Baby Play: Squiqz

After each of my baby storytimes, I include a Discovery Time free-play session that encourages parents to talk to one another and to interact with their children. I include a variety of fine motor, gross motor, and sensory activities that appeal to 0-2-year-olds.

In most of my baby play posts, I talk about items that are easy and relatively cheap to replicate, often with items found around the house or at Dollar Tree. I love using play items like cereal boxes and straws and taped toys because they provide parents with ideas that they can easily recreate on their own and remind everyone that baby toys don’t have to be super expensive.

However, if a library has the budget, it can also be nice to provide some items that cost money too. For more affluent parents, you are providing them an opportunity to test out some baby items before making the decision to purchase something. For those families with less funds, you are giving their little ones an opportunity to interact with a type of toy they may not be able to experience at home.

One of my coworkers came across Squiqz when visiting family. These “fun little suckers” (the actual slogan) are essentially flexible, brightly colored building tools with suction cups. A standard collection comes with eight different designs, most of which involve at least two suction cups. They stick to each other and most surfaces, including windows, mirrors, and cookie sheets, never leaving a residue behind.

These tools are a fascinating texture for little hands (and mouths). Made of BPA-free, latex-free silicone, they easily survive the chewing that always takes place during baby play time. The smallest babies just love exploring their shapes with their hands and mouths. Slightly older babies (8-18 months) are developing the fine motor skills to be able to stick these individually to a flat surface and to pull them off afterwards (often more challenging). Older toddlers can start to build structures by sticking them together, as their finger muscles get stronger.

Recommended Purchases

Fat Brain Toys Original Squigz Deluxe 50 Piece Set – Suction Construction Bath Toys for Ages 3 to 8

Price: $50 for 50 piece set (more price and size options available)

Available At: Amazon, Target, Walmart

Items to Extend Play:

  • Cookie Sheets (Dollar Tree)
  • Baby-Safe Mirrors

Possible Future Purchases:

Conversation Starters

Start conversations as babies play with this tool by asking questions like:

  • What does it feel like?
  • What color is the Squig?
  • Can you make it stick to the window?
  • How many do you have?
  • What can you do to get the Squigz off the cookie sheet?
  • What happens if the Squigz get wet?

Stretch Vocabulary

When talking with little ones, use big words and small words. The more new words a child hears, the larger their vocabulary will be when they start to learn to read.

Consider using some of the following vocabulary words when using this activity:

Adhere
Bendy
Build
Flexible
Glue

Peel
Press
Pressure
Pull
Stick

Stretch
Suckers
Suction
Unsteady
Wobbly

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

We are joining the blog trend of Monday posts about what we have read during the last week (11/11/19-11/17/19).

Annamarie’s Reading

Annamarie’s top titles include:

Note: Annamarie serves as chair of the ALSC Notable Children’s Recordings Committee. Due to her position, she listens to and evaluates many audiobooks for children and teens. Annamarie never includes any of the audiobooks she listens to in her “What Are You Reading?” posts.

Michala’s Reading

Michala’s top titles include:

Note: LeVar Burton is indeed proud. I am maintaining a reading streak! On a personal note, I have just secured a new apartment and will begin the crazy fun of moving during the holiday season!

Winnie the Pooh Party

I love hosting popular character parties, and in January 2019 I was able to celebrate one of my favorite characters of all time–Winnie the Pooh.

I planned to begin the program by reading a Winnie the Pooh book, but as I looked through the titles we owned, none were really great for a read aloud for preschoolers. After bouncing like Tiggers and talking about Winnie the Pooh, I sent attendees to complete activities.

We regrouped about 20 minutes into the program to play Winnie the Pooh BINGO.

Activity stations included:

  • Craft: Pooh and Friends Headbands
  • Game: Pin the Tail on Eeyore
  • Scavenger Hunt: Count the Bees
  • Obstacle Course: Catch the Heffalump

Pooh BINGO

About 20 minutes into the program, we all played Winnie the Pooh BINGO. We play a few rounds until everyone wins.

Since most of our audience was younger (ages 2-4), these boards only require four in a row to earn a BINGO. BINGO boards can be downloaded above.

BINGO winners received a Winnie the Pooh Activity book, downloadable below. These were printed on 8.5″ x 11″ paper to create a foldable booklet.

Honey Pot Bags

At many of my party programs, kids create or earn a variety of small trinkets. I learned early on that this turns into parents having a variety of items to carry around and kids leaving items they made all over the place (possibly resulting in tears or arguments later). To help with this, I provide a bag for each child.

These bags, while adorable, were way too much work to make. The dripping honey was cut by hand out of yellow cardstock, and the letters were printed on yellow vinyl by our Cricut. The other side of the bag included a white label with space for kids (or parents) to write their name.

Pooh & Friends Headbands

Kids could make a headband to wear based on their preferred character–Pooh, Piglet, or Tigger. Attendees practiced scissor skills and built finger muscles cutting out ears, and parents and teen volunteers assisted with stapling headbands together.

Pin the Tail on Eeyore

Just like it sounds–kids played Pin the Tail on Eeyore. Eeyore and tails were printed on our library banner printer by our marketing department. After winning, they received a Winnie the Pooh sticker (bought off Amazon).

Count the Bees Scavenger Hunt

Thirty-two bumblebees were hidden around our meeting rooms. Kids went on a hunt to find as many bees as they could. If they counted a number 25 or higher, they received a Winnie the Pooh bookmark.

Download scavenger hunt sheet below:

Download prize bookmarks below:

Catch the Heffalump Obstacle Course

Participants could complete an age-appropriate “Catch the Heffalump” obstacle course. Kids crossed Pooh Stick’s bridge, crawled into Rabbit’s House (tunnel), dug through Eeyore’s Gloomy Place to find his tail, bounced with Tigger, and completed exercises with Pooh.

Pooh Books & Materials

As always at programs, I included a variety of appropriate library materials. Kids and parents sat and read Winnie the Pooh books. During the event (except during BINGO), the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh played on the large screen. Many families took Pooh materials home.

Teen Passive: Coloring

Kids have always been afforded coloring sheets, and then adults realized that “hey this is really relaxing” and the adult coloring book craze began…but somehow teens were, for the most part, left out in the coloring cold. When I inherited my teen department it actually came with a a few coloring books for use in house, but they were not really utilized by our teens.

Our current selection of coloring books in the Teen Room

I could tell there was a want, as many times the books would be looked at, but I think they were tired of the books we had and wanted things that were less intricate to color in. So came my quest for some new fun coloring books!

I started trolling Amazon looking for simple pictures, pop culture references, and random odd things. (This can sometimes be harder than it sounds as when the pictures get simplified they can begin to look very juvenile.) However, once you fall down the rabbit hole you can find an amazing plethora of coloring books such as:

Every other week I do wind up going through the coloring books looking for any inappropriate additions to the books, or as I call “my sweep for Ds and Fs”. Any swear words, social media handles, or genitalia drawn in gets pulled from the books. I also will pull any overly scribbled on pages because when there is a lot of scibblage no one will continue to color on that page. I don’t pull all additions from the book though and sometimes you wind up with some greatness.

Occasionally, I will also have a large coloring sheet printed out and I will tape it to a coffee table that I have in the teen room for some “allowed vandalism”. It stays on the table until it is either colored in, has lost the battle to swear words, penises, and “follow me @s”, or my favorite death, having every square inch covered in Old Town Road lyrics and a rainbow of a million “YEETS”. (Does that make it Yeeted to death? Yoted?)

And sometimes you wind up with some gorgeous, collaborative art.

Baby Play: Pool Noodle Abacus

After each of my baby storytimes, I include a Discovery Time free-play session that encourages parents to talk to one another and to interact with their children. I include a variety of fine motor, gross motor, and sensory activities that appeal to 0-2-year-olds.

The pool noodle abacus helps the littlest children practice fine motor skills and older toddlers and preschool practice basic math. While a true abacus requires more than two strings, this creates a similar effect for young learners, while also providing a cool activity to experiment with how the pool noodle pieces move back and forth and how much pressure the yarn can withstand.

I tied the string between two chairs, though I would suggest something more sturdy if you have that available. Many children moved the chairs or manged to remove one end of the string (the top piece was taped on instead of tied on). Also consider whether you want the string closer to a wall or further away–having the lower string further from the wall encouraged climbing between the strings. This can be a great way to practice gross motor skills, or it can also be seen as a tripping hazard.

How to Make

Materials: yarn, pool noodles, knife, scissors

Steps:

  • Use the knife to cut 1-2 pool noodles into roughly 1-3″ pieces.
  • Tie one end of a piece of thick yarn to a sturdy surface, like a chair.
  • String about 20 pool noodle pieces onto the string (or whatever amount fits in the space you have).
  • Cut the other end of the string, leaving at least 1-2 feet of empty string so pieces can be moved easily.
  • Securely tie the other end of the string to another sturdy surface.
  • Repeat for however many rows of strings you would like to create.

Cost: $0-5

  • 2 Pool Noodles (Dollar Tree)
  • Yarn

Time to Make: 10 minutes

Pro-Tip: To expand this activity, try cutting a vertical slit in one side of a pool noodle piece so the pool noodle piece can also be removed from the string. Little ones can explore how to add or remove pool noodle pieces from the abacus.

Conversation Starters

Start conversations as babies play with this tool by asking questions like:

  • How many red pool noodle pieces are on the rope?
  • Can you find a blue pool noodle?
  • How many pool noodle pieces are on the rope total?
  • Can you push five pieces to one side of the rope?
  • How do the pool noodles feel?

Stretch Vocabulary

When talking with little ones, use big words and small words. The more new words a child hears, the larger their vocabulary will be when they start to learn to read.

Consider using some of the following vocabulary words when using this activity:

Add
Count
Guess
Hang
Itchy
Light

Move
Prickly
Rope
Scoot
Scratchy
Shift

Squeeze
String
Subtract
Tally
Total
Yarn

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

We are joining the blog trend of Monday posts about what we have read during the last week (11/4/19-11/10/19).

Annamarie’s Reading

Annamarie’s top titles include:

Note: Annamarie serves as chair of the ALSC Notable Children’s Recordings Committee. Due to her position, she listens to and evaluates many audiobooks for children and teens. Annamarie never includes any of the audiobooks she listens to in her “What Are You Reading?” posts.

Michala’s Reading

Michala’s top titles include:

Note: After several weeks of failing to read I am back on the reading rainbow! Lavar Burton would be proud.

Favorite Graphic Novels of 2019

Graphic novels are one of my favorite mediums to read. I try to keep up with what my patrons are reading, so I make an effort to pick up the newest or most talked about series. Some of them I love–I will forever be a Dog Man fan–and some of them I am fine letting go after the first book (sorry Plants vs. Zombies).

I never read graphic novels or comics growing up. In fact, I don’t think I read my first graphic novel until library school, when a few “classic” kid titles were required reading for my children’s literature classes. I fell in love with the format. I always associated graphic novels with comics and comics with white superheros and never-ending violent fight scenes. Graphic novels (and comics) offer so much more than that, with a modern young reader being able to find essentially any genre in graphic novel format. The blend of words and illustrations also makes it easier for a reader to try something new–while those older superhero comics are still not my preference, some of the newer imagingings of those characters and stories are my favorite series.

Each year, a brand new selection of amazing graphic novels is released. Some of my favorites published this year are featured below.

All of these titles represent the physical book, not any audiobook adaptation that has been or will be produced in the future.

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Cheshire Crossing by Andy Weir
This sassy mash up imagines a world where three girls from various “classic” fantasy novels live in the same universe and end up at the same boarding school, a place designed to help them learn how to harness their world-crossing powers. Wendy, Alice, and Dorothy are all tired of being told what to do and what to think and are quickly dashing between magical universes, leaving havoc in their wake.

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The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
This graphic adaptation of the Newbery winning novel delivers, capturing the emotions, spirit, and rhythm of the original story while adding an entirely new dimension through its beautiful illustrations.

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Guts by Raina Telgemeier
How can you have a list of great graphic novels and not include the reigning queen? While Raina’s popularity as an author is unquestioned, this book lives up to the hype. Raina expertly depicts what it is like to deal with the everyday ups and downs of middle school, while also introducing to young readers a very real struggle with anxiety.

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Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass by Mariko Tamaki
I am not a traditional comics reader, and I didn’t know anything about Harley Quinn before this graphic novel. Surprising to me, I quickly found myself immersed in this world and rooting for the antihero Harley becomes as she is forced to stand on her own two feet after both of her parents abandon her.

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Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
Hatke combines his two most popular universes–those of Zita the Spacegirl and Mighty Jack–in his newest book. Friends and enemies from both series clash as Jack, Lilly, and Zita must learn how to work together to save their home planet.

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Narwhal’s Otter Friend by Ben Clanton
Narwhal and Jelly’s adventures continue, this time introducing a new friend–and a new emotion–to their otherwise joyful friendship. This continues to be a go to series for ages 6-8.

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New Kid by Jerry Craft
One of my new favorites for book talks. Jordan loves to draw, but instead of sending him to art school, his parents send him to a prestigious private school. Jordan immediately feels uncomfortable–he is attending on a scholarship, and he is one of the only black kids in the entire school. Jordan tries to make new friends as he learns to balance the two worlds that divide his attention.

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The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner
The back matter describes this as a combination of Roller Girl and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and I don’t think I can come up with a better summary. Middle schooler Moth discovers that her family is caught up in the center of century-old drama in her small Massachusetts town–they are the remaining descendants of some of the most famous witches from history. There is a lot more to figure out than just how to control her new powers, as Moth quickly becomes torn between family members, friends, and the new world she is excited to discover.

Princess, Volume 9: Love Yourself by Jeremy Whitley
The spectacular Princeless graphic novel series is coming to an end. This penultimate volume begins wrapping up many storylines, not the least of which involves Princess Adrienne confronting her father’s misogyny. An excellent volume that just leaves me even more excited for the end of the series.

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The Singing Rock & Other Brand-New Fairy Tales by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer
Traditional fairy tales have never been my favorite types of stories. While I am always interested in a fractured retellings, the traditional versions never rang true for me–I was always reading a version that was too sweet or too grim, and both styles felt like they were just trying to beat a lesson into my head. This collection of “new” fairy tales adds humor to stories that feel like they have been around for a few generations, often without the needed “lessons” feeling quite so harshly delivered at the end.

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Stargazing by Jen Wang
Christine becomes unlikely friends with her new, strange neighbor, Moon. As the girls become closer, they both reveal some of their most precious secrets. After disaster strikes, can Christine find the courage to be the friend that Moon deserves?

Baby Play: Card Slot Drop

After each of my baby storytimes, I include a Discovery Time free-play session that encourages parents to talk to one another and to interact with their children. I include a variety of fine motor, gross motor, and sensory activities that appeal to 0-2-year-olds.

Similar to the cereal boxes and straws activity, the card slot drop’s popularity always surprises me. This very simple DIY activity involves cutting a card-sized hole into a container–in this case a bulk-sized Oatmeal container–and providing cards for babies to drop inside of the opening.

I have coworkers who regularly donate these cylindrical oatmeal containers, so they become a great, free resource for these kinds of activities. I particularly like how easy the lid is to remove. Parents can easily dump out the contents of a container if it gets full, and older toddlers can manage to open the container themselves, growing finger muscles and providing a sense of accomplishment.

Babies enjoy putting smaller objects into bins, but this activity is particularly beneficial because of the small card-sized hole in the lid. In addition to fine motor skills, it takes practiced dexterity and hand eye coordination for little ones to be able to fit the card into the slot.

How to Make

Materials: pack of playing cards, empty oatmeal container (alternatively could be a box or other sturdy container on hand), duct tape, x-acto knife

Steps:

  • Use the knife to cut a slot in the lid of the oatmeal container (or box) that is about a 0.25″ x 3″ (wide enough for a playing card to fit through).
  • As necessary, cover any ripped or jagged edges with pieces of duct tape.
  • Put lid onto container.
  • Put out container and pack of opened playing cards.

Cost: $0-5

  • Playing Cards (Dollar Tree)
  • Empty Oatmeal Container or Box

Time to Make: 10 minutes

Pro-Tip: I’ve had more success cutting the slot into the lid of the oatmeal container while the lid was on the empty container. This may just be due to my lack of skills with cutting implements.

Conversation Starters

Start conversations as babies play with this tool by asking questions like:

  • Can you put the card inside the container?
  • How many cards can you fit in at one time?
  • What does the card feel like?
  • Shake the container. What does it sound like?
  • How can you get the cards back out?
  • Play pretend. What else could the playing cards be?

Stretch Vocabulary

When talking with little ones, use big words and small words. The more new words a child hears, the larger their vocabulary will be when they start to learn to read.

Consider using some of the following vocabulary words when using this activity:

Bounce
Dexterity
Drop
Dump
Empty
Fall

Full
Hide
Into
Jolt
Open
Rattle

Release
Slide
Slip
Slit
Smooth
Within

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

We are joining the blog trend of Monday posts about what we have read during the last week (10/28/19-11/3/19).

Annamarie’s Reading

I read a lot this week, and I am planning to get back to regular blog posts this week or next. Stay tuned!

Annamarie’s top titles include:

Note: Annamarie serves as chair of the ALSC Notable Children’s Recordings Committee. Due to her position, she listens to and evaluates many audiobooks for children and teens. Annamarie never includes any of the audiobooks she listens to in her “What Are You Reading?” posts.

Michala’s Reading

Note: Between the Wizards & Wands Festival and my mom visiting from Chicago this week I have read no books. I have read some blogs and fanfiction stories, but we aren’t really counting those right now. Next on my TBR list is a book fanfiction inspired book:

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

We are joining the blog trend of Monday posts about what we have read during the last week (10/21/19-10/27/19).

Annamarie’s Reading

Annamarie’s top titles include:

Note: Annamarie serves as chair of the ALSC Notable Children’s Recordings Committee. Due to her position, she listens to and evaluates many audiobooks for children and teens. Annamarie never includes any of the audiobooks she listens to in her “What Are You Reading?” posts.

Michala’s Reading

Note: Between the Wizards & Wands Festival and my mom visiting from Chicago this week I have read no books. I have read some blogs and fanfiction stories, but we aren’t really counting those right now. Next on my TBR list is a book fanfiction inspired book:

Also I’ll be headed to YALSA on Friday, if you are headed there to let me know in the comments!

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