + bubbles)
The Balloon Game by Music for Little People Choir (balloons + bubbles)

(For more on this, I discuss these songs a lot in my various Musial Kids posts.)

The balloons are what made this dance party special and different from just an ordinary week of Musical Kids (I used these from Oriental Trading, but any would be fine). The kids loved tossing and bouncing the balloons all over the room, even after they were done with their craft and snack. Sidenote: A balloon party would be a great program all on its own! Too bad I totally despise blowing up balloons.

After the dance party, it was time for the crafts: Decorate-your-own party hat and color-your-own pinwheel. Everything was out and I told the kids they could do the crafts in either order.

I took a cue from my Disney Princess Tea Party and kept the crafts free of super messy stuff like paint and glue, since the evening's events included eating. For the party hat decorating, I started with these party hats from Oriental Trading because they were simple, shiny, and good quality. Then I let the kids decorate them with these Rainbow Self-Adhesive Letter stickers from Oriental Trading and these Self-Adhesive Shapes, also from Oriental Trading. It was fun, but quick. Here are two of the finished products:

The other craft, color-your-own pinwheel (using this kit from Oriental Trading) was less successful. It was just wayyyy too complicated for this age group. In fact, it was even kind of complicated for me! First, the folding was sooo tricky! I wound up having to fold pretty much every kid in the class's pinwheel. Second, there were just way too many small parts for kids ages 3-5, including one itty-bitty, pencil-eraser-size cap per pinwheel that wound up just rolling off the table and getting lost in the abyss. So, the pinwheels, unfortunately, were kind of a dud (although probably would be nice for older children who could handle the folding and small pieces with less assistance).

That being said, each kid still colored, assembled, and took home a pinwheel (with help from an adult).

And no worries about any of that anyway because it quickly became time for...(drum roll, please)... unbirthday cake!

I had everyone gather around the cake (as seen above) and sing: Happy Unbirthday To You/Happy Unbirthday To You/Happy Unbirthday Dear Everyone/Happy Unbirthday To You. Then one little girl told me it was almost her brother's birthday so we also sang Happy Birthday to him too. Then I had everyone pretend to blow out birthday candles and it was time for snacks!

This was the best and most orderly food-serving I ever did in a program. I had a page cut little pieces of cake, while I passed around the plates, napkins, and water bottles. Then I gave each table one bowl of pre-poured Goldfish crackers, one bowl of pre-poured Goldfish pretzels, and one bowl of pre-poured chocolate covered pretzels. A minute later, our page started passing out the cake!

Everyone really had fun feasting and finishing up their crafts. I enjoyed seeing everyone wearing their party hats while they ate (seen above). It really seemed like a party!

Like every program I have ever done that involves balloons, the night wrapped up with just a lot of kids bouncing and throwing balloons around the room. You can't go wrong with this. Then I took a few pictures in front of the back drop (this one, also courtesy of Oriental Trading), and we all said goodnight!

What worked least: The pinwheel craft. It was just too complicated and had too many small parts.

What worked best: The dance party and balloons. Like Musical Kids and all my Toddler Dance Parties of the past, this is just a really simple, no-fail program that kids love. And the balloons too. They are so simple and so well-loved. Like they say, if it aint broken, don't fix it.

A big, giant thank you to Oriental Trading for sponsoring this post! All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Colorful Crafts

It's finallyyyyyy getting warm out and it was just the right time for an hour of colorful, springy crafting! Last Saturday's aptly named Colorful Crafts program consisted for 6 stations that the kids (and adults) could freely move between to make different...well, colorful crafts.

Here's what I set up:

1. Hand Print Color Mixing
2. Rainbow Crayons
3. Watercolor Tape Resist
4. Watercolor Crayon Resist
5. Fingerprint Doodle Art
6. Rainbow and Cloud Wall Hangings

This kind of craft program is my favorite kind of craft program because there isn't too much weight on one craft. You can use up leftover stuff, do repeats of old projects, and try new things you're not totally confident about. Less pressure because if one thing is only okay, there are a bunch of other projects to make up the difference. Here's the breakdown:

Hand Print Color Mixing

This is an oldie but a goodie for me. I've used this project over and over again and I just always love it. Apart from the mess, I think the patrons like it too. It's quick, totally fun for kids, and even educational! I found this one years ago on Pinterest, but I've done it enough times that I sort of consider it mine now (apologies to the original brain that came up with this!) All you do is paint one hand one primary color (say, red), one hand another primary color (say, blue) and stamp down. Then you lift your hands, rub 'em together, and stamp again to see what it makes (in this case, purple). Here's a link to another time I did this craft.

Rainbow Crayons

What's to say? This one is just rainbow crayons (these from Oriental Trading) and white paper. The supply is the craft. Despite its simplicity, it's no less awesome and well-liked than the other stuff. In fact, it might have been the all-around favorite for the kids last week! More complicated does not equal more fun!

Watercolor Tape Resist

I did this project a few times before, most notably in my Watercolor Workshop in October 2015 (when I discovered the secret to making this work was to use painters tape instead of masking tape). This was probably the favorite project craft among the kids who were more patient, meticulous, and on the older end of the age group. For this project, you cover the paper (we used watercolor paper) with strips of painters tape (see the first picture above) and then paint in all the shapes. Then, when the paint is at least mostly dry, you rip off the tape to reveal a cool finished product. So cool! Everyone was appropriately impressed.

Watercolor Crayon Resist

Also from my Watercolor Workshop, watercolor crayon resist is an easy-to-do-craft and especially cool because the crayon drawing is invisible until you paint over it, like a little magic trick. Saturday's Colorful Crafts program, however, consisted of no watercolor crayon resist paintings. Instead, the white crayons I put out remained untouched and a few very enthusiastic painters just enjoyed using watercolors to paint freely. Hey, that's cool too.

Fingerprint Doodle Art

Thank you, Ed Emberley and your Fingerprint Drawing books. For this craft, I put out stamp pads, paper, black pens, baby wipes, and lots and lots of examples, and let the kids (and parents) be creative. It was fun, but for whatever reason, this table was less popular than the other tables. Totally not what I'd expected! I do, however, feel the need to say that (1) I REALLY enjoyed making my sample for this project and (2) This may have been more fun for the adults than the kids (and probably would work really well with the school-age crowd). But it's ok, I mean, adults deserve a little fun too, right? The kids can have the other 5 crafts, the adults can take this one. I'm okay with it.

Rainbow and Cloud Wall Hangings

My coworker, Jen (of Elephant and Piggie Party) made this craft for one of her programs a while ago and I totally swiped it from her (thank you). It consisted of pre-cut strips of paper in lots of different colors and pre-cut clouds. Add in some glue sticks, string for hanging, and you've got yourself a Rainbow and Cloud Wall Hanging.

What worked least: The watercolor crayon resist craft didn't happen, which was kind of a bummer. Maybe it wasn't enticing enough? Or maybe the watercolors themselves were just TOO enticing to bother with those silly white crayons. I don't know, but the crayons remained untouched and therefor, that's what craft worked the least.

What worked best: It's a tie between the watercolor tape resist and the rainbow crayons. I think almost everyone in the program colored with the rainbow crayons for at least a few minutes and some kids made like, 15 different pictures with them. So those were definitely a hit. As far as the watercolor tape resist, not everyone did this craft but those who did really, really enjoyed it!