Thursday, March 27, 2014

ATLAS: No Bake Cooking with Tweens

Cooking with my tweens is one of my favorite things to do at my library. Despite not having an oven we manage to create some great dips, cookies and other no bake creations. Recipes for some of these creations and tips on doing this type of program can be found in a previous post.

I try to do a "Cooking with Ms. Kelly" program at least a few times a year. It is one of my standby themes for my monthly after school program for Grades 3-6, ATLAS (At The Library After School). This month's ended up occurring a few weeks late, thanks to the snow. Thankfully, the majority of the registered kids were still able to come on the new date.

I always start with the most complicated recipe first, just to get it out of the way. I found the recipe for no bake Snowball Cookies online, and adapted the measurements to accommodate single servings made by each child. I also changed it slightly based on the results when I tried making an individual serving at home. The finished handout and recipe can be found here. The kids enjoyed the cookies more than I expected. The orange juice and coconut give these cookies a tropical flavor, and I wasn't sure how many kids would like them. They were a big hit though, so I will definitely have to use this recipe again sometime.

Snowball cookies made by our youngest attendee.

Our second recipe was extremely simple. Each child got a can of tomato sauce and some spices and we made Pizza Dip. I encouraged the kids to be creative and experiment with their recipes, and I was glad to see them testing their dip and modifying their recipes to their own tastes. My handout can be found here.

Finally, we moved on to the dessert portion of our program. We made Smore's Pops. I used my crockpot to heat up chocolate, and we used some leftover chopsticks I had to dip marshmallows in it. The coated marshmallows were then sprinkled with crushed graham crackers.

The last two creations were made by me, mainly so the kids could try them. I found a great recipe for Eggless Cookie Dough Cookies here, and brought it in for the kids. I made sure each of the kids got a handout with the recipe.
The cookie dough might just be my new favorite recipe!
In the last minutes of the program I also made some microwave quesadillas for them to try. I wanted to give the kids a taste of a super simple snack they could make at home. It was great to see them combining recipes by dipping the quesadillas in their Pizza Dip.

The kids seemed to enjoy this program. One of the kids commented during the program that it was the "best afternoon ever", which is great to hear. They also seemed to like the recipes, which hasn't always been the case in the past.

Feel free to use these recipes at home or for programming with kids. Also make sure to let me know if you have any questions about this program, or great ideas for cooking with kids!

Monday, March 24, 2014

American Girl Club: Meet Josefina

For anybody unfamiliar with this monthly program at my library here is a brief explanation: Every month we learn about a different American Girl character. It is geared towards 3rd-6th grade and includes a short discussion, followed by games, crafts and a snack. It is probably the most popular program I do for school age kids.

At this month's American Girl Club we learned about Josefina, a New Mexican girl from 1824. The timing worked out perfectly, because the day before this program happened to be the character's birthday. If Josefina were a real person, and alive today she would have turned 199 years old.

All ready to talk about Josefina.

Our guest of honor, Josefina.

We started out as usual with a little discussion about Josefina and her stories. The kids remembered some of the biggest things from Josefina's books, which is always a plus. For instance, they remembered that Josefina's stories take place after her mother has died. We talked about traditions and how they help Josefina's family remember her mother. I tried to help them connect this to their own family traditions.

After a brief discussion about Josefina and her time period, we moved on to our games. I always use games from the time period of the girl we are learning about, and found two great ones for this event.

The first game we played is referred to in the "American Girl Club Party Book" as "The Rainbow".  To the kids I explained it as color tag. "It" yells a color and has to tag those wearing it. The kids were pretty familiar with this one, so it provided a nice connection from past to present.

Next we played "The Blind Hen", which I found here. I compared it to Marco Polo, and the girls got it right away. Our final group activity was a Spanish matching game, which I found in the online Josefina Event Kit (sadly no longer available through the American Girl website).

We ended our program by decorating woven blanket bookmarks. The template for the bookmarks was also found with the Josefina Event Kit materials. Our snack for the evening was Spanish cookies, chips and salsa.

We have extra paperback copies of some of the American Girl books from when this program was run in a more traditional "book club" format, so each girl got a Josefina book to take home. They also got a bookmark. I can't do provide these for every American Girl Club (we are using up the books and bookmarks we already have) but I definitely think it adds something to the program when I can.

Josefina books and bookmarks

Looking forward to updating you all about next month's American Girl Club! We will be learning about Addy, from 1864. Let me know if you have questions about this program or any of my others :)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Flannel Friday: Little Frog, Little Frog

For my first ever Flannel Friday post, I will share the pieces I made to go with a frog rhyme I found at Step By Step Childcare. I took them out to use this week for my St. Patrick's Day Green themed storytime. I didn't use them at storytime this week because we ran out of time. I do remember that this rhyme has been pretty popular with the kids when I've used it in the past. FYI: April is National Frog Month so it is a great month for a Frog themed storytime.

To make these pieces I used a clip art frog and  log coloring pages. I colored each log and laminated all the pieces. I like to use the board already in my storytime room so this is how I make many of my counting and "flannel board" stories. I use tape to stick the pieces on and it generally works quite well.

This "flannel board" is very simple. You have the kids shut their eyes and hide the frog. After he is hidden, you all chant:

"Little Frog, Little Frog,
Are you under the (insert color) log?"

This rhyme could also be adapted to use different colored logs each time. You could also change the animal to a dog for a dog themed storytime. You could even use a hog for a pig or farm themed storytime. 

I hope this flannel board is helpful to you! I look forward to seeing the rest of this week's Flannel Friday posts.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Why Kids Should Come to School Age Library Programs

I saw this post about why kids should go to library storytimes awhile back and thought I would adapt the idea and discuss why school age kids should go to library programs. I want to explain to the world why despite being busy with homework and after school activities, bringing your child to library programs is worth it!

10. Better Social Skills: Interacting with the other children in unstructured environments like the library help children build valuable social skills. The games played at programs help them learn to communicate with others and work together.

9. Building the Library Habit: If you bring your child to the library for programs, you are developing a habit of library use. They will grow up feeling comfortable in libraries and be more likely to visit throughout their lives.

8. Content Area Knowledge: Kids learn valuable information from performers who speak on various topics. I've had science and animal speakers that imparted their knowledge to attendees. I also try to include information on various content areas in my own in house programming.

7. Building Relationships With Library Staff: If a child feels comfortable with their local librarian, they are more likely to ask them for help when they need help using the library for a school assignment.

6. Keeping Busy: Library programs are a great way to keep kids busy in that time period after school and before dinner.

5. Can't beat free: Most library programs are free! You definitely can't say the same thing for most other after school activities kids participate in. In addition to the free fun activities, there will often be free snacks as well.

4. Summer Reading Prizes: A big portion of the programming for kids at most libraries involves the yearly Summer Reading Program. Not only do kids get the prizes for participating, but the reading they do helps them maintain reading skills over the summer. A win win!

3. Encourages literacy and reading: Many library programs for school age kids include literacy building activities. Going to the library regularly also helps show your child that books and reading are a valuable use of free time.

2. Introduces new games and activities: Many library programs include games, crafts and other fun ideas that kids can do at home as well.

1. They are fun!: These programs are just as much fun for school age kids as storytime is for the little guys! They get to play games, do crafts and learn at the same time. What's not to love?

Does anyone else have any great reasons to add to this list?

Friday, March 14, 2014

No-Bake Cooking with Tweens

I had been planning to post about the "Cooking With Ms. Kelly" program I had planned this week but mother nature had other plans. The library closed early because of snow and the program has been rescheduled. Instead of the recap post I had planned, I've decided to share some more general tips about doing this kind of program. It has been very popular here, and it has definitely become one of my favorites.

Tips for No-Bake Cooking with Tweens:
  1. Find a very simple recipe with minimal ingredients. We do a lot of dips and no-bake cookies. I've shared some of my favorites here. Feel free to use them :)
  2. When all else fails, cover stuff in chocolate! It might be a little messy but of course the tweens love it. I bring a crockpot to melt a a few packages of chocolate chips, or buy candy coating and melt it in our microwave. I've actually done a whole cooking class based on chocolate. A few of those recipes can be found here.
  3. If possible, have the kids cook their own individual portions of each dish. This keeps all the kids engaged at the same time. It also gives them an opportunity to be creative and modify the recipe to suit their taste. For instance, if they don't like one of the ingredients, you can let them leave it out.
  4. Make sure you test out the recipes before hand. I almost always have to make some slight change, especially if I've modified the recipe. It can also help you get a handle on whether you have purchased enough ingredients.
  5. Recipes that use the microwave can be great, but very time consuming with large groups.This is why I don't use these kind of recipes very often.
  6. Don't try to fit too many recipes into one program. With the 12 tweens that typically come to my monthly ATLAS (At The Library After School) program I can usually get through 3-4 recipes in an hour.
  7. Provide the kids with recipe handouts to take home. The recipe handouts I've shared above are a good example of mine. 

Hopefully this information and recipes will come in handy next time you are cooking with kids at home or in the library. I'd love to hear if anyone else has tips to share as well.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Wonderful Books Wednesday: When Elephant Met Giraffe by Paul Gude

I found "When Elephant Met Giraffe" by Paul Gude in my pile of new books to process and had to share it this week.

The plot of this book is simple. It contains a series of short stories about the friendship between an elephant and a giraffe. The first connection I made is that it reminds me a bit of Mo Willem's "Elephant and Piggie" series, one of my all time favorites. The simplicity of the text and focus on friendship are quite similar. It doesn't have quite as much humor as "Elephant and Piggie" books but is definitely funny in its own way.

The first short story details how Elephant and Giraffe met, and each story after describes one experience they have together. As mentioned, the text is simple, making this a great book for beginning readers. There is also nice repetition, such as the phrase "Giraffe didn't say anything." which occurs several times across stories.

The illustrations also make this a good book to give to a beginning readers. They are simple, bright and show clearly what is happening in the story. Important clues to new words are obvious in the pictures. For instance, Elephant is shown wearing a pirate hat in the story titled "The Bossy Pirate" where he and Giraffe dress up in costume.

"When Elephant Met Giraffe" could be used with children in many ways. Kids could write additional stories about these characters. They could also compare and contrast them with any of the individual "Elephant and Piggie" books. A nonfiction connection could be looking up facts about Elephants and Giraffes (such as "Do Giraffes really not make any sound?").

As always, let me know if you have any ideas for using this book or any other wonderful book suggestions!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Benefits of Lego Club

Lego Club is one of my most popular programs here at the library. It is also one of the easiest to plan and prepare for. It is basically a 45 minute period where the kids can enjoy our collection of Legos. I put out our Lego books and our large bin of Legos and let the kids have fun. It is geared towards Grades K-6 and is held at 5 pm on the first Thursday of every month. All our Legos were donated by a family member of one of our librarians.

There are a few reasons that I keep my Lego Club so unstructured. The first is that as our only Children's Librarian I would rather focus my time and energy in other areas. The second is that I think that the kids enjoy it and gain a great deal from participation as it is.

Here are some of the benefits of Lego Club:

1. Math skills are being learned. For instance, kids will have to do a little math to figure out how many smaller pieces they need to cover a larger one. I've also seen kids counting the number of how many of a certain piece they have.

2. Science concepts are being tested. Such as: How high can I build this before it falls down?

3. Literacy skills are being developed. I make sure to ask the children what they are building. There is always a story behind it that they are happy to explain. This kind of oral storytelling is actually an important literacy practice. It helps with a child's narrative skills, vocabulary and creative thinking.

4. Cooperation and other social skills are strengthened. The kids often work together to create elaborate scenes such as battles. They must communicate their thoughts to their peers and come to an understanding about what they want to accomplish.

One such cooperative venture made at our most recent Lego Club meeting.

5. The children and their families get to experience the library and see all we have to offer. The Lego books provided at Lego Club get checked out. Many kids and families also stay after to use our computers, play checkers or use our computers.

6. Legos are engaging enough that even the younger kids on this age spectrum will be engrossed the whole time period. Over time this may help them develop longer attention spans.

7. Kids get to practice problem solving skills. They may need to substitute a piece for another to make something fit, or come up with a new plan when their original idea doesn't work. Problem solving skills are needed in so many facets of life so it is great to develop them early.

It seems pretty clear that having this Lego Club benefits both my library and my community. If you don't have a Lego Club at your library I definitely suggest you start one. For another perspective on how to do this you can check out this blog post.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Kidding Around: St Patrick's Day Party

We call our monthly programs for Grades K-2nd "Kidding Around", and our theme this month was a St. Patrick's Day Party. Despite the snow on the ground and the winter weather not showing signs of letting up, it is that time of year.

For all "Kidding Around" programs I require registration, mainly because I serve snacks and need to know how much to purchase. I usually set registration for 12 kids, which seems to work well in our small town. At our St. Patrick's Day Party we ended up with 10 showing up. I have many regular attendees and most are good about showing up as planned.

Here are our tables before the event:

I always make sure one table has books on the topic for the kids to check out.

Crafts supplies and snacks.

We started out with a quick discussion of what St. Patrick's Day is. With this age group the talk basically centered on leprechauns, green and Ireland. I wanted to include a few fun facts here, but had trouble finding any that I felt would hold the kid's interest.

Our first game was a relay race. The kids had to perform the actions written on shamrocks I had cut out. Actions included walking backwards, skipping, spinning and quacking like a duck. First team to each perform their action and run back to the finish line was the winner. The sneaky literacy component to this game was reading the instructions.

Our shamrocks before the relay race

Next we played "Hide the Gold" with a penny. Instructions can be found here. The kids got a kick out of trying to keep poker faces to hide when they had the coin. I also quickly showed them this trick.

Our final game was musical chairs with Irish themed music. Once a child was out of the game I allowed them to be in charge of stopping the music, which they seemed to enjoy. 

We finished the program with a craft and snack as usual. Our craft was painting shamrock hats. I found the idea here.

All ready to wear for St. Patrick's Day.

Our snack was cupcakes, green Hawaiian Punch, Lucky Charms, and St. Patrick's Day cookies.

A before shot of the cupcakes.

Overall, this program went well. I got some positive feedback from a parent afterwards, which is always nice. Working at a small library, I think it is important to provide some "just for fun" programs in order to bring kids in. I want them to see the library as a fun place to be. At this program in particular, books on the topic got checked out, and kids got reading logs for my March Reading Program, so I consider those positives as well.

As always, feel free to use these ideas or let me know if you have any questions :)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Successful Tween Programs

Teens are notoriously hard to get into the library, and sometimes tweens seem just as difficult to reach. Hitting on the right activities can be difficult. You don't want to come across as "babyish" but you don't want to do anything overly mature either. Adding in their busy after school schedules and extracurricular activities only makes the situation worse.

I have been lucky enough to build up a pretty successful core group of tweens in the three years I've been at my library. My monthly program for Grades 3-6 is called ATLAS (At The Library After School) and registration for it fills up most months. For being in a small town, I would say we get a pretty good sized group. I will be posting more about each ATLAS program as it is held, but figured I would give an overview of some of the things that have worked for me in the past. These ideas are all fun, easy and relatively cheap.

Here are some of my best tween ideas (in no particular order):

1) Chocolate Olympics: The kids played a variety of "Minute to Win It" style games involving chocolate. For instance they played the "Cookie Face" game with chocolate chip cookies. I've also done a similar program with popcorn related games, but after the condition of the floor following my program I would not recommend it. Thank God for vacuum cleaners!

2) Cooking with Ms. Kelly: My girls especially love this program. We do not have access to an oven, and a microwave tends to take up a lot of  time during the program, so we pretty much do No Bake and No Cook recipes. This means a lot of dips, wraps, and covering stuff in chocolate (always a big hit!). My kids like that they get to do the work themselves and get copies of the recipes to take home.

3) Origami: Pretty self explanatory. I used a Powerpoint going through the various steps of creating various origami creations.

4) Minecraft Party: The game is a big hit, so this program was a well. We played games related to Minecraft, such as "Pin the Sword on Steve". We also made pixilated pictures of ourselves and played Minecraft Bingo.

5) Super Mario Party: Another party based on a popular game. We did a Yoshi Egg Race, played "Pass the Bomb" and played Freeze Dance.

6) Duct Tape Crafts: Always a hit with teens and tweens. This is one of the few craft related programs I can get my tweens to come to.

7) Marshmallow Madness: Another "Minute to Win It" style program, this time involving marshmallows. We threw, stacked and taste tested marshmallows. We also divided into groups to see who could build the highest marshmallow tower with a bag of marshmallows and a pack of toothpicks.

8) Potato Chip Science: Science experiments are always a hit, and these all involved potatos. One of the experiments was floating pieces of potato in salt or sugar water. Another was building an aluminum foil boat to sink with potato chips.

9) Zombie Party: This was another program held during the summer of "Dig Into Reading". We played musical graves and made fake wounds. I learned that fake wounds are surprisingly easy to make using tissue paper, Vaseline and red food coloring.

10) Spooky Science: A great Halloween related program. We used static electricity from balloons to pick up tissue paper ghosts. We also made "ghost cups". These were made using the instructions found here. By pulling the wet towel more slowly it makes a ghostlike sound.

I have taken away three main ideas from all the programing I have done for tweens. First of all, they love game, science and food based programs. Secondly, snacks are a must. If you feed them they will come. Finally, I have learned that modifying teen programs is a great place to start.

I look forward to updating about all the fun stuff we do in future ATLAS programs!