Parachute Ideas for Tots and Big Kids

Stumped for ideas for using the parachute at storytime?

Think outside the picture books stacks!

Here are some great ideas for incorporating material from other areas of your collection.

Want to make your own clip art?

Here are a few tips and tricks to get you started!

Some easy ways to spice up your site!

Be sure to suggest your favorites in the comments!

Ideas for incorporating factual materials into storytime

There is lots of great nonfiction for kids out there. If I missed your favorite, leave a comment!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Five Superheroes

A few months ago, I weeded a book by Rachel Isadora called 123 Pop, a counting book featuring illustrations in the pop art style. The pages were beginning to fall out but I thought I could use them for a few flannel boards, especially with the 2015 summer reading program theme "Every Hero Has a Story." 

I found a rhyme on Jbrary called 5 Superheroes and I love it! It pairs perfectly with Isadora's superheroes. If you don't happen to have a used copy of this book to repurpose, I spotted some cute superheroes on Open Clip Art. So, here we go! 

The words are: 
5 superheroes ready to fly
Here comes the villain, Stop that guy!This superhero can save the day.Off (s)he flies - up, up, and away!
Count down from 4, 3, 2, 1



I still haven't decided whether I want to use the pieces as a magnet board or with felt glued on the back. And they have to be laminated still too! 

This week's Flannel Friday is hosted by Hannah at Lovin' the Library

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Storytime Rescue: Emergency Program Planning

I have been working on developing a contingency plan for if I have to cover a storytime at my or another branch in an emergency. I have pulled some books from my branch's professional storytime collection as well as my personal collection at home that can work well with a wide variety of ages and that I am comfortable reading to an unknown audience. I also do a lot of these books at my regular storytimes and preschool visits.

The books that I have set aside for this are:

  • Bark, George by Jules Feiffer
  • Hi, Pizza Man by Virginia Walter
  • Cows in the Kitchen by June Crebbin
  • It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles G. Shaw

I also included some well known songs that encourage participation:

  • If You're Happy and You Know It
  • The More We Get Together
  • Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
I did not include any recorded music because in a pinch I don't want to mess around with an unknown CD player (let alone try to find it at a different branch!)

I also do Little Mouse and my Bingo draw and tell. I have a portable whiteboard that tucks easily into a box or tote bag. If scarves are available, I'll do a few simple rhymes like Popcorn Kernels.

For baby storytimes, I rely strongly on material I learned from Mel's Desk and Jbrary. I have not regularly done a baby storytime since about 2011 so when I have to cover other people's baby storytimes, I find it easiest not to also attempt to learn anything new. I find storytime flows best when the material is really familiar to the presenter and, thus, I don't worry about introducing new and innovative stuff when I am just filling in.

So when I did a baby storytime a few months ago, it looked something like this (again, relying on Mel's genius and traditional songs):

Note: I adapted this image from Open Clip Art. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Announcing Michigan's KidLib Unconference 2015!

Save the date, friends! The MIKidLib Unconference will take place on Friday, April 24, 2015 in Kalamazoo. Any future/current/retired library type person interested in youth services is invited to join us whether you live in Michigan or are willing to come visit! Last year we had 95 attendees (in February!), and I know there are tons of wonderful libraries on Michigan's West Coast, so I expect to see a great turnout again.

Thank you to the Kalamazoo Public Library for graciously hosting this event. Registration will begin in January but you can mark your calendars be they print or digital now. Our official hashtag is #MIKidLib15 if you're on Twitter.

Also I'm super proud of how the website (my baby!) turned out-- thanks to an awesome Google Sites template-- so please OOH and AAAH.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tween Program: Maze Maker

I'm trying something new this school year with my tween programming. I decided to branch out from book discussions and try a different type of program each month. I'm calling this experiment Tween Tuesdays and it meets from 4-5 pm once a month. The first month we experimented with marbles and mazes in a low-tech basically free program I called Marble Maker. But Maze Maker is probably a more accurate name.

One of my co-workers at another branch brought a maze craft project to one of our children's staff meetings and I loved the idea (which I believe she discovered through Pinterest). So that was the main project of this program. I set out straws, invisible tape, and copy paper boxes and lids and the kids designed their own mazes. I also let them keep one (dollar store) marble. We already had all of this stuff on hand (seriously we have thousands of plastic straws).

Then, out of pure serendipity, I spotted an idea for a pom-pom maze activity in 101 Kids Activities That Are the Bestest, Funnest Ever (seriously great book). The book suggested using sticky notes for the borders, but I didn't think they would stick well to our program room's carpet so I went with masking tape. The kids blew pom-poms through the maze using the same straws, which I obviously immediately had them throw out. This is the maze I put down to start and I intended for the kids to hack it. Instead they played it over and over and then decided to make some true racing lanes out of the tape.

I also printed out some intermediate mazes from KrazyDad.com for them to do while waiting for other kids to finish.

We tend to have lower attendance for our programs during the first few weeks of school and this program was no exception. I had 7 kids register and 5 attended. However, that number would have been typical or my book club and I think we all enjoyed this program more. Two of the kids even asked if we could do it again tomorrow! 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Fish With the Deep Sea Smile

Happy Shark Week, everyone! I'm sharing an adaptation of "The Fish with the Deep Sea Smile"* I just made with Scratch. I have been learning Scratch for about a week now and this is the first project I have done completely on my own. The other projects have been from Teach Your Kids Computer Coding which may be the best book I have read ever. Seriously.  More on that another time.
Click here to watch!

Please consider this project a rough draft, but one I had a lot of fun working on. I'm very curious to see what you think! There's still a few things I want to tweak but I didn't want to miss the deadline for Sharon's Shark Week Roundup.

Two previously shared shark-themed ideas were Filmore Fish and Six Silly Sharks.

*Words source

Monday, August 11, 2014

Mascot Mania! Library Baseball Program

I love baseball! So I was very excited to have a program featuring the local minor league baseball team's mascot, Lou E. Loon. Luckily, my library had done this program before, about 2 years before I came here, so all I had to do was
pull things out of storage. Recycling program ideas is a great way to minimize planning time. You don't need to reinvent the wheel, I promise.

Program details:
Date and Time: Thursday, August 7 from 11-12
Age Range: All Ages/Family Program
Attendance: 86
Cost: Free, except for the craft materials

The biggest tweak was that the 2011 edition of this program was a Dance Party. We love our dance parties here but decided something more low-key was in order this summer. So we changed to a simple craft and meet and greet program. We also put out some inflatable games for the kids to play.

Our playlist--click to enlarge!
I couldn't resist putting together a baseball-themed playlist for background music though. I am ever so grateful to Zooglobble for this awesome list of baseball songs for kids. I was delighted to find many of the CDs were already in my branch's children's collection. My personal favorite is "Baseball" by Milkshake. You may notice I am more than OK with repeating songs! The music played over by the craft station.

The kids made a pennant for the craft out of construction paper and drinking straws. The mascot images were from a Loons coloring page and the baseball is a foam sticker from Oriental Trading.

We had two inflatable games, also from Oriental Trading, available for the kids to play. The first was a pitching game using baseball bean bags and the other a batting game. The batting game came with an inflatable tee but when we inflated it, the tee wasn't straight! I subbed in a large traffic cone that we already had. We actually put out a second traffic cone to stack them so we could raise and lower the height of the tee by adding or removing a cone. 


We also had a table where Lou E Loon could sit and sign autographs. The sign behind it was made for the last time we had this program. 

And here's Lou E in action, helping us out at the children's reference desk! 



Thursday, August 07, 2014

Parachute Playtime Round Two!

As I did last summer, I did a parachute playtime program again this year in August. I incorporated a bunch of familiar songs and added some new ones as well. This year I used a lot of songs suggested by Lisa and Nicole, thanks ladies! I went with more recorded music this year as I have been slowly familiarizing myself with a lot more children's music due to having a little one of my own who loves to dance. So I had some favorites to pull from my own experience in addition to songs that I have used in previous programs with kids at the library.

My playlist in iTunes looked like this:
I added 10 seconds of silence in between songs in the hopes of regaining the kids' attention and being able to quickly dole out instructions. I downloaded a free MP3 of silence to accomplish this. It sounds ridiculous but it works! I also have used that MP3 to make a silent ringtone for my iPhone before since my iPhone did not come with that option. The silence was not critical to the success of the program but it adds a nice buffer and you can always skip to the next track if you're done talking earlier.

I whipped up a quick page of notes in Excel also, in case the parents or caregivers really liked a song (or songs) and wanted to know the title, musician, and CD, etc. I also added a column so that I could note what props were needed for each song so I could have a handy "to-grab" list. This version is probably easier to read (or print this one):

I had 12 children register for this program but only 8 attended. They did a great job though! I loved looking around the parachute and seeing so many smiling faces and hearing so many laughs. Last year I sang most of the songs myself, but using the recorded music this year really helped me to better focus on the kids and enjoying the program. It also flowed better since I had the list of activities set and could follow my paper copy. I had tried to alternate high energy activities with slower ones to keep the kids from getting too wild and it worked. I would do this program almost exactly the same in the future. I printed off extra copies of my notes for the caregivers and they all took one copy. Everyone had at least one song they wanted to look for in the library or on iTunes! It wound up being a really fun way to showcase our music CD collection. 

Our program was a Thursday morning at 11:15. I'd love to try it as a family program on a Saturday or weekday evening though. Someday I hope to invest in one of the giant parachutes and be able to play games with the older kids. How much fun would a parachute program for tweens be?! 

A few notes on the songs: 
We did "Shake My Sillies Out" and "Moving in a Circle" without actually touching the parachute as our warm up songs. I skipped "One Two Three Whee" and "Itsy Bitsy Spider". The most popular songs were "Sleeping Bunnies" and "I Hear the Water" which are both calmer songs, if you're looking for something a little more mellow to try with your parachute.

For "Sleeping Bunnies," I used some stuffed bunnies and told the kids that they were sleeping on the parachute, then we yelled "WAKE UP BUNNIES" and started to bounce them in between "Wake up soon... Hop little bunnies!" They loved this and we did it more than the 3 times I had planned. 

Friday, August 01, 2014

Flannel Friday: Little Pet in a Box


This week we did a pet-themed storytime for the last week of our summer session. I do not know how it got to be the last week already. I saw this adorable puppet rhyme on Jbrary's YouTube channel, and thought it would be perfect to introduce our pets theme, using this super cute dog puppet we have. 

As the Jbrary ladies pointed out, this rhyme adapts really well to whatever puppet-in-a-container set you may have. I think we actually do have the rabbit in the hat puppet they used but I found this one first. Here's the words I used: 

Little Pet in a Box
Little pet in a box, 
Sitting so still
Will it come out? 
Yes, it will!
It looks to the left.
It looks to the right. 
It looks straight ahead...
And pops out of sight! 

I decided not to name what kind of pet it was and let the puppy surprise the audience just to build some more anticipation. My group loved this and had me do it over and over! The puppet is Folkmanis

This week's Flannel Friday host is Library Village!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Minute to Win It Tween Program Round 2

Wow, I can't believe it has been six months since I did my first Minute to Win It tween program! We decided to offer a second program this summer, and tweaked the set-up a little bit to make it run more smoothly.The major change was that we divided the kids randomly into groups ahead of time and assigned each group a color coding. Kids were given a colored dot on their name tag. Before the program, I made a rotation of which color would get to play which game first. As long as each group had a turn going last and first, I wasn't too concerned about whether they had an even number of turns as the 3rd or 4th group. It wound up looking like this:

We started the program by watching a YouTube playlist I made featuring the rules to each of the games. This gave them just enough information to whet their appetites for their program and also meant latecomers didn't miss the first game, but we also had something to do. 

Floatacious: (standing at tables)
Place the plate to the right of the bowl, and place the cans to the left of the bowl. When clock starts, the player places the plate on the water's surface and begins stacking the can. Stack all 5 soda cans on top of the plate and remain standing for 3 seconds.
Supplies: A plastic plate, 5 empty pop cans with the tabs removed, a large bowl filled to the top with water. You will want lots of towels around for this one too. Instead of bowls, we used tin foil roasting pans from the dollar store.
This game had the most successful completions.

Don't Blow the Joker (standing at tables)
Player must blow off all the cards in a deck except for the joker (should be face up on the bottom). Players may not touch the cards or the bottle. Joker should remain on top of the bottle for 3 seconds. 
Supplies: 4 decks of cards, and 4 bottles with caps.
Only one person completed this challenge.

Breakfast Scramble (sitting or standing at tables)
Reassemble a cut up cereal box. First one to finish wins. 
Supplies: Cereal box fronts cut into 16 equal pieces. Stored in envelopes.
No one was able to finish their puzzle in 60 seconds. 

Pencil Back Flip: (standing, no tables)
Place a pencil on the backside of your hand, flip it in the air, and catch it with the same hand. Start with one pencil and add an extra one each time you successfully catch them. Max of 8 pencils per player.
Supplies: 8 unsharpened pencils per player (distributed via pencil cups on the floor)
The kids did pretty well on this one. They experimented with pencil placement on the back of their palms versus the backs of their fingers. They also tried having all the pencils face the same direction versus alternating directions. 

A Bit Dicey (sitting in chairs, no tables--I would use tables next time) 
Stack 5 dice onto a popsicle stick held in player's mouth, then balance them for 5 seconds. (5 for 5).
Supplies: 5 dice per player, enough popsicle sticks for everyone there
A few kids were able to get 5 dice to balance! They did drop them all over the place so next time I would do this over a table.

After all the groups had played all the games, I announced it was time for the grown-ups to have a turn. After watching all the kids play, the grandparents, parents, older siblings, and camp counselors in attendance were game to have a go. We also let the kids repeat games they wanted another attempt at. There were no clear favorites of the games. All of them were played again in the free-for-all round.

Other details:
The program was held on a Friday morning from 11-12, which is the perfect time frame for 5 games. Players were in grades 4-6. We had 24 people attend, including adults, which is just about perfect. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Maker Monday: Bristlebots!

My test bristle bot
I had my first ever Maker program on Monday and we made bristlebots! I know many of you have done this project before but for those of you who haven't, bristle bots (aka "brush bots") are mini-robots made out of toothbrush heads. They are fairly simple to make, but more importantly they are really fun! Quality edutainment.

We bought 2 Brush Bot Party Pack kits from Makershed.com for this program. At the time, I believe each kit was about $25 (not including shipping) but it appears the price has gone up since then. I had received a donation from a local company of $50 for children's programming supplies so I used that for this program.

I set most of the supplies out on a book cart
I would recommend purchasing the kits if (as in my case) this is your first time doing a maker program. Or if, again like me, you've not made any type of maker project before. It is very helpful to not have to track anything down other than tools. The tools you will need are side cutters and wire strippers. They are both readily available. I was able to borrow 3 cutters from my garage and the library's maintenance department loaned me a pair and some wire strippers. My husband graciously trimmed and stripped the wires before this program, but the kids were able to use the cutters to take the heads off the toothbrushes.

About half of the kids were able to follow my oral directions and the others needed help. Luckily, I was able to borrow a staff member from our other city branch and I also had an adult volunteer that day. They were a big help in going around the room and showing the kids how to use the cutters, which way to face the batteries, etc.

My Race Track!
It took about 20 minutes of our hour program until everyone was done building and ready to race. I had built a quick little race track out of an outdoor umbrella stand box from home and used checkered flag duct tape for the finish line. The kids were able to use that one as a testing stage. Then they had 40 minutes to build their own race track from some supplies we had on hand. We gave them duct tape, cardboard boxes, paper towel tubes, paper clips (in case they wanted to mod their bristle bots or they could use them as obstacles), binder clips (also for obstacles) and cardstock (which they could use for lane dividers or some kids drew designs for the insides of their tracks). We also had pencils on hand.

I also set out a display of maker and science experiment books for people to browse when they were done creating. I don't think this is a necessary step but it can help you tie the program back into library materials. You could also booktalk the Nick and Tesla books which feature a bristle bot in the second book--one that has light up eyes!

A few other details:

  • 20 kids registered, 15 attended. We also had 4 adults (one mom and some grandpas!)
  • We had 3 adults running the program. I think one adult per every 5 kids is a good ratio for this age group
  • This was a program for grades 4-6. 
  • 1 or 2 batteries appeared to be duds, so definitely register fewer kids than you have supplies for in case this happens to you too. 
Overall, this program definitely took me out of my comfort zone but I really enjoyed doing it. We got great feedback from the kids and their parents so I am calling it a success! 


I mentioned to a couple people that we were going to be doing this project and got some advice so I'd like to thank Angie and others for their tips. Angie suggested using Lego bricks as obstacles and paper towel tubes as tunnels on the racetracks.  You can also cut the paper towel tubes in half and use those as lane dividers.