Parachute ideas for all kinds of programs!

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!

Monday, May 04, 2015

Collection Development for Kids: Computer Science and Coding Books

I've worked for 3 different library systems and one thing I've noticed at all of them is that the computer science books don't check out. I actually think the problem is that libraries are collecting the wrong kind of computer science books for kids altogether. (Feel free to disagree with me on this point in the comments!) I've observed that collections tend to focus on writing emails and the basics of computer history and how a computer works (this is a monitor, etc.). Those are not books that are going to interest a lot of kids. In fact, most of our books along those lines haven't checked out in three years or so.

J nonfiction is one of my collection responsibilities at my current branch. I took a huge leap of faith that people would be interested in computer programming and ordered some titles in late summer and fall of 2014. No one had asked me for these types of books, but I am immensely pleased with the interest our patrons have shown in them. So I thought I would share some of the titles we have and their checkout stats, bearing in mind that we are the main branch of a county system and therefore have a bigger collection than many libraries would. I hope this is helpful! I've found good computer science books hard to locate and this is not everyone's area of expertise. Nearly all of these books are checked out as of this writing, so I cannot give you detailed reviews except what I can remember of the books I have looked at closely.

I'd also like to add that computer science books for kids may be a great alternative for adults who find the format or language involved in similar books with an adult-only audience intimidating or over their heads.

Adventures in Raspberry Pi by Carrie Ann Philbin (2014) 6 circs in past year.

Coding for Kids for Dummies by Camille McCue (2014) 4 circs since January.

Help Your Kids with Computer Coding by DK Publishing (2014) All public libraries should carry this book! It's really great about explaining the basics of programming concepts and it teaches beginning two languages: Scratch and Python, both are free to try. It's titled to be from a parent's perspective but I see could independent learners working through this on their own from about 10 years old and up. 6 circs since August. 

JavaScript for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming by Nick Morgan (2014) 2 circs in 2015.

Learn to Program with Scratch: A Visual Introduction to Programming with Games, Art, Science, and Math by Majed Marji (2014) More in-depth on Scratch than Help Your Kids, this is another good resource. 7 circs since July. 

Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming by Jason Biggs (2012) 3 circs since August.

Ruby Wizardry: An Introduction to Programming for Kids by Eric Weinstein (2015) 1 circ this year. 

Super Scratch Programming Adventures: Learn to Program by Making Cool Games by the LEAD Project (2013) In my opinion, the other Scratch books are stronger entries. 5 circs since August

And ones I have on order:
Teach Your Kids to Code: A Parent-Friendly Guide to Python Programming by Bryson Payne (May 2015)

PHP and MySQL: A Playful Introduction to Programming by Johann-Christian Hanke (September 2015)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Starting With Scratch

Another program I ran during Spring Break was an introduction to Scratch for kids in grades 3-6. We used the adult computer lab (divided in half) for this program. I taught myself Scratch using Help Your Kids with Computer Coding, which is a fantastic book I would recommend for all public library youth collections. I decided to also use this book as the backbone of a program.

So, when the kids came in, I started by showing them some sample Scratch projects to get them excited about the possibilities. Only one of the 6 kids had heard of or used Scratch before so this was to introduce them to the idea. Then we warmed up by learning how to drag and click blocks of code together and started writing the code for the first project in Scratch, a game called Donut Breath. It took about a half hour as a group to work all the code for that project in. They learned how to use variables to create a timer and how to add sound effects.

Then we spent about 10 minutes and I showed the kids how to have their game's characters (called "sprites" in Scratch) talk. I also showed them how to animate the sprites so that it looked like they were moving but using the change costume function.

After that, the kids had about 35 minutes to work with their games and adapt them to their own needs. Some started whole new projects. I had created an account for the library and they used that to save to their projects. I would recommend doing it this way versus having the kids make their own accounts at first. They are able to download their own projects from the library's account by using the remix button and it saved time not having them create an account. The added bonus is that now all the projects are in the same spot!

I reserved the room for a 90 minute class but I think these kids would have been happy to experiment with their projects for another half hour. It was a good mix of instructional and exploratory time. All in all, it was a complete success and I would love to teach another program in the future. Before they left, I gave the kids a postcard with the address for them to view their projects and included my email address in case they wanted to send me a link to future projects they make. 

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Spring Break Minute to Win It

Spring Break seemed like a great opportunity to host another round of Minute to Win It games. I like to use a mix of games we've played at past programs and then sprinkle in some new ones too. This time around we played: Back Flip, Don't Blow the Joker, Penny Hose, Separation Anxiety, and Baby Blockin'.

Separation Anxiety: separate a bag of Skittles by color into plastic cups

Don't Blow the Joker: blow all the cards in a deck except the Joker (bottom card) off a pop bottle

Baby Blockin': Balance a tower of baby blocks on a plate on your head

Pencil Flip: Flip pencils off the back of your hand and catch them

Penny Hose: Rescue a penny from the toe of each leg of a pair of pantyhose without using your other arm

Monday, March 30, 2015

Metafiction for Kids

A while ago I had a patron who was looking for metafiction picture books for a children's literature class. I had so much fun looking up titles that could work that I kept going long after (and I mean LONG after) finding enough books for him. I put together a list of books for the rest of my staff in case we get this question again and I'm sharing with you all too. I will note that this in no way a complete list of all metafiction books but simply ones we happen to own at my branch. I hope this will be useful for reference and collection development purposes. I happen to be a fan of metafiction myself, so please share in the comments if you have a favorite title not on the list and I'd love to read it!

To start us off, I loved the definition of "metafiction" from What Do We Do All Day:  A metafictional text is one that subverts traditional, straightforward storytelling.

Okay, here we go!

E-Ahlberg-The Bravest Ever Bear (c1999)
E-Ahlberg-The Pencil (c2008)
E-Barnett-Chloe and the Lion (c2012)
E-Barnett-Count the Monkeys (c2012)
E-Black-The Purple Kangaroo (c2010)
E-Bingham- Z is for Moose (c2012)
E-Byrne-This Book Just Ate My Dog (c2014)
E-Cabatingan-Musk Oz Counts (c2013)
E-Catalanotto-Ivan The Terrier (c2007)
E-Czekaj-Cat Secrets (c2011)
E-Freedman-Blue Chicken (c2011)
E-Freedman-By Mouse and Frog (c2015) 
E-Gravett-Again (c2013)
E-Gravett-Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears (c2008)
E-Gravett-Wolves (c2006) 
E-Hopkinson-Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek (c2008)
E-Johnson-Harold and the Purple Crayons (c1955)
E-Klausmeier-Open This Little Book (c2013)
E-LaRochelle-It’s a Tiger (c2013)
E-Lehman-The Red Book (c2004)
E-Lehrhaupt-Warning: Do Not Open This Book (c2013)
E-Lendler-An Undone Fairy Tale (c2005) 
E-Macauly-Black and White (c1990)
E-McDonell-A Perfectly Messed Up Story (c2014)
E-McKinlay-No Bears (c2012)
E-Nesbitt—More Bears (c2010) 
E-Novak-The Book With No Pictures (c2014)
E-O’Byrne- Open Very Carefully: A book with bite (c2013)
E-O’Malley-Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude (c2005)
E-O’Malley-Once Upon a Royal Superbaby (c2010)
E-Panzieri-The Kindhearted Crocodile (c2013)
E-Perry-The Book That Eats People (c2009)
E-Rubin-The Big Bad Bubble (c2014)
E-Schwarz-Is There a Dog in this Book? (c2014) 
E-Schwarz-There are Cats in this Book (c2008)
E-Schwarz-There are No Cats in this Book (c2010)
E-Scieszka-Battle Bunny (c2013)
E-Scieszka-The Frog Prince, Continued (c1991)
E-Scieszka-The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales (c1992)
E-Sesame-The Monster at the End of this Book (c1971) 
E-Smith-It’s a Book (c2010)
E-Tullet-Help! We Need a Title (c2014)
E-Van Allsburg-Bad Day at Riverbend (c1995)
E-Watt-Chester (c2007)  on order March 2015.
E-Watt-Chester’s Back (c2008)
E-Watt- Chester’s Masterpiece (c2010)
E-Watt-You’re Finally Here! (c2011)
E-Wiesner- The Three Pigs (c2001)
E-Yates-Dog Loves Drawing (c2012)

Early Readers
ER-Willems-We are in a Book (c2010)

Chapter Books
JFIC ANDERSON-Whales on Stilts (c2005)
JFIC BOSCH-The Name of This Book is Secret (c2007)
JFIC Bruel-Bad Kitty Drawn to Trouble (c2014)
JFIC FUNKE-Inkheart (c2003) plus sequels Inkspell (c2005) and Inkdeath (c2008)
JFIC GIDWITZ: Grimm series
JFIC GRIFFITHS-The 13-Story Treehouse (c2013)
JFIC GRIFFITHS-The 26-Story Treehouse (c2014)
J FIC HORVATH-The Pepins and their Problems (c2004)
JFIC SNICKET-A Series of Unfortunate events
JFIC WILLINGHAM- Down the Mysterly River (c2011)
JFIC VIORST- Lulu series

Sources consulted (thank you to everyone!): 

Children's Literature at the Social Sciences, Health, and Education Library
Metafiction Pinterest Board
NoveList K-8
Seth's Shelfari
What Do We Do All Day

Image source: Open Clip Art

Monday, March 23, 2015

Seuss Celebration 2015

Every year we throw a party in March to celebrate Reading Month and Dr. Seuss (read about last year's event here). I didn't get a chance to take a picture of all of our stations this year, but I will tell you about them anyway. Most of them were adapted from ideas we found online. I tried to include the sources when I could find them again, apologies if your idea was not credited--let me know, please and I will fix it! Our program is a 90-minute drop in, station-based program.  Here we go:

  • Cat in the Hat Toss (used a store-bought Seussian hat and giant craft pom poms)
  • One Fish, Two Fish, You Fish fishing game (we did this one last year and it was a hit again!)
  • Reading corner where my co-worker treated us to some awesome read-alouds of Dr. Seuss books, which I was madly impressed by because I do not find his books easy to read aloud to groups at all.
  • Seuss Photo Booth We are loving photo booths at our programs because they are simple to put together and it provides a word-of-mouth advertising for us as parents post photos to Facebook and Instagram of their kids in costumes having fun at the library
  • 2 craft stations: Cat in the Hat nose craft and Thing One paper bag puppet (see below) We used treat bags from Dollar Tree so I had to adjust the size of the template for it to work. I skipped the arms because it was too much cutting for the audience size we were expecting (70-115 people have attended this event in the past 5 years).

Monday, March 16, 2015

Life Size Chutes and Ladders

I wanted to share a really fun, easy program we did here that I learned about through Amy, Anna, and Kelly: life-size chutes and ladders! This would be a great program to fill out summer library programs or even a quick one to throw together on a snow day. It took about an hour of prep to put down the construction paper squares but that would be relatively easy to hand off to a volunteer even. We used masking tape for the ladders and yarn for the chutes (not easily seen in this picture thanks to the striped carpeting in our program room).

This program was for 45 minutes after school but the kids would have happily played for an hour or more. We played one round with the board as I laid it out in this picture (taken before the program). Then I had the kids start modifying the board. They wanted more and more chutes! We also played some rounds starting from the original finish point. In the last game, the kids added some extra twists in the form of squares that would have a player: lose a turn, win a second turn, or win the whole game automatically. For the first game we used the spinner Anna made. Instead of projecting it onto the wall, I loaded it onto our department's iPad and walked it around to the kids. Then I gave the kids the option of using a giant foam die that we have and they preferred that over the iPad.

Incidentally, the same girl won three out of four games. I've never seen someone dominate a game of luck so thoroughly! Also pictured is a display of other indoor games and activities. You can also make out the table where I laid out the signs to number the players on the lower left of the photo. We played some Putmayo CDs during the program to give it a party atmosphere without annoying music. The winners got to pick a prize out of a box of temporary tattoos. All in all, a cheap and fun program! Would do again. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Mother Goose Jam: A Musical Program for Preschoolers

Last week I hosted a program called Mother Goose Jam, which was basically an hour-long music themed preschool storytime. It was a lot of fun to plan and present! I was able to try some new material for storytime as well as to incorporate some of our lesser-used props. I put all the recorded music onto an iTunes playlist and burned it to a CD to save switching CDs around. I do not like to use an iPad/iPod/iPhone for this type of program personally (I prefer the bigger buttons of a CD player).

Here's what we did:

Opening rhyme: Let's All Do a Little Clapping (I actually did not learn this song from Jbrary and thus I had no idea you were supposed to sing it to the tune of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" so I... do not. I don't know how to describe how I sing it without actually making a video myself though) I changed the words to "and spread a little cheer" so I can do this year round and it has become my opening rhyme for my storytimes as well.

Story: Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin

Scarf Rhymes:
Song with Stuffed Bats prop (1/child), would also work on parachute: 
Stretchy Band (would also work with parachute): 
  •  "Popcorn" by Joanie Leeds (I was introduced to this rockin' song by Angie Manfredi suggesting Joanie's music for programs. I had never heard of her before!) We have a bunch of loofahs that we threw onto the chute for this song. 
  • "Rolling Ball" by The Learning Groove (Goovy Green
  • "Sleeping Bunnies" by Kathy Reid-Naiman (Tickles and TunesBy request. I also like this version. 
Free Dance Songs (I put the scarves, shakers, rhythm instruments, and some streamers out for the kids to dance): 
  • "Old MacDonald" by The Learning Groove (Bouncy Blue)
  • "One Two Three Whee!"  by The Learning Groove (Goovy Green
  • "Itsy Bitsy Spider"  by The Learning Groove (Yummy Yellow)
  • "Moving In a Circle"  by The Learning Groove (Rocking Red)  
  • "I Hear the Water"  by The Learning Groove (Rocking Red)  Great cool down, soothing song
Image Credit:

Friday, February 13, 2015

"I Had a Little Rooster" With Puppets

Sometimes I come across a song I can't believe I did not already know. Right now it's the folk song "I Had a Little Rooster" which I discovered by listening to The Learning Groove's Outrageous Orange, which is one of my daughter's favorite CDs. She's 2.5 and gets her excellent taste in music from her parents. I thought this would adapt to a puppet song really quite easily. Of course I didn't have a rooster puppet at my library but I was able to borrow one from our neighboring branch (thanks, E!).We did have the dog, rabbit, and cow puppets here though. They are sitting on a metal bookshelf propped up on metal bookends. This is the easiest way to manipulate four puppets with my mere two hands. 

If you don't know the song, you can listen to it on the Learning Groove website, which is just a ridiculously amazing treasure trove of stuff. Please buy all the CDs. You won't regret it. I sang this myself instead of using the CD though. It gave me a little more time between verses to pick up the next puppet. I find more of the adults join in when I sing instead of using a CD also. Another bonus of not using the CD is you could add or use different puppets. Next time I will grab more as this song really kept the kids' attention.

The first verse goes like this: 

I had a little rooster by the barnyard gate 
That little rooster was my playmate
That little rooster said, “Cocka doodle doo 
Dee doodle-ee doodle-ee doodle-ee dude.” 

The rest of the lyrics are here. Sheet music is here. You can download the song via CDbaby or iTunes. If you'd like to see a flannel version, In the Children's Room posted one a few years ago. 

This week's Flannel Friday is hosted by Kelly

Monday, February 02, 2015

Self-Directed Maker Program

We have started doing regular maker programs for kids (grades 3-6). These will be self-directed programs where the attendees can choose from 6-10 different activities and spend as long as they want at one or many. The program will be open for 90 minutes. I did a shorter trial run at my branch to see how it would go before rolling it out system-wide.

The projects I set out: Lite Brite, Littlebits, rubber band bracelets, paper airplanes, thumbprint art, straws and connectors building set. We had 9 kids and they spent well over an hour playing. It was a really nice, low-key opportunity to get to know them one on one. I especially liked working with them on the Littlebits projects. We will be doing something similar, but probably with more stations in April.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

I Have a Little Pocket: Animals

Four years ago, I posted an activity called I Have a Little Pocket. At the time, I used a homemade board with repurposed clothes. It wasn't as sturdy as I hoped and fell apart. Just when I was thinking of making a new one, a co-worker found these awesome vinyl pockets with a magnet back. I'm not sure where she found them but think these could work. The pockets have a see-through window that I have made opaque using lime green copy paper.

The rhyme I used originally used household items like a flashlight and clock, but this activity was so popular at storytimes that families asked to repeat it. Which is awesome but meant I had to write new clues and come up with new objects. The first week I tried animals! 

I Have A Little Pocket: Animals
I have a little pocket where something can hide...
Do you know what's inside?  GREEN--FROG

I have a little pocket where something can hide.
It lives on a farm and says "BAA BAA"
Do you know what's inside? PURPLE-SHEEP 

I have a little pocket where something can hide.
It used to be a caterpillar but now it can fly!
Do you know what's inside? BLUE--BUTTERFLY

I have a little pocket where something can hide...
It lived a long time ago and says "ROARRR!"
Do you know what's inside?  RED--DINOSAUR

This week's Flannel Friday is being hosted by Katie