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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