Baby & Toddler

Science, Baby!

Before there was Play & Learn, there was the idea of Science, Baby. A presentation at an annual ALA Conference by Brooklyn Public Library about their Science Baby! program opened my eyes to how much more babies can do than what many baby storytime outlines imply. Babies are so much more than passive observers–their brains are developing faster than they ever will for the rest of their lives–combined. STEM concepts do not need to be limited to older children. In fact, babies are the perfect example of little scientists as they learn everything about the world:

Poster from Nerdy Baby

My own Science Baby! program finally became a reality during our winter storytime break in late December. Seventy babies and adults joined me for a morning of baby play with a STEM twist.

Activities were broken down into a few rough categories. They included:

Some of these stations just involved putting out an item, like mirrors for mirror play. Others involved some ahead of time creation, like the sensory bottles. Still more involved in-room setup, like attaching sticky contact paper to the wall and building the pool noodle counter by stringing pool noodle pieces to string tied between two chairs.

Each station included a front and back laminated handout explaining the value of the particular activity, what little ones are learning, conversation starters, and vocabulary to stretch conversations with little ones.

We had many older siblings join in the fun as well, particularly enjoying all of the building activities. The sticky contact paper, baby pool play, bubbles, pom pom drop, and sensory bottles were the most well-loved activities.

Most families stayed for about 45-50 minutes. I’m looking forward to bringing this back again someday!

Favorite Baby Storytime Books

We all have our personal favorite storytime books. There are plenty of lists of best baby storytime books on the Internet–some of these work for me, some of them don’t. For one thing, we typically have large storytime crowds–a minimum of 40 people, often up to 80-90. With these crowds, I tend to avoid standard 6″ board books. I’ve thought about scanning in the pages and displaying them on my storytime powerpoint, but I like using a physical book for the younger kids (who often don’t have strong enough vision to see the screen).

Our large crowds are often made up mostly of ages 12-24 months, meaning our little ones often have less patience than some of their younger counterparts. I focus on selecting books that have repeated phrases we can read as a group or clear actions. I slip in more traditional stories sometimes, but those never go over as well as more action-based titles.

Finally, and most importantly, I choose books that work for me. For whatever reason, I have never been able to make Clip Clop by Nicola Smee work. I can’t seem to get the rhythm right, even though this should be a book that would be ideal for my storytime crowd and style (its available in big book format and has easy actions).

My personal go-to titles are included below. What are some of your go to baby storytime books?

The Babies on the Bus by Karen Katz

Row, Row, Row Your Boat by Jane Cabrera

For this title, I include the different verses on the PowerPoint behind me so the parents can join in. The first few times I read this book, parents, used to my style, joined in, but they repeated the traditional “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” verse for every page, overwhelming my reading voice (that happens with 40 parents reading along!). My slides look like this:

If You’re Happy and You Know It: Jungle Edition by James Warhola

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.

Jump! by Scott M. Fischer

Ten Tiny Tickles by Karen Katz

Up!: How Families Around the World Carry Their Little Ones by Susan Hughes

The Baby Goes Beep by Rebecca O’Connell

Leo Loves Baby Time by Anna McQuinn

Baby Faces Peekaboo! by Dawn Sirett

Peek-a-Baby by Karen Katz

Do Crocs Kiss? by Salina Yoon

Splish, Splash, Ducky! by Lucy Cousins

Conference Presentation: Baby Time Boredom

My coworker, Sarah Simpson, and I have the pleasure of presenting to our colleagues at the 2019 Ohio Library Council Convention and Expo today about our passion and programs for babies. Hopefully some of you reading this post had a chance to see our presentation (and learn some fantastic babywearing dance moves).

Check out these posts for some more information about some of the programs and activities we mentioned:

All of the handouts we shared can be downloaded or printed below.

STEM for Babies & Baby Toy Collection Purchase Guide

DIY Baby Play Activities

Baby Programming Resources

If you have any questions about our presentation or if you would like to learn more, comment below or email us at:

  • Annamarie Carlson, acarlson@westervillelibrary.org
  • Sarah Simpson, ssimpson@westervillelibrary.org

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 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.