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!