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.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Build a Better World: Toys for the Humane Society

It's that time of year! The joys and chaos of summer reading are here once more. In honor of the "Build a Better World" theme many libraries are using I thought it would be a good time to share one of my favorite ways to help kids improve the world: making toys for the local Humane Society. It is not only a good tie in for the summer theme, but something great to do year round. This was one of our first summer programs this year, and it is definitely a program that I will do again.

How it worked:
I registered for 20 kids from Grades K-6. The program filled up pretty quickly and we wound up with a total of 24. I normally divide this age group into two, but thought combining would work better for the summer months. I explained several ideas for DIY pet toy crafts that I found through Pinterest and created instructional handouts on each. The kids were able to choose from these suggestions or make something completely of their own design.

Supplies needed: 
Toilet paper rolls
Construction paper
Wooden dowels
Feathers or pom poms
Pipe cleaners
Fleece strips
Fleece pieces of various sizes

What we made: 
  • Cat wands: We used yarn to tie pom poms and feathers to wooden dowels. This was an idea I've used previously and one I thought would be easy enough for even the youngest kids.
  • Toilet paper tube toys: I found two different versions of cat toys made out of toilet paper tubes. One involves using pieces to create a small ball, while the other involves cutting the edges into the shape of a sunshine.
  • Yarn pom poms: A fork, yarn and scissors are all that is needed to create your own pom pom. This could stand on it's own or be added to a cat wand.
  • Fleece dog pull toys: Our fleece toys were a big hit. We made braided rope toys, as well as a variety of others. Fleece can be expensive, but luckily ours was donated by one of my crafty coworkers, who was glad to get it out of her own stockpile.
  • Fleece tie blankets: A few of the older kids already knew how to make tie blankets and were happy to make small ones for the animals.

Tips and tricks:  
  • The handouts definitely seemed to help provide the kids with some needed direction.
  • The fleece toys were probably the biggest hit with the kids, as well as the ones I think the Humane Society will appreciate the most.
  • Kids may want to take supplies home and work on further crafts to donate. If you can allow some time between the program and when you drop off the toys this can work out great.
  • Call your local Humane Society before hand. Not only will they be able to verify that they accept donations, they may even have more suggestions for possible toys to make.

Hopefully these ideas come in handy as you help kids do a little good at your library or anywhere else. If you have any questions you can get in touch with me here or via Twitter (@MsKellyTweets). 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Flannel Friday: Little Chick, Little Chick

My contribution this week's Flannel Friday is a flannel set I made up to use at this week's "Chickens and Eggs" storytime. It is a modified version of the classic "Little Mouse, Little Mouse" activity using a chicken and barns.

To make the barns I used a barn template I found online to cut out the shapes, and drew in the details freehand with a black marker. I also used a template to cut out the basic shape of the chick, but ended up doing freehand cutting as well. The beak and feet were cut freehand and glued on with craft glue.

The idea, as in most "Little Mouse" style activities, is to hide the animal behind the object and have the kids guess which color object they are under. In this case it is the chick hiding behind colored barns.

Here is one rhyme you could use. I found it at Storytimes and More:

"Little Chick, Little Chick,
Come out and play!
What color barn are you in today?"

This set could also be adapted to use in other ways. For instance, you could use the barns to hide a different type of farm animal. Another fun way to adapt this for an older storytime group would be adding other flannel creatures to the mix and turning it into a type of memory game.

The Flannel Friday Roundup this week is hosted by Bridget at What is Bridget Reading. To add your ideas head over to the placeholder post and share a link in the comments. 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, March 6, 2017

Harry Potter Party 2017

As almost anyone who has met me knows, I am a huge fan of all things Harry Potter. I am always looking for reasons to celebrate the series, and had a great time when I held a Harry Potter party in 2015. It was a relatively small program (limited to 12 kids) but all in all a big success. I had a wonderful time, and the kids seemed to as well.

Some time has passed since then, and with the recent resurgence of new books and movies related to the series I thought it would be great to revisit it again. We had also received a very generous donation of a set of Harry Potter movies on Blu Ray, and I wanted to chance to give them away to a lucky child.

I knew it would have to be a little bigger and better this time, so I decided to make it all ages, station based program. These always seem to work the best when I need to accommodate large groups. I scheduled it for a weekday when I knew the kids would be off of school for winter break.

Here is what we did: 


Tabletop Quidditch


No true celebration of Harry's world is complete without a game of Quidditch. I found this easy to replicate version here. The only necessary supplies are cups, hoops (formerly bought as bubble wands at the dollar store), aluminum foil (to make stands for the hoops) and ping pong paddles/balls (brought in by a coworker).

Charms class



We used grape juice and baking soda to practice a "color changing charm". As explained here, grape juice is an indicator of acidity. This means that a adding a base such as baking soda will turn the juice green. It also creates a nice bubbling effect which adds a fun element to the activity as well. The kids seemed to particularly like this station. It was the messiest activity we did but still relatively easy to clean up from.


Potter themed crafts 



I provide a crafts table at every large program I do for several reasons. It is mainly because it it provides a fun activity that is adaptable for many different age groups. It is also pretty easy to prepare and doesn't require too much supervision during the program.


 Dueling practice


This idea was based off the dueling club activity I found at Meaningful Mama. I liked the idea of paper shooters, but thought it would be much more fun to shoot paper at Voldemort (yes, I am brave enough to say his name).


I printed this picture as our target and we were good to go. The kids had fun shooting paper at him once they got the hang of making the shooters. If I were to do this station again I would provide a little more instruction on how to make the shooters in the beginning of the program.


Divination class 


Cootie catchers are a classic idea that seemed perfect for doing a little Divination. The only things needed to be as accurate as Professor Trelawney are paper, scissors, markers and instructions. One of my favorite things about this activity was seeing the nostalgia it brought to some of the parents.


Fantastic Beasts Hunt


I also provided a scavenger hunt for magical creatures in our children's area. I used pictures found online and taped them up around the children's area. The kids had to find all the beasts and cross them out on a provided handout. Their "magical surprise" was a badge created and printed on shipping labels.

So that's our latest celebration of Harry! Feel free to use any and all of these ideas as you wish. I definitely plan on doing another party like this in the future and will keep you updated when I do.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

American Girl Club: Meet Gabriela

Our latest American Girl Club was one of my favorite meetings of the year. We got to learn about the newest American Girl of the Year, Gabriela McBride. It is always fun to focus on a new character, and I continue to enjoy the way the Girls of the Year provide an opportunity to talk about contemporary topics.

When it came to Gabriela, the big ideas I wanted to discuss were community and voice. Gabriela helps raise money for her community's arts center. She also struggles with speaking out because she has a stutter. These two themes come together as she uses her love of poetry and dance to help save the center. As a group, we talked about these things in our brief discussion of the book, which was just enough to give an overview of Gabriela and her story.

What we did: 

  • Our first activity was MadLibs. It is a fun and easy way to play with words and story writing, so I thought it made perfect sense to use for this program. I found a free MadLibs app in the iTunes store (, because I wanted to incorporate our iPads and new projector. I was very happily surprised to learn that the app actually had Gabriela themed MadLibs to complete. We each took turn entering words and then read our communal story aloud. 
  • After MadLibs, we did a poetry game I found called Poetry Charades. I found it on Poetry4Kids. Charades are a fun way to get kids up and moving, and always seem to go over well with kids at my programs. I choose this version of the game in order to incorporate Gabriela's love of spoken word poetry. I especially liked that it provides the kids with a set of actions to guess from. Definitely makes the game a little easier!
  • Our final game was Girl of the Year Bingo (found here). My kids love Bingo, even if the prize is as simple as first crack at checking out one of our American Girl of the Year books. 
  • We ended by snacking on modern delicacies such as cookies, chips and fruit snacks. The craft was meant to be word collages with letter stickers but we did not have a chance to get to that this time. I'll be saving that idea to try again at future American Girl programs.
  • As a take home activity, I also provided a word search about Gabriela and a template to create an acrostic poem.

For information on my other American Girl Club programs (including other American Girls of the Year) see the links below:

Hopefully these ideas come in handy for any programs you may be doing about Gabriela this year. She still has two more books coming out, so I'm sure there is plenty more fun to come! If you have any questions you can get in touch with me here or via Twitter (@MsKellyTweets).

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Flannel Friday Roundup for 2/3/17

I am once again hosting Flannel Friday!

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. We are always looking for new participants!

For more information about Flannel Friday head over to the Flannel Friday Blog or Pinterest page. You can also follow #flannelstorytime on Twitter. 

We had some great ideas shared this week, so without further ado here they are:

Kathryn at Fun with Friends at Storytime shared some winter themed sets guaranteed to help keep us feeling warm at storytime this winter.

Over at One for the Books Laura contributed a Frozen themed feltboard story starring everyone's favorite cartoon reindeer, Sven.

Speaking of popular characters, Jenni of From the Biblio Files posted about her Pokemon feltboard. I'd choose her recreations anyday!

I always find it fun to see the different ways people adapt books into flannelboards, so I was glad to see Keith from Felt-tastic Flannelboard Fun share his version of My Heart is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall.

Kate at Feltboard Magic shared a great pattern and counting rhyme about Three Little Jellyfish.

I wrote about the "Boo Boo Bear" I used at some of my most recent storytimes.

Thanks for stopping by and thank you to all who participated! Next week's Flannel Friday is hosted by Emily from Literary Hoots.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Flannel Friday: Boo Boo Bear

My contribution this Flannel Friday is a flannel set I made up for a recent "Icky Sicky" storytime. I was inspired by the wonderful Storytime Katie. She had the kids place felt "bandaids" on her storytime mascot during her storytime on the same theme, and I adapted the idea into a flannelboard.

To make this set, all I did was use a bear template found online to trace the shape of the bear onto brown flannel. The other pieces were all cut freehand.

When we used "Boo Boo Bear" in preschool storytime I passed out the bandaids to the kids and had them come up to place a bandaid on the bear as I called the colors. This helps them work on both turn taking and color recognition.

For my toddler storytime I turned the bandaids into a way to teach about body parts using this song I found at One Little Librarian:

Bandage Song (to the tune of Farmer in the Dell)
Put a bandage on my knee,
Put a bandage on my knee,
Oh please take care of me,
Put a bandage on my knee.

Put a bandage on my head,
Put a bandage on my head,
Please put me to bed,
Put a bandage on my head

Once again each child received a bandaid, but this time we put them on various body parts as we sang the song. This is a fun way of introducing the names for body parts, which is important vocabulary for this age group.

The Flannel Friday Roundup this week is hosted by me! To add your ideas head over to the placeholder post and share a link in the comments. 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, January 10, 2017

Kidding Around: Winter Crafts

Now that the holidays are over and we are in the thick of another winter I thought sharing some winter crafts we did at a recent meeting of Kidding Around would be appropriate. There is still plenty of time to use them in winter programming. It is also before the point when we are all just a little sick of winter, which definitely a big plus.

As usual for Kidding Around, I registered for 12 kids in Grades K-2. I tried to keep the crafts simple enough that the kids could do them with very little guidance. I also tried to use spend as little on materials as possible. All I ended up having to buy specifically for this program was cotton balls and Q-Tips (about $4).

Here is what we did: 




Supplies needed:
Construction paper/Tagboard
Cotton Balls

This is a craft I found on Pinterest. These snowglobes are an adaptation of the pom pom painted ones I found on Crafty Morning. The top portions of the snowglobes were cut out by tracing a paper plate on tagboard. The bottom pieces were cut out freehand. I allowed the kids to decorate however they wished using paint, crayons, cotton balls, etc.

Q-Tip Snowflakes


Supplies needed:
Construction paper
Q-Tips (I used about at least a 100 with my group)
White Paint

I first saw this craft at Instructables. The great thing about it is it requires absolutely no preparation. It also leaves a lot of room for creativity. All the kids came up with their own versions of snowflakes, which was very nice to see.

Tape Resist Snowflakes


Supplies needed:
Construction Paper

Painting and tape are always a winning combination with kids, so tape resist art is a favorite at my programs. As a bonus it teaches a little bit about art concepts (positive vs. negative space), and even a little physical science (the paint will not go through the tape). Little Bins for Little Hands gave me the idea to make snowflakes.

Winter Themed Bingo Dauber Art


Supplies needed:
Printouts (found at The Resourceful Mama)
Bingo Daubers

I always like to use my bingo daubers when I have smaller groups, so this was a great chance to bring them out. These printables definitely came in handy in keeping some of the kids busy while I was helping others with the more complex crafts.

All in all I thought this program went quite well. The kids seemed to have fun and I got a lot of positive feedback from parents. There are so many craft ideas out there and never enough time to sort through them, so I hope you find these few useful. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.