Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Storytime Activity Centers for 2-3 Year-Olds

At my library, I have reluctantly provided crafts after storytimes for 2-3 year-olds.  It is a practice that started long before I came to the library and one which parents expect, but finding a large enough variety of crafts that involve skills that are truly suited to 2 and 3 year-olds has been a challenge, and so today I rolled out a new storytime format.  I had intended to introduce it the first week of June, but my prep time was much longer than I anticipated, and the items I purchased took longer than anticipated to arrive.  I was hesitant to try this during the summer--our summer storytimes can top 90 in attendance at times and the thought of 50 or more 2 and 3 year-olds doing different activities at the same time was a little daunting to think about managing, but it was worth trying because it will be so much more beneficial for my little storytime friends.

So here's what I did and will continue doing.  I used my usual format for the storytime itself--2 or 3 good books for this age (not tiny board books) with songs and/or activities between, and I always begin and end with the same hello and good-bye songs.  But instead of doing a make-and-take craft afterwards, today I gave them a bagged craft to take home and do (so the grown-ups who are very attached to crafts can still take one home to do themselves), and I introduced some activity centers that are more suited to 2 and 3 year-olds--they stem from Iowa's Every Child Reads or ALA's Every Child Read to Read components.  Families then stayed for 20-30 minutes to do a "center."

I took just about 2 minutes to tell the parents the purpose of each center, and then they chose one, took it to the floor or to a table, and parents and children did the activity together.  This was glorious.  In the past at the craft tables, most of what I heard consisted of parents directing their children in what to do in order to make the craft as they wanted it to turn out.  Today, instead, I heard conversations.  I heard laughing.  I heard encouragement and praise. I heard stories.  I heard learning happening, and it was exciting.

So after that last sentence, if you're still reading this, you're probably expecting some pretty spectacular, innovative center ideas to follow, but what follows are just simple, engaging activities--one of them homemade--that are appropriate for 2-3 year-olds and serve a purpose in the ECR and ECRR frameworks.  My goal is to create/obtain enough of each (except the sand table, of course) so that I can offer just 3 choices each week, plus the sand table, and rotate the choices often.

Here are my initial centers.  Please note that although many involve sorting and counting, their purpose may have more to do with the fine motor skills involved in manipulating the objects or with the conversations they generate.  It's purposeful play.

1. Sand table with various plastic containers, pourers, sieves, and funnels (ours can comfortably accommodate 8 small children at once, elbow to elbow).  I didn't take a picture of it, but they are sold through a variety of school and library supply companies.

2.  Counting/Sorting Bears













I had anticipated a huge bag of bears that I could divide into smaller kits, but there are only ten of each color, so I am ordering more of these, available here.

3.  3-D Shapes













These were used as blocks, for counting, and for color sorting by most. Learning the names of the 3-D shapes wasn't the main objective from my perspective. I plan to attach some conversation prompts to the containers for grown-ups who might not know what to ask or say while playing with a 2 or 3 year-old.  Some of the adults who bring children to our storytimes are babysitters, some are fresh out of high school, and some just may not realize how beneficial purposeful conversation can be in the literacy development of a child.  These I bought from Lakeshore Learning.

4.  Counting Chips

















I used empty Crystal Light-type containers, cut slits in the lids, and put about 25 colored plastic chips in each.  Children empty the container and then drop the chips into the container one at a time while either counting or identifying colors.  The chips would make a more satisfying thunk with a coffee can, but my storage space is limited, so I like this compact container.  These are the chips I purchased. although others would work just as well.  I checked my local dollar store for some less expensive poker chips, but they didn't have what I was looking for at the time.

5.  Lacing Beads













The container of beads came with just four laces, so I purchased extra laces that are thick and made specifically for this kind of activity.  The beads are very large, too--good for little hands.  I divided the huge container into six smaller ones. This develops the pincer grasp and eye-hand coordination.  These are the beads I bought.

6.  Finger Puppets













I bought sets of people and animals.  This is another center that I'll write prompts for eventually.  Adults who may not feel comfortable making up dialogue on the spot might be willing to sing Old MacDonald Had a Farm or some other familiar song from their childhood instead.

7.  Flannel Boards













Again, eye-hand coordination and pincer grasp come into play as well as story-making.  I purchased a 5-board set from here, put the flannel pieces for each into a labeled gallon-size Ziplock bag, and they were ready to go.  The set I purchased came with scenes for the beach, a cafe, the zoo, a camp site, and a pet shop.  I love creating flannels and will, over time, supplement these sets with some homemade ones.

8.  I Spy Bottles



















These were the most time-consuming, because I made them.  I ordered gumball charms from a seller on Etsy, died alphabet-shaped pasta in primary colors with a mixture of food coloring and rubbing alcohol, and mixed them into rice in Blue Diamond almond bottles.  The lids are hot-glued shut to prevent spills.  I made sure that each bottle got a complete alphabet so that children can try to find all of the letters of their names if they want to. I put a very short list of things to look for on the top of each lid for those who want a specific challenge.  Examples of these are all over Pinterest.

9.  Poms and Tongs













In a gallon-sized Ziplock bag I put a plastic container of various-sized poms, a small paint tray (because I don't currently have a supply of egg cartons, which work just as well), some small containers, and a pair of children's plastic tongs. The idea is that children will use the tongs to transfer the poms from one container to another or from the floor to a container. This activity could involve sorting by color and counting as well.  This idea came from here.  Scroll down to Transferring.

The favorites of the day were the counting bears, the I Spy bottles, and the flannel boards.  I'll be interested to see if the favorites change as the makeup of my storytime groups change.

Do I ever plan to do crafts after storytime again?  Yes, but only ones that serve a purpose for toddlers. Painting activities (what kind of mark will this sponge, stamp, cotton swab, or wheel make when dipped in paint?), collage-making (rubbing a glue stick onto a piece of paper and sticking things to it will engage some of my toddlers for tens of minutes), and other similar activities will make occasional appearances after my storytimes, but I will no longer be a slave to the post-storytime craft.

I have a list of more post-storytime activity centers I'd like to create or obtain, including:
--Making a "feelie box."  Cut a hole into the side of a box for a child's hand to fit through.  Put objects inside--spoon, comb, pencil, eraser, fork, cotton ball, clothespin, coin, etc.  Put on the side of the box as a prompt: Can you name each object you touch?  How does it feel (smooth, hard, soft, long, short, etc.)
--Threading pieces of a plastic straw onto a lace
--Rubber stamps, pads, and paper  (I love watching toddlers experiment with the kinds of marks they can make with various marking tools.  I can almost hear them thinking, "What will it look like if I smear it?  If I press it?  If I drop it onto the paper?")
--No-mess finger paint (finger paint in duct-taped gallon Ziplock bags)
--Sorting chenille stems into tall containers by color
--Scoop and pour: I'll provide dry beans and peas, plastic containers, a spoon, a scoop, and let them experiment with ways to transfer the beans from one container to another.
--Clothespin transfer: I'll provide a clothespin, some objects, and some plastic containers to move the objects to.

If you're interested in the actual storytime we did today, here's my outline:
--Song: Hello, Everybody, Yes Indeed from H.U.M. by Carole Peterson
--Book: Wiggle by Doreen Cronin (Of course, we made all of the various kinds of wiggles as we read.)

--Song: A Tooty Ta
--Book: Is Everyone Ready for Fun? by Jan Thomas (We jumped, danced, and wiggled with the cows.)

--Song: Teddy Bear Play Time from So Big by Hap Palmer (I purchased 4 dozen inexpensive teddy bears from Oriental Trading so that children have an actual teddy bear to use for the song.  It's been the favorite this summer and we've done it every week.)
--Book: Dot and Dash Play Together by Emma Dodd (Today's group was particularly attentive; otherwise I would skip a third book.)

--Goodbye song



Tuesday, April 16, 2013

New Interactive Playspace from the Burgeon Group!

Early last year, I came across a list of the top ten children's libraries in the country, and I noticed that several of them (4 or 5?) had pieces from the Burgeon Group.  So when I attended PLA last April and visited their booth in the exhibit hall, I fell in love with the pieces!  They are fun, colorful, educational, and museum quality artsy pieces with lots of ways to play with them.

A little over a year later, we've just had three pieces installed in my library, and the kids love them!



Here's our tractor:


 
And puppet kiosk:
 

 
And wall piece for the playhouse:


If I had been the youth services librarian when the building was designed, I would have had Burgeon Group do the whole department.  I'm thankful, though, that we got what we did.  The funding for the installation was provided by our Friends of the Library and the Robert and Shirley Berg Endowment.
 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Lego Minifig Crayons and Legopalooza Event

Next Friday our youth department will host our second Legopalooza event.  We used to have Lego club once a month, but it was difficult to staff with such a small staff and still keep up with all of our storytimes and regular school groups (we have 13 that come once or twice a month), so we've gone to a  quarterly model for our Lego events.  Since we're doing fewer of them, we're making them a bigger deal, and so we like to send each child home with a little gift bag of Lego-themed items, and we've discovered that making minifig crayons is an inexpensive but adorable little gift.  And it gives us the chance to recycle our old, broken crayons.

I purchased three minifig mold trays from Amazon, but I'm sure they're available elsewhere, too:


I didn't realize, though, that you can't put them into the oven... they're not made for high heat.  So I purchased 4 Pyrex measuring cups from my local department store chain for less than $2 each.  I put some crayons into each


and put them into the oven for about 40 minutes at 250 degrees on an old pan that I use now just for catching wax that might drip from the containers.  This many crayons will fill my three minifig trays.

After the wax is melted, I pour them into the trays and put them into the refrigerator while my next batch of wax melts.


It takes the whole 40 minutes that a batch of wax is in the oven for the crayons in the refrigerator to cool enough to pop them out.  If you try to pop them out before they're completely cool, you'll likely break off a head or the feet.  (I learned this the hard way!)

The trays do not need to be oiled--the crayons pop right out if you pull the sides and push each out from the bottom.

Here's what they look like when they're finished:


I love the marbled look, so I mix lighter and darker shades without stirring.  This is 120 crayons, and I need at least twice as many (along with some left over from our last event) for each child to take home 3 crayons.  We'll also give each child a sheet of Lego stickers (images available here) just printed on sticker paper, and each child will make a minifigure mask at the event (images available here ).  I'll add a photo of the masks after our event on Friday.

At our first Legopalooza event, each child took home a gift bag with three minifig crayons, a minifig (we purchased some and also used the couple of dozen we'd collected from Lego books our library purchased that come with a minifig), and a small bag of Blox candy that you can actually build with.  For 75 children, we purchased 4 lbs. of the candy and just divided it as equally as we could among the 75 baggies.


Because word has spread about our events, we've increased our registration limit to 100 children for Legopalooza 2, and we're almost at our cap.

I have to thank the Lego company for the Duplo story kits and Duplos they sent us--we were in the top 200 libraries for their joint contest with ALSC, Read, Build, Play.  We've already done our Lego storytime once and we plan to repeat it periodically.  We have both a Lego table and a Duplo table in our youth department, so the Duplos we received are at our Duplo table for children to play with.  On Legopalooza day, we'll take all of our Legos and Duplos to the meeting room for the event.  Children will build while we play the Duplo Jams music available as a free download here.  We'll have a craft table set up for children to make their minifig mask, and then after 90 minutes of building, we'll send them home with their gift bags.  Everyone seemed to have a good time at the first event, so we're hopeful that this one will be a success as well!

Before our next quarterly event, I intend to purchase some Lego block ice trays to make block-shaped crayons, too.

If anyone has any good ideas for other inexpensive Lego-themed parting gifts, please leave me a note in the comments.  I'd love to hear what others are doing!


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Flannel Friday: Mrs. McNosh Hangs Up Her Wash

After taking a long break from FF during which I just copied flannels that I've admired by other Flannel Fridayers, my offering this week was made by my colleague Lou to tell the story Mrs. McNosh Hangs Up Her Wash by Sarah Weeks with a clothesline. I love Lou's detailed pieces!  Many of them are even double-sided to make them sturdier to last through multiple uses by children.

And here's what part of it looks like on the line:


Of course, we passed out the flannel pieces and asked children to come and hang their items on the line when they were mentioned in the story.  It was a hit!  We found a few pics of flannelized or photocopy-and-laminate clothesline versions of the book on various blogs, so we don't know who to credit with the original idea. And although we chose not to use them, there are some Mrs. McNosh activities and printables available here.

When we someday do Mrs. McNosh again, we'll figure out a way to stabilize our line--we just tied it between two chairs, but as pieces were added, some twisted up and around so that they weren't all hanging straight down.  There are so many pieces that it might work better with a few smaller lines rather than one long one.

Since Halloween is over now and there's no rush, next week I'll post the flannel song I used for the two weeks leading up to Halloween.

Check out all of this week's Flannel Friday posts here.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mrs. McNosh

Because two of our weekly storytimes this week are after Halloween, we decided to do our Halloween storytime last week, so this week we did Mrs. McNosh stories by Sarah Weeks.  We read:

Mrs. McNosh Hangs Up Her Wash


Oh My Gosh, Mrs. McNosh!


and Mrs. McNosh and the Great Big Squash

My colleague Lou created the most wonderful flannel set to use as a washline and clothespin story.  You can see that here.

Between stories we did an action rhyme called "Washing Clothes" by Susan Dailey that can be found here and "Early in the Morning" by Judy Nichols from v. 1, n. 6 of Children's Programming Monthly, the My Clothes issue.

Our craft was to bedazzle some of the wash from Mrs. McNosh's line with foam stickers, plastic jewels, buttons, sequins, and markers.  Here's a sample:






Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Halloween Window Silhouettes

We're into silhouettes in our windows at my library...and shadow puppet shows, too.  I just had to share these spooky designs done by my artistically talented colleague Dan.  It must be nice to be so talented!