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!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The 2013 So Tomorrow Reader Survey

For the past few years, I've asked blog readers to give me some feedback on how I'm doing. I really take your comments to heart and so I'm hoping many of you will take the time to fill out a short survey about my blog. 

If you have a few minutes to answer the questions, here's the survey. I'll leave it up for a few months so, no hurry. And if you're prefer to comment here or send me an email, that's awesome too.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Instant Professional Development: Four Favorite Storytime Gems I Learned In 2013

2013 was a big year for me! I started my third children's librarian job, and my first new job in almost 5 years. My family and I moved so I could cut my commute to that new job from 90 minutes to under 30. It was a big leap of faith to take a new job and start over in a new part of the state, but I am so happy to say that I love my new job and couldn't be happier. Woohoo!

To close out the year, I'd like to share with you 4 new storytime activities I learned this year and give a shout-out to the people who taught me them. I haven't had the chance to try all of these with my storytime kids yet, but I'm looking forward to our new session starting in January! Thank you Mary, Kendra, Lindsey, Dana, and Anna for being a part of my professional learning network (and my virtual colleagues and friends). Ready? Here we go (in no particular order)...

1) "Sleeping Bunnies" which I discovered via Mary's awesome ukelele at storytime posts
Learning to play the ukelele is on my list of things I want to learn how to do before I retire. You'll note that my retirement date is approximately 2049.

2) "Let's Go Riding on an Elevator" via Kendra
Wicked fun with the parachute! We do it with the kids under the parachute and the adults holding around and then we SNAP the chute down while the kids scream in delight.

3) "The Elevator Song" via Jbrary 
 I'm calling 2013 as "The Year of Elevator Storytime Activities". You heard it here first.

4) "The Watermelon Song" via Anna
Silly, quirky, simple.

That's it! Happy New Year, everyone! Thank you for reading my blog. And if you're wondering if I will start a YouTube channel to post videos of myself, NOPE!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Fall Writing Center Activities

As I did for the summer, here's a quick rundown of what our monthly prompts for the fall were at the Writing Center in my department:

September is when the kids go back to school (here in Michigan, we have a state law that mandates the first day of public school be after Labor Day with a few exceptions) , so we asked them what their favorite part of the school day was. You probably guessed that lunch and recess ranked pretty high, but a lot of kids said math too!

In October, the kids told us what their favorite costume to dress up in was and in November, we asked what the kids were most thankful for: For some reason, I don't have photos of either of those months! Oops.

Since it's December already, the current question is "What is your favorite memory of 2013?". There have been some very sweet ones!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Instant Professional Development: Circulating Ideas Episode On Storytime

As you may know, I'm a nerd for professional development. Well, as it happens a bunch of youth librarians* were recently interviewed on the librarian podcast Circulating Ideas about storytimes. Some people have even called it a Storytime Brain Trust, and best of all, listening is free! So go listen to both parts!

*okay, I'm one of the people interviewed. Thanks for the opportunity, Steve! We're still nemeses though.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Toddler Drive In Movie

Another program we had in December was a Toddler Drive-In Movie. This was inspired by an idea floating around on Pinterest, as well as Marge's blog post about hers. We needed another program to round out our offerings in December but it needed to be something easy to put together because we had one huge program (LIVE REINDEER) and a bunch of holidays and vacations among the staff. So I decided to put a Toddler Drive-In Movie together for ages 1-4. Here's what my daughter's car looked like:

It wound up being really easy and fun! At first registrations were slow, but then we hit a long cold snap weather-wise and everyone must have gotten tired of sitting around at home because then we wound up with a waiting list of a few kids. We were able to get everyone in since my building always has so so so many boxes in storage.

Speaking of boxes that's the hardest of supplies for this program to get together. So, if your library isn't swimming in boxes (mine is!), that will be the hardest part. I was very fortunate to find about 35 identical flattened boxes in perfect condition without even a logo on them just sitting in our box room. I don't know what I did to make the universe smile upon me that day, but it was amazing! You could also hoard copier paper boxes.

We set out paper plates for steering wheels and let the kids choose between dessert-size paper plates or similarly sized Elison cut outs for head lights. On the same table we had markers, crayons, and glue sticks for decorating. The paper plates also were used for wheels.
 On the next table, we had tons of paper cutouts (from our Elison machine) all left over from other projects. I grabbed anything that seemed car or transportation related. There were trains, stars, letters of the alphabet, more stars, and numbers in this pile. It was a great way to use up whatever we had taking up space in storage. The tape dispensers are all filled with double-sided tape, which is our secret weapon here. The tables were in the back so there was maximum room for creating on the floor! And then it was show-time!

Date: Thursday, December 12
Time: 11:15 am to approximately 12 pm.
Total number of people (including adults) who attended: 47
Marketing slogan from newsletter: Make a cardboard car and take in a show!
Movie shown: Weston Woods' Officer Buckle and Gloria (12 minutes, I would go shorter next time) Public Performance Rights included with the DVD, from the library's Parent/Teacher Collection. We do have a movie license for commercial movies as well, but the kids are too young to sit through a feature-length film.
The kids were amazingly good at sitting in their boxes and pretending to beep their horns. Parents also pushed the kids around a little bit and slid around on the carpet. Clean-up was pretty minimal but I did have to run the sweeper to grab the little bits of cardboard debris. Mostly it was organizing the remaining die-cuts to go back into storage. I let parents take home the extra boxes for other siblings. Parent feedback was extremely good on this program--lots of photos and videos being taken with phones and iPads. This is a great program for storytime session breaks to get this kids coming back in, but also have a simple program for staff to put together.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Live Reindeer Program

December is generally a slow time for public libraries, and my library is no exception. Our storytimes are on hiatus until January, a lot of the staff members (and patrons) are on vacation, and it is a good time to get projects done for the most part. While things are pretty slow, my library does have one huge program at each of our branches: live reindeer! And we go all out!

Each branch in my county system does this program. And even the smallest branch had hundreds of people turn out, so I definitely think it's worth the investment. It is truly a team effort to put this program together. Our maintenance department put out the big contractor lights and placed barriers by them. (They also did a particularly beautiful job hanging Christmas lights on our front lawn as you can see in this photo.)

Each branch is responsible for preparing crafts to go with the reindeer's visit. Inside my branch, we had two crafts and kids were able to make either or both. The first is your basic reindeer antler headband:

 The second is a paper snowglobe:

Both crafts are made from Ellison die cuts. We shall not speak of the amount of die cutting that went into this program since we were expecting about 500 people at this program. (And of course 2 reindeer, named Holly and Noel!). We also purchased some winter-themed stickers from Oriental Trading for the snow globe craft, but they hadn't arrived yet when I made the sample. Actually they arrived in the mail only a few hours before the program, yikes!

We also served cookies inside at my branch. The reindeer have to stay outside though. Staffing-wise, we had all four regular staff members of our children's department, one volunteer serving cookies, and a substitute staff member working the desk. All of us wore reindeer antler headbands as well. The 4 children's staffers took 30 minute shifts outside with the reindeer and then inside working the craft tables or helping out at the desk. It was a magical, fun night where we saw 490 members of our community turn out despite temperatures well below freezing. Even our resident stuffed Clifford got into the act:

Update 12/16/14: Take a peek at what we did when we repeated this program in December of 2014 with 748 attendees! 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Flannel Friday: Windblown

One of my favorite picture books of 2013 was Windblown by Ă‰douard Manceau. Like the bloggers behind With Kiddos @ the Library, I was inspired to turn it into a flannel board for a program next month. I'll share more details after the program is over, so for now, please enjoy some photos of how the flannel board turned out. We didn't have the exactly matching felt colors so I substituted whatever was handy. I've had quite a bit of fun playing with the pieces to make the creatures from the story. 



Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tween Book Club: Among the Hidden

November's tween book club selection was Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix. I was VERY curious to see what the kids would make of this book. I personally really enjoyed it and now that we've discussed the first book I can finally finish reading the series!  If you're not familiar with the series, it's my new (to me) go-to pick for realistic middle grade science fiction. It's good read-alike for fans of Lois Lowry's The Giver.

 I used Multnomah County's book discussion questions and adapted them to fit our discussion. The kids had some great things to say and made some particularly keen observations about the setting of the novel (which they thought was Pennsylvania 50-100 years from now) but without huge technological innovations. One girl called it "the opposite of The Jetsons."

My book club doesn't meet in December so our next selection will be Storm Runners by Roland Smith in January. I showed the kids this video with Roland Smith (which does have some mild spoilers) to get them excited for our next meeting. 

Friday, November 08, 2013

Things that GO Storytime (2 and 3 year olds)

Chugga chugga choo choo! This week's theme at storytime was transportation! We talked about trains, cars, construction vehicles, boats, and all other things that go! Always a good theme for little ones. Here's what we did this time around:

In our opening every week, we sing "If You're Happy and You Know It," and this week in addition to clapping our hands, stomping our feet, wagging our tails, and flapping our wings, we also flew into space and drove our cars.

Freight Train by Crews A Classic
In The Driver's Seat by Haynes Thank you so much to my coworker, K, for suggesting this one! A BIG hit!
Who Is Driving? by Timmers One of my personal favorites
Tip, Tip, Dig, Dig Another perfect book for 2 and 3 year olds.

Parachute Activities:
The Wheels on the Bus
The Grand Old Duke of York
Row, Row, Row Your Boat
Let's Go Riding in an Elevator I learned this one from Kendra! For this one, the kids are under the parachute and the parents/caregivers are holding on. We start with the chute just above their heads and gradually raise it and slap it down FAST at DOWN. You can also do it as a bounce at baby storytime. I do it with my own daughter while we're waiting at the doctor's.

Dance, Freeze, Melt by Mister Eric (Track 6 on Rockin' RedThey really got into this one! You definitely have to practice the dance, freeze, melt actions so they know what's coming but they caught on really fast. Smarties!

After the parachute, the kids played together with Matchbox cars on the floor.

I adapted the image above from Open Clip Art.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Bedtime Math Pajama Party

One of the things I like most about the children's department at my new job is our focus on doing programs that cover all areas of knowledge and not just literacy-based programs. We already do a science experiment extravaganza quarterly, but when we discovered the Bedtime Math program, I knew we had to try it. The goal of Bedtime Math is to provide "recreational math" opportunities for kids outside the school setting.

After getting the program supplies in the mail*, I was so excited to put this program on! It is a cinch! They send you all the supplies. All I had to do was print out some things and supply pencils.

Here's how I set up: 

When the families came in, there was a table with their gift bags and name tags. Each child had a name tag and each family received a gift bag with all the goodies. I thought this might go more smoothly than passing things out one at a time as we got to them. It did not. So, next time we do this program, we will pass stuff out (as instructed to by the good people at Bedtime Math) so people will not be distracted or lost.

One of the activities is giant tangrams! Here's a sample I made. Note: tangrams are hard! 

The kids also got to make (AND KEEP!) giant foam dominoes using stickers. This is a great activity. One thing I would do before releasing the kids to create their dominoes would be to play a sample game so they understand how it works. I believed more parents would know how to play this game as it was a staple of my childhood. Everybody caught on though.

The feedback from families was tremendous! One of the moms stopped me to say they had a great time and one of the dads wanted to know when we would do it again. I'm hoping we can do another session during January or February.

As far as numbers go, the kit contains enough supplies for 20 families. I actually think that would be wayyyy too many people for this to go smoothly. Maybe if you had more than one staff person. We had 10 families register for a total of 25 people who actually attended. It was nice to see so many dads at one program! And, since Ally was wondering, yes, kids (and a parent or two) came in their jammies! The kids were ages 3-9, but 6-9 would be better so they are able to do the math.

Public librarians can order a kit for free from the Bedtime Math organization. We used the PJ Party Kit #1 for this program (tangrams and dominoes).

Bedtime Math's partnering organizations include the American Library Association (maybe you've heard of them?), Boston Children's Museum, Boys and Girls Club of Hudson County, Girl Scouts, Liberty Science Center, Museum of Mathematics, Scholastic Publishing, and World of Wonder Children's Museum. There is an official Bedtime Math book available through the usual vendor suspects. I purchased two copies for my branch.

*Bedtime Math provided a free program kit to my library, as they will do for all U.S. public libraries per their website. I am not affiliated with them in any way.

Edited 11/5: 
Some more things I meant to add: We held this program at 6:30 pm on Monday night and it lasted about 45 minutes. My branch closes at 8 pm. One word of caution is that the included stickers made a huge mess so I did have to run the vacuum after the program which I wasn't intending to do. It only took aout 5 minutes so don't let that deter you. Make sure you have plenty of garbage cans on hand as well. The foam stickers I was sent had tiny little pieces that needed to be punched out by the kids as well as the typical sticker backing.

As far as room setup, you will want as much of an empty space in the middle as you can. I lined up about 20 chairs on the perimeter of the room, as well as the tables. Then the families could play with the tangrams and make their dominoes on the floor with as much space as we could provide. My branch has a program room for children's activities (storytime, etc.) as well as a bigger room with a capacity of about 180 for performers, community events, etc. We used the bigger room for this program (as we did for pumpkin decorating and the down on the farm party, among others). 

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Announcing "MI KidLib!" An Unconference for Children's Librarians

I'm very excited to announce that Lisa Mulvenna, Andrea Vernola, and I are planning a KidLib Unconference* here in Michigan! It will be Friday, February 21st at the Main Branch of Clinton-Macomb Public Library.

If you're unfamiliar with how an unconference works, basically the session topics are decided by the attendees on that morning. We will take suggestions ahead of time, and then vote on what the breakout topics will be. Registration is free (please bring some cash for lunch) and open! We hope to get people from all over Michigan and other states and maybe even Canada. Why not? We're also hoping to some library school students from Wayne State and U of M.

Here's our website! If you have any questions, you can email me:

*inspired by the good people at Darien Library.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tween Book Club: The Graveyard Book

Last night at my tween book club, we discussed The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, one of my very favorite Newbery winners. It was a great choice for a spooky October evening, close to Halloween. Here's what we did:

Word Search
I always do a word search or crossword puzzle at the beginning of book club. It gives the kids something to do together while they eat their pizza. I try to alternate whether it's a word search or crossword each month.

Book Discussion
I always look online for good book discussion questions before I plan anything else. For this book, I found Multnomah County Library's questions really helpful, as well as those from Gaiman's official site for young readers, Mouse Circus. We watched the book's official trailer to refresh everyone's memory. The kids had some great insights this month. We talked for a long time about Gaimain's tendency to hint about the book's setting (pounds as currency, etc.) and characters (just what is Silas anyway?). We had a really good chat about why there are so many orphans in children's literature also.

If You Like This Book, Try... Booktalks
I like to booktalk some related titles after the discussion is over. I try to keep this a mix of fiction, nonfiction, chapter books, and anything they might enjoy glancing over. This time I book-talked a couple creepy reads that I thought the kids would like:
Rotten Pumpkin: A Rotten Tale in 15 Voices by David M. Schwartz They were impressed and disgusted.
Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs by J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen Fun opportunity to introduce the new vocabulary word "epitaph".
Your Skeleton is Showing : Rhymes of Blunder from Six Feet Under by Kurt Cyrus

I found a planning sheet to spark ideas for kids on how to write their own epitaph. I also printed out an article called How to Write a Funny Epitaph. Then I printed out a gravestone template for each kid so they could put the final version on there. These prompts were also helpful. The discussion was so good this month that we didn't have time to cover this, so I sent everything home with the kids.

I like to end by introducing the next month's book, so I did a short book talk for Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix, our title for November. Wish I had I showed this fan-made book trailer that I just found though! I think the kids will really like Among the Hidden. I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of the books in the series but I will wait until after our book discussion next month so I don't accidentally spoil anything from the later books.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Storytime Apple Picking

It's officially fall storytime season here in Michigan! That means the caregivers are toting pumpkin spice lattes and we're going apple picking in storytime! This week we talked about fall and read Leaves by David Ezra Stein, Fall is Not Easy by Marty Kelley, and The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri. Following the last book, the kids (and their grownups--some of the apples are still up on the higher branches--aka bookshelves) are dismissed to find some of the 70-ish apples hidden around the back half of our children's programming room where the craft tables are. After the kids are done, they come back to the circle and we recite "Way Up High in the Apple Tree" using the apples they found:

Way Up High in the Apple Tree
Two red apples smiled at me. 
I shook that tree as hard as I could,
Down came an apple...
Mmmmm mmmm good!

The apples were included in our storytime tub this week and suggested to go with that rhyme. Instead of passing them out myself, I thought it would be more fun to let the kids find them. We've done this with gemstones for a pirate theme and they always love to collect objects. It gives them a chance to stretch their legs and then I can set-up for the next activity. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Prop Story: Halloween Hilda

Halloween Hilda
From Super Story Telling With Reproducible Patterns by Carol Elaine Catron and Barbara Catron Parks

This is basically a rhyming, Halloween themed version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. It's similar to There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat, but much shorter, just perfect for my 2 and 3 year old storytime kids. I plan to tell it with our puppet" who swallows a few Halloween-y creatures like bats and monsters.

I traced the artwork from the patterns in the book but clip art printouts or small puppet objects would work just as well (if not better). The puppet has been at my library longer than I have and I couldn't find a tag, so I am not sure where it came from.

Here's Lisa Mulvenna's version of Hilda. 

Jack O' Lantern Flannelboard Play Station

For Flannel Friday, I'm posting an activity that we have left out in our children's room for the kids to play with on their visits. This flannel board is on a support column between one bank of public computers and our official "play area". This has been one of the most popular felt board activities since I started this job in April.

I asked one of my coworkers to take some jack o' lantern coloring pages from the Internet and trace the pieces to make a Jack O' Lantern Flannelboard Play Station. Here's one way it has been put together as well as the extra pieces. You could do this as a storytime activity too by asking the kids what body parts make a jack o'lantern.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Pumpkin Decorating Program

One of the fun programs my new library has put on for a number of years is a pumpkin decorating program. I can take absolutely no credit for the idea or execution of this program. My co-workers even set the room up for me the day before the program (THANK YOU!).

This program is a great way to use any random leftover craft supplies that you have hiding in the crevices of your storage areas. Even if you can't think of a way to use something weird rest assured that the kids definitely will. Some of the odds and ends we put out (spread out over 4 supply tables in the back):

  • Plastic drinking straws
  • Plastic bottle caps
  • Tinsel
  • Foam stickers
  • Pipe cleaners/Chenille stems
  • Rectangles of felt and foam
  • Plastic spider rings
  • Fake spider web
  • Left over die-cuts from other craft programs
  • Silk leaves
  • Googly eyes
  • Feathers
  • Different colored paper and paper strips
  • Sequins
  • Buttons
  • Pom-Poms
  • Crepe paper strips
  • Tissue paper squares
  • Yarn
  • Shredded newspaper
The kids were given paper plates to assist in carrying their chosen supplies back to their seats. Their pumpkins set on paper plates for stability and easy transport. On the tables were supplies for them to share with their tablemates (scissors, glue sticks, glitter glue, glue dots, dot markers, etc.) The kids had an hour to decorate. At my first library system, we did pumpkin carving programs, and this decorating program is a lot less clean up! I just had to break everything down and run the vacuum quickly versus spending hours cleaning pumpkin guts off the carpet. 

General setup notes: 
  • Pumpkins were purchased in a large quantity (several hundred) for all of our branches from one farm in our county (I work for a county library system). One of our maintenance staffers picked up and delivered these pie-sized pumpkins to all 4 branches on the same day. Staffers at each branch were responsible for unloading and cleaning the pumpkins that day and storing them until the day of their branch's program. 
  • My branch's program was this past Saturday. We are the biggest branch, so we held three programs with a registration cap of 30. The times offered were 11:30, 1:30, and 3:00. Very few people signed up for the last program so we may not do three times in 2014. If that's the way we go, I will put a longer break between the two programs since it was difficult to get the room set up again and fit lunch breaks in there. 
  • You will want 2 people for this program, if you run it as a decorating contest like my branch* does. I did it with one of our esteemed volunteers. Basically I stayed in the room and she used a book cart to deliver the finished pumpkins to the judging area. She also helped me clean up at the end, thank goodness.  
This program was a lot of fun! I am always amazed at what the kids can create when you give them the raw materials and get out of the way. Our Lego programs are another example of this. 

*At my branch, this program is actually run as a contest, but our other 3 branches just do a decorating program. The contest portion gets really complicated so please forgive me for not blogging about how that all works in detail. :) I will say that we have 3 different grade levels and the winner of each level gets a $10 gift card. The public votes to pick a winner. Where the system gets complicated is in keeping track of the entrants while not making their names and contact information known to the voters.  

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Halloween Storytime: 2013 Edition

Last week was Flannel Friday's Halloween Extravaganza Roundup, so at the same time I was working on my posts, I also was thinking about what other material I would want to include in my upcoming storytimes. My Halloween storytimes aren't until October 28th and 29th, so I'm sort of listing everything that could possibly wind up happening at the end of the month. Consider this my brainstorming list. If you see anything great that I'm missing, please let me know. As a reminder I do storytimes just for 2 and 3 year olds. I also wrote this post before the completed Extravaganza was posted, so bear in mind that I will most likely use one (or several) ideas from Flannel Friday too!

Pumpkin Trouble by Jan Thomas
The Spooky Box by Mark Gonyea
If You're a Monster and You Know It by Rebecca and Ed Emberly
In a Dark, Dark, Wood by David Carter (in our storytime reference collection)

Flannelboard: There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat (our set is by The Teacher Express)
Song: The Haunted House (to the tune of "The Wheels on the Bus)

Little Bat
(Source: Artsy Toddler Storytimes: A Year's Worth of Ready-to-Go Programming)
Little bat, little bat, fly up high. Flap wings
Little bat, little bat, drop on by. Swoop arms as though flying
Little bat, little bat, listen for your lunch. Put hands to your ears
Little bat, little bat, give a punch Pretend to punch the air
Little bat, little bat, let's do a spin.
Little bat, little bat, let's see a grin.
Little bat, little bat, hang by your feet. Point to your feet. 
Little bat, little bat, have a seat. Sit down. 

I Saw a Witch
I saw a witch in a tall peaked hat,                      
Riding a broom with a coal black cat!
I saw this witch, but she didn't see me,
For I was hiding behind a tree!
As she went by, I jumped out and yelled, "BOO!"
And my, she was frightened, and away she flew!
She left her broom and her tall peaked hat,
Her painted mask and her coal black cat!
I don't know when I've had such fun,
As on Halloween* night when I made a witch run!

Actions: hold hands above head for the hat, hold hands over eyes and peek out, wave hands as if flying)

Here is a pumpkin, big and round;  (form circle with hands) 
Here is a kitty, soft and brown; (hold fists on top of each other with two fingers up)
Here is an owl with great big eyes;  (cup fingers around eyes)
Here is a witch--see how she flies. (make flying motion with hands) 

*If you prefer, you can use the word "that" instead of "Halloween"

Jack-O-Happy by Liz and Dick Wilmes--felt board story
Mouse's Halloween House by Judy Sierra--felt board story
Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberly--draw and tell story
Inside a House that is Haunted by Alyssa Capucilli--clothes line story
The Ninjas by Barenaked Ladies--felt board song
Five Little Pumpkins (traditional)-- craft stick puppets
The Pumpkin Patch by Anne Clark--draw and tell story
Jack O' Lantern-- Flannelboard Play Station
Halloween Hilda by Carol Elaine Catron and Barbara Catron Parks-- prop story

Friday, October 04, 2013

Halloween Draw and Tell Story: "The Pumpkin Patch"

Today is Flannel Friday's Halloween Extravaganza Roundup over at Storytime ABC's. This week I am sharing an original draw and tell story I wrote called "The Pumpkin Patch." I just wrote it on Monday so I haven't had a chance to share it with my storytime friends yet. I would love your feedback, if anyone does this with a group. It's a really short and simple one, so if you've never tried this storytelling form, it's a good one to begin with.

The words and drawing instructions are available here.

In the next week or so I will be posting the rest of my storytime plan (at least so far!) for our Halloween storytimes. I'm sure there will be lots of great new Flannel Friday ideas too that I'll want to add.

Looking for more Halloween or monster storytime ideas? Here's some I've posted previously:
Jack-O-Happy by Liz and Dick Wilmes--felt board story
Mouse's Halloween House by Judy Sierra--felt board story
Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberly--draw and tell story
Inside a House that is Haunted by Alyssa Capucilli--clothes line story
The Ninjas by Barenaked Ladies--felt board song
Five Little Pumpkins (traditional)-- craft stick puppets

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Down on the Farm Party for Woolbur

One of the events my library hosts every fall is a celebration party in honor of that year's Michigan Reads* book selection. This year's honoree is Woolbur by Leslie Helakoski, so we threw a Down on the Farm station-based party. This party was staffed by 3 people (1 at the cakewalk, 1 at the bean bag toss, and another helping with crafts) and attended by 41 people. Pretty much everything we did was inspired by this awesome birthday party, to give credit where credit's due. So enjoy some pretty pictures without much blathering on! Our stations were: petting zoo (with puppets), water table fishing pond with rubber ducks, cake walk with farm animals, and bean bag toss.

Die for Woolbur's Walk
As far as the cake walk goes, it was "cake-less". Instead we called the game "Woolbur's Walk." We gave the winners a small toy instead of a cake. I printed out clip art pic
Woolbur's Walk
tures of 6 different farm animals and taped them to these spots we have in storage (given to us graciously by one of our other branches who was cleaning out their storage). I put the same pictures into the 6 spots on the changeable die that I have also used for Roll a Rhyme. When I stopped the music, whichever kid(s) was on the animal whose

picture rolled up was a winner. This allowed us to have more winners than drawing a number out of a hat and the animals tied in with the farm theme. A mom said she was going to steal this idea for her child's birthday party next month!

Fishing Pond (water table was mine, other pieces borrowed from another branch)
 We put our farm animal puppets (plus a dinosaur because why not?), a selection of farm-themed pop-up books, and my daughter's plastic tractor to create a puppet petting zoo. One of my staff members had the genius idea to use bulletin board paper as the background and she taped down the blanket on the floor for boundary marking/comfort.
Puppet Petting Zoo

Craft 1: Popsicle stick puppet Sheep (or magnet)

Craft 2: Chicken Headbands

We had a raffle for copies of the book as well as some donated stuffed dogs

Fish bean bag toss
 *Michigan Reads is a partnership between the Library of Michigan, Target, and the Lions Club of Michigan.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Guest Post at Green Bean Teen Queen

Just dropping in to say that I've written a guest post at Green Bean Teen Queen blog where I share my favorite middle grade books. Thank you Sarah for asking me to participate many, many, many months ago. Sorry that I am such a slacker and also that I talked about toilet reading. Yikes!!!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Ready, Set, Go To Kindergarten Storytime

One of the programs we do every year at my new library is "Ready, Set, Go! To Kindergarten," a storytime for kids who will be entering kindergarten in the fall. I only had about 30 minutes of actual librarian-directed time to work with and a lot of ground I wanted to cover to go over some of the kindergarten-readiness knowledge. This was an evening program we had on Monday for about 20 kids and their parents.
Books Read
Colors: Pete the Cat:  I Love My White Shoes
ABCS: Boom Chicka Boom Boom
School In General: Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come by Nancy Carlson

Song: Kindergarten Here We Come

Movement Song: The Bean Bag by Hap Palmer

Craft: School Words Book

We also sang "The Wheels on the Bus" with the parachute to close out the evening.

Note to self: Do not use the same date for this program (Monday, 8/26) next year! So many people had to cancel because it was a kindergarten open house at one of our school districts.

I actually ran a little short on time for this one, so I need to add more stuff for next year. All the kids were super well behaved and things didn't wind up taking as much time as I thought they would, oops!

**Image Credit: Open Clip Art

Summer Writing Center Activities

My new library has a small Writing Center complete with a pretend mailbox. Each month (ummm, roughly...) we change the suggested activity out. After June, I decided to experiment with using the Ellison machine to cut the papers for the kids' answers. I love the visual effect this has had in that small, dark nook!

In June, the kids told us what one thing that they "dig" was for our "Dig Into Reading" summer reading program.

In July, the kids told us what they would name a pet dinosaur if they had one:

In August, we asked the kids what their favorite ice cream cone flavor was. I'm proud to say that Superman ice cream remains a favorite. The kids are OK.

As you can see, we kept the background orange paper and balloon border up. It's really difficult to change the paper in particular given the small space that you have to work with in this spot. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Program Idea: Parachute Playtime

This summer I offered a parachute playtime for kids 2-3 and 4-5. The idea for this program came from the genius that is my close personal friend Miss Lisa, so make sure you stop by her blog to see what activities she includes in her parachute programs. In addition to her program, I also got ideas from Parachute Play by Liz and Dick Wilmes

I like to do a lot of nursery rhymes with the parachute for a few reasons:
  1. Parents/kids are more likely to participate in activities where the content is already familiar
  2. I already know them so I don't have to learn a whole bunch of material at once (just being honest here)
  3. Easy for the families to replicate this activities at home with whatever props they might have. If they (or you!) don't have a parachute, a bed sheet or blanket can be substituted easily. Even a beach towel would work for one parent and one child to play together.  This is my mean reason and I tried to hammer this in at all three programs I did the past two weeks! 
Parachute Activities
I picked different activities from this list for each group, depending on how the program was flowing. 
  • Introduction (We started each program by saying "Good Morning" to the parachute and giving it a "wake up" shake. I just think it's good manners to say "good morning.") 
  • Rules
  • Warm-up Activity: "If You're Happy and You Know It" 
    • clap your hands
    • stamp your feet
    • shake the chute
    • turn around (while holding the chute)
    • pass the chute (to your neighbor)  
    • pull it high (above your head)
  • Pass the Chute (a rhyme I found in Parachute Play. It's on page 75.) You can find the words on slide 24 of this PowerPoint. 
  • "The Grand Old Duke of York"
  • "The Hokey Pokey" (Track 7 on Disney's More Dancin' Tunes) It is surprisingly (or maybe not?) hard to find a decent version of this song. 
  • "The Wheels on the Bus"
    • The wheels on the bus go round and round (pass the chute or walk in a circle, if standing)
    • Door s on the bus go open and shut (pull chute forward and backward)
    • The wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish (shake the chute)
    • The babies on the bus go waaa, waaa, waaa (use the chute as a handkerchief)
    • The horn on the bus goes beep, beep, beep (pretend the chute is a horn and beep it!) 
  • "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" (traditional and shouty lyrics!) 
  • "Motorboat, Motorboat
  • "Alabama, Mississippi" from Jim Gill Sings The Sneezing Song and Other Contagious Tune
    • Lift the chute up on Alabama, lower it on Mississippi. Lift on Alabama and shake it down to New Orleans. Keep shaking on the floor and then raise again for Alabama. 
  • "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" 
  • "Jump, Jump" by Joanie Leeds (Track 6 on I'm a Rock Star) Thanks Angie for introducing this CD to me! 
  • "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" with stuffed monkeys
  • "Ring Around the Rosie" and "Cows in the Meadow" This link has some great ideas for other movements you can do around the chute, like galloping and tiptoeing. 
  • "Popcorn" by Joanie Leeds (Track 8 on I'm a Rock Star) with these little monster-y ball-shaped stuffed things we have.Cotton balls or packing peanuts would work too. But I didn't want to clean up that mess 3 times (I did this program twice for 2- and 3 year-olds and one time for the older group).
  • Shark Attack: Have the kids sit with their feet under the chute. Crawl under and pretend to be a shark biting their toes. Have them yell out "SHARK ATTACK!"  For extra fun, play the "Jaws" theme in the background. 
  • Every program needs a little Raffi. Two songs to try that would be fun are "Spider on the Floor" (I've also done this with scarves) and "Shake My Sillies Out," which could be a great starter or throw it any time you need to perk up the energy in the room a little bit! 
  • Cover Up: Another game from Parachute Play. The kids sit on the chute and you call out a body part, which they then cover up with the chute. 
  • Johnny Works With One Hammer. It doesn't really have anything to do with parachutes, but I always enjoy this one. You could pretend to use the chute as covers if you end with "then he falls asleep!" 
  • “Hoki Hoki/Nga Waka” (Track 12: A World of Parachute Play by Georgiana Stewart) In this song you pretend to be drumming on the parachute. 
  • Simon Says. Or, if you've still got that Joanie Leeds CD hanging around, "Joanie Says" is Track 11.
  • Soccer Chute (Track 8: World of Parachute Play) Throw a soccer ball on the chute and let the kids kick it with their feet and knees. See how long you can keep it on the chute!  Prop: Nerf-type balls
  • Some of the ideas from Parachute Play that I couldn't try involved pretending the chute was a monster and "burping" balls through the hole, pretending the parachute was a golf hole and having the kids work together to get a ball through it. Our chute doesn't have a hole in the center! It's just mesh. Oh well! 
  • Cat and Mouse: OK, our parachute isn't big enough for this, but I watched a YouTube video of a middle school gym class and this game looks hilarious! Basically one person is a "cat" on top of the parachute, and there is a mouse underneath. The rest of the group makes waves with the parachute to help hide the mouse, while the cat tries to tag the mouse. 
  • "Duck, Duck, Goose" and chase each other around the parachute. This was a big hit, even though a lot of kids apparently don't know how to play this game anymore?!? What is the world coming to? 
  • Big Finish: Parachute Fireworks (idea from Parachute Play, page 111) The kids make fireworks by crumbling construction paper and toss them onto the chute. You all stand up, everyone counts "1, 2, 3, 4, 5- FIREWORKS!" and all together you pop the chute as high as you can in the air, to launch the fireworks. 
  • End with having everyone roll the parachute together. Then, if you've still got a few minutes, you can use that as your limbo stick and limbo! That same Disney's More Dancin' Tunes has the "Limbo Rock" (Track 5). 
If you're interested in trying a parachute program with babies (FUN!), Julia wrote about hers. So has Kendra.

Update: Don't miss my 2014 parachute program! 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Moving Right Along: Transistions During Storytime

Lately I've been thinking a lot about how to improve my transistions between activities and books at storytime. I've been making a conscious effort to actually have some sort of transition and not just "Okay, now we're going to do __________." I don't write these down. They are things I kind of come up with on the fly but am sharing because it's always interesting (to me, anyway!) to see how other librarians handle this type of thing.

The pets storytime I did during the last week of July had some really great natural opportunites to move from one thing to another, so I thought I'd share how we did that. I'm still mastering this art, so if you have any suggestions or a favorite way to transition between activities, leave a comment!

Our last opening activity that we do every week is "Little Mouse, Little Mouse." So we talked about how mice are pets and then segued into picking out a pet for ourselves with "Goin' to The Pet Store". One of the pets in the activity was also a mouse! The last animal was a snake, so he gave snake kisses to the kids. They also got a chance to try and wear him around their necks. We talked about how you can love your pet and then read Dogs by Emily Gravett which starts with "I love dogs."

The surprise ending of Dogs is that it is being told by a cat! This was a good transition into Nesting Cats. After that we were supposed to sing "Soft Kitty, Warm Kitty" but Miss Anne forgot. Next we read What Will Fat Cat Sit On? by Jan Thomas.That book ends with "what will fat cat have for lunch?" so I had the kids go on a bone hunt for our dog puppet, Oscar. The found bones were put into a dog bowl.

Since we were talking about dogs again, the kids got a little stuffed dog (like a mini-Beanie Baby) and we practiced singing "there's a puppy on my head" to the tune of "Spider on the Floor."  Then we talked about how that was a silly thing to do and read one of my favorite silly books Do Lions Live on Lily Pads? by Melanie Walsh.

Last we did a stretching activty of "Head, Whiskers, Knees, and Tail" and then cooled down with a little "Sleeping Bunnies" action from Kathy Reid-Naiman's Tickles and Tunes CD. We did that 2-3 times to practice and burn off some energy before the kids left the program room.

We had a lot of fun with this storytime! I'm beginning to get the hang of putting together programs for this younger crowd. They are so much fun to do storytime for and it always puts a smile on my face.

Friday, August 09, 2013

"Going to the Pet Store" Puppet Rhyme

Here's a fun activity also from last week's pet storytime tub, a rhyme called "Going to the Pet Store". These are puppets (all Folkmanis, as far as I know) that we had in our puppet closet. The hat box I used is where the snake puppet lives and the others I picked out to fit in there. I really liked the effect that using the smaller puppets (frog, dog, hamster?, mouse, turtle) first and then pulling out a giant snake had on the kids.

Going to the Pet Store
Going to the pet store,   (Slap your knees to the beat)
Gonna find a pet. 
I wonder what to get? 
Hmmmmm...  (Scratch your head) 
(Look in the bag/box and pull out a puppet)

After the snake came out, he went around the room and gave snake kisses. I also let the kids who were brave enough wear him around their necks. Some of the parents/caregivers snapped photos which I have no doubt wound up on Facebook. Free PR for the library! 

P.S. Have you checked out the Storytime Underground website yet? Put together by my friends Cory, Kendra, and Amy; SU aims to celebrate all of the awesome things happening in youth services librarianship and advocate for our field. So check it out! You can also participate in their virtual book club next month. If you're in my area, sorry that I've got the only local library copy of the book though.