Thursday, July 17, 2014

Baby and Me: Messy Sensory Play @ the Library

I'm leading this off with adorable pictures...because messy one year olds are super cute!
Cloud Dough Day

Dry Noodles

Instead of my usual Baby Time this summer, I decided to back off the curriculum and let the kids get messy while playing! Playing is so important to kids...I believe kids need to cram in as much play as possible...and heck it's one of the five ECRR practices, right? So basically I had backup from ALA for this program. (Not really, but it sounds good!)

Anyway, I chatted with the parents about what they thought about their kids getting crazy messy this summer. 100% said that they were excited about the prospect of messy play at the library, because frankly they don't do it at home because of the mess. That was all I needed to create a special summer hour long playing free-for-all. Let's go!

Week One: Cloud Dough! I made the "edible" kind, since babies, you know, eat whatever fits in their mouths. I didn't color it, because I was afraid of staining. The kiddos had so much fun digging in it, and the parents were all down on the mats talking with their children. It was fairly easy cleanup, and I kept the dough for another program a few weeks later.

Talkin' dough.

Week Two: Water! I filled shallow tubs with water and let the kids go to town. Ah, the joys of having a linoleum floor in the program room.

Week Three: Jello and Dry Noodles! We went outside for this one. I had three tubs of Jello on a tarp, a couple tubs of dry noodles of all shapes, and a water station to rinse. Most of the kids were drawn to the noodles at first, but then I steered them toward the Jello and....

...well, let's just say we had a really messy fun time!

Week Four: Bubbles! We stayed inside for this one, as the weather was gross. Bubble machine + pool full of bubbles = good times! I also had toys and other play items out for the kids who needed a break from the bubble machine.

Week Five: Fourth of July and the library was closed for the holiday.

Week Six: Floor Mural! this one isn't as messy. Honestly I wasn't feeling a major cleanup last week, so I tore off huge pieces of paper and got out messy-to-little-kids art supplies, like markers and stamp pads. They had fun and I just had to pick up the papers at the end. This would be an easy transitional program for someone who can't rock Baby Jello Wrestling at his/her library.

Week Seven: Textures with Textiles! I have small booklets of different textures that I'm going to lay out, as well as an entire Rubbermaid tub of pom-pom balls. Messy? Sort of. Easy clean up? Yup. Fun? Totally.

So why do a messy play program?
  1. It's FUN for the kids and no clean up for the parents.
  2. It's EASY. Pick a "mess" and make it happen.
  3. It's LOW STRESS. Making sure spills are contained and clean up is done was really the only items I had to worry about.
I encourage you to make your programs as focused (Laser Beam!) as possible. This has really helped me this summer to not want to die after week two! This program for example: come to the library, get books, get messy, go home.

I will be offering "normal" Baby Time again in September, with the possible addition of Mother Goose on the Loose after I attend a MGOL workshop in August. However, I had a lot of fun with this messy program and will most likely do it again next summer.

Have you done messy stuff at your library? We could form Baby Jello Wrestling teams! Let's talk!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Summer 2014 Wrap-Up: Laser Beam Programming



It was actually awesome and low stress. HOW did this happen? (You can read the pre-Summer Reading post here.)

I looked at our stats and I had over 70 programs in June and July of 2013 (by myself, some were repeats, but 70 offerings [!!!!!]) and 40 that I facilitated this summer.

I planned 5 different programs last year yet only 2 this year: Baby and Me (sensory play, more on that later!) and Terrific Tuesdays (storytime).

My stats haven't changed much. I have had higher numbers in less programs, instead of spotty attendance in more programs. I'll take that any day! Our department has been kicking ass in bringing in the masses this summer. Something new that we have employed that I highly recommend is having concurrent programs for all age groups. I had the preschoolers at the same time Casey had the school age kids in the morning. In the afternoon, Meg was here and had teen programs along with our PM offerings for the younger groups. Fortunately we have the space to do that in my library. Families could bring their kids in all at once on Terrific Tuesday, go to programs, grab some books, and have a fun day at the library.

My colleagues and I decided not to do the CSLP theme this year. We did "Pop Into a Good Book" because we have a popcorn machine at MPL. Yup, really. Popcorn Fridays have been a big hit! And since we didn't have a hard-and-fast theme, we picked our own themes for weekly programs.

Obviously a smaller amount of programs was less prep on my part, but I feel like I made the programs more valuable by inserting more focused effort on a smaller scale. Ooh, that's good...let's call this Laser Beam Programming! I made a thing! High five!

I became a more of a facilitator this summer. Even though I have never liked being a one woman show, I have given even more control of the program to the patrons. I read to them, we sing, then I dismiss them to whatever activities they want to do. I love the ideas of child-led learning and unprogramming, so this is the ticket to paradise for me and my little friends!

Let's chat about the actual SRP: My colleagues and I consolidated summer reading to an all-ages-are-doing-the-same-program thing. Ages 0-101 got the same log each week. All they had to do was...

1. Read. Log reading. Repeat. No book or page counts. No timing. Just freaking read!
2. Stop by the library weekly to drop off their weekly log sheets and to get a new log.

Encouraging reading and library visits is what SRP is about, right? We stripped away promises of crappy prizes as well as bingo cards/book reviews/you have to be this tall to ride this ride hullaballoo. To our great surprise, we haven't had any tear-stained faces screaming WHERE THE HELL ARE THE T-SHIRTS?!!! Amazing. Again by focusing our efforts, we won. Laser Beam! Woot!

I really wanted that Fizz Boom Read t-shirt. (image:
We did do some prizes though. When folks brought back their book logs each week, their logs served as a raffle ticket to win a $25 gift card to local restaurants. The logs will be split into age groups at the end, and each log will be a chance to win a grand prize gift basket, valued at about $100 each. We have a gift basket for each age group, so we'll have 4 winners. I figured pre-k kids don't give one damn about a basket, so here's the prize for one lucky kiddo:

wagon selfie
I put together a sweet Radio Flyer wagon for the luckiest kid at MPL. This biatch has CUPHOLDERS. My first CAR didn't even have cupholders for land's sake. I'm going to fill it with books for good measure. Best. Prize. Ever.

I have to say, all in all, this summer was excellent. It was worth short weekly meetings since January, as we revamped all aspects of our summer offerings. Next year we will tweak our findings and I'm sure it will be even better.

Kids in our school system start August 4th. For those of you only at the halfway point in your summer programming, keep on keepin' on! Your kids are loving your programs and are reading until their heads fall off. We'll all have a beverage or three come September. I could certainly be okay with blurry-eyed shelf reading. Stay strong!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Folk Tales, Cantaloupe, and Tennis Balls

Today was my last storytime of the summer! YEAH! (More about that later!)

We had a really fun time today with the book Anansi and the Talking Melon retold by Eric Kimmel. This selection is a bit longer than many of the books I use for storytime, as I have an 80/20 ratio of wigglers vs. non-wigglers, however the kids really got into the storyline and enjoyed it.

If you aren't familiar with the story, Anansi, the trickster spider, waits until Elephant is done in the garden, slips into a melon, and eats until he has doubled in size. Unfortunately he cannot get OUT of the melon, so he decides to have a bit of fun when Elephant returns. Elephant tries to pick the melon, but Anansi yells "Ouch!" as if he were the melon. Hilarity ensues when Elephant takes the talking melon to the king.

Using the melon theme, I bought cantaloupe for the kids to try. Living in Indiana, most kids have eaten cantaloupe until they almost explode. I did have one child today try it for the first time, because he saw all his friends eating handfuls of it. He liked it! I told the caregivers I'll do a vegetable theme one of these days to get them to eat their veggies.

That's me with a tennis ball melon.

I got an idea from Starting with Stories to make "melons" from tennis balls. I bought a billion plastic spiders from Oriental Trading. I had a huge box of dead tennis balls in the program room from who-knows-how-long-ago and figured I could chop a hole in them, paint them, then say TADA ANANSI'S MELON! So I asked my volunteer, Beth, to cut a few tennis balls for me...

Evidently tennis balls are ridiculously resilient. Beth asked Sharon, the admin assistant here at MPL, for input on how to put slits in tennis balls. She said her husband had a Dremel, and she would have him bring it in.

So I walk back to the workroom after smelling something foul...Sharon's husband was cutting slits in tennis balls, which stink to holy hell, AND he chopped a huge gash in his finger. I was like...

Okay...didn't know that it was going to take 3 people to cut tennis balls. I applauded them for their efforts, said that it wasn't that deep, and that I could find another activity...because whoa. Beth said that she thought the activity was amazing and that they would take their operation to the basement...where there's a vice to hold the tennis balls and it wouldn't stank up the place.

So fifty tennis balls later:

The kids really loved the tennis ball thing. I'm glad I did it, but wouldn't do it again on a large scale because of the crazy cutting ordeal.

I also had paper, crayons, glue, and googly eyes to make spiders. Super cute!

Do you have a favorite folk tale that you use in storytime?