Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Cool Stuff-Roll Paper and Craft Cups

I was setting up for my recent Toddler Crafts program and realized that we were using some materials that every children's librarian should know about.  I am a big fan of things that make our jobs easier.

My first cool thing is giant butcher paper on a roll.  We buy ours through Discount School Supply and we use it for almost all of our programs.  Our biggest use for it is as a table cover.  We put it down before the program and roll it up afterwards (as long as it isn't too gunky) so we can reuse it.  Since paper is down on the tables, we tell kids that it is okay to write on it if they finish their crafts early.  Kids will draw pictures, practice writing their names, and play Tic Tac Toe (big winner!).  Butcher paper is also a great mural background.  Anytime you need a quick activity, you can tear off a piece of paper and have kids decorate it.  They are fascinated by the large size of their canvas.  Our roll of butcher paper lasts 4-5 years so it isn't something that you have to constantly replace.  It is definitely worth the investment.

Have you ever used Craft Cups?  We used to use foam cups, but sometimes they are too tall for little hands to reach in, grab an item, and be able to pull it back out again.  These are relatively sturdy and are perfect for sorting or holding small amounts of materials.  They can even hold paint or glue for a one-time project.

You can spread them out or stack them up to keep them together.  These are also sturdy enough that they will last through multiple programs so you can stack them up and use them again.

What are your favorite things to use?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Toddler Crafts-Dinosaurs

Today's Toddler Craft program was all about dinosaurs to fit in with our summer reading theme-Dig Into Reading.  We registered 25 kids and had everything cut out before the program.  With this age group, I try to focus on only one or two skills.  Today our main focus was on gluing, followed by coloring/writing.  The goal is for the kids to actually do the craft.  If you make it too difficult, then the parents end up doing the work.

With this age group, I very rarely use tables for this type of program.  All of our tables are adult-sized, which makes it more difficult for the kids to work without sitting on their knees in the chairs.  Our other problem is that the parents will take the chairs so they can sit next to their child and we just don't have enough table space for both parents and children.  Instead, we roll a giant sheet of roll paper across the floor.

By doing this, the space is more fluid so parents can sit next to their kids.  We also have parents who have multiple young children.  By working on the floor, a car seat or stroller can be right next to them too.

Each space has everything that the child will need in order to complete the craft, minus the crayons.  We put those down the center of the paper in containers, which also encourages the kids to put them back when done.  If I have the ability, I put everything needed for each craft on a separate pile.  Today we did two crafts and you can see two piles above.

While I like kids to use their imagination and encourage it, sometimes the parents really want examples.  My way to do this is to make color copies of my example and spread them out on the brown roll paper.  This way they can use the examples if they want or ignore them if they don't.  

Our Crafts
If you do crafts with kids, I really recommend being on Pinterest.  I cannot sing its praises enough and feel that it was created especially for children's librarians!  Today's crafts both came from Pinterest, although they didn't include directions or patterns.  I am including patterns for both.

Our dinosaur paper bag puppet (aka Spot-o-saurus) came from Reading is Fundamental.  I created a pattern here if you would like to make your own.  We used construction paper for the pieces, sticker eyes for the eyes, and crayons to draw the two dots for the nose.  I like to include some sort of puppet as they encourage imaginative play.  Many of the kids were seen after the program talking with their puppets in the children's area.

This idea came from Oriental Trading.  If you would like to use my pattern for the parts, it is included here.  We used colored copy paper to cut the parts, sticker eyes for the eyes, and a crayon for the mouth.  I like this craft because there are multiple body parts which gives you many chances to talk with toddlers about where things go.  Some examples include:
  • Where are your eyes?  Where should we put the dinosaur's eyes?
  • What shape is your mouth?  What color is your mouth?  What color/shape are you going to use for your dinosaur?
  • Should his feet go by his head?  How about on top of his belly?  How about down at the bottom? 
If you like crafts for toddlers, you may want to check out my previous posts here and here.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Just Dance

One video game program that is still going strong at our branch is Just Dance.  If I don't schedule it once every 6 months or so, the kids start asking when the next one will be.  I try to schedule them on school breaks, especially those where we don't have extra staff in the building, because it takes really little effort on my part to put the program on.

We do register for this program, because you don't want a lot of kids at it or they won't get their turns quick enough and they will get bored.  We register 20 kids ages 6-12 and know that some will show up.  As kids come into the program room, I put their name on a list.  This is their order for dancing.  It usually works out so I will have 4 groups of 4 kids (I have 4 controllers), which means that each kid dances every 10-15 minutes. 

To put on your own Just Dance program, you will need:
  • a video game system (we have a Wii)
  • as many controllers as possible (the Wii will run 4 controllers at a time)
  • Just Dance video game.  There are now MANY different versions of this game.  You can pick the newest, which many of the kids won't have, or you can go "retro" and pick one of the older or Greatest Hits versions.
  • a way to project your game.  Use what you have to make it as cool as possible.  You can use a television, but if you happen to have a LCD projector, speakers, and a screen, that is much cooler!
  • extra AA batteries for the controllers.  While we use rechargeable batteries in our controllers, at least one controller per program will lose its charge. 
Your job running the program is:
  • To help kids with the basics of the controller.  It helps if you show them how the game is played, that the hand movements are what run your score up, and how to select songs.
  • To announce each group of kids.  It helps if you know where controller 1 is and pass it to a different kid each time.  Otherwise you will hear complaints that certain kids didn't get a turn yet to choose a song. 
  • To break up any song arguments.  I announce at the beginning that if there are disagreements, then I will pick out the song and nobody wants that.  I have only had 1 disagreement in 4 years of doing this program.
  • To have patience.  It is possible that you will listen to One Direction for the entire program.  While they aren't my favorite, I am not picking out the songs.  As long as there are no arguments, let them do it.

Random fun moment:
At one of our programs, the kids didn't really care if they got the controllers.  They just wanted to dance.  While we still rotated the controllers, there was a giant dance party where all 20 kids did all of the moves.  Since that program, I do announce at the beginning that anybody can dance.  After all, I am not keeping track of the scores.

This is our program room.  I move all of the chairs to the side 
so we have the largest space possible to dance.

When the program starts, I turn off the lights so you can see the screen better.  I also put the controllers out on the floor as the kids come in so they can get a general idea of "space".  While they do tend to cluster together, at least they started off spread out.

This is our media cart.  On the top shelf we have our LCD projector and speakers.  You can also see the Wii sensor-you will want this in a place that all of the controllers can register.  The second shelf holds our Wii.

When not in use, our controllers sit on my desk charging.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Flannel Friday-Mary Had a Little Lamb

I am working on an early literacy program in a couple of weeks based on Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox.  Unfortunately, coming up with flannel parts for the whole story is cumbersome as there are 27 pieces if you illustrate the entire story.  With my early literacy programs I like to put out multiple sets of a flannelboard story or rhyme for the kids to play with by themselves or with their parents.  Luckily, I found this flannelboard on LibrErin's blog, who found it on Recipe for Reading

Mary has a little green lamb, little green lamb,  little green lamb.
Mary has a little green lamb whose fleece is green as grass.

For the next verse, you will need another colored sheep and something to compare that color too.  For example, red as strawberries or yellow as the sun.

For this program, I made 4 sets of 6 sheep.  The pattern is available at Making Learning Fun.  While the other blogs used googly eyes, I used puffy paint as my kids like to pick the eyes off of whatever pieces I let them play with.  Instead of felt, I used fun foam because I liked the vibrant colors for the pieces.  For each set, I have the song typed out, similar to how it is above.  For activities where kids are doing it themselves, I like to type the color names in that color font.  It is a way to reinforce that word.  If kids see "green" typed as green, the colored green font gives them a hint to what the word is.

This week's Flannel Friday round-up is hosted by Future Librarian Superhero.  Stop by to check out the great ideas!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Literacy Fun

This post is all due to my sister.  She and her husband give their kids homework or projects to work on each day during the summer.  For their oldest, this is relatively easy as she has summer packets from school.  Their next child is in preschool and wants to do her "work" too.  Today for her homework we worked on some of her letters.

One of the biggest skills for preschoolers is letter knowledge and formation.  Most kids can write their name by preschool, but what about the other letters?  Can they recognize all of their letters?  These skills are all important for early literacy and reading preparedness.

To make your own project like this, we used:
  • 3" sticky note letters (die cuts would also work)
  • glue
  • glitter glue
  • pom pons
  • Cheerios
The point of this project is for your child to follow the letter shapes with anything other than a traditional pencil or crayon.  We tried using glitter glue, but the kind sent along was too hard for her to squeeze.  Then we moved onto a normal bottle of glue (I like Elmer's Washable No-Run School Glue Gel) and added craft supplies to follow the shape.  Because we were dealing with a 4 year old, all of the pom poms ended up on the first three letters.  We needed an additional "craft" supply to add to our glue which is how we ended up with Cheerios.

There are two main benefits for this type of craft.  First, glue is hard for little kids to use.  They need to really use their hand muscles to make it work.  This exercise helps them to strengthen their hands so they will eventually be able to hold a pencil and write.  For those kids who can already write their letters, this type of exercise helps them to better be able to control their pencils so their letters will get clearer and smaller.  Second, we are working with letter shapes.  This is practice for letter recognition.  After all, how often do you see letters such as V, W, and Z?  They just aren't as popular as letters like X (which marks the spot for pirate treasure) or M (the giant golden arches at McDonalds).


Friday, July 19, 2013

Flannel Friday-Bugs in a Rug

We are still in the midst of summer reading craziness, so I am raiding my large file cabinet for submissions.  This week we used bugs as our story time theme and this rhyme fits in perfectly with it.  It originally came from Mailbox Preschool, but I will admit that I forgot to write down which issue.  

Five little bugs are sitting on a rug.
One is the bee.  Buzz, buzz, buzz!
Two is the firefly.  Blink, blink, blink!
Three is the ant.  Work, work, work!
Four is the grasshopper.  Hop, hop, hop!
Five is the butterfly. Flap, flap, flap!
Now five bugs are snug,
All rolled up in a rug!

To make it more interactive as the kiddos needed something extra this week to keep the wiggles at bay, we added actions as the pieces went up on the board.  For the bumblebee, we all buzzed (kids love to make buzzing noises!).  For the firefly, we open and closed our hands to make blinking motions.  Work is hard for the ant so we just marched.  We hopped for the grasshopper and used our arms as wings to flap as the butterfly.  When it is 105 in Michigan, you need any movement you can get as nobody is playing outside.

This week's Flannel Friday round-up is being hosted by Miss Meg's Storytime.  It is her first time, so stop by and check out all of the submissions!  For all things Flannel Friday, check out the official blog.  For a visual look at Flannel Friday, check out our Pinterest boards.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Shake Shake Shake

I'll admit that I am a BIG fan of using props in story times.  One of my favorites to use are shakers.  For those that haven't used shakers before, here is some reasoning why and how to do it.

Why Use Shakers
  • Singing is a big component to early literacy.  Shakers are good for reinforcing the beat, which slows down music for kids to hear the parts of words.  This reinforces language development. 
  • They are FUN!  Fun reinforces learning.  After all, do you remember boring programs or fun programs more? 

Which Shakers?
We use LP RhythMix Plastic Animal Shakers from Little Hands Music.  While they look expensive, we have used them multiple times a week for the past 5 years.  These shakers have been chewed, thrown, stepped on, etc., and they still look like they are new.  They are indestructible.  Because they are plastic, it is easy for me to wash them in the sink with a bleach solution to sanitize and they require little drying time.  Plus, they are just plain fun.

Egg shakers are also good.  Personally, I would purchase them if you have the means.  While I have made my own in the past and they are inexpensive, they are not sturdy.  You have to plug the holes and it is a lot of work to make an entire story time set.  Plus, plastic eggs are seasonal.  I do still like to pull them out sometimes so parents can see how to make them.

As you can see above, I had to plug the holes with hot glue before I added rice.  Then I added another ring of hot glue around the seam to fasten the egg together.

How to Use Shakers
Shakers have a wide variety of uses in story times.  You can use them as you tell the story.  Shakers make good rain noises, help keep the beat (think of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom), or can make rattlesnake noises.  For a good idea of possibilities, check out the book The Sound of Storytime by Tiara Dixon and Paula Blough.  They run through a variety of instruments and how they can fit with children's books.

Do you dance in story time?  We have fun dancing to get our wiggles and sillies out.  Here are some songs that may work for you:
  •  Alabama, Mississippi by Jim Gill on Jim Gill Sings the Sneezing Song and Other Contagious Tunes
  • I Can Shake My Shaker Egg by Mr. Eric & Mr. Michael on Rockin' Red
  • Shake It by Jodi Koplin on Jumpin' Bean
  • Shake It Up by Milkshake on Great Day
  • Shake With You by Mr. Eric & Mr. Michael on Bouncy Blue
  • Shake Your Shakers Slowly by Kathy Reid-Naiman on I Love to Hear the Sounds
  • Shake Your Sillies Out by The Wiggles on Yummy Yummy
  • Shake, Rattle & Rock by Greg & Steve on Shake, Rattle & Rock
  • The Shaker Hop by Carole Peterson on Dancing Feet
  • The Shaker Song by Rocknocerous on Dark Side of the Moon Bounce
  • Shaky Shaky by The Wiggles on Yummy Yummy

One of my favorite rhymes to use with the kids is:

One, two, shake it on your shoe.
Three, four, shake it on the floor.
Five, six, stir and mix.
Seven, eight, stand up straight.
Nine, ten, wave to all your friends. 

For those who like to sing without background music, here are some other fun songs that I have used.

Title-Going to Kentucky

I was going to Kentucky, going to the fair,
To see the senorita with the flowers in her hair.
Oh, shake it, shake it, shake it,
Shake it if you can,
Shake it like a milkshake,
And do the best you can.

Oh, wobble to the bottom,
Wobble to the top,
And turn around and turn around until you make a stop!


 Title-Shake Your Shaker (to the tune of London Bridge)

Shake your shaker in the air,
Shake it here, shake it there.
Shake your shaker in the air,
Shake your shaker.

Shake it high and shake it low,
Shake it yes, shake it no.
Shake it high and shake it low,
Shake your shaker.

Shake it up and shake it down,
Rub your shaker on the ground.
Shake it up and shake it down,
Shake your shaker.

Shake it near and shake it far,
Drive your shaker like a car.
Shake it near and shake it far,
Shake your shaker.

Shake it fast and shake it slow,
Shake it stop, shake it go.
Shake it fast and shake it slow,
Shake your shaker.

Title-If You're Happy and You Know It 

If you're happy and you know it give a shake.
If you're happy and you know it give a shake.
If you're happy and you know it and you really want to show it.
If you're happy and you know it give a shake.

If you're happy and you know it give a clap.
(Clap shaker against palm.)

If you're happy and you know it give a tap.
(Tap shaker on the floor.)

If you're happy and you know it do all three.
(Shake, shake, clap, clap, tap, tap) 


Title-Shake It to the East

Shake it to the east, shake it to the west.
Shake it all around and then you take a rest.
Shake your shakers up, shake your shakers down.
Shake it, shake it, shake it and then you settle down.


Title-Shake Your Shaker

Shake your shaker in the air, in the air,
Shake it here and everywhere.
Shake it up,
And shake it down.
Shake it, shake it all around the town.
Shake your shaker in the air, in the air.


Title-We Shake Our Shakers Together 
(To the tune of For He's a Jolly Good Fellow)

We shake our shakers together.
We shake our shakers together
We shake our shakers together
Because it's fun to do!


Title-Shake Your Shaker
(To the tune of Are You Sleeping?)

 Shake your rattles, shake your rattles,
Like the leaves.
That are growing, that are growing,
On the trees.

Shake them high, and
Shake them low.
Round about
And to and fro.
Shake your rattles, shake your rattles,
Love the leaves.


Title-Shaking Your Shaker

Shaking your shaker.
Shaking it up high.
Shaking it down low.
Shake it side to side.
Tap it on your foot.
Tap it on your knee.
Shaking your shaker
Very quietly // Very loudly.
If you haven't used them before, shakers are definitely worth adding to your story time repertoire.  I am a big fan of using props with my story times and as I have free time, I will add more posts like this one.

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