Thursday, January 25, 2018

American Girl Club: Meet Nanea

After 7 years of running our library's American Girl Club, keeping the program new and interesting can be a bit of a challenge. This is one big reason I am always happy when American Girl introduces a new historical character. This fall they introduced Nanea Mitchell, an American Girl living in Hawaii during 1941. Recently our club focused on Nanea for the first time.

To come up with ideas for Nanea I used the event kit put out by American Girl. These kits are a great resource, but tend to be taken down after a period of time, so if you are interested in these printables I would download asap them. In general I found Nanea a pretty easy to plan for, because you can draw from both Hawaiian themed activities and patriotic ones that are related to WWII.

We started the program with discussion about the time period, Hawaii and the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I focused on Nanea's desire to help with the war effort by having them take the "Dip your Paddle in Quiz" found in the activity booklet.

Next we played a game of Hukilau. It is pretty similar to London Bridges, but involves the well known Hawaiian tune, "Hukilau". Two kids link arms to form a "net" that the other kids walk through as "Hukilau" plays. When the line about the "ama-ama come swimming to me" comes, they drop their "net" and trap whoever is underneath. It definitely seemed to go over well.

After that we did a version of Simon Says called Kuma Hula Says. Kuma Hulas, like Nanea's grandmother, are experts in their art and the kids got to take turns playing the part. We used hula moves as our actions, but you could let the kids get creative by including others.

Our last activity was making leis. We used the printable flowers that the America Girl event kit provides and pieces of colored straw to make them. They kids strung both on yarn to make their leis. I got this idea from The Bird Feed NYC. As we made our leis we had a snack of pineapple salsa, Rice Krispie treats (invented in the 1940s) and cookies with M&Ms (also invented in the 1940s).

It was definitely nice to change things up, and I think the kids at the program had a great time. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions about this program or any others I have posted.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Winter Movement Cube Pattern

The winter is here in full force, so I thought it would be appropriate to share one of my most recent creations: my winter themed movement cube pattern. After using our regular movement cube during storytime I provided this pattern as an extension. Kids had the chance to color it and use it to create their own movement cube at home.

In case you aren't familiar with movement cubes, they are a great storytime tool. The basic idea is to put a simple action on each side of a cube. Our movement cube is a purchased version, but homemade cubes can also be created by covering a small box (such as a tissue box) with paper. The cube is rolled during storytime and the kids must do the action that comes up. It allows kids practice in motor skills and following directions. It also just a really fun and interactive thing to do with toddlers and preschoolers.

I was inspired to create this pattern by some other movement cube patterns I found through Pinterest. I liked the winter themed movement cube patterns I saw, but wanted something with blank pictures for the kids to color.

To create this version I used pictures from Pixabay. Pixabay allows images to be downloaded and modified copyright free, so I used Microsoft Paint to remove the color from the pictures as necessary.

Here is my pattern as a pdf: Winter Movment Cube

Feel free to download and share as you'd like. Hope you enjoy the winter months and keep as warm as possible!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Library Services for Children Journal Club: Executive Function

Far too long ago I blogged about a great professional development opportunity: the Library Services for Children Journal Club. This project was started by Lindsay Krabbenhoft of Jbrary and provides a chance for children's staff in libraries to discuss research articles relating to our work. Before tackling January's articles I wanted to post my thoughts about the first two journal club articles on the topic of executive function.

What is executive function?
Executive function is said to be the brain's "air traffic control" system, and involves areas such as working memory, inhibitory control and mental flexibility.

My favorite insights from the article
  • Developing these skills continues throughout childhood and through into adolescence. This is definitely a far longer time period than I had previously considered.
  • Executive function skills are important when it comes to school readiness. They provide a foundation upon which other knowledge and skills are built.
  • Childhood experiences help shape these skills Stressful childhood experiences and adverse environments can impair the development of executive function skills on neurological level.
  • Targeted interventions have been shown to help protect and improve executive function skills.
  • Kids who display a lack of executive function are not "bad" kids.
  • Parents and those who work with children can benefit from learning all the ways they can encourage the development of these skills at early stages.

How can we support executive function at the library?
  • Providing opportunities for play for all ages. As the first article on the topic states social play is considered "an important practice ground for the development of executive function skills." I try to provide opportunities for games in my storytimes and school age programs, so I was glad to have the benefits of this practice reaffirmed.
  • Creating an environment where kids have the opportunity to practice executive function skills in a fun manner. We do this through routine children's program activities. For instance, in storytime we take turns, repeat songs, and follow simple directions.
  • Making parents aware of how we are doing these things in our programs, and suggesting ways they can continue the practices at home.

There is definitely a lot more to think about related to executive function. I've really enjoyed seeing others post on the topic, and appreciate the opportunity to think more deeply about it. I'm looking forward to reading and posting about the next Journal Club articles!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Introducing Library Services for Children Journal Club

I'm happy to bring your attention to a great new opportunity for professional development for children's librarians: The Library Services for Children Journal Club.

What it is
This project was started by Lindsey Krabbenhoft (of Jbrary fame) and a colleague named Christie Menzo. The goal is to encourage those working with kids in libraries to read and discuss relevant literature and think critically about how this research can inform what we do in the library.

How to participate
To participate all you need to do is read the suggested articles on the LSC Journal Club site and discuss them with colleagues. This can be done in formal or informal gatherings, through blog posts, or on social media. Lindsey and Christie will be hosting Vancouver area meet ups, and encourage the planning of gatherings anywhere and everywhere.

You can participate right away. November's articles are already there for your learning pleasure. The first topic of discussion is executive function. New articles will be posted every two months on a different topic that fit into one of the designated research themes. To keep up to date on future topics you can keep checking the topic schedule.

I know I'm definitely excited to participate! I will be posting my thoughts on the latest articles here asap and on Twitter with the hashtag #lscjournalclub. I hope to see many of my fellow children's librarians doing the same!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

150th Anniversary Celebration

The city my library is in celebrated it's 150th Anniversary this year. In honor of the occasion we were recently part of a city wide celebration that included our local history fair among other things. I thought I would share what we did in hopes that it would help inspire you to try some history themed activities in the library or anywhere else.

The two major components of our celebration were stations for kids and a historical speaker. I tried to keep the stations easy, inexpensive and somewhat historically relevant to the time the city was founded.

Station 1: Butter "churning"

I saw this idea several places and changed it around to fit my needs. The basic concept is to shake heavy whipping cream until it turns into butter. The best idea I had was to use the tiny plastic cups I found at Kroger as our butter churning containers. They are the ones that only hold a few ounces and come with lids. They really worked well and it only cost a few dollars for about 50 of them. 

Station 2: Historical crafts

Our historical crafts included coloring pages, paper dolls, and a variety of paper pinwheels I got for free from another local group.

Station 3: Weaving

This is an idea I got here. The one modification I made was using square plastic plates rather than the foam trays. I was having problems finding the right trays and the plates seemed to work just as well. I was somewhat surprised to see that this was the favorite station of the program. My one tip is that an odd number of strings on your "loom" allows you to tie up the extra strings at the beginning and end. 

Station 4: Hoop rolling
 We already own several hula hoops, so I figured why not bring them out and encourage the kids to "hoop race". It really didn't seem to catch on well, but probably would be a lot of fun with a bigger group.

Station 5: Make a hat

No party is fun if you are not wearing the correct ensemble right? So we made bonnets and hats that seemed to fit the time period. I found the bonnet pattern here, and the other hat was simply a template for a "cowboy" hat that didn't seem to obvious as such.

All in all this program brought in a small but dedicated group of kids who seemed to have a pretty good time. Most stayed for over 3 hours for both the program and the speaker. The stations were also pretty inexpensive, as the biggest cost was for snacks. I would definitely recommend this type of program for anybody looking for a way to celebrate this period in history.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Build your brain: Weeks 3, 4 and 5

In my last post I talked a little about the process of re-imagining my preschool storytime for the summer. Now that summer reading is over I have time to update you a bit about what we did for the final three weeks of the program. My overall goal was to choose a mix of activities that would show parents all the many and varied things they can do to enhance their child's brain development.


Week 3: Sensory Fun

After our usual book and songs, we went into our meeting room for some slightly messy fun. My big message at this program was that sensory experiences help kids make brain connections. It also is a great way to introduce them to vocabulary they wouldn't hear otherwise. For instance, when you are doing sensory activities you may use fun words like squishy or gooey.

Station 1: Painting with pasta 

I had heard of this done several places online and wanted to try it out myself.  It is a not too messy but very fun way to provide a sensory learning experience.

Station 2: Car wash

This station was extremely simple and a big hit. All I did was fill our sensory tubs with water and soap and allow the kids to wash some of the hot wheels cars I keep on hand. I think I got this idea from a parenting blog but cannot remember which one it was. 

Station 3: Texture collage

I've done this at programs before and thought it would fit into the sensory theme perfectly. All I did was set out a variety of craft materials with different textures (cotton balls, tissue paper, feathers, etc) and have the kids create a collage. It allows the kids to be creative while at the same time using up the random craft supplies that always seem to be around.

Week 4: Art

Station 1: Sticker collage

This is another easy art project that allows kids to be creative. I put out a variety of stickers and let the kids make another collage. As a bonus, it was great to see the kids practicing making words with our letter stickers.  

Station 2: Tape resist art

Kids were asked to make designs on paper with tape and paint over them with watercolors. If I had to do it again I'd use regular paints so they would stand out a little more.  

Station 3:  Stamping with toilet paper rolls

I had leftover toilet paper rolls from another program, so I put some out for the kids to use as paint stamps. I figured the circles would also tie into a little lesson about shapes.

Station 4: Coloring pages

I do try to do coloring pages at my storytimes periodically for a few different reasons. Not only are they an easy addition, they are also great to help with kids fine motor skills. Coloring really helps young kids prepare the muscles they will need when they start to write. The ones I picked for this week were all art themed.

Week 5: Parachute

To end the summer we closed out with a whole program focusing on one of my favorite storytime additions, the parachute. We started out our small storytime room with my 6 foot parachute, as a read the book Monsters Love Colors by Mike Austin. At the suggestion of Storytime Katie, we added flannel pieces corresponding to the colors in the story and mixed them with our parachute.

We followed the story up with our first experience with our large 20 foot parachute. We did a variety of songs, all of which are detailed on my storytime blog. It was great fun, so much so that our adult services staff commented on how many screams of joy they were able to hear through our meeting room wall.

How it went

For the most part I think this program went pretty well. Attendance was definitely far better than my typical preschool storytime. I'm hoping this holds out into the fall and that the new day and time will be a success. As for the particular activities we did I'd have to say I saved the best for last with the parachute. I look forward to using it often in the future! I hope these suggestions have been helpful, and as always if you have any questions feel free to let me know via comments, email or Twitter.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Build your brain: Weeks 1 and 2

While my toddler and baby storytimes are going strong, my preschool storytime has been struggling with attendance for a while. Based on conversations with other children's librarians, this seems to be a common problem. Between preschool schedules (which seem to be increasingly offering all day options) and activities it can be hard to get preschoolers into the library.

To solve this problem I figured a change was in order. I knew I'd be switching up the day and time of this program, but I also wanted to add another hook to get people's attention. Our summer CSLP theme of "Build a Better World" gave me the perfect inspiration. For this summer, my preschool storytime is being rebranded as "Build Your Brain".

The idea behind this theme is to do something similar to the science based storytimes I did a few years ago: stories and songs, followed by interactive stations. The major difference this time is that there will be a little more emphasis on the brain/educational benefits of storytime. Each week we will focus on a different "brain building" thing and follow with stations related to that theme. This not only provides more fun for the kids, but also more useful information for the parents.

Week 1: Stories

Our first session started out strong. We had great attendance, and started out with reading themed books and songs (specifics found on my storytime blog). Our literacy tip for the week was the loving feeling from sharing stories together can actually help build brain connections. Our meeting room wasn't available for stations for this session, so I adapted by doing a "Favorite Book Character" scavenger hunt in the kid's room. I made a simple form with some favorite characters and asked the kids to find where these character's books would be in the library. As a reward for completing the scavenger hunt, they received a reading themed sticker.

Week 2: Music

Once again we began with a book and songs, but this week we got to transition to a variety of stations afterward. We had four different stations related to music. Our literacy tip this week was that music helps our brains learn to identify the parts that make up words.

Station 1: Painting with a shaker egg

I've done painting with objects in our plastic tubs several ways before. For instance we've painted with toy cars and our plastic sensory shapes. I chose shaker eggs this time because I thought they would work perfectly with our musical theme.

Station 2: Guess the object in the sour cream container

For this station all I did was put some random objects (coins, marbles, cotton balls, etc) in a series of sour cream containers. The kids had to shake them to guess what was in each one. The best part about this station was it shows parents how easy it is to make your own instruments at home.

Station 3: Instruments

I couldn't have a music themed program without putting out the library's shakers and rhythm sticks. I supplemented these instruments with homemade "guitars" made out of pans and rubber bands. Not sure where I saw that idea but it is definitely a great one!

Station 4: Making a toilet paper roll shaker

Toilet paper rolls are always a staple craft supply, but they have seemed to come in more handy than ever this summer. We used rolls, tape and beans to make our own shakers. Afterwards they kids got to decorate them with crayons and markers.

So far my plan seems to be working well and attendance for this age group has been up. We've got three more weeks to go and I look forward to updating you about them very soon! If you have any questions about this or any other program feel free to let me know.