Wednesday, May 3, 2017

For my Kids First Colleagues

Yesterday I had the privilege of presenting at our state youth services conference, Kids First, about post-storytime activities and process art for toddlers, and I wanted to follow up with a photo of the space we use for the activities I described.

Also, I realized afterwards that I never mentioned what is the biggest benefit of these activities--and that is the conversations they spark between toddlers and their grownups.  When I shifted from a craft emphasis (you'll see a lot of old craft postings in my blog from before I made this switch) to an activity focus (and sometimes we don't do an art project--sometimes we just play with loose parts and the things on the cart I shared with you--the counting bears, shapes, beads, etc.), the entire nature of the conversations I heard changed.  There were lots of questions from the adults to their toddlers: "What will you do with that? Which thing will you use next?" and so forth.  Why is this conversation so different?  Because when I offered crafts, the conversation was about the adult telling the child what step should be next--glue this here, color that, etc.--but with the loose parts, the decision-making entirely shifts to the child.  Are we going to sort? Stack? Build? Count? Make a picture? Make a scene? Transfer things from the container to the tray and back again?  The child takes control of the play.

So here's my storytime and craft space: (Please excuse the boxes stacked on the cabinet next to the storytime chair--they're for the toddler drive-in we're having later this month.)

The overstuffed chair on the left is where I begin storytime, with children sitting on the cushions that are in and stacked next to the chest on the left.  The tiled area on the right is where we do art activities. Here's a closer look at just the tiled area:
So the sand table goes in the empty space on the left.

After storytime, if there is an art activity, that happens at the tables, and the cart of other activities is parked next to the chest of cushions.  Children take what they want and play with them on the carpet.  If we just do loose parts instead of a craft, those trays and containers are laid out on the tables, and the cart of other activities still goes next to the chest of cushions by the window.

I set out the caterpillar tube in the back area of the carpet that you see in the first photo, but it never stays rolls a bit as kiddos play, so occasionally if it gets too close to other activities, a grownup or I will drag it a bit out of the way.

During the summer when we sometimes have really huge storytimes (100+), people will sit even on the edge of the tiled area.  Behind the carpeted area in my first photo are the edge of the easy reader section of the collection and the play space, so sometimes people are right up against those sections, and we squish forward as much as we can to accommodate everyone.

If you find other great post-storytime activities for toddlers, please consider sharing them here or on Library Talk--I'm always combing through blogs, Pinterest, and professional books looking for more to add to our rotation.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Pokemon Go craft

In response to how many people are wandering around and near our library playing Pokemon Go, we've decided to replace our regularly scheduled summer library program craft next week with this cute paper bracelet, designed by my co-worker Lou.  We're also having a scavenger hunt for littlies who don't have a phone to play with, and we're giving out Pokemon stickers as prizes.  If we have time to decorate this week, I'll add a photo of the decor.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Do you want to build a snowman?

One of our reference librarians shared with me a picture of a snowman book stack she saw at, and it's so cute, I had to make one at our library.

Happy holidays, everyone!

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!