Friday, December 14, 2018

Dramatic Storytime

Hi. I want to start this post off by admitting that many of my library programs are kind of similar to each other. I am a bit of a two trick pony, as well as a firm believer that if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  But this morning I had the opportunity to try something kind of different and, as my colleagues can attest, I was really excited about it! For ages 18-35 months, I now present my super fun, new, different program... Dramatic Storytime!

(Ok, I can't lie. I may have copied [borrowed] the overarching idea for this program from an event I attended with my daughter at Think Big! Theater. But all the details and all the work for it were mine and mine alone! I actually did something creative for once!)

So, anyway. the theme of Dramatic Storytime was Three Little Kittens. If you're unfamiliar with the story of the Three Little Kittens, let me include a quick summery of it for you. If you are familiar with it, feel free to skip this next paragraph:

The story of the Three Little Kittens, according to Wikipedia, "is a sophisticated piece usually attributed to American poet Eliza Lee Cabot Follen (1787–1860). With the passage of time, the poem has been absorbed into the Mother Goose collection. The rhyme tells of three kittens who first lose, then find and soil, their mittens. When all is finally set to rights, the kittens receive their mother's approval and some pie."

Here's how it worked. The whole program was based around very slowly reading and acting out the book, Three Little Kittens by Paul Galdone (just a retelling of the classic tale). The kids played the part of the three (or in this case, 8) little kittens and I played the part of the Mother Kitten. When they signed in, I let them choose a cat nose to wear for their "costume" so they could really be the kittens. I would say 1/4 of the kids wore the nose for about 3 minutes and the other 3/4 of the kids wouldn't touch them. I wore cat ears because, really, they're kinda cute.

Throughout the story, there were three main breaks for activities-- aka "acting." The program broke down like this:

Read a few pages from the book. (The kittens lose their mittens, cry, are told by Mother Kitten that they can have no pie, and then find their mittens.)

Activity one: The kittens search for their mittens. This involved the kids digging through a pile of die-cut paper mittens as well as other die-cut shapes in search of two matching mittens.


Read a few pages from the book. (The kittens tell Mother Kitten that they have found their mittens and Mother Kitten tells them that they can have some pie.)

Activity two: The kittens shall have some pie. This involved making this very simple paper plate cherry pie craft from Glued to My Crafts.

Read a few pages from the book. (The kittens eat the pie with their mittens on thus soiling their mittens, cry, and then go wash and dry their mittens.)

Activity three: The kittens wash their mittens and hang them out to dry. First, this involved the kids basically just playing with pre-cut felt mittens, a few empty detergent bottles, a couple of tiny spray bottles, and a big bin of water.

After about 8-minutes of water play time, I told them to bring their mittens over to the "laundry line" to hang them up to dry. The laundry line was just a bunch of clothes pins on a piece of yarn that I taped to the side of a table. It worked perfectly.

Read the last few pages from the book. (The kittens tell Mother Kitten that they have washed their mittens, she praises them, and then they all smell a rat close by-- which, I explained to the kids, was even better than pie to a cat!) THE END.

Activity four: Unrelated to the story, we listen to The Three Little Kittens song and mother ktiten (me) blows bubbles. Uh, just like I said, when I got to the end of the book, I put on The Three Little Kittens song (this version from Mother Goose Club Playhouse on YouTube) and blew bubbles for the kids to play in a few minutes before we said goodbye. Just a quick extra thing that I could be sure would be a hit.

What worked least: So minor, but I allotted 45-minutes for this program and it took exactly 39. It was so much fun and such a success, overall, that I really really really don't think anyone would quibble over the 6 minutes, but I like things to be perfect so it bothered me a little that I couldn't make the time perfect too. Still, I think I really did time things out pretty well, considering it was a totally new program and a totally new idea that I've never done before. So, yay, good for  me!

What worked best: Seriously, all of it was awesome. I think everyone really liked sitting for a minute, then doing an activity, then sitting for a minute, then doing an activity. It broke the program up nicely and was perfect for short little attention spans. Of the four activities (five, if you include reading the book!), I thought the "washing" would be the stand-out favorite for sure, with bubbles as the second favorite. Honestly, I was way off! I think the favorite activities were a tie between activities 1 and 2-- the searching for a pair of matching paper mittens and the pie craft! Who would have ever guessed?

All in all, I had such a great time planning, prepping, and doing this program and I feel really proud of it! So I shall leave you all with this question: What other books or stories lend themselves to a dramatic storytime?

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Snow Much Fun!

I have this thing about winter. Mostly, I absolutely despise it. But for the month of December, and the month of December ONLY, I actually kinda like it! It's new! It's exciting! The holidays are upon us! And my winter coat still feels cozy instead of cumbersome! Last Friday I decided to embrace the one lasting good thing about winter-- playing in the snow! (Please note: I hate the snow and wish it would just stay July forever. But bringing my daughters outside with the neighborhood kids on a solid, no-pressure-to-drive-in-it snow day IS sort of enjoyable.) So, despite my true feelings, I was able to muster up enthusiasm--quite a bit actually--for an exciting, snow-themed program.

Snow Much Fun!, for ages 2-5, was, well, snow much fun. It consisted of 3 parts:

1. A book. Specifically, The Jacket I Wear In the Snow by Shirley Neitzel (an oldie but a goodie!). If you're not familiar with it, this book uses lots of repetitive words and pictures to explain all of the bundling that goes in to getting ready for a day in the snow. And it replaces certain words with pictures. For example the word "jacket" is always a picture of a jacket. The word "zipper" is always a picture of a zipper. It's good for little ones because, theoretically, they can chime in as they recognize the pictures. Each page builds on another item that the main character has to wear to go outside. In my head, I imagined the kids chiming in each time one of these repetitive pictures presented itself. I definitely thought there would be a lot of kids yelling "mittens!" and "socks!" But in real life, I mostly just read it straight through and was lucky if they chimed in for just the last word on each page, "snow." That was fine though. It held most of the kids' attention, even that of a couple of two-year-olds.

2. A mommy & me craft. I decided on snowflake tape resist watercolor paintings. Basically, for this,  mom/dad/caregiver puts down painters tape in the shape of simple snowflakes and then the kids can watercolor over the whole sheet however they want. Then, later, when the tape is pulled up, it looks like a snowy sky-- stolen from Little Bins for Little Hands, thank you.

Here are a few picture of kids working on their craft:

And here are a few finished products (minus the ripping off of the painters tape):

3. Sensory play. This was the part of the program that I was the most excited about. It was a chance for the kids to play in homemade snow. The snow wasn't made with the kids, but rather ahead of time for the kids. There are a lot of homemade snow recipes floating around out there on the ol' Internet, but the one I used today is one that I used once before a few years ago in a program called "Snowmen For Everyone." It's made with only baking soda and white conditioner. I found a few different recipes online with slightly different ratios of each of these items, but I wound up working out a super easy one:

Two 1-lb boxes of baking soda + 1 cup of conditioner

Last time I made this snow, I wound up doing a ton of measuring and portioning and it made a huge mess and took forever. This time, I figured out this shortcut and it was super quick and easy. 2 boxes. 1 cup. Mix. Done. You wind up with something the consistency of dense, wet snow. It's like the kind that's good for making a snowman and that you hate to clean off your car. We even tossed it in the refrigerator for 45-minutes before using it so it was cold like snow! In the future, if I ever do this program again, I would do 4 boxes of baking soda and 2 cups of conditioner in each bin. But today I used 2 boxes and 1 cup and it really worked out just fine. There wasn't a ton, but there was enough. I added a few plastic toy animals, matchbox cars, and plastic spoons to each bin, and--viola!--donezo! Fun snow to play with inside!

What worked least: I'll say the book worked least, but not because it was a bad book or even because it just wasn't a success. It was, in fact, probably about as successful as reading to 2-4 year-olds can be! But compared to the craft and the homemade snow, I'd call the book the least exciting part of the program. That's ok! Something has to be.

What worked best: Is it not obvious? The snow! SNOW MUCH FUN.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Sadie's Top 5, 18-24 months

Apologies for this post coming late. I've been on  a bit of a blog-break since I have been on maternity leave. Sadie is now two-years-old and has become a big sister! We welcomed baby Callie in early June and have had our hands full! While I hope to still keep up with Sadie's favorites every 6-months, I've decided not to list favorite books for Callie because 1. They're largely the same books, and 2. Apparently, with two babies, you don't get to read nearly as much as you do with just one. (And you feel very bad and guilty about it.) Anyway, while I'm not sure if this list is entirely accurate because sometimes it's hard to tell and also because, man, toddlers are really freakin' fickle, here's my best guess at Sadie's up-to-age-two favorites:

Pete the Cat, I Love My White Shoes by James Dean and Eric Litwin is a favorite for SO MANY kids. And mine is no exception. If you're not yet familiar, this is the story of cool cat Pete who loves his white shoes so much that he sings this song: I love my white shoes, I love my white shoes, I love my white shoes. Then he proceeds to accidentally dye his shoes a bunch of different colors by stepping in stuff like a large pile of strawberries and a puddle of mud. But does Pete cry? Goodness, no! He just sings a new song every time his shoes change colors. He's so cool! The moral of Pete's story is, "no matter what you step in, just keep walking along and singing your song. Because it's all good." In our case, Sadie particularly loves naming the things Pete steps in and (sometimes) naming the colors. She also always enjoys shaking her head "no" when I ask her if Pete cries. This is a book that will be a favorite for most kids for many years. We love Pete!

Fruits of India by Jill Hartley might seem like an unusual choice, but at this age, Sadie loves to correctly identify things. And she also loves fruit. I read somewhere that once children learn that every object has a name attached to it, they'll quickly want to learn all of these names. And that held true for Sadie, particularly around the 19/20-month mark. The book is simple. East page just has a picture of a fruit + its name. While some of the fruits in this book are ones we don't see here in the USA, many of them are familiar: bananas, apples, grapes, etc. It's kind of perfect for teaching the names of fruits to kids this age, actually. I would highly recommend this one for kids in this "learning the names of things" age group. Especially fruit-loving kids like Sadie.

Row, Row, Row, Your Boat by Jane Cabrera is a longer version of the classic song we all know, accompanied by adorable animal illustrations (I'm a big Jane Cabrera fan!). A sample verse: "Row, row, row your boat, watch the tiger prowl. If you see is mighty pounce, don't forget to growl." Like with Fruits of India, this book was great for Sadie to learn to name different animals. Her favorite page is the one at the end with Mommy Dog. I think anything Jane Cabrera does it a masterpiece, but her illustrations combined with this song = a major win for us!

Off to School! by Sesame Workshop, affectionately called "Elmo Book" in my house, is a favorite for more reasons than just being about Elmo. While it's true that Sadie does enjoy pretty much any book about the Sesame Street characters, this book has a lot more to give! For starters, while it's an actual story, the language and length, paired with familiar and colorful illustrations are absolutely perfect for this age group. It's also interactive! On one page, it asks the reader to rub Elmo's tummy. On another, it asks to help "pour the cereal into the bowl" by tapping the picture of the box. Another page asks the reader to practice deep breathing (take deep breaths). It's all really great! Cute story, familiar characters, and interactive text. Throw in a little color and object naming and you've got a 10-minute activity! That's something Sadie and mommy can both get behind!

Bath Time! from Sterling Children's Books had a really long run as Sadie's absolute favorite for over a month. It's a very short story that, basically, starts out with the narrator (a bunch of different animals) pleading the reader not to take a bath, then reluctantly agreeing to take the bath, and then admitting that said bath was nice. Each page has a different animal photo/narrator. So, for example, the first page has a picture of a raccoon and says, "I don't want to take a bath!" Then the third page has a rhino and says "Alright, fine. Let's get it over with." Later in the book there is a bear that says "Ooohhh. This water feels nice..." And the very last page has a human baby that says, "Maybe taking baths isn't so bad after all!" It's cute. I originally checked it out of the library because Sadie hated baths and I was trying to persuade her to like them again. Then, one day, she decided she did! Maybe it worked? Or maybe she just saw her friend in the tub and wanted to join her. Either way, we really like this book.

Ok! A month late but I got it up! Next Sadie's Top 5 coming in a few months!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Musical Kids (for ages 17-29 months) 5/25/18

Greetings from my second official maternity leave! I am enjoying a summer off, sleeping in and relaxing poolside. Just kidding! Turns out it's super hard to have a newborn and a toddler at the same time! I'm exhausted! Anyway, I started this blog post a couple of days before I went into labor and then--surprise!--my daughter came early and I never got to finish it. Until today!

Friday, May 25 I did my last Musical Kids class before baby and I had my favorite visitor join me: Sadie! As it turns out, it has been over two years since I featured my "middle group" in a Musical Kids blog post! And now that I have a "middle group"-aged kid myself, it seems like the perfect opportunity to discuss them! They are such a fun, sweet group that seem to range so much in their 12-month span of ages. In fact, I've always found this group the hardest one to plan for because of their varied levels of abilities and understanding. Even with my own kid falling in this range, it's still a hard group to accommodate fully-- at least the way I'd ideally like to.

That said (and I hate to sound biased but I totally am), it's currently my favorite group because... well, honestly, my favorite group is just whichever one Sadie is in.

Anyway, here's my playlist for the week (red = ipodblue = sing):

1. A New Way to Say Hello by Big Jeff
2. We're Going To Kentucky by Bob McGrath (shakers)
3. Spaghetti Legs by Jim Gill (shakers)
4. This is the Way We Wash Our Arms (scarves) *
5. The Lion Sleeps Tonight by Suzi Shelton (scarves) **
6. If You're Happy and You Know It
7. Rocketship Run by Laurie Berkner (rockets) ***
8. Whole Lotta Lovin' from Fats Domino (drums)
9. Can't Buy Me Love by The Beatles (tambourines)
10. The Grand Old Dukes of York (parachute) #
11. Ring Around the Rosie (parachute) ##
12. Slow and Fast by Hap Palmer (parachute + balls) ###
13. Blow a Kiss by Laurie Berkner (parachute + balls + bubbles)

* This is the Way We Wash Our Arms: To the tune of So Early in the Morning, for this song, we pretend our scarves are washcloths and "wash" different parts of our bodies. So the first verse goes:

This is the way we wash our arms, wash our arms, wash our arms
This is the way we wash our arms so early in the morning

Then we come up with other body parts to sing about, usually doing about 5 in total. Simple and fun, plus great for getting kids in this age group to reinforce the names of body parts.

** The Lion Sleeps Tonight by Suzi Shelton: This is a fun one! I use the scarves and have everyone pretend that they are lions and their scarves are are blankets or pillows. When the song starts, everyone is "sleeping." Then, when Suzi Shelton says, "Wake up lions!" we all dance around and wave our scarves. It's fun and I also just love this version of this song.

*** Rocketship Run by Laurie Berner: I write about Rocketship Run every time I blog about my middle or oldest Musical Kids group because it's an absolute essential with these kids. I can't do the class without it. When I do this song, I hand out rockets-on-sticks (which I made, probably, four years ago at this point) for them to zoom around with, and then also, I hold up signs for all the places that 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. For years! In fact, I saw my own daughter run up and touch the sign with her rocket for the very first time during this class and it made me crack up in the middle of the class. It was SO cute and funny. Additionally, this song always gets the loudest end-of-song cheer from both the children and the adults. A++ for Rocketship Run! Here are a few pictures of the kids last week as they "traveled" to the stars. There's mine right in the mix of it!

# The Grand Old Duke of York: If you're not familiar with it, the lyrics to The Grand Old Duke of York can be found here. The song references "up" and "down" and "top" and "bottom" a couple of times, making it a super easy and intuitive parachute song-- just follow along with the lyrics!

## Ring Around the Rosie: This is a great kids-on-top-of-the-parachute song. We seat them all in the middle, then the adults walk around in a circle, holding the parachute handles as we sing the first verse. For the second verse ("Cows are in the meadow eating butter cups, ashes, ashes, we all jump up!"), the adults shake the parachute quickly around the kids then snap it up around them when we sing the words "jump up!" I usually do the whole thing twice since it's short.

### Slow and Fast by Hap Palmer: Usually for this song we bounce the balls around in the parachute slowly and quickly. It's fun because the song changes tempo and we have to keep up. However on this particular Friday, I let the kids sit on top of it instead and they just kind of played with the balls while the adults shook the parachute around them. This group of kids were just kind of all about sitting on the parachute, so I went with it.

What worked least: Me. Really. This class was the first time ever that I sat down for a large part of Musical Kids. I felt kind of guilty at the time but, looking back now, I was just days away from going into labor so I can give myself a pass.

What worked best: No surprise here-- Rocketship Run is always the highlight of this program. And I LOVED seeing Sadie in the mix with all the other kids. It was so cute!

Even though I am almost 7 weeks into maternity leave, I won't be back at work again until October. So happy summer, everybody! I'll be back in the fall!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Elephant and Piggie Party #2

Approximately two years ago, my coworker Jen (also of National Oreo Cookie Day Taste Test) and I hosted an Elephant and Piggie Party to celebrate the release of the Thank You Book, the final book in the Elephant & Piggie series. WELL, it was so much fun that we decided to do it again! Just for the heck of it! Because Elephant and Piggie never get old and are always in style. And also because we don't need a stinkin' book release to celebrate our love for these guys! We love 'em all the time!

For ages 4-6 (aka the PERFECT age group for this), we tried this program from 4:30-5:00pm, a time slot neither of us would normally go for. It worked out! We had 15 kids signed up and 11 in actual attendance (two opted out of the group picture below).

We started off with two dramatic readings: First, we did We Are In a Book (because, it's sort of just necessary?) and then we did Waiting is Not Easy (because Jen said it's appropriate for me as an 8.5-month-pregnant person and I sort of agree). I feel like it's almost unnecessary to even say this but, OBVIOUSLY, the kids loved both books-- not because we're so awesome or because we chose the perfect stories (although we are and did), but just because you really can't go wrong with any Elephant & Piggie reading. At all. Mo took all the work out of it!

After our reading, we handed out the supplies necessary for Elephant and Piggie Bingo (made by me!). Here is a sample board, done in Microsoft Publisher:

We used M&Ms as Bingo markers but told the kids NOT to eat any of them until the game was over. Amazingly, they all listened! As usual (for me), I instructed everyone to keep their pieces on their boards between rounds. Then we played round after round until, eventually, everyone was a winner and everyone got a prize (from a basket of leftover stuff we had).

By the time Bingo was over, we had about 10-12 minutes left for a snack and craft. We served animal crackers and water as the kids made their way back to the activity table. We had a bunch of simple stuff out, but the main craft was all thanks to Jen's wonderful prep-work. These: 


Paper bag puppets! She found the templates for these on the blog, Three Little Birds, and had a page pre-cut all the pieces so the kids could easily glue the parts onto the bags. Quick and easy and perfect for this age group in the limited time that we had!

Our other activities out included Elephant and Piggie MadLibs (which you can download here), a Pig Day Scrambler (which you can download here), and a Pig Maze (which you can download here). The MadLib was a Pinterest find, while the Pig Day Scrambler and Pig Maze were both from The Happy Pig Day Kit, available through (under "Grown-Up Stuff").  Also, we had Mo Willems stickers lying around the department so we gave those out too (as sort of a party favor), which was a fun surprise for the kids!

What worked least: I don't think anything worked least about this program! It was all fun, timed out nicely, and, when it was over, one girl left the room asking, "When's the next Elephant and Piggie Party?"

What worked best: I think our dramatic reading really shone here. I'm not sure how we looked to outsiders but to me, Jen and I really became Elephant and Piggie.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Recycled Crafts for Earth Day

I'm not sure why, but I have always been pretty enthusiastic about Earth Day. I've done library programs for it in the past, but took a break for a while when my effort to use only recycled materials became daunting instead of fun. This year I decided to get back into it, only I told myself each craft only needed to include one recycled material, instead of being completely recycled. Plus, as I think I have mentioned many times before, I really prefer to do programs with several simple crafts, rather than one longer one. So that's what I did! Recycled Crafts for Earth Day.

I had a small yet appreciative group of 3-5-year-olds (and their parents) and four crafts for them to make, each including at least one recycled material, in an open, unstructured type of program. There was one craft per table and the families moved around from table to table to try their hands at whatever they wanted for the duration of the time. And, as usual, I accompanied the evening with a playlist! Here's what we did:

Toilet Paper Tube Black Bears

I got the idea for these little guys from (but found it on Pinterest). I was looking for a simple toilet paper roll craft that didn't require cardboard cutting, too many pieces, or too much letting paint/glue dry. In the end I settled on this, even though it required painting, because all the tubes could be painted the same color so I was able to do it ahead of time. Plus LOOK HOW CUTE. I put out the pre-painted black tubes, small squares of brown construction paper, scissors, black markers, glue sticks, tape, and self-adhesive googly eyes (the biggest of these from Oriental Trading). The kids and parents liked this project, however I decided this one was more parent-heavy and required less from the kids than I prefer. Maybe it would have been better for a slightly older crowd. Even still, it was fun for the families and the final product was really cute.

Baby Food Pouch Cap Spiders

From Pinterest again, these were technically a Halloween craft from Plum organics, but were surprisingly the stand out hit of this program! The kids LOVED these little guys. Everyone wound up making several spiders, parents included! And they were so easy! The only things I'd put out were caps from baby food pouches, pre-cut-in-half piper cleaners, and self-adhesive googly eyes (the smallest of these from Oriental Trading). Then, I showed the whole group how to weave the pipe cleaners from one side of the cap to the other (as seen here) and then sort of bend them so they'd stay in place and seem "spidery." The googly-eyes, while self-adhesive, were a little delicate for small hands so I helped the kids out a little there too, but overall everyone really really liked these!

Bubble Wrap and Paper Plate Jellyfish

After an entirely Internet-purchased holiday season, I did a lot of Pinteresting to find a good bubble wrap craft that I felt comfortable with. I had considered just bubble wrap painting and maybe I should have gone that route, but instead I decided on this cute little jellyfish that I found on (from Pinterest) that I really liked! I thought it was perfect: didn't require too much in the way of supplies and allowed for creativity. BUT NOBODY MADE IT! So disappointing! One family took the supplies home and, for everyone else, it was ignored. To be fair, I didn't have a huge turnout to begin with and the program was only 30-minutes but still. Not one kid even attempted the craft at this table. Next time I'll do the painting instead!

CD Sun Catchers

This one was so easy, there's almost nothing to say about it! I put out old CDs, ribbon, and these self-adhesive gems from Oriental Trading and then let the kids go to town decorating! I got the idea from (found on Pinterest), but kept the whole thing super easy by using the self-adhesive gems and eliminating the glue part entirely. Everyone did a nice job!

What worked least: I guess my bubble wrap jellyfish were not appealing since nobody migrated toward that table at all. Maybe it was too much white and nothing colorful to draw people over? Whatever it was, something was amiss. But crazily, I'd try it again! Maybe if I had a bigger crowd and/or more time, the kids would have enjoyed it! Next Earth Day!

What worked best: Those little spiders! Everyone loved 'em!