Author Archives for Annamarie Carlson

Play and Learn

This summer, I worked with a fellow librarian to start a nine-week play series for ages 0-3 and their families. Play & Learn quickly turned into one of my (and our patrons) favorite programs of the summer.

Each Wednesday, from 9:30-10:30 am, parents and their little ones interacted with 10-12 activities we placed around our large meeting room. On average, we had 80-120 visitors each week. People came and went on their own schedule–for some babies, 10 minutes was more than enough time in the crowded room; others enjoyed a full hour of play and even stayed to help with clean-up.

Some activities repeated each week (bubbles!), while others rotated in and out throughout the summer. We grouped our activities into four categories and made sure to have a mix of these each week:

  • Fine Motor
  • Gross Motor
  • Sensory
  • Belly Babies (for our littlest prewalkers)

We picked activities that kids of all developmental abilities could enjoy, such as ball pit balls in muffin tins.

Some of our most popular activities included:

  • Cereal Boxes and Straws
  • Baby Pool Play
  • Pom Pom Drop
  • Sensory Tiles
  • Tumbling Mats
  • Sensory Bags & Bottles
  • “Messy” Sensory Play (rice, beans, sand, easter grass, water)
  • Instrument/Sound Play

This program is particularly great because you can adapt it to whatever budget and space you have available. We have very large crowds in the summer, and this program was able to meet the needs of parents and little ones while appealing to a large range of ages. We included a mix of purchased play items and items that parents could re-create at home cheaply–another library could do a similar program just focusing on one of these categories, to save staff time (pre-purchased items) or money (cheap, home-made items).

Play & Learn also encouraged parent-child interaction. Each activity included laminated sheets on the floor nearby, explaining the value of the activity along with questions and vocabulary words to encourage parent engagement.

Play & Learn has already been requested multiple times by our community to be continued this fall. While that cannot happen, unfortunately, due to our busy school-year programming schedule, I am looking forward to this program’s return next summer.

Baby Play: Muffin Tins & Ball Pit Balls

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.

Using muffin tins as sorting trays can be adapted for a variety of ages. The youngest children just like placing ball pit balls (or other items) in the tin’s perfectly shaped cups. Toddlers start to recognize colors and will match balls to colors in the tin’s cups. Preschoolers quickly turn this into a pretend play activity, imagining the balls are cupcakes, muffins, or other treats.

How to Make

Materials: Muffin Tins, Ball Pit Balls, Construction Paper (optional)

Steps:

  • Give child ball pit balls and muffin tins
  • Optional: Cut colored circles and tape or hot glue into the cups of a muffin tin. Make sure these match the colors of the ball pit balls you have.

Cost: $38 (cost depends on audience size)

Time to Make: 20 minutes (if adding colored circles)

Pro-Tip: If you plan to use these regularly, laminate and hot glue the circles you place in the muffin tins for durability.

Conversation Starters

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

  • Can you put a ball in each empty space?
  • Can you match the colors in the muffin tin?
  • Where is a yellow ball?
  • What color is this?
  • How many balls fit in the tin?
  • Can you fit two balls in one spot?
  • Can you pretend the balls are food?

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:

Arrange
Bounce
Categorize
Colors
Cupcakes
Dump

Empty
Fill
Fit
Grab
Grasp
Match

Organize
Pattern
Roll
Shiny
Smooth
Sort

Sometimes, little ones make their own play:

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 (7/29/2019-8/4/2019).

Annamarie’s Reading

Annamarie’s top titles include (I read a lot of great stuff this week):

Check out two of my book reviews from July 2019, published at Diamond Book Shelf:

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: Michala survived another crazy year of Summer Reading! May the school year be ever in her favor.

Imagination Station: Mission Control

Westerville Library’s youth department includes a pretend play area–our Imagination Station. Each month, a different youth librarian picks a theme and plans a play area designed for ages 3-6.

There are no strict guidelines for this space, but generally we try to:

  • Pick a theme that appeals to children
  • Keep all activities safe for all ages
  • Make clean-up and maintenance manageable for staff
  • Create materials and activities that are durable
  • Incorporate early literacy activities

In June 2019, I took over the Imagination Station, connecting it to our Summer Reading theme, Read and Blast Off.

Pretend Play: Mission Control

The star of the space themed Imagination Station was our mission control board. I can’t provide much information on how this board was made–our amazing maintenance team took this project on.

Underneath the panel, a battery was attached with some wiring that made the lights turn on and numbers to change when kids flipped the switches. The best feature? The two phones actually talked to one another–if you held one phone to your ear, you could hear a person whispering into the other phone. So cool!

In addition to the amazing mission control board, we provided some simple dress up clothes to encourage pretend play. These included:

One of my favorite pretend play items were the jetpacks. These were not the most durable items. I had to remake an entire set halfway through the month. There are many instructions for these on Pinterest, but my steps are outlined below.

How to Make Jetpacks:

Materials (per jetpack):

  • 2 2-Liter Bottles (empty, without lids)
  • Thick Cardboard
  • Silver spray Paint
  • 2″ Thick Silver Ribbon
  • Silver Duct Tape
  • Hot Glue
  • Orange, Yellow, or Red Felt

Steps:

  • Cut cardboard so it is a little wider than the two pop bottles pressed together and just shorter than the height of the bottles.
  • Use spray paint to paint 2-Liter bottles and thick cardboard piece silver on all sides. Wait to dry.
  • Measure the silver ribbon to 18-24″ long. Use duct tape to secure to one side of the cardboard, creating a loop for a child to fit their arm. Repeat to create a second arm strap.
  • Flip the cardboard over and tape the two pop bottles to it. The more tape used here, the better. Wrap tape around all sides of the cardboard and use multiple layers, especially if the jetpack will receive a lot of use.
  • Cut felt to form flame shapes with a very narrow tip at the opposite end from the flames.
  • Squirt hot glue into the end of pop bottle and attach the flame pieces.

We also included a pretend play rocket tent for kids to explore.

Fine Motor Skills: Rocket Building

We purchased an additional pack of magnetiles to add to our regular storytime play collection. Kids built elaborate rockets and structures out of them.

Letter Recognition: Mission Codes

To incorporate early literacy, I created a mission codes matching activity. Kids had a bin of capital letters to sort through. They slid the capital letters into the 5″ x 7″ page protectors underneath the matching lowercase letters. The space words changed each week.

Writing: Trace Paths & Checklists

We included blank flight plan tracing sheets (from this Teachers Pay Teachers pack) to help build fine motor skills.

Flop: Moon Rock Exploration

I was really looking forward to this activity. Kids were supposed to explore tin foil balls–“moon rocks”–of different sizes with a magnifying glass, magnet, tweezers, and more. Instead, kids managed to rip off the gloves (which were hot glued, rubber banded, and sealed with shipping tape, plus duct tape later), take the foil balls out of the box, and pull them into tiny pieces.

This box didn’t last a full week–and we confirmed that nothing is kid proof.

Baby Play: Cereal Boxes and Straws

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.

A simple fine motor activity, cereal boxes and straws, is always a success. Babies build their finger muscles while placing smoothie straws in pre-cut holes in cereal boxes. This is especially great because it can be easily replicated at home and appeals to a wide range of ages.

How to Make

Materials: Empty Cereal Boxes, Smoothie Straws, Pencil or other poking tool, Packing Tape

Steps:

  • Collect empty cereal boxes.
  • Tape all sides of the box to make the seams sturdier.
  • Punch holes in the front of the box using a pencil or similar tool.
  • Test a straw to make sure your holes are large enough for a straw to fit but not so large that it flops over and falls into the box.
  • Optional: Make a pattern with your straw holes, such as a letter of the alphabet.

Cost: $0-10

Time to Make: < 10 minutes

Pro-Tip: If you are going to use this activity a lot, consider purchasing reusable straws that can be washed. Smoothie straws can be washed, but tend to get bitten, and the teeth marks show.

Conversation Starters

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

  • How many straws fit in the box?
  • Can you take a straw out of the box?
  • Can you make a straw fit in the box?
  • What color is the straw?
  • How does the straw feel?
  • What happens if you hit the box with the straw?

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:

Fit
Inside
Into
Lay
Length
Lift

Nudge
Outside
Pluck
Press
Pull
Push

Smooth
Stand
Tall
Tight
Tug
Yank

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 (7/22/19-7/28/19).

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: We are in the final stretch of Summer Reading at Westerville Public Library!!!! Lots of last minute reading from my teens and me alike. Hope everyone’s summer reading programs were amazing with lots of finishers! Next week we will know how many teens made it to their summer reading goals.

Baby Prom

Fancy clothes. Lots of music. Awkward dancing. Awesome (or maybe not so awesome) decor. My fellow librarian, Sarah, and I agree that there is only one thing that can make a standard American prom better — babies.

After reading about Akron-Summit County Public Library’s Baby Prom via the ALSC blog, we decided to tap into our very large baby and toddler population (storytimes for those ages in the summer regularly reach 80-100 people) to create our own Baby & Toddler Prom experience.

About 50 parents and little ones joined us for an hour on a Friday afternoon for music, crafts, dancing, and fun. Babies and toddlers were dressed in a variety of styles, from those with fancy dresses and all the accessories to those in their everyday storytime attire.

Decor

Prom needs a great photo op and awesome decorations, and we delivered with 40″ mylar balloons. We purchased these in prepackaged sets as the words “baby” and “prom”, making them significantly cheaper than individually purchased letters, even if the gold tones don’t match exactly.

We created a photo background with silver mylar and half of a balloon arch. The dark blue, gold, silver, and white colors continued around the room.

Dance Floor

The center of the room contained our amazing dance floor, designed by my coworker, Sarah. We call these “liquid floor tiles”, and they are a hit at all of our programming. The liquid is contained inside of 9×12 lamination pouches, ironed closed. Most include a mixture of baby oil, water, food coloring, and other items (foam shapes, glitter, etc.). The ironed lamination pouches have duct tape around the edges to further secure the liquid. Our industrial hole punch creates spaces in the foam tiles so the bags can be zip-tied to the tiles. We have had a few leak over the last few months of use, but overall they hold up great.

Music

The bulk of the program involved our little over one-hour playlist and a variety of manipulatives to keep the little ones engaged. We used a combination of popular music and upbeat kid favorites.

Since the little ones were not interested in dancing for an hour straight (much to my dismay), we planned for a variety of manipulatives that were distributed at regular intervals, including:

  • Shaker Eggs
  • Bells
  • Scarves
  • Puppets
  • Bubbles
  • Balloons (part of balloon drop finale)

We left all items out on the dance floor till the end of the program, no matter when they were introduced.

Baby animal videos played on the big screen throughout the event.

Limo Rides

Babies could take a break from the dance floor to take a wagon limo ride provided by one of our teen volunteers. Not every baby participated, but one of our regular storytime attendees spent a majority of the program in a wagon because she enjoyed it so much.

Corsages

Parents could make a simple wrist corsage for their baby by layering colored felt flowers and weaving through a velcro strip.

Balloon Drop Finale

We planned to end our Baby Prom with a balloon drop finale. We wove together two dollar store tablecloths, attached them to the ceiling, and stuffed them with balloons. The balloon drop worked, though something in the execution wasn’t quite right, as all the balloons fell on me (the person pulling the string) instead of out of the other side of the tablecloth and onto the babies. It was a little awkward, but the babies didn’t seem to mind.

Dog Man to the Rescue!

This summer, we celebrated our library’s most popular book character–Dog Man! Reflecting the passion for this book series and our busy summers, 110 patrons ages 6-10 (and their parents and younger siblings) attended this 1.5 hour event.

Over the last year, all of my unregistered fan-event programs have followed a similar template: two group activities at specific times and a variety of stations that attendees can visit at their leisure. The Dog Man program was no different.


Group Activities

Trivia

Dog Man trivia allowed those kids who have read every Dog Man book ten times a chance to show off their knowledge. About fifteen minutes into the program, trivia began. Kids wrote down their guesses for all 20 questions before self-grading their trivia sheets on the honor system. Everyone who participated got a bookmark, and the top three participants got to pick, in order of highest to lowest scores, from our trivia prizes: a stuffed Dog Man, a Dog Man lunchbox, and a copy of the first Dog Man book.

All questions and answers are available in the PowerPoint below (in addition to my opening program slides). Visit my slideshare page to download the full slideshow.

BINGO

While trivia is for the Dog Man experts, BINGO is for everyone. We play BINGO until everyone has earned a BINGO, with a few rounds so that new folks have a chance to jump in. Winners reached into a brown lunch bag to pull out a random Dog Man 1″ button.

To help kids who do not know every Dog Man book and character, all images have a number beside them. I call out the number in addition to the name of the image when I pull each picture out of the jar. All images are on all boards.

Download all 51 BINGO boards here, and the BINGO jar pieces here.


Stations

Police Academy Obstacle Course

Attendees trained like Dog Man and Dog Man’s police officer friends, making sure they have the physical agility to be prepared to save the day when needed. Today’s obstacle course included:

After completing the obstacle course, attendees received a Dog Man hat.

Petey’s Invention Lab: Robot Craft

You can’t have a Dog man program without some reference to the sometimes nefarious, sometimes good, Petey the Cat. Attendees built a simple robot craft from a cardboard tube and a variety of everyday craft supplies, including construction paper, pony beads, pipe cleaners, pom poms, googly eyes, and more. Tubes were spray-painted silver before the program.

Make Your Own Comic

Dog Man books are comics (made by the George and Harold of Captain Underpants fame), so kids got a chance to make their own Dog Man comic strips. The blank comic sheets I used are available as free downloads from the picklebums website.

3Doodlers: Dog Man Edition

Dog Man 3Doodler Station

We bought 3Doodler Start pens as part of a technology grant a few years ago, and I use these magic pens whenever I can. They are very simple to use–turn the pen on, wait for the green light, then push the big orange button to make plastic come out of the tip. The plastic is warm, but never so hot that it risks burning anyone. Patrons leave programs with a physical, 3D-version of whatever they drew.

I provided Dog Man outlines for patrons to use, but I don’t think too many folks had much success with those. Mostly kids made what they wanted.

Button Making

Similar to the 3Doodler pens, our department 2.25″ button maker gets a lot of use, especially at public programs. Attendees selected a 2.25″ button image, cut it into a circle, and brought it and the needed button pieces to a teen volunteer who helped them make the button.

Download the 2.25″ button images here.

Pin the Head on Dog Man

Pin the Head on Dog Man

Attendees had one last Dog Man activity to complete–a simple game of Pin the Head on Dog Man (because pinning hats or badges would be too simple). My awesome marketing department printed a large Dog Man body and three heads on our banner printer.

Participants got a sticker for completing the activity. These print on Avery 2.5″ round label sheets. Download here.

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 (7/8/19-7/14/19).

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: This Week, Michala also read The Autobiography of Gucci Mane by Gucci Mane with Neil Martinez-Belkin which does hold older teen appeal, but is an adult book.

Babytime Outline

These are the songs, rhymes, stories, and activities I used for a 25-minute baby storytime, followed by 20 minutes of free play.

Our baby storytime is for ages 0-24 months, with most children being 12-24 months old. Approximately 80 people attended this storytime, including about 45 babies.

Room Setup: Doors open about 5-8 minutes before storytime. Powerpoint slides are displayed on a smartboard at the front of the room with words to all songs and rhymes. As folks enter, two bubble machines are hard at work in the front of the room while baby songs play from the department iTunes account.

Welcome Song: Wake Up Feet (play from 0:14 to 1:00)
Wake up feet, wake up feet
Wake up feet and wiggle, wiggle, wiggle
Wake up feet, wake up feet
Wake and wiggle in the morning.
Continue with: Legs, Arms, Hands

Welcome Rhyme: Clap and Sing Hello
We clap and sing hello,
We clap and sing hello,
With all our friends at storytime,
We clap and sing hello!
Continue with: kick and sing hello, wave and sing hello

Focused Early Literacy Tip: Talking to Your Baby (the LATS method described on jbrary)

Book: Peek-a-Baby by Karen Katz

Song: The Monkey Dance by The Wiggles

Bounce Rhyme: Five Little Monkeys
Five little monkeys jumping on the bed
One fell off and bumped his head
Mamma called the doctor and the doctor said
No more monkeys jumping on the bed!

Fingerplay: Itsy Bitsy Spider
The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout.
Down came the rain and washed the spider out.
Out came the sun and dried up all the rain,
And the itsy bitsy spider went up the spout again.

Song: Little Red Wagon from Wiggleworms Love You

Movement Rhymes: This portion of my storytime involves 2-3 rhymes that specifically focus on bouncing, swaying, or tilting to the rhythm of the words. I talk about how these types of rhymes help develop phonological awareness.

  • The Baby Hop (to the tune: Bunny Hop)
    Snuggle up together
    Baby’s in your lap.
    Snuggle up together
    And clap, clap, clap.

    Snuggle up together
    Don’t you nap.
    Snuggle up together
    And tap, tap, tap

    You’re workin’ out together
    Baby don’t stop.
    You’re workin’ out together
    So hop, hop, hop.
  • A Bouncing We Will Go
    A bouncing we will go,
    A bouncing we will go,
    Hi ho the derry-o
    A bouncing we will go
    Continue with: Rocking, Tickling

Puppet Time: Who’s in the barnyard?
An oink, a moo, a cockle-doodle-doo
Who’s in the barnyard playing peek-a-boo?
Featuring: cow, pig, sheep, chicken, horse

Manipulative Time: Bells

  • Manipulative Rhyme: We Shake and Shake
    We shake and shake and shake and stop.
    We shake and shake and shake and stop.
    We shake and shake and shake and shake and shake and shake and shake and shake and shake and shake and STOP!
    Continue with: Tap, Bounce

Closing Song: Skinnamarink by Sharon Lois and Bram

Discovery Time Activities: Discovery Time is 15-20 minutes of free-play at the end of storytime that encourages parents to have time to talk to one another and for parents to interact with their children. I try to include a variety of fine motor, gross motor, and sensory activities that appeal to my wide age range as well as a mixture of purchased toys and items that parents can remake at home. This week’s activities included: