Friday, November 21, 2014

On "Teaching Moments"

One of the responses on Facebook to my post of yesterday was a nice lady who recounted how during an owl making craft she had talked with one little girl who was making an orange and yellow  "explained to her that owls are not that color in real life, but she could color it however she wanted."
She was proud of having created a "learning opportunity."

I'm very, very glad she let the child do as she wished, but, as I've ranted before, sometimes why can't we just read the story, make the craft, and let things happen as they will?

Why don't parents, caregivers, teachers and librarians realize that creativity will take these kids further into the world than learning to do things as they are in "real life"? They'll get their fill of that soon enough!!

I could go on, but instead I will refer you to the late, great Harry Chapin and his immortal song,
"Flowers Are Red." I've wanted to sing that for every parent, every nanny, every teacher I've ever deal with.

This is especially appropriate as on a CD which we often listened to with our daughters in the car, Harry starts this song with a chorus of "Rant, Rant, Rant, Rant."And I'll add that both of my daughters are creative souls who "march to their own drummers."
I hope that they always will.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

And Yet Another Example of What Happens Without Patterns and Models

Two years ago I did turkey hats with the kids and did a post here about the adorable triplets who each made a hat in their own way. You can find it here. And here are two of the hats the kids made today.

I meant to take a picture of a third hat, where the young lady had flipped the paper plate and made her hat the opposite way, but missed it in the busy group.

So once again--throw away the pre-cut pieces (aside from basic shapes, like the circles today).
Stop making models.
Let them figure it out.

The results will astound you.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Before I Explode: Story Time Is About The Unknown

There's an earnest discussion of holiday story times going on at the Storytime Underground Facebook page right now, and I am hearing the usual "Oh, we don't want to offend anybody, so we don't do Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza, we just do winter themes," or some such.

Bad enough. But then you get the dear, sweet librarian who chimes in:
" ... since I do storytime in a place where snow is not really a part of the kids winter experience, I generally stay away from snow stories in the winter."


This is the biggest piece of mishegosse (nonsense to those of you who don't know Yiddish) I have heard in many a year. And I've been a children's librarian for <ulp> 30 years.

It is exactly the opposite of what any children's librarian should be doing!

What is the point of story time, of reading to kids, if not to open up a wider world to them?

I get a constant stream of parents wanting books on moving, on new babies, on going to the doctor or the dentist. Books help children prepare for new experiences.

If I followed this lady's reasoning I would never read about anything at story time but a 4 season climate, since that's what we have here, never do farm books since we are in the city, and pretty much never do anything but books about rich little white kids living in a rich Mid-Atlantic town, with hot and cold running nannies.

Books teach children about places they will never see, cultures they will never experience.
They teach diversity. They teach that despite the fact that we live in many different ways, have different beliefs, different foods, different colors of skin and hair, we all live on one planet.

They teach tolerance. 

They teach that the unknown can be known--and celebrated in all its rich diversity.

 I am so, SO going to do Chanukkah and Christmas, in secular ways. Chinese New Year. Mardi Gras.
If someone wants story times on Eid, or Kwanzaa or Diwali, I'll figure them out. 

I'll read books about deserts. Books about mountains. Books about lions and tigers--and bears.
Books about snow--and if it doesn't snow, we'll make pretend snowmen and throw yarn snow balls!

I am going to bring the world to the kids who come to my story times.

And all I can do is shake my head at "Harvest Festivals" instead of Halloween, the nearly universal kid holiday, people who flee from secular holiday trimmings like Santa Claus, and these sad, sad, CLUELESS people who don't get that most of these holidays come from even older holidays, and are a vital part of the human experience.

It's pathetic. It's sad.
Above all, it's stupid.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Flannel Friday: Talking Turkey, Year 2

I made a lovely flannel turkey last year for our mobile flannel boards, and someone took it!

Between then and now, I made the flannel table I described last month. And someone decided to take one or two of the cars and the bus I had worked so hard to make.  They also took one of the two felt trees I'd added in October and several little pumpkin felts. It really ticks me. This is something I do with my time and MY money--and I posted a sign saying as much and asking "Please don't "borrow" the felt pieces."

So this month, I have made a basic turkey body. I did use wiggle eyes, but that's it.  And I have basted the turkeys to the felt table--that is "basting" in the sense of sewing them there :D

I did it as much on the underside as I could, so you can't see the basting, but the turkeys are secure.
It seems to be working. So far so good.

And I've just added a few "Novem-bears" and basted them on too.  I will see how it goes.

Meanwhile, here's what I found on the table this week:

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

On Transitions With Toddlers, Or: "Can you put the bell in the basket? Good job!"

From my lofty <yeah, right> 30 years of experience as a children's librarian and <eep> nearly 20 as a mom, I am often amused by the ways many young, eager, earnest children's librarians complicate things.

Perhaps elaborate rituals and plans give them confidence. As the Anarchist Librarian, I hope that they will gain enough personal confidence to ignore the nonsensical proclamations of EECR2, of "Mother Goose On the Loose" and on the rest of it, and to learn to trust their own abilities.

Take the question on Storytime Underground's Facebook page about transitions with objects. What this basically means is "It's time to put the bells/shakers/scarves in the basket/box/bag," and there is great concern about child meltdowns and fussing.

First off, let me say that when I am talking about "toddlers" I mean one year olds. Two year olds are NOT toddlers. You can't always reason with a two year old, but the language skills are beginning, and you can have a conversation, and they can follow directions.

One year olds ARE toddlers. And yes, they can get upset when they have to give up the bell, or the shaker, or the whatever. Transitions ARE hard.

But making an elaborate ritual only complicates the matter. It prolongs it.

This morning we used the bells. And then I said "Okay, can you help me put the bells back in the basket so we can play Ring Around the Rosie?"

With the parents help, 22 bells went back into the basket in about 2 minutes flat.
No crying, no fussing, just lots of "Good job, Sophia! Thank you for helping, Michael!"
Etcetera, etcetera.

If anyone had gotten upset, I would have just let that child keep the bell until they were ready to hand it back. No big deal.

When we do the scarves, same thing, only they go in a bag, and the kids not only help put them back, they LOVE putting them back.

In the words of the song from Mary Poppins (though I like the books better):

"In every job that must be done, 
 there is an element of fun,
 You find the fun and SNAP, the job's a game!"

Make putting the toys away as much fun as taking them out.
And if the rituals are only making things harder, chuck em out the window.

Simpler is better. Especially with toddlers!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Flannel Friday: Flannel Table Time

I was on the Flannel Friday Facebook page recently, and Lisa of Thrive After Three was asking how to clean the fabric for her felt table.

I didn't know how to do so, but I went to her blog and the felt table intrigued me. I'd had felt boards out for the kids play, and I've blogged about them in the past. But <sigh> like everything else I've put out for my families to use,  I'd been burned. Someone actually STOLE the Thanksgiving turkey I made(!) and the pieces for the boards ended up, like all my other toys, being stuffed randomly into any container available.

So the idea of a felt table sounded like it was worth a try.  I got several yards of blue and green felt from the fabric store. It ended up being more than I needed, but that's fine--I can always use excess felt.

My tables are square, not round, so it was a little trickier setting one up. I cut off some excess, rubber banded it to the legs as best I could and used some Velcro to secure it at the bottom.
I could have done this on one of my small round tables--and I may yet--but they are lovely Eric Carle "Caterpillar" tables from Demco and I hate covering them. Besides, they are over in the main "play" area and I suspect would get ruined by babies/toddlers while their nannies looked on. Argh....

I found some of the "Madeline" felt pieces but couldn't find the box of shapes I had  made for the previous   So I just used my beloved Sizzix machine to cut some felt squares, circles and triangles. I also have a die that came with the machine that does hearts and butterflies, so I added those two.

And this is what I found a day or two after I'd set up the table:

(The flannel backing is actually baby blue. It just looks gray in the picture)
     Fun stuff!  I found the shapes later this week and added them. Lots more squares, circles and triangles. They'll be my standards, but I thought I should add something for the boys (and girls) who love vehicles. And so I started searching for patterns simple enough for me to make, and with the help of the Sizzix again I made these:

   The train pieces from the ever talented Melissa Depper's blog--and I still want to make a few more pieces.   The cars came from Nancy Stewart's music site. In fact, I think I've probably blogged about them already  because they go with her "Lots of Cars" song/game, which is a big hit around here!  And the school bus is made from the same pattern I used for this week's "take home" craft--only I gave the kids just the template  for the bus's body, while I used my Sizzix to make doors, windows and wheels.

So far, so good. Not only am I seeing kids using the table, but most of the pieces are remaining ON the table when they're done.Keep your fingers crossed for me, because  I want to keep going with this from month to month. I'm waiting on a leaf die for my Sizzix to add later this month and I think I can easily find some pre-cuts for Halloween. I don't have the turkey from last year, but I still have the feathers.

That's all for today. This week's Flannel Friday is being hosted by Ms Kelly.
And you can find all things flannel on the Flannel Friday blog and the Flannel Friday Facebook page!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fun With A Ukulele:"There's A Dog In School"

This isn't truly a flannel thing, but you could easily to this song with flannel figures--and I know people do it with puppets or finger puppets.

Someone asked about  "a dog singing the alphabet song" on the Storytime Underground Facebook page.I'd never heard of it. But when someone else posted the link I looked it up.

I don't like Miss Carole or whatever her name is--there's something about her that makes my saccharine meter go off. But I liked the song, and it's from Bill Wellington, a good storytelling and song writer. So I learned it--it's an easy song.

I will probably do this with puppets, but when it's a new song, I like to use my ukulele to teach everyone the song, so I decided to figure out the chords.

Sure enough, this is another for the pantheon of Kids Songs Anyone Who Knows Three Chords can play. Because if you know C, F and one of the G chords (G  or G7), you can play "Twinkle Twinkle/ABC" and a thousand other kids songs with confidence.
(This song does have you singing the ABC song with each animal, so if you want to play it you need both G and G7 for the ABC part. So 4 chords...)

After doing this video I watched one from Anaheim Public Library. I hadn't looked at it before because it was a puppet version, but Miss Angel does it in English AND Spanish, and I think I've managed to figure out her Spanish version. I plan to do it and amuse my nannies:

There's a dog in school/Hay un perro en l'escuela,
 Oh, no!
What are we going to do/Que lo que vamos hacer?
So long as there's a dog in school/Si hay un perro en l'escuela
He's going to learn his alphabet too/Tendra que aprender!

Anyway, here's my version, English only. I'm going to love doing this song, and I think it will work with my one year olds as well as my 2 and up gangs:

Miss Tara is hosting this week's Flannel Friday.
And for all things flannel visit Flannel Friday's website at

Friday, July 18, 2014

Flannel Friday: Slippery Fish

I loved doing a program this week that included Raffi's "Baby Beluga", a beautiful new book called "Breathe" and Lois Ehlert's "Fish Eyes" because it enabled me to do all my favorite fish songs.

I posted "Three Little Fishies" on an earlier Flannel Friday. Once again, it was a great song to do.
If you are brave enough to sing it a capella, get the kids and parents to clap rhythmically for the "Boop Boop Diddy-Daddy" part and they'll have a great time.

I love doing "Baby Shark" with the babies, the toddlers, and especially with the 2 and up set. I always tell them, "Go home and sing this for mommy or daddy, and don't forget the GOTCHA at the end!"
This is my version, far less bloody version, if you haven't seen it before:

But the new song/flannel was "Slippery Fish."  I watched Charlotte Diamond's video, then found this video that inspired me to make a quick flannel set of my own:

I don't know if this was a purchased set, but I took screenshots of the characters, printed them out, and cut my own out of flannel. I was limited in materials, but managed a good enough set to use.
The trick is sizing things so that as each character gets "eaten", the next one fully covers the previous fish. And it's not a good idea to make a black whale when your board background is black (!)

 The kids LOVED doing this song, and did the gestures with enthusiasm. In fact, we sang it twice at each program.  They especially liked the "Oh, no!" part.  I did the gestures slightly differently from Diamond or from the mom at this website, but it's a cute video of her singing it with her daughter.

This week's Flannel Friday is being hosted by Lisa at LibraryLand.
 Thanks for stopping by!

Tell Parents: Just Read

Someone on a librarian's Facebook page is asking for suggestions for books to help parents "teach" their kids to improve their reading comprehension. My response: "Just read!"

Pick the right books--not by their popularity, their reading level/lexile level <feh> or by the fact that the little boy/girl next door is reading them.

Pick them because they are the right reading level for that particular child. That might be easier than their school determined reading level. Those tests are a crock--I personally went off the grade scale by 4th grade--it didn't mean  I was ready to read college level books, just meant I was really good at reading tests!

I remember when my daughter SC was in 5th grade and struggling with math. Her nice, clueless teacher told me "I could have put her in the easier class, but it wouldn't have been a challenge."

SC didn't WANT a challenge. She was math phobic, didn't think she could do it. In the easier class, she might have overcome her fear and thrived.
In high school, her lovely Algebra II teacher told me at conference that SC was struggling and might want to move into a pre-Algerbra II class for that year, and take Algebra II the following year. She did so--and aced  the state Algebra II test the following year!

So I often suggest that parents give struggling readers SIMPLER books. Books that they can read easily. Books that they will find fun. Books that will build their confidence.  Books that they can read fluidly--which means they will COMPREHEND them.

The "five finger/rule of five" test should be used. If they are struggling to read the page, they are going to have trouble with comprehension. If they have to stop occasionally to sound out a word, fine. That's how you learn new words!

Pick books because the child LIKES them. For boys, that may mean graphic novels, non-fiction, or something else not on the recommended school reading list. Who cares? They're learning that reading is fun--don't we want that?

Suggest reading together out loud, or listening to audio books. Boosting auditory comprehension is just as important as actual reading comprehension, and learning to listen helps a child learn how to focus--a difficult skill in this screen obsessed society.
In picking read alouds, head for things it's not likely a child will read to himself/herself when they have boosted their skills. Don't go for Roald Dahl, for example. And while in reading aloud you can pick a much more difficult book, please remember that a 6 year old will not get 3/4 of Harry Potter, and if he/she doesn't decide to read it on their own when he/she is 11 or 12, you might try it as a read aloud then. They'll enjoy it more and will GET the whole thing, and might even pick up the second book on their own!

Not every child will become a bookworm. But reading should be a pleasurable experience. I want every child that comes into my library to discover that, even if reading doesn't become the main focus of their life.

In closing, I will remember my young friend Benjamin, son of a well meaning mother who wanted every moment to be a learning experience and not realizing that learning experiences are often subtle. My office was separated from the reading area by a glass partition, so I overheard this priceless exchange:

She and Benjy were reading a  book and she stopped to say "And, Benjy, do you remember what glass is made of?"
Benjy looked at her and said, "Mom, can't we just read the book?"

Go, Benjamin!  And heed his wisdom.

Just Read!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Talk UP To Children

Dear Gray Haired Kindly Bookstore Lady In Cape Cod, and All Your Fellow Librarians/Booksellers,

Kids do not like to be talked down to. That six year old boy was being very polite, but your sweet, kindly, sticky voice made me gag and flee the bookstore.

The reason kids get hostile towards the Purple Dinosaur That Must Not Be Named when they reach kindergarten age (if not sooner), is that the show talks down to them. It patronizes them.

Even  preschoolers like to be talked to in full sentences and normal voices. Talk to them as if they were 15 or 16 rather than 3 or  4 or 5.

It's disrespectful to do anything else. And it shows how utterly, utterly clueless you are about kids.
Even if I hadn't know that by the books you were offering that nice little boy.


The Library Lady

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Take Home Crafts

I've been doing them since January and the kids seem to love getting their bags. One of my favorite moms told me her son calls it his "homework".

It is a challenge coming up with something inexpensive and easy every week, but somehow I've done it most weeks. But between a family situation and 7-8 programs per week, blogging about it has been hard.

So meanwhile, here is a new Pinterest board that features the projects I've done this winter and spring. Enjoy......

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Flannel Friday: Buzz On!

I've been so busy DOING programs, I've had no time to talk about them or write about them! And I know that there are lots of great versions of this fingerplay out there--I got the idea from several other Flannel Friday entries. So why put this here?

Two reasons. First is to show off how glad I am to have realized a die cut machine might help me here. After having bought a bargain priced Cricut and struggling with it, I decided I didn't want an electronic machine (it ended up just needing a new blade and I sold it on Ebay), but something more like the Ellison machine that used to live in the back room of my old library. And I ended up with a Sizzix Big Shot. I got a good deal on it via and I really like it.

The main thing I use the machine for is to cut out basic shapes. I bought several sets of Framelits--they are intended for scrapbooking frames, but they cut simple ovals, circles, squares and triangles. I need to get stars and hearts and then I'll be really set for anything, but the Sizzix came with a die that has several small hearts. Just what I needed for this board.

The bees are narrow ovals cut from stiffened yellow felt, glued to circles cut from stiffened black felt. Their wings are white felt hearts, glued 2 per side. Googly eyes, a little black paint and I was set.

They are a little too large & bulky to hide behind the beehive on the board. I may attach them to a glove, as inspired by Sunflower Story Time, or may just hold them in my hand, bring them out and put them on the board as shown in my video.

Reason two is that while looking for ideas for this fingerplay, I came across a site from Australia: "Sing and Grow"  and a lovely singing version of this song. You can click on the link and hear it there, or just listen to it on my little video below. Mine is the unaccompanied version, which I hope gives you the courage to try it at your library.

This week's Flannel Friday is being hosted by Thrive After Three
Find out more about Flannel Friday on the website, the Pinterest board and on Facebook

Friday, January 24, 2014

Not A Flannel Friday At All: "Tiger Soup"?

Okay, I spent last Saturday planning a week of "Arctic Animal" programs. I was going to do the ever popular "Polar Bear Hunt" game, tell "Eye of the Needle" and read a polar bear book or two. I came up with a take home craft for the little ones in the morning, and was wavering between 2 different crafts for my Thursday afternoon crew. I got my handouts ready. I spent time hunting down inexpensive cotton balls. I assembled bags for Tuesday.

But then the polar vortex came roaring in along  with a snowstorm. Not what you in the Midwest would call a snowstorm--and not in my native NYC where they got 12 inches--but 4 inches is enough to make a mess down here in the DC area. We don't have the snow/ice equipment they have in areas where this happens all the time.Which meant school closures--which meant no programs.

I knew I'd be doing a Thursday afternoon program though, and after all this cold and snow, the last thing we needed was to go anywhere colder. Single digit temperatures and wind chills were more than enough. I needed a WARM story time.

So Thursday I pulled out the soup books:

I read this first--with the snowy aspect it was a great story to read right now! I have thought about "flannelizing" this, or telling it with objects, but I'd had time for neither. Like Murray the Mouse, I was "in a hurry"!The kids enjoyed it as is, however. They joined in the chorus and liked the ending, though several of them didn't get what had happened to the carrot until we talked about it. No matter, it was fun.Then we sang the "I'm a Little Snowman" song, which is always a favorite game, and they needed a stretch before I told "Stone Soup"

I grew up on the Caldecott winning version by Marcia Brown, and I like its French flavor. So when I tell this story, I use some of Brown's language. There are three soldiers, the townspeople hide cabbages under the beds and sausages in the rafters, and it always ends with "Such men don't grow on every bush!"|
But in telling it, I use Heather Forest's version from her "Sing Me A Story" CD.  I also have a collection of fake vegetables and the kids all get to drop them in the pot in turn. It got a little chaotic on Thursday, but it was fun.

Heather's picture book version of the story is not as well known as Marcia Brown's, Ann McGovern's, or Jonathan Muth's, but it's a good retelling. And if you would like to hear Heather Forest singing and telling this story, click on the picture to get her podcast of this story.

So why am I titling this post "Tiger Soup"? Because that's the last story that I told.

 There are a lot of versions of the Anansi the Spider story about how Anansi tricks Tiger. In some versions, like the Francine Temple picture book version, he merely tricks him out of his soup. But I vastly prefer the version where it is his TAIL that Anansi makes into soup, and that's the version that I tell. It's from a book called More Tellable Tales, and if you click here , you will find this story on Google books.

The kids liked the story, but they were a little on the wild side themselves after days of being homebound, so I shortened it a bit & took them out to do our craft:

I have done the "soup bowl" collage bit before, and thought that it would be old hat to these kids. But the kids loved it and the moms were impressed, which is always cool.

I had a soup bowl pattern and didn't like it.  So I found this pattern instead. It was too small and crooked so I enlarged it to full 8 1/2 X 11 inch size. If you click on the pattern, you can download it yourself.

Click on the picture to go to the upload.

I provided markers, white glue (in small bowls), q-tips as glue brushes and an assortment of dry beans and pastas. I also meant to add foam letters for "alphabet soup", but in the end just went with the basics.

The kids had a great time coloring their spoons and bowls and then adding lots of ingredients for the "soup". And when they were finished I stapled their pictures onto 9X12 sized colored construction paper, which made it look extra nice.. looked for a "take home" soup craft, couldn't find one, and decided, since I was doing "Tiger Tail Soup" to do a tiger craft. I looked at a number of tiger puppets and found them either boringly minimal or having too many pieces. I liked a puppet I found on a UK site called "Activity Village", but it was made with a wooden spoon and there was no way I could do that time wise or budget wise. So instead I adapted this puppet I found on a site called "A Little Tipsy" (click on the picture to go there) and simplified it.

I copied and printed out this pattern, then cut out the pieces and traced head and body onto white paper, using a thick black Sharpie to make the outlines. And I drew on lines for the stripes. In each take home bag went the head and body pattern, a craft stick to mount it on, and instead of the paper tail, I adapted the tail on the wooden spoon puppet--each child got two pieces of chenille stem (what we used to call pipe cleaners)--one orange and black that they could twist around the stick for an adjustable tail. The one you see at the left was my quick test tiger--but I'm hoping that the kids went home and made purple or green or blue tigers if they wanted to!

Next week is Chinese New Year and I am planning "Year of the Horse" programs. Now to see if the weather cooperates........

 This week's Flannel Friday is being hosted by the fabulous Melissa Depper, one of the "founding mothers" of Flannel Friday.
Find the rest of this week's offerings at her blog.
And you can always find everything Flannel Friday at

Friday, January 17, 2014

Flannel Friday (Sort of): Mitten Madness

I am calling this a "Flannel Friday" because you COULD make the mittens and the special effect from flannel/felt.  But you could also use foam. And I just used construction paper.
There are several book versions of "The Mitten", including the pretty-pretty Jan Brett version and the lovely old fashioned version by Alvin Tresselt. But my favorite is Heather Forrest's wonderful musical version --you can hear it for free if you click on   the link and look on the left at her "Story Listening Corner".

 At first, I just told it with puppets and didn't bother with a prop. But in recent years, I decided to fancy it up by adding a series of mittens on the magnet board as I told the story w/the puppets.  I made them simply by printing out a mitten shape on yellow construction paper, first on my computer and then on our copy machine, each time making it a little bigger. Magnet tape holds them on my board.

I usually just held all the puppets, or piled them together on a chair. But this time last year, my brain finally snapped into gear on this and I realized I could clip a large tote bag to the back of my two sided board (I love binder clips!) and tuck all the puppets in there:
     The view from the back.                Just Mouse "in" the mitten.         All puppets but 1 in the mitten.
    (Note the cool "Chester" bag)                                                          

At the end of the story, I pulled them out and let them fall on the floor--or more accurately--tossed them in all directions, which of course, the kids LOVED.

Then I came up with the piece de resistance--an extra special effect when the mitten explodes! All it took was some shredded yellow paper. I used scrap paper, but you could put a sheet of yellow paper in a shredder, or even buy shredded gift paper in a party store.

I put the paper in a small cup, tucked inside the big tote bag and clipped the bag to the back of my board.At the end of the story, I threw first the animals and then the paper. It was chaos of course, but then "I thrive on chaos" is my motto!
And the kids all helped me pick up the paper and had fun.

I started my program with this book. I CANNOT go through a winter without reading "Froggy". I have a big book version and I tell it in a BIG voice!

The kids have been loving the "Sleeping Bunny" ukulele song/game that I learned from Miss Mary Liberry, so this week I turned it into a "Sleeping Froggies" game to play after this book. I really owe you big time for that song, Miss Mary!

I don't do crafts with my 2 and up morning programs, but this week I put paper and crayons on my tables and asked parents to draw around their hands to make a mitten and then let the kids color it.
I never cease to be amazed how daft parents and nannies can be. Even after I drew an "example" , something I never do for craft programs, there were lots of  5 finger gloves, and lots of families where they simple drew around the child's hand--no art!  Still there were some very cute ones and I put them all up on the bulletin board near the story room door.

Take Home Bags, Week 2:  People seemed to like the take home bags, though I got limited feedback on if they did anything with them at home!  I couldn't find a really child safe idea for the 2 and up set, so I simply put a mitten coloring sheet in the bag, and on the "More Fun" enclosure I've been making suggested once again doing the "draw a mitten" thing, with suggestions on ways to decorate it.

We did a "draw, cut and decorate a mitten" craft at the afternoon program for the 3 and up crowd, so I needed to put something different in their bags. And what they got was a "snowball" made from flour/salt play clay, and the recipe for how to make more dough at home in the "More Fun" enclosure.The dough was easy to make at home--took me about 5 minutes to make a double batch, and I divided it into tiny balls with a mini-cookie scoop that I use at home to make meatballs.
Each bag went into a zip-lock bag with this label.

I found the play dough recipe on a website that has what it calls the "A to Z of Play Dough".
Lots more great recipes there.

It was quite a week. And now to figure out what I'm going to do to top this NEXT week!

Thank you to Kathryn at Fun With Friends At Storytime for hosting this week's Flannel Friday.
And everything you ever wanted to know about Flannel Friday is available at the Flannel Friday blog.

Friday, January 10, 2014

NOT A Flannely Flannel Friday, But The Best Snow Program EVER!

I've been feeling gloomy and burned out and not really ready to tackle my winter programs. Several months of shuttling back and forth to NYC to care for my mom, dealing with the holidays, I am just tired to the bone.

It's easy enough for me to do programs. I've been doing this sort of thing for <ulp> over 2 decades, so it's not hard to just dip into my files, see what I've done in the last few years and reassemble it back into a program.

It all looked tired and boring, and I couldn't come up with anything new.
But then it snowed.

I love snow (brought up in NYC, lived in Albany,NY during college) and we often get winters here where we might as well be in Florida for all the snow we've gotten. So seeing snow in early January--not a huge storm, but enough to cover things--made me say, "At least I can do a snow program this year and they'll have SEEN snow!"

I started figuring out my program and it began to snowball. Almost literally and certainly figuratively.

First I found this game. If you've read my posts, you know that I have a loathing of most "piggyback" songs librarians and preschool teachers create, mainly because they either don't fit the tunes or because the words are lame in order to fit the tunes. Usually both!

But this one, which I found on YouTube from a Canadian company called "Intellidance"  (and I WISH that firms like this had training for people planning on using it in a non-profit form, but of course, that would cut into their licensing fees) works perfectly. And it's an excellent way to do large motor skills with older kids (as in 2 and up) and as an action game song with the younger ones.

I could have posted Intellidance's video, but I wanted you to see that you don't have to be a limber young sylph in yoga pants to do this any more than you have to be  to dance ballet. I'm not, and I do both! So I did my own video both for you and for my patrons:

I tried it at my toddler programs (Mother Goose) as a sit-down game, and at my 2 and up program as both a sit down and a stand up game and they loved it.

Then there were the bells. Did you know that "Jingle Bells" was NOT intended to be a Christmas song? There's nothing in it about Christmas and it was, in fact, inspired by horse races held around Thanksgiving. So it's great for singing at any snow program, and the little ones who enjoyed singing it at my "Ukulele Christmas" program last month enjoyed it equally this month. So did the 2 and up crowd, though I didn't do the "Jingle Jingle" book with them

 The first book I did at the 2 and up programs was this lovely book--and if you don't know this one or Stojic's "Rain", rush out and find them. Lovely art, simple text, things to talk about. The older kids and younger kids alike always enjoy it.

See those white bunnies on the cover? They are actually snowshoe hares, and in the book their coats changing from brown to white is a plot point. So it tied right in to pull out the ukulele and sing the "Sleeping Bunnies" song. This has become one of the top activities at recent story programs and I have "Miss Mary Liberry" to thank for making this great demo video that helped me learn it!

 I wrote a post some time back about this book and about Lois Ehlert's incredible creativity and on how the Caldecott dopes keep missing artists like her in favor of trendy nonsense. The fact that I have been reading this book at programs for years and that kids have been loving it and poring over the details tells you that this book is worth a place on any librarian's shelf. Long after "I Want My Hat Back" and similar tripe aimed at hipster grownups has gone to that Great Discard Pile In the Sky, this book will still be read at story times. As it was at mine this week.

And here is a book that truly IS a classic.It's been around <eep> almost as long as I have! It was published in 1962 and did you know that this book was revolutionary then because it showed a "Negro" child not doing anything that made him different from any other child? Just playing in the snow, with no comment about his race involved. Kids identified with Peter then, and they still do today. I have the big book version of this, and so should you!

Yesterday I did my afternoon program for the 3 and up set. I incorporated most of what I'd done--and more into the program. I'd expected maybe 10 kids. I got 22--and did we have a BLAST!

We started with:                                                           Then we read:

 Followed by "Sleeping Bunnies"                            Followed by "Jingle Bells" & other bell songs

Then we put the bells away and did:

I'm A Little Snowman      (tune is, of course, I'm A Little Teapot, and the motions are obvious!)

I'm a little snowman, short and fat
Here is my broomstick, here is my hat
When the sun comes out, I melt away
Down, down, down, down--ooops!
I'm a puddle today!

Then, the "Snowflakes" song, which we did as a stand up game. And as it ended, I turned my back on the kids and started throwing:


I don't know who to credit with the pompom snowball idea, but I'd done this with cotton balls last year and it was a disaster for the carpet, so I decided to try these instead. They were a snap to make with a "Clover" brand pompom maker, and if you get one, go HERE on YouTube for a great demonstration on how to do this. I made about 30 of them, and intended to use them with the parachute, but with 22 kids(!) that was out of the question, so we had a snowball fight instead. The pompoms are easy to throw and no one gets hurt with them. Once or twice I yelled "Freeze!", scooped up the pompoms and started the action again. Of course, the most fun for them was snowballing ME, but I have a pretty good pitching arm myself.....

We usually end these programs with a craft, but ennui and the inability to get to some of my craft stuff because of window work in the building made that hard. So instead of reading "The Snowy Day" with this group, we watched the Weston Woods film of the story. It's beautiful, with soft guitar music, simple animation and a gentle narrator. After all that rowdy fun, it was especially nice to see the kids, ranging in age from 3 to 7, quiet down and respond to Peter's adventure.  I can't get a clip of this film, but it's available on this DVD set.

TAKE HOME BAG:  This is something Jennifer of the blog "In short, I am busy" mentioned on a Facebook group I belong to , and I am trying it. The kids like it and I am hoping that if take homes go home with nannies perhaps parents will see what I am doing. <SIGH>

Anyway, the take home bags were just brown  paper lunch bags, but I have lovely silver snowflake stickers I got from a state reading program, and each bag had a sticker on it. Inside was a flyer with information about some of our snow books, the "I'm a Little Snowman" song, and instructions for a snowflake craft that uses coffee filters. Basic idea is that you color the filter with markers, spray it with water so that the colors bleed, let it dry a bit, fold it, and snip as you usually do for a snowflake. Each bag included a coffee filter--I am hoping that they went home and got used, and NOT for coffee!

The challenge of this is going to be coming up with the crafts, especially if I want to include materials. It has to be done very cheaply, it has to be young child safe, and it has to be as creative as possible--NO coloring sheet type things if I can help it.

Anyway, after all that activity the kids went home happy,  I went home happy, and I feel like I've had a little bit of a recharge of my story time batteries.

Now to top that for next week.............................
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