Tuesday, January 26, 2016

ATLAS: Chocolate Olympics

If I've learned one thing in my five years as a children's librarian, it's that if snacks work to get kids into the library chocolate works even better. When I held a Chocolate Olympics as a part of our monthly ATLAS (At The Library After School) program about 3 years ago, it was one of my favorite programs I had ever done with 3rd-6th graders. Now that enough time has passed I was able to repeat this program recently, which gave me a great reason to share it here.

A little visual for you chocoholics out there. 

Program Overview:

This program involved a few simple games related to chocolate. Some were physical, others were just for fun. The "winner" of each game received a Hershey's Kiss. 12 3rd-6th graders signed up and 11 attended. The program lasted about an hour from start to finish. The only supplies I had to purchase were a large pack of Hershey's Kisses, three boxes of Oreos and one box of chocolate chip cookies.

What we did: 


Chocolate Toss

Each child was given a plate and a Hershey's Kiss. The goal was to place the plate on the floor and throw the Kiss onto the plate. Once they got it on the plate, they were instructed to take one large step back and try to do it again. The child that ended up the farthest away after about 2-3 minutes was the winner. This ended up being one of the more difficult games as it was surprising how much the candy would bounce.

Hershey Kiss "Tennis"  

I made "tennis rackets" out of paper plates and craft sticks. We broke into pairs, and the goal was to hit a Hershey Kiss back and forth as many times as possible. The kids quickly realized that gently tossing worked a lot better than powerful hits. Definite points for building the kids' physics knowledge!

Hershey Kiss Relay Race

The kids were divided into two teams and had a relay race where each team member had to cross the room while balancing a Hershey Kiss on a spoon. This was probably the most active of the events and the kids seemed to have a great time with it.

Stack the Oreos

The object of this activity was for the kids to work in teams to see who could create the highest tower of Oreos. I like to incorporate group work whenever possible, so this was a great way to do it. Word of warning, you will have to buy a separate stash of Oreos purely for eating purposes.

Cookie Face

Any one who has done a Minute to Win It program for kids is probably familiar with this one. Each participant puts a cookie on their forehead and must move it from their forehead to their mouth without using their hands. A crowd favorite, and a great way to end the program.

Tips and Tricks: 

  • Plastic baggies to bring home leftovers are a great addition. The kids definitely appreciated going home with their own "goodie bags". One child had big plans to take her baggie to school as the next day's snack. 

  • Chocolate fondue is a great addition to the end of this program. I was definitely bummed that this year the chocolate chips I purchased didn't melt well enough and we had to skip that part.

  • Adapting Minute to Win It games is a great place to start to come up with games for a program like this. Many of these games can also be adapted to work with other foods. In the past I've done a Popcorn Olympics and a Marshmallow Madness program that were fairly similar to this one.

I hope these ideas will be useful to anyone working with kids, and that they haven't stimulated your sweet tooth too much! Excuse me while I go and find some chocolate to eat...

Friday, January 22, 2016

Flannel Friday: Five Little Valentines

To go with the Valentine's Day theme of this week's Flannel Friday, I am sharing one of the very first storytime props I created, five heart shaped "valentines" made out of construction paper.

To make these valentines I used a template I found online to cut out the shape of a heart, which I traced on red construction paper. For the white "lace" around them I cut white construction paper free hand and drew circles on the paper with black marker.

In a storytime setting, these valentines could be used with a variety of Valentine's themed counting rhymes. I originally made them to use with this rhyme that can be found on Child Fun.

Five Big Valentines
Five big valentines from the corner drug store
I mailed one to a friend – then there were four
Four big valentines, lovely ones to see
I mailed one to my Mommy – then there were three
Three big valentines – red, shiny, and new
I mailed one to my Daddy – then there were two
Two big valentines, the best is yet to come
I mailed one to Grandma – Then there was one
One big valentine, the giving is almost done
I mailed it to Grandpa – and now there is none.

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.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Flannel Friday 1/22/16: Valentine's Extravaganza

I am the lucky host of this year's Flannel Friday Valentine's Extravaganza!

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. As usual we got some great contributions, and I am very excited to share them with you.

Shawn at Read, Rhyme and Sing made a very cute love bug flannelboard. I love the interactive element to it!

The valentines that Wendy from Flannelboard Fun made are simply adorable! She also shared some great BINGO variations.

Valentine's aren't just for people! Bridget, from What is Bridget Reading?  reshared a flannelboard adaptation of  Jack Prelutsky's poem "I gave my dog a valentine". 

Storytime Ukulele shared the chords of some variations on Elvis's Love Me Tender that would be perfect for use in a Valentine's Day storytime.

Over at Fun With Friends at Storytime Kathryn is in the fast lane with her set of flannel race cars!

Jane from Piper Loves the Library provided us with two great posts. One is an interactive "No David" flannelboard. I really like how she showed how to incorporate ECRR literacy practices into David's story. She also shares her Valentine's themed mitten sorting game.

The heart shaped valentines I made early in my library career were my contribution to our Extravaganza.

Thank you to everyone who participated! 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 roundup is hosted by Shawn at Read, Rhyme, Sing so stayed tuned for more fun next week.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Kidding Around: Snowy Science

I haven't done a ton of science programming as part of my monthly Kindergarten through 2nd grade programs (aka Kidding Around), so this month I decided to remedy this with a program I called "Snowy Science". The basis of this program was for the kids to explore science concepts related to snow/winter.

When I originally planned to do this program I had no way of knowing I would face two slight difficulties in executing it. First of all, it ended up falling the day after a month long renovation project that had the library closed for certain days and hours. I think this had a serious impact on program registration and attendance. Secondly, the weather had been unseasonably warm and decidedly not snowy at all. With no indoor freezer storage at my library, that fact seriously limited my options for activities involving actual ice/snow.

Despite these obstacles, I'd say this program worked out pretty well. Registration was down (four kids attended), but it made for a small group that had a lot of fun. I was able to buy ice at the last minute and find a few different materials to fill in as "snow".

What we did:  

Exploring ice


Image from openclipart.org


This was the only portion of the program that actually involved cold. The basic idea behind the activity was to explore a few scientific concepts and get practice making predictions and observations. I gave each child a piece of ice and a cup of room temperature water. We began by talking about what would happen to the ice if it was put in the water. We talked about what ice is and about the states of matter. Finally, we put the ice in the water and observed it melting. Then I brought out some hot water for comparison. Once again we made our predictions and performed the same experiment. The kids were engaged and seemed to understand most of what we were talking about so I considered this experiment a big success.

Building marshmallow snowmen


Some of my favorite activities with kids involve building with food, so it was no surprise I incorporated that into this program. The idea was to explore building, engineering and gravity by stack and building with marshmallows. I first let the kids see what they could build on their own, and then allowed them to advantage of toothpicks. If I had a bigger group of kids I might have incorporated teamwork skills by having them work to build a large snowman together.

Parachute play with "snowballs"


Image from openclipart.org


I decided to incorporate my parachute into this program because I had never done it with elementary aged kids and it sounded like a lot of fun. It actually does involve some science because it is a fun way to explore the concepts of forces and energy. To fit in with our winter theme I crumpled up paper to make "snowballs" and had the kids bounce them on the chute. We talked about the speed of the balls as we bounced them at different rates, and about the forces involved in making them fly as high as possible. Definitely a highlight of the program!


Shaving cream art

We ended the program with the messiest part, painting with "snow" (aka shaving cream). This activity actually involves the scientific principles of light, dark and color mixing. We started out simple, each child got a plate full of shaving cream. Before doing anything I asked them to make a few observations about it. Observations included "It's white." and "It's soft." among others. Next I brought out my food coloring. I had the kids start out with one color food coloring. We talked about how much to add, and what would make the color a lighter or darker shade. Finally, they each choose a second color to add and make a new color. With this new creation they moved on to the art portion of this"STEAM" program. As you can see from the above picture this was a very "hands on" activity.

Final observations

For a small and simple program this was a lot of fun. The cost was pretty low as well (around $10). All I had to purchase was the ice, a bag of marshmallows and a few containers of shaving cream. I will definitely keep this one in mind for the future because I think it would work even better with a larger group.

That's it for this month's "Kidding Around". Next month we are having a "Big Game Bash" so any suggestions for football themed activities are greatly appreciated!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Resolve to Rock 2016

Once again, the wonderful ninjas at Storytime Underground are encouraging children's librarians to blog about what they would like to accomplish in the new year. Here are the ways I will "Resolve to Rock" in 2016.

Goals for 2016:
  • Increasing the number of schools I collaborate with. So far the majority of my outreach efforts have been concentrated at the two schools closest to my library. I would like to make connections at other local schools as well. I've seen the benefits of these efforts and would like to do as much as possible in this area. 
  • Promoting our Friends of the Library at more events. Our Friends do a great deal for us and we could always use more of them.  Maybe some of the parents bringing their kids to programs would be interested in joining. 
  • Trying new types of outreach. We now have a tent for "pop-up" events so I definitely see it getting use this year.
  • Growing and maintaining our 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program. We just launched it, so I am hoping many kids sign up and complete this new to us program. 
  • Continuing to increase the number of evening and weekend programs we offer. I am working towards this by starting a Saturday storytime this month. I am also considering modifying the start time of my afterschool programs in the fall. 
  • Trying out the Bedtime Math program. I've seen how other libraries have taken advantage of this resource and want to see how it goes over here.

Here's to hoping 2016 will be a fun and productive year for all! Wishing everyone the best in 2016.