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.............................


  1. I love using Jingle Bells in my winter story times too! I always include the verse about Fanny Bright as well. Very few adults or kids know the verse and "we got upsot" usually leads to a lot of falling down fun. Thank you for the fun fact that it was not intended to be a Christmas song - I can't wait to share that next year! Glad you found your mojo because I have always loved your work!

  2. Love your book choices!! The Snowy Day by Keats is about one of my absolute favorites and your yarn pompom 'snowballs' are ADORABLE!! Thanks for an inspiring post!

  3. I've been trying to think of a way to make snowballs in large quanties. Your pom pom snowballs are adorable! They do seem to take a while to make, but you have a nice little batch going. Do they seem durable enough to hold up lots of kids tossing them over the years? I think they are so cute!

    I tried making these last year, but it just took me too long.

    1. Truthfully, they didn't take me that long. The pompom maker I used enabled me to make one in about 5 minutes flat, so that's about 12 per hour, which I did while watching TV or just sitting at the desk at work.
      And I found it relaxing to do.
      I think they should hold up fine, as long as you knot the ends tightly when they're done. Really nothing to damage them. They'd also probably be toddler safe--they're machine washable. Come to think of it, I may make a pile more and toss them all over the room during the baby and toddler programs!

  4. I'm an elementary school librarian. I completely identified with all that you said. I love the program you came up with. You are a genius!


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