Saturday, October 29, 2016

ATLAS: Halloween Crafts

In the spirit of the season, we made Halloween themed crafts at this month's ATLAS (At The Library After School). Craft programs are some of my favorites to do, and definitely make a great go to theme for my monthly programs ATLAS (3rd-6th grade) and Kidding Around (K-2nd grade). I do them often and highly recommend them.

For this program I came up with a few suggestions by searching Pinterest and let the kids take the reins from there. These ideas are probably too late for use in library programs this year, but hopefully will come in handy in the future.

Popsicle stick art:

This is a Frankenstein version, but it could also be done as a pumpkin, ghost, etc. I've done popsicle stick crafts like these before, but was also inspired by the pumpkins found here. I love the simplicity of taping several sticks together and applying paint, pipe cleaners, etc. It is fun, easy and allows for a great deal of flexibility.

Coffee filter spider webs:

I was originally thinking that the kids would cut these in a manner similar to paper snowflakes, but this was definitely a fun approach too. Hooray for creativity!

Pipe cleaner pumpkins:

I've learned over the years that pipe cleaners are one of the most versatile and useful craft supplies in a children's librarian's arsenal. Orange and green ones make a pretty cute little pumpkin that will stick around even after Halloween is over.

Marshmallow ghosts/pumpkins

After seeing the ghosts stamped with marshmallows at Coffee Cups and Crayons I thought marshmallows would be a good addition to our program. Kids can dip them in paint to stamp out the shapes of ghosts, pumpkins, etc. They can also just cover them in paint as this young artist has done to create a pumpkin patch.

As always I'm happy to answer any questions about these crafts you may have. You can reach me here, on Twitter (@MsKellyTweets) or by email (marrak at libcoop dot net). Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

American Girl Club: Meet Cecile and Marie Grace

It's been a while since I've blogged (due to the fall programing lull and general lack of time) so I figured a good place to get back in the groove is to give another American Girl Club update. The most recent girls we covered for this program were Cecile and Marie Grace, from 1854 New Orleans. Their series is the only American girl series where two characters' stories are combined into a single six book collection.

In case you've forgotten, here is a quick overview of my format for this monthly program:
  • One session of 12 kids is registered. 
  • Age group: 3rd-6th graders. 
  • Length: One hour
  • The only cost involved is usually for snacks (about $10).

Here's what we did this month:
  • We started out with our usual discussion of the books. I highlighted some interesting facts, in particular I talked a little bit about the uniqueness and diversity of New Orleans during this time period. For instance, we talked about the idea of Cecile being a "free person of color" during that time period.
  • The girls completed a quiz to determine whether they are more like Cecile or Marie Grace. This quiz has since been taken off the American Girl site, so get in touch if you need more information. 
  • We played a game that I called "BABY". It is based off a game found here and is a combination of HORSE and volleyball. The basic concept is that when a team scores a point the other team gets a letter. The first team that spells "BABY" loses. I chose this game based on the connection to not wanting to get the baby in the traditional Mardi Gras king cake. It was fun and easy to set up, only requiring a beach ball, fitted sheet and two chairs.
  • I cut paper plates in half to decorate as Mardi Gras masks. The decorating was more time consuming than expected but the attendees definitely seemed to enjoy it.
  • To close out the program we had a snack of french bread, powdered donuts (standing in for traditional New Orleans beignets), and juice.
  • Other ideas I've used with this theme in the past are Mardi Gras musical chairs (musical chairs with Mardi Gras music), and a version of Hot Potato called "Pass the Baby". 
For information on my other American Girl Club programs see the links below:

Hopefully these ideas come in handy for any Mardi Gras, New Orleans or American Girl programs you might be doing with kids. If you have any questions you can get in touch with me here or via Twitter (@MsKellyTweets).

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

2016 Summer Reading Finale Party

It's that time of year again. Summer reading is finished at my library, and I am busy planning my fall programs. I also finally have time to look back a little on the summer, and share with you my finale party. Like last year and the year before, this party involved a variety of stations loosely related to the summer theme. It is invite only, and meant as a reward for kids that finished their reading logs. Without further ado, here's what we did this year.

Our stations this year:

Sports themed crafts:  Crafts at this station included painting cut outs of balls, decorating a baseball pennant, and making a medal using aluminum foil.

Fun with bubbles: Our bubble pool has become somewhat of a tradition at these parties. The bubble recipe I use is simple, easy and has definitely served me well. 3 gallons is usually enough to use in my small kiddie pool.

My recipe:
1 gallon of water
1 cup Dawn Dishsoap
4 tablespoons of glycerin (purchased at craft stores like Michael's or at the pharmacy)

Board games: With the theme of sports and games I thought it was only fitting that I bring out a few of the library's board games. One of my goals with this station was to provide a station that would engage the slightly older kids at the party.

Legos: As you've probably realized by now I will use any excuse necessary to bring out our collection of Legos. Hooray for what is quite possibly the most useful donation my library has ever received!

Cup tower knockdown: A tower of red plastic cups managed to keep several of the kids in attendance entertained for the majority of the program. The goal was to knock them down by throwing various implements, including balls, pieces of pool noodle and paper plate rings.
Photo from

Pin the football in the goalposts: Twists on "Pin The Tail On The Donkey" are a staple of my programs. What I like about this game is how versatile it is in terms of age level. Toddlers and preschoolers can enjoy it just as much as school age kids. For this version of the game I used clip art footballs and made goalposts on the wall out of masking tape.

Photo from

As always, if you have any questions about this party or any other program feel free to get in touch. You can reach me here, on Twitter (@MsKellyTweets), or by email (marrak at libcoop dot net). Can't wait for the fall to start so I have more fun ideas to share with you all!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

On Your Mark, Get Set, Read!: Balloon Olympics

With the CSLP theme of sports, and the actual games themselves, it was pretty much a no brainer that I was going to tie the Olympics into my library programming. My tweens really love competition and "Minute to Win It" style games, and in the past we've done similar programs based on other themes. For instance, we did Chocolate Olympics awhile back. When I was searching Pinterest for summer ideas I noticed some fun games involving balloons and figured that would be another great theme to base a few competitive games on. Thus our first ever Balloon Olympics was born.

The Opening Ceremony (a.k.a. my basic overview of the program):
  • I limited this event to 12 kids and to Grades 3-6.
  • The only expense involved was for about 6 packs of balloons, all purchased at my local dollar store. These balloons could have probably accommodated an even bigger group than I had.
  • The program ran just short of 1 hour.

The Events:
  • Hula Hoop Toss: I got this idea from this site and thought it fit perfectly. The basic idea is that you label balloons with point values and tape them to the floor. The kids toss the hula hoops and earn points for each one that lands over a balloon. 
  • Balloon Volleyball: An old sheet, some chairs and a balloon are all the equipment you need for this one. Split the kids into teams and let them enjoy!
  • Balloon Baseball: We used a balloon as the ball and a piece of pool noodle as our bat as we played a simple and quick game of baseball.
  • Balloon Races: The kids had to race while they hit balloons to keep them in the air. 
  • Waddle Races: For this race, they had to race with balloons between their legs. Definitely one of the funnier moments of this program!
  • Sweep the Balloon: I found this race at Finding Sanity. We didn't get to this race, but the way it would have been done would have been having the kids use a broom to sweep a balloon across the room as fast as possible.
  • Balloon Popping Competition: To end the program we all raced to pop as many balloons as they could within a few minute time period. 

The Closing Ceremony (a.k.a. my tips and tricks):
  • Blow up the balloons beforehand to save as much time as possible.
  • Make sure to review the rules of games such as baseball and volleyball before playing the balloon versions. It will come in handy in resolving any situations that arise during play.
  • Prizes aren't necessary, but can be fun. All my kids got a simple certificate to take home in honor of their participation. 

If you have any questions about this program (or any others on this site) feel free to get in touch. Looking forward to the fall and updating you on all the fun stuff we'll have going on!

Monday, July 11, 2016

On Your Mark, Get Set, Craft!

One of the first programs I do every summer is crafts related to whatever the summer's theme is. It always seems to go well, and provides a fairly low key program for the week of the Fourth of July.  Doing this program relatively early in the summer also means there is time to share the crafts with you all as a source of last minute inspiration!

The "On Your Mark, Get Set, Read!" theme was relatively easy to plan for. The majority of ideas were found by searching Pinterest for "Sports Crafts". As for supplies, the only thing I had to purchase were the visors ($1 each at Michaels before coupon) and the medals (from the CSLP catalog).

As usual, I held two sessions of this program (one for kids in Grades K-2 and another for kids in Grades 3-6). Both were pretty well attended with 8-10 kids. Each had about 4 craft suggestions to choose from, but they could also use the materials to create any other crafts they desired.

K-2nd graders


Foam visors      

Foam visors
Random foam craft pieces and stickers

Cost: Less than $10

My splurge for this session was foam visors for the kids to decorate with some of my extra foam stickers. I had thought of making visors with paper plates and yarn (like the older group did), but figured with the younger ones it would be easier to have premade ones.

Golf ball Painting

Golf balls
Plastic bins

Cost: Nothing.

We put some of my old golf balls in a pin with paint and painted by rolling them around. Probably the messiest of all the crafts, but definitely the most fun! One warning, some of these did have to dry overnight before the kids could take them home.

3rd-6th graders

Mini Skateboards

Popsicle sticks
Markers or crayons
Glue or tape 

Cost: Nothing

This is an idea I saw a few different places, including PBS Parents. You make a small "skateboard" by decorating a popsicle stick and adding toothpick and bead "wheels". It was easy but did take some tape to make the beads stay on the toothpicks.

Q-Tip Painting Basketballs


Basketball printout

Cost: Nothing

I found this idea at the Dolen Diaries and I knew when I saw it that it would be perfect for a sports themed craft. I chose to do it with the older kids because I knew they would have the patience and precision to cover the basketballs with small dots of paint.

Both groups



Medals (from CSLP catalog) or homemade
Markers or crayons

Cost: $7.00

I ordered these medals as a craft for both groups to do. They weren't all that expensive and came in a pack of 24, which was perfect for my purpose. If you wanted to make your own that could probably work too.

Desk wrap

Butcher paper 

Last year I had the kids decorate paper to wrap my desk in, and figured I would carry on the tradition. It is a fun way to make the kids feel included in our summer decorating.

I hope these ideas are helpful, and that everyone is having a great summer. Feel free to get in touch with any questions via Twitter (@MsKellyTweets), email ( or in the comments.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Toddler/Preschool Dance Party 2016

We are slowly but surely getting started with summer reading at my library and during our current storytime break I thought another dance party for toddlers and preschoolers would make a great evening program. It is fun, easy to plan and the active nature of it fits the "On your mark, Get set, Read!" theme.

For those who have not tried doing this kind of program yet, I highly recommend it. If you need a playlist to get you started, here are the songs I used this time. For more ideas you can also see my previous dance party post or Pinterest board.

  • Body Talk on Kids in Motion by Greg and Steve: One of the few songs I reused from my previous dance party. It is just such a good warm up song. As a bonus it introduces many great vocabulary words for body parts.
  • Body Rock on Kids in Motion by Greg and Steve: This is another favorite song with a variety of directed motions. It is also a little faster tempo so it seems to get the kids excited.
  • I Really Love to Dance on Buzz, Buzz by Laurie Berkner: My other repeat song from my previous dance party. It is a fun song that fits into a dance party perfectly.
  • Let's Go Swimming on Top of the Tots by the Wiggles: I liked the idea of including a few summer related songs to get into the spirit of the season. 
  • Wipe Out by the Surfaris: Another summer themed addition. I had the kids pretend to surf then yelled "Wipe Out" throughout the song so they could pretend to fall down.
  • Rockin Robin on Songs for Wiggleworms: We pretended to be birds and flew around the room to this classic. 
  • Twist and Shout on Songs for Wiggleworms: This song was chosen as one of my designated shaker songs. I also included it because I wanted another song the parents would recognize.
  • I know a chicken on Whaddya Think of That? by Laurie Berkner: Another terrific shaker song. My kids are familiar with it from storytime, so that was another definite plus.
  • Wimoweh (the Lion Sleeps Tonight) on Whaddya Think of That by Laurie Berkner: As an ending song this worked wonderfully. We sat on the floor and pretended to sleep when the lion did. When it got to the chorus of "Wimoweh" we waved scarves around.

  • Once again I made a playlist on my iPhone and connected it to my CD player with an auxiliary cable. I would definitely recommend this as a method if your group is small enough. Mine was about 30 people and it worked well.

What I learned:
  • Getting parents to participate can be hard. I made several requests for grownups to get up and dance at the beginning of the program but still didn't get the participation I hoped.
  • Participation may look different for toddlers vs. preschoolers. This is totally normal developmentally. Both are benefiting from participating and having fun.
  • Digital music collections such as Freegal are a good resource to recommend to parents at a dance party. They often contain some great kids music. 

I hope these ideas have help if you are planning a dance party, or just provide some good song suggestions for the kids in your life. If you have any questions you can always comment here or email me at marrak at Thanks for reading!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Flannel Friday: Going On A Picnic

My contribution to this week's Flannel Friday is a set of flannel food I created for a picnic themed storytime I did this past week. I am always up for talking about food at storytime so this seemed like a very seasonally appropriate way to do so!

A few pieces were reused from previous flannel sets. For instance the apple is from my Five Little Apples set, the cupcake is from the Five Little Cupcakes set I created, and the strawberry was made to go with my Baby Bear Sees Blue flannelboard. The other pieces were traced using templates I found online.

Here is the rhyme I used with these pieces:

Going on a picnic
Going on a picnic,
Gotta pack a lunch.
What should we bring to munch, munch, munch?

I found this rhyme at Sunflower Storytime. Not only does it fit the theme, I also liked that it encourages kids to participate and provide their own input as they suggest what we should bring on our picnic. One major benefit of this is that it gives kids practice taking turns, which I consider an important school readiness skill.

We followed our rhyme up with a game of "I Spy" using these same pieces. This is something I've been meaning to do in storytime since I heard it mentioned in a webinar I viewed awhile back. This game encourages color recognition and categorization. It also allows kids to see the patterns that exist among the pieces.

The Flannel Friday Roundup this week is hosted by Melissa from Mel's Desk! Check it out here to see what was shared. To participate in upcoming roundups, or get more great storytime ideas head over to the Flannel Friday Blog or Pinterest page. You can also follow #flannelstorytime on Twitter. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Summer Reading Graphic: On Your Mark, Get Set, Read!

Summer is just about here, and like most other children's librarians I am getting prepared for our summer reading program. Our program starts a little later than most, but I figured it was still time I kicked off the summer fun here on my blog.

For all you other librarians that are also using the CSLP theme and already getting things underway I figured I'd share a graphic I made. It can be downloaded here.

I created this graphic with the design website Canva, using free images taken from Canva and from Pixabay. These are definitely great sources to use for free photos and graphic creation if you aren't familiar with them. This particular graphic is formatted to be a Facebook cover photo but could be used as a  picture on advertising as well. Feel free to use it and share it as you'd like. Hoping for a fun and successful summer for us all!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Money Smart Week: Money Madness for Grades K-6

Like a lot of other libraries, my library recently participated in the national Money Smart Week initiative. One new addition to this year's money themed programming is a program for Grades K-6 that I called "Money Madness". It gave us an opportunity to collaborate with our local bank, teach a little about money, and shower the kids with some money related swag (from the Money Smart Week people and our local bank).

The format of this program was simple: A brief discussion of money and saving (led by representatives of our local bank), followed by a series of money related stations. I tried to include a variety of activities to suit the children's interests and age range. We had 20 kids come, which is pretty good attendance for us.

Bank on It

One of the stations we did was a game I found at Oceans of First Grade Fun. The idea is to roll dice and fill in coins on the piggy bank corresponding to each dice roll. Very easy because the only prep I had to do was print off the provided printable and take some dice from our library's collection of board games.

Coin rubbings

I provided the kids with paper, pencils, crayons and coins and instructed them to make coin rubbings. I also gave them some aluminum foil to create 3D coin rubbings. This is a great way to get the kids familiar with the different coins in a fun way. It also has the side benefit of adding a little art to program as well.

Aluminum Foil Boats

This classic activity has always been well received any time I've done it with kids in the past. It is a great way to teach kids a little about bouyancy, weight and other scientific concepts. The twist this time was that instead of real coins we used fake plastic money I bought at my local dollar store. The real money probably would have been the better choice, because the fake money was pretty light and floated just a little too easily.

Heads or Tails

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

The idea for this activity came from a compilation of ideas given to me by the Money Smart Week coordinators. The way it worked is to put a group of different type coins into a cup and have the kids use the cups to do a coin toss. They must then determine how many heads came up, how many tails came up, and the value of each. To record I made up this sheet. As they played the game the kids has the opportunity to practice counting, coin value, and addition.

In addition to these stations I had printables available. A color by coin worksheet was definitely a hit with the older attendees, while a design your own money template was a little less popular.

All in all, this program seemed to go pretty well. Any opportunity to work with another local organization is a win in my book. I hope to find other ways to collaborate with this bank in the future. Any ideas you can suggest are always greatly appreciated!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Toddler/Preschool Art Exploration

In my quest to provide more evening and weekend programming for my library's patrons I decided to get a little artistic with my toddlers and preschoolers this month. Art has many literacy benefits for kids in this age group. First of all, it is a great opportunity for sensory experience and motor skills development. Holding a paintbrush is perfect practice for holding a pencil! Art also provides a great opportunity to use some unusual vocabulary with your child and promotes creativity/imagination. Not to mention it is just plain fun!

For all these reasons I figured a program focusing on art would be a terrific program for a weekday evening. Alas my plans were foiled by the beautiful spring weather that did a number on my attendance.

I wanted to share my plans here in hopes that others might try these ideas when the weather is on their side. I arranged the room in 5 stations, each focused on a different art related concept or medium. The majority of the stations were found on Pinterest or are adaptations of art ideas I've used previously.

Station 1: Exploring texture with collage

This station (inspired by Keep Calm and Teach On) was about as simple as you can get. I put out some random materials (such as torn paper, yarn, tissue paper and cotton balls), and let the kids make collages. I have always liked collage because it is a very open ended medium that encourages creativity. The end product of a collage doesn't have to look any certain way. That's part of the beauty of art, and something I wanted to get across to the kids and their parents.

Station 2: Color mixing in shaving cream

Color is an important aspect of art, so to explore this concept I figured this idea I found at In Lieu of Preschool would work perfectly. All the kids had to do is put two different colors of paint in a pile of shaving cream and mix it together. This gives them the opportunity to see how the colors combine, and also provides for a unique sensory experience.

Station 3: Painting with sensory balls

Our Friends of the Library were nice enough to purchase some soft plastic sensory balls for baby storytime attendees to play with. I'm all for using what we already have for many different purposes, so I thought they'd make a fun tool to paint with. The toddlers and preschoolers put the sensory balls in plastic tubs, added paint, then rolled them around. Definitely a fun and easy way to make a masterpiece! 

Station 4: Learning about positive and negative space using tape

To learn about this art concept we put tape on a piece of paper and went over it with our bingo dauber paints. I liked the large motor skills involved in the dotting motion and the fine motor skills involved in peeling the tape off. Our bingo daubers don't often get brought out for storytime crafts (too many kids!), so any chance to use them is a plus.

Station 5: Coloring table

This is probably the simplest station of them all. I covered our table with butcher paper for the kids to color on. I've done this before with the older kids, and thought it would be a great thing for the little guys to try as well. Not the most popular station, but an easy one I'd definitely include next time I try this program.

Despite the weather getting in my way I was pretty happy with the way this program turned out. I think it could accommodate a big group of kids pretty well, and look forward to trying it again in the future. If you have any questions about this or any other programs feel free to let me know!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Kidding Around: Going Batty

In honor of Bat Appreciation Week (from April 3rd until April 9th this year), this month's meeting of Kidding Around celebrated the bat. The winged creature, not the piece of sports equipment.

This was originally an idea I used during the summer when the CSLP theme was "Dream Big, Read." My primary objective when I do celebration programs like this one is to get the kids into the library to have fun. The secondary goal for this program was to give them a little basic knowledge about bats.

We started out by reading a simple nonfiction book about bats. I chose "Bats" by J. Angelique Johnson, because the simple text and clear facts seemed perfect for this age group (Grades K-2).

After reading, we talked a little about the facts in the book. I made sure we discussed echolocation in particular, because it was the topic of the two games I had planned.

The first game involved using my rhythm sticks to practice locating via sound. I gave each kid two rhythm sticks and had them stand in a circle. One child stood in the middle and was our "bat". The bat closed their eyes while I chose a child to bang their rhythm sticks together. When the bat opened their eyes they needed to guess who had made the sound. After a few rounds I made it more difficult, by instructing all rest of the children to bang at a slow pace while the chosen child hit their sticks faster than the others. Adding this "background noise" was meant to make the kids see how difficult it can be to isolate a single sound.

Next, we moved on to our second game, a modified version of Marco Polo that I found here. One child is the bat, who closes their eyes and calls "Beep!". The rest of the kids are insects, who reply "Buzz, Buzz!". The bat's goal is to find the insects and tag them. This provided an additional lesson on how movement might play into echolocation. It also gave the kids an opportunity to burn off a little extra energy.

Our final activity was using a bat template to explore positive/negative space. I gave each child a bat template cut out of cardstock. They needed to place it on a white sheet of paper, and paint over or around it to create a bat out of white space.

One child diligently working on her bat :)

We ended the program with juice, fruit snacks (because bats eat fruit), and cupcakes topped with bat cutouts. Overall I'd say this program went pretty well. I think the kids enjoyed themselves and learned a little at the same time. Many of the bat books I put out were checked out after the program, which is always a good sign!

Next month's Kidding Around is a Star Wars Party. Any related tips and ideas are more than welcome. You can contact me here, on Twitter (@MsKellyTweets) or by email at marrak at libcoop dot net.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

ATLAS: Tape Games

For my most recent ATLAS (At The Library After School) program, I was inspired by this post on the ALSC Blog. It was an easy, fun and inexpensive program and I wanted to make sure I shared my take on it. So grab a roll of tape and get ready to have a good time with your chosen group of tweens.

The basic format of the program was that we spent about a half hour doing stations related to tape, followed by a half hour doing assorted duct tape crafts. The crafts included making duct tape bows, bookmarks and anything else the kids could come up with.

The crafts were pretty self explanatory, so I thought I'd focus on the stations we did:
  • Skee-ball: This was an idea I took directly from the ALSC post. It was a little more difficult than the kids expected, but overall their favorite station.

  • Straw races: The goal of this station was to blow a puff ball from one end of the line to the other  using a straw. After everyone had tried that, we did the same thing with a marble. In comparing how easy it was to move these two objects with their breath the kids got to learn a little about the science of weight and friction.

  • Tic Tac Toe: This was a simple twist on the classic game that the kids definitely enjoyed. It would be a great addition to any program focusing on life sized games.

As always I'm happy to answer any questions about these games you may have. You can reach me here, on Twitter (@MsKellyTweets) or by email (marrak at libcoop dot net). Thanks for sticking around and reading (pun intended)!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Flannel Friday Roundup 4/1/16

I am the host of this week's Flannel Friday. In case you were wondering, that statement is not the beginning of an elaborate April Fools prank.

In case you aren't familiar with it, Flannel Friday is a weekly series where librarian bloggers share descriptions of flannel boards and other storytime props. It is a lot of fun, and we are always looking for new people to join in. We had some terrific ideas shared this week, and without further ado, here they are!

Wendy at Flannelboard Fun made some great pieces, including chicks, Herman the Worm, and frogs. All are definitely great choices for spring themed storytimes.

Over on Feltboard Magic Kate has created an adorable apple set to go along with Five Apples in a Basket. I love the idea of also using it to retell 10 Apples Up On Top by Dr. Seuss!

The Five Little Logs flannelboard that Mariah from Read Them Stories made definitely fills a need for more camping themed storytime activities.

Kathryn at Fun with Friends at Storytime used pictures of real starfish for her Numbers in Nature activity.

You'll be all prepared to tell Dr. Seuss stories via Flannelboard thanks to Laura at Librarylaland. I've found that some of his books can be a little harder to read in a storytime setting, so this seems like a great way to do it.

At Piper Loves the Library Jane posted about her flannel ducks and other Make Way for Ducklings themed activities. Great homage for a classic book, and perfect for this time of year!

Speaking of book themed flannelboards, Lisa at Thrive After Three has made a beautiful one to go with Up, Down, Turn Around by Katherine Ayres.

Finally, my contribution was a Lost and Found flannelboard for my bookshelf flannelboard station.

For more information about Flannel Friday head over to the Flannel Friday Blog or Pinterest page. You can also follow #flannelstorytime on Twitter. Next week's Flannel Friday is hosted by Cate at Storytiming.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Flannel Friday: Lost and Found

My contribution to this week's Flannel Friday is a new addition to the feltboard I've mounted on one of our bookshelves. It was inspired by this simple idea found at the blog Story Tree.

I used Microsoft Word shapes as templates for my circle, triangle and square and cut out the dog freehand. The dog's collar and eyes were glued on with Tacky Glue.

This flannelboard could be used in a storytime setting while singing "Where, Oh where, has my little dog gone?" or as a basic "lost and found" activity. I like that it is a fun way to teach children shapes, which are the precursors to learning letters. As Brenda suggests at Story Tree, this flannelboard could also be adapted in a variety of ways by making additional animals and shapes.

The Flannel Friday Roundup this week is hosted by me! There is still time to add your ideas to my placeholder post. To participate in upcoming roundups, or get more great storytime ideas head over to the Flannel Friday Blog or Pinterest page. You can also follow #flannelstorytime on Twitter. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Booktalking 2.0: Books for 4th and 5th graders

It is finally time to complete one of my favorite series of posts, my second series of grade level booktalk suggestions. It is always a pleasure to share books I've loved with the kids I hope will grow to love them too.

Here are the books I recommended to 4th and 5th graders this year:


For 4th graders:

The 14th Goldfish by Jennifer Holm: A girl named Ellie must deal with her scientist grandfather being turned into a teenager. The idea of an old man in a teenager's body holds definite kid appeal, and it is a very well written book. It is also a great example of science fiction, and of girls demonstrating a love for science.

Eat your Science Homework: Recipes for Inquiring Minds by Anne McCallum: This title fit the need for nonfiction title I thought kids this age would enjoy reading. It ties together food and science, two perennially kid approved topics.

Maryellen series by Valerie Tripp and Melody series by Denise Lewis Patrick: These new additions to the American Girl books allowed me to promote my library's popular American Girl Club.

For 5th graders:

VIP: I'm With The Band by Jen Calonita: Mac gets to live every teen's dream, going on the road with her favorite band. I like the humor in the book as well as the comic book elements that are included throughout.

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer Holm: Sunny's family is going through a lot with her brother. To get her away from the situation she is sent to spend the summer with her grandfather in his Florida retirement community. While reading about Sunny's adventures in this community we slowly learn about her brother's behavior and drug abuse. This graphic novel treats a difficult subject matter in a way that makes it easy for kids to understand and enjoyable to read.

I Funny TV by James Patterson: Jamie's latest adventure involves creating a TV show based on his life. The behind the scenes drama is pretty funny, as the title suggests. Patterson's tween series continue to be extremely popular among kids in my community.


For both grades: 

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan: This Newbery Honor winner was one of my favorite books of 2015. It will appeal to fans of historical fiction as well as fantasy lovers, and has a ending that just leaves you feeling happy. It is especially terrific as an audiobook.

Voyagers series by multiple authors: The premise of this science fiction series is that kids are sent to space to retrieve a much needed new energy source for Earth. The kids I talked to loved the concept of going to space, and seemed eager to volunteer themselves if the need ever arose.

I hope these titles will come in handy to anyone suggesting books for this age group. For more suggestions see last year's booktalks for fourth and fifth graders. If you have additional recommendations I would love to hear them too. I'm already looking forward to posting about booktalking again next year!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

ATLAS: ArtBot Tips and Tricks

For February's ATLAS we did something I've seen done on many blogs before: ArtBots. In case you aren't familiar with them, they are robots that make art. I've a few different types of ArtBots and they primarily vary in the type of materials used to make them. The most common materials I've seen used are cups and pool noodles. One thing most ArtBots seem to have in common is that an electric toothbrush serves as the power source. The ones we made looked like this:

I decided to model my ArtBots after Anne's at Sotomorrow. The basic idea is you push an electric toothbrush into the hole of shortened pool noodle. Next you secure markers to the sides with rubber bands to balance them so they hang just past the end of the noodle. Once they are balanced you tape the markers on with duct tape or masking tape. The final step is decorating your creation. When you turn on the toothbrush the ArtBot should move in a circle and create a Spirograph-like picture.

Since the basics of ArtBots are covered in detail by Anne and others, I figured I'd share a few new tips and tricks I discovered through my own experience.
  • The Luminant toothbrushes do fit pretty perfectly, as Anne mentioned. In my case I was lucky that they were very easy to find with a few calls to my local Dollar Tree. I didn't even have any duds in the 15 toothbrushes I bought.
  • If you are doing this activity in the winter make sure you have pool noodles ready and available because as seasonal items you will not be able to find them anywhere cheaply or easily. I had to rely on a children's librarian from my cooperative who happened to have some extra on hand to give me. Thanks to her kindness our program was able to go on as scheduled!
  • To make this a group art experience I covered our tables with butcher paper and used that as our drawing surface. It had the added benefit of keeping any marker from getting on the tables.
  • Balancing was definitely one of the most difficult parts of getting the ArtBots to work. Other blogs have mentioned balancing too well, but a couple of my kids had trouble getting theirs to balance at all. It may just be trial and error. 
  • 12 kids seems like a good sized group to do this project with. A larger group would most likely have made me feel spread thin when it came to providing the help some of the kids needed.
  • Precutting the noodles into the necessary smaller pieces was definitely a smart move. We filled the entire hour of the program making and decorating our ArtBots and would not have had time for this extra step.

I hope these tips come in handy if you choose to make ArtBots with kids. As an easy and fun maker activity I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Passive programming table: 3 recent stations

I've been meaning to do more passive programming for quite a while, but as a smaller library we haven't had quite enough space to do it. Most of it has been stuff set out on our Circulation Desk, or in small available areas of the Children's Department. For instance, we do a yearly backpack raffle, as well as a few other occasional raffles. I've also set out early literacy activities in our children's department, including  some on the sides of our bookshelves.

Despite what I've been able to do with the space available, I still coveted a dedicated area for alternating passive programs, such as the Boredom Buster station found at Hushlander or the felt board table found at Thrive After Three. Needless to say, I was thrilled when recent renovations on the adult side of our library have opened up a table that I've put by our circulation desk.

So far it has been a big hit. It not only provides an avenue to reach more children as they come into the library, it also keeps them busy as their parents check out library materials. In the past few months I've been able to use it for three different stations, and I have ideas for many more. The first station I choose to do was origami, which was inspired by Hushlander.

This station was definitely something that appeals to all ages. Not only does it promote creativity, but in younger kids folding helps develop fine motor skills. It was also a wonderful way to feature the origami books in our collection. As of the point this picture was taken quite a few of these books had been checked out already.

For our next passive program at this station I chose something both seasonal and huge on the popularity scale: Frozen. I actually first put together this station when I found out that our local rec center (which is across the parking lot from the library) was having a Frozen themed party on a Saturday afternoon.

I knew I couldn't do any traditional programming because I was in charge of the building that day, but setting up some printable activities would at least give the kids something connected to do at the library. I printed out some coloring pages and other printables from Mommypalooza. I also set out some reindeer cut outs I had leftover from Christmas and materials to cut out snowflakes. The kids loved it, and got some valuable cutting and writing practice without even realizing it. It was especially useful when many families arrived early to the rec center party.

The current program I have out was inspired by the mail centers at Libraryland and Reading with Red. The basic idea is that I set out materials for the kids to write mail to their favorite book characters. To mail the letters, they place them in the bins (leftover from our Frozen Party last fall).

I tried to make sure a wide range of age levels could communicate with their favorite characters. The youngest kids could draw pictures. I provided a template the slightly older kids could use, and lined paper for any pretty proficient letter writers. What I love about this center is that it not only encourages writing, it encourages a love of books.

Some of the letters we have received so far.
These three stations have seemed to be very popular with patrons and staff. Just the other day I had a parent thank me for setting it up. I've also had staff mention how helpful it is at keeping the kids occupied during checkout. I'm definitely looking forward to creating further activities for this new addition to our library!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Booktalking 2.0: Books for 2nd and 3rd graders

It has been a few months since I've last shared a post about my booktalks, so I figured it was about time. I am still enjoying visiting my local schools as much as ever. The recognition as kids come visit me in the library is also pretty much the best feeling in the world. It basically makes me want to jump for joy.

Here are the books I booktalked to 2nd and 3rd graders this year:


Books for 2nd graders: 

How to swallow a pig by Steve Jenkins: I continued to booktalk this nonfiction book that I previous used with the younger grades. They were also appropriately impressed and disgusted by the animal talents it details.

The Tale of Rescue by Micheal Rosen: A fictionalized version of a true story, this short chapter book is about a dog who rescues a family trapped in a snowstorm. Dogs are a perennial kid favorite, and an element of danger to talk up is always a plus. This one also filled a need for a shorter chapter book in my selections.

Frog and Friends Celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Eve by Eve Bunting: It was still the middle of the holiday season when I talked with this age group, so I continued to feature this seasonal beginning reader.

Books for 3rd graders:

Markus "Notch" Persson: Creator of Minecraft by Tamra Orr: The popularity of Minecraft in my community still hasn't waned, and the kids were thrilled to realize that there are books written about the creator's life. Including a biography also provides a little introduction to the genre before they are required to read them for a school report.

The Secret Cookie Club by Martha Freeman: Anyone looking for something similar to "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" for kids need look no further. After spending a summer at camp, four friends decide to stay close by sending each other cookies throughout the school year.  You get to see each girl's problems and perspective throughout the book and it definitely is a good representation of realistic fiction.

Maryellen series by Valerie Tripp (American Girl series): A new American Girl character seemed the perfect opportunity to bring in her book and promote my library's American Girl Club programs.

Books shared with both grades:

Knights of the Kitchen Table by Jon Scieszka: This favorite of mine was once again my read aloud pick for these visits. The first chapter is hilarious and has great kid appeal because it involves threats, name calling and the menacing Black Knight. It is always great to introduce new kids to a series that has been around a while, and this is a worthy choice for librarians and teachers looking to do so.

Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon: I always like to include books with strong female characters in my booktalks and this title definitely fit the bill. It is the first in the "Harriet Hamster Princess" series and details how Harriet grows up with a curse by an evil witch. The curse is meant to make her fall asleep forever at age 12, but backfires and renders her invincible in the meantime. She takes advantages of this as any Hamster Princess would do, by taking up cliff jumping and monster fighting.

Hopefully these titles will come in handy if you are booktalking or choosing books to read with kids. For more suggestions for this age group see last year's booktalks for second and third graders. I'll be updating you with my selections for fourth and fifth graders as soon as I complete a few last school visits. Thanks for reading!