Baby & Toddler

Little Learners: Baby Activity Kit

Often the best blueprints for programming come from what other awesome library professionals have created. Woodridge Public Library did several months of a Baby Activity Kit program which was absolutely brilliant and something I was eager to build upon and tweak to fit my typical kit structure. Babies are difficult to reach with programming amidst the pandemic and I was looking for a way that I could make a beneficial, early literacy-themed kit for them. This particular kit focused on music and movement with materials to make several instruments included. I rounded it off with activity cards and an instructional packet with book recommendations and further resources included.

Inside the kit were materials to create a:

This program would pair well with any pre-K or school-age reading program in a school or library setting. 

  • jingle bell egg shaker
  • ribbon whisk
  • gumball capsule bean shaker

Safety was the top priority, so I included small rolls of washi tape in each kit to secure the egg and gumball capsule so that no choking hazard-sized bits would escape their containers.

Photos of the finished products:

The kit came with several items:

  • Laminated activity card booklet
  • Packet including instructions, online resources, and book recommendations
  • Materials to create each instrument
  • Scarf – there are several purchasing options on Amazon

Images of the activity cards:

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a fully enrolled program. I thought it would be more popular than it turned out to be with 11 out of 30 spots filled. I was toying with the idea of making this a series, much in the way Woodridge Public Library did, but because of the lack of interset I will not be creating addtional Little Learner kits.

Hopefully, if you try this program, you will have more luck with interest. If you would like PDFs or editable files, please please feel free to reach out to to request the files.

Pint-Sized Paint Party

Babies + Paint = Chaos…or just a ton of fun?

I don’t program quite as much as I used to (and particularly not as much as I did during work-from-home pandemic times!). Stepping into management has meant stepping back from day-to-day programming. Most of my programming is filling in when my team are off.

I still enjoy programming, but since presenting programs is now adjacent to my job rather than its primary function, when I do program, I find myself repeating or reimagining programs I’ve done before. One of my favorite programs from both my current and last library has been a Pint-Sized Paint Party.

Pint-Sized Paint Party Logistics

  • Program Length: 45 minutes – 1 hour
  • Ages: 6 months – 5 years
  • Structure: station-based drop-in
    • 5-8 stations spread out in a large programming room
    • Tarps on the floor under potentially messy areas
    • Mixture of clean and messy stations, though everything is non-toxic and washable
  • Prep: Decent amount of pre-program prep but almost all tasks can be done by volunteers (freezing paint cubes, opening paint bottles, stuffing bags, securing tarps to floor)

Pint-Sized Paint Party Stations

Paint-in-a-Bag Activities (Clean)

Participants could choose from a selection of 3 contained paint activities:

  • Bubble Wrap Pack (5 x 7 clear bubble wrap envelope with cardstock inside)
  • LOVE Canvas Bag (9 x 12 canvas with the letters LOVE taped in painter’s tape, all in a large freezer gallon-sized ziploc bag) Inspired by Eat Teach Laugh Craft.
  • Shaker (circular food container with piece of white cardstock and ping-pong ball inside)

Participants brought their selection to staff or teen volunteers who added drips of up to 3 colors of paint before taping the item shut with packing tape.

Families took their creations home with them to dry – though the LOVE canvases most resembled a long-term keepsake.

Ice Cube Painting (Messy)

Kids selected a frozen paint cube to color on cardstock as the paint melted.

I’ve read blog posts about folks successfully doing this with water and food coloring, but I’ve never got this to work well (the water melts, but it remains clear on paper).

Instead, I froze Crayola Washable Paint in ice cube trays with half-popsicle-sticks inside each cube. (And plenty of written and verbal warnings to caregivers that those cubes are all paint.)

The timing can be mildly tricky – the cubes should come out of the ice cube trays within a few minutes of coming out of the freezer. They can sit in a different container until they are used, but if you leave the melting cubes in the ice cube trays, they will start to stick to the tray and collapse.

Of course, you don’t want to take them out of the freezer too early, or they will melt before a kid can use them.

If you take them out too close to painting, they won’t have melted enough and kids will grow frustrated that nothing is happening.

While that sounds complicated – it really isn’t too bad in practice. Kids liked touching and manipulating the paint with their hands, and the frozen-style kept the mess pretty contained.

Water Painting (Clean – can get wet)

I’ve talked a bit about water painting on this blog – it is so simple and mess-free.

Wall Painting (Clean)

Kids pushed, poked, and explored freezer Ziploc bags with paint inside. They experimented with mixing colors.

Bags were securely taped to a wall or large moveable dry-erase board.

Dot Markers (Clean-ish)

Not quite paint, but close! Kids used dot markers to color pre-printed coloring pages or to make their own creations.

Art Crawl (Messy)

I only ran this station at one library – the station is fun, but the setup takes a lot of time. I used a freestanding baby-gate setup to create an enclosed area layered with tarps on the ground and butcher paper on top. I added piles of paint and various toddler paint toys, and then…I let the babies have fun!

This was supremely messy and required lots of cleaning supplies for caregivers. Not too many caregivers dared to put their babies in the paint pit – but those who did had a blast.

Other Toys

To help keep the youngest ones engaged, I also put out a variety of on-hand brightly colored baby-friendly toys, such as:

1000 Books Before Kindergarten, Part 2

After over a year of planning, I finally launched my library’s 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program! These blog posts often focus more on day-to-day or week-to-week library activities, like reading, programs, and storytimes, but on any random day, I’m also working on a lot of large behind-the-scenes projects too. I’m thrilled to finally be able to share one of those projects with you.

Part 1 focused on the logistics of the program as well as our physical workbook. In this post, I’ll focus on our online component run through ReadSquared.

What is 1000 Books?

1000 Books Before Kindergarten is a nationwide initiative, adapted by many libraries and educational institutions, to promote reading and encourage child/caregiver bonding through reading.

The goal is simple and pretty self explanatory: read 1000 books together before your child starts kindergarten.

Why run a 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program?

A child is more successful in school when an adult actively read, spoke, and engaged with them during the 0-5 years. The more words children hear at young ages, the larger their vocabulary, and the more prepared they will be to learn to read. Setting a high goal with a concrete reward system—like reading 1000 books before starting kindergarten—encourages adults to actively and continuously engage with their children. Children who start out ahead typically end up ahead. Studies show that these early language needs are even higher in lower socioeconomic households.

Other benefits to a 1000 Books program:

  • Brings a sense of ownership and pride to reading. After completing this program, kids know they accomplished something big.
  • Builds caregiver knowledge and interest about their role in school readiness.
  • From a library statistics perspective, 1000 Books programs boost circulation numbers.

1000 Books Before Kindergarten: ReadSquared Program

ReadSquared is one of a handful of online reading program management tools your library can purchase. Using a system like ReadSquared for your online reading program management takes away some of the freedom you would have by creating your own in-house summer reading management website, but, in exchange for unlimited customizability, you get a website that is hosted offsite with a great tech team that is always available to help you fix glitches and change the design of your page.

There are a lot of pros and cons to various online reading program management tools. This isn’t a post about that, but my quick feelings about ReadSquared are that (on the positive side) you do have a lot of customization options compared to its top competitor, Beanstack, and (on the negative side) the core layout of the website isn’t really negotiable, it looks a bit dated overall, and the back side is a bit of an organizational mess. Make sure someone on your team is familiar with basic HTML and has the time and patience to dig through many menus to find the exact editing tool you are looking for.

My library uses ReadSquared for our set-your-own-goal summer reading program and our BINGO-style winter reading program. 1000 Books is our first attempt at a year-round program, and I’m really happy with where we ended up. All the programs are supposed to be able to run smoothly at the same time, though we haven’t tested that out in full quite yet.

See my library’s ReadSquared login page here.

Signing Up

Every 1000 Books reader needs a ReadSquared account. They don’t have to use it for recording, but they do need an account so that library staff can keep track of their prizes.

If a family already has an account from a previous summer or winter reading program, they can log in with that account to sign up for this program. Kids can all be linked to the same account, making for easy book logging for the caregiver.

I’m not going to screenshot every element of this process, but to make an online account, we require that participants provide their first and last name, their email address, and a username and password.

Once they login or register, they will be taken to the home page:

Home Page

Families can immediately record their reading on the home page or they can use the various navigation menus to access other features. The home page also includes:

  • Progress Bar
  • Sponsor Information
  • Most Popular Books (books recorded by other participants recently)
  • FAQs

One important note for libraries considering ReadSquared for a 1000 Books program: at the moment, ReadSquared does not allow for public users to log more than one book at a time. So if a family read 20 books in one day, they do need to add 20 individual books. However, library staff, using the admin side of ReadSquared, can add any number of books at once with one click. So, if a caregiver does not want to type in 100 book titles, they can just stop by or call the library and ask library staff to record the reading for them.

Logging a Book

Families can log a book from the Home Page or the Logging page. When they select “Log Reading” they will be asked to add some information about the book (title, author, review). All of this information is optional–they could just push “Submit” and the system will log one book read.

Logging History

The Logging History page lets families see how many books they have logged (and which titles, if they provided that information).


That is all the technical content, what about the fun stuff? For our program, readers earn virtual badges whenever they receive an equivalent in-person prize (one for getting started (when they get their workbook) and another badge for every 100 books read). These match the sticker images that they will earn for their workbooks.


Our physical workbook contains a bunch of early literacy tips for different age ranges, and we wanted to convert that information to our online format (while also promoting other library services and programs). These turned into Missions. Missions don’t earn participants physical prizes, but they do earn a virtual badge.

Our missions and activities include:

Read Together: From birth, your baby can start to learn about reading, like how to sound out words and what direction to hold a book.

  • Ages 0-2 – Read together…even if just a few pages: Choose a time when your baby is relaxed and happy. Read for as long as your baby is interested. Just a page or two is fine! Try one of these
  • Ages 0-2 – Join us for baby storytime: For a schedule of live storytimes, visit the library’s events calendar. Or watch on demand whenever is convenient for you with pre-recorded storytimes on our YouTube channel.
  • Ages 0-3 – Read a board book: Show your baby a board book. (A board book is made of thick cardboard pages.) Let them explore on their own, even if that means books get chewed on or thrown.
  • Ages 0-3 – Show babies other babies: Babies love to see other babies! Check out books featuring large, bright photographs of other babies from this list.
  • Ages 0-5 – Take a picture walk: You don’t have to read the words on the page! Talk or sing about the pictures instead. Identify the animals or colors or make up your own story–time spent with a book helps your child learn how books work. 
  • Ages 0-5 – Sign up for free books: Fill your home library with books! Mailed to your child monthly until their 5th birthday, each book is a free gift for your child to keep. This service is made possible by the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library. Learn more.
  • Ages 0-5 – Watch a storytime video: Explore book retelling videos by your favorite librarians. Watch one of these videos.
  • Ages 0-5 – Take a book; leave a book: A wooden box filled with books, a Little Free Library is a mini collection you can browse any time of day. Take home whatever catches your fancy and if you want, bring back one of your own to share with others. No library card required. No fines. No need to return what you borrow. Learn more.
  • Ages 0-5 – Read a nonfiction book: Read a nonfiction book together. Nonfiction books help babies and toddlers attach words to everyday objects and help preschoolers realize that words represent other things. Try one of these.
  • Ages 0-5 – Point out the words: Run your fingers under the words on the page as you read them. Little ones will begin to understand that those shapes on the page mean something. 
  • Ages 0-5 – Make books part of your daily routine: Make books part of everyday experiences. Place a bag of books in the car or near the table for meals, or read a book each day for a week before naptime, bedtime, or bath time.
  • Ages 2-3 – Join us for toddler storytime: For a schedule of live storytimes, visit the library’s events calendar. Or watch on demand whenever is convenient for you with pre-recorded storytimes on our YouTube channel.
  • Ages 2-5 – Read…and repeat!: Read the same books over and over again. Pause before a predictable word and ask your toddler or preschooler to guess the next word. Or ask what happens next in their favorite story.
  • Ages 3-5 – Read…upside down!: When reading, hold a book upside down until your preschooler notices. Show them how to hold a book. Talk about the book’s parts, like the cover, pages, title, and author.
  • Ages 3-5 – Join us for preschool storytime: For a schedule of live storytimes, visit the library’s events calendar. Or watch on demand whenever is convenient for you with pre-recorded storytimes on our YouTube channel.

Sing Together: When you sing, you slow down words. This helps your child hear the smaller sounds, learn syllables, and develop vocabulary. Singing also helps develop listening and memory skills. Singing together is a fun bonding experience – whether you’re a good singer or not!

  • Ages 0-5 – Dance together: Dance to music that you and your little one enjoy. Try these dance party favorites, free to stream or download with your Westerville Library card. 
  • Ages 0-5 – Listen to your favorite (grown-up) music: Listen to your favorite music – your baby may recognize your grown-up tunes. 
  • Ages 0-5 – Sing together: Sing a tune or nursery rhyme together. For a new song every day, visit
  • Ages 0-5 – Read a singing book!: Some books have a natural rhythm or rhyme that are great for singing. Read one of these.
  • Ages 0-5 – Watch a video: Bounce to the rhythm or try out one of these favorite storytimes songs. Watch one of these videos.
  • Ages 0-5 – Make up a song together: Create songs about everyday activities, such as changing a diaper or putting on clothes. 
  • Ages 0-5 – Adapt a tune: Adapt the tune “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” to “This Is the Way We…” (put on our pants, wash our hands, etc.).
  • Ages 0-5 – Clap your name: Clap or tap your child’s name. Focus on each syllable. Encourage your toddler or preschooler to try this too–you’ll be surprised how quickly they can find the syllables themselves.
  • Ages 1-5 – Shake!: Shake to the beat of a familiar rhyme or tune. Grab an item that your baby can grasp, or make a shaker out of an empty water bottle filled with baby-safe items.
  • Ages 1-5 – Clap to the beat: Clap the syllables of words as you sing. Breaking down words into smaller parts is a useful skill when your child starts reading. 
  • Ages 2-5 – Sing fast and slow: Sing the same song at different speeds to help your little one get used to rhythm and tempo. Try singing familiar tunes faster and faster, then slower and slower.
  • Ages 2-5 – Freeze dance: Freeze songs are a great way for your child to practice self-control, focus, and listening skills. Turn a favorite song into a freeze dance by starting and stopping the music at random.
  • Ages 2-5 – Pause: “The Itsy Bitsy Spider went up the water….spout!” Pause while singing to allow toddlers and preschoolers to fill in the missing words. 
  • Ages 3-5 – Create silly songs: Create silly songs by making up your own words for familiar tunes. Let your child choose unique animals for “Old McDonald Had a Farm” and unique actions for “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”
  • Ages 3-5 – Print the lyrics: Help your little one recognize that songs are made up of words. Print out the lyrics to your favorite song, then run your fingers under the words on the page as you sing them together.

Play Together: Playing encourages your child to put their thoughts into words, tell stories, problem-solve and imagine. All of these skills will help them become better readers and writers when they start school.

  • Ages 0-2 – Play peek-a-boo: Play peek-a-boo! Peek-a-boo helps babies understand that just because they can’t see something, that object still exists.
  • Ages 0-5 – Visit the story trail: Enjoy the fresh air, a stroll…and a story. This literacy adventure builds reading skills and creates memories, from start to finish. For all ages. Visit again and again; you may find a different story waiting for you. Learn more.
  • Ages 0-5 – Watch a video: Looking for playtime ideas? Watch one of these videos.
  • Ages 0-5 – Play with mirrors: Play in front of a mirror and point to your little one’s body parts.
  • Ages 0-5 – Borrow a learning kit: Play, sing, write, read, talk and have fun with your favorite little ones while using tip cards to practice early literary skills. Learn more.
  • Ages 0-5 – Read a playing book!: Some books include games or other interactive elements that are great for encouraging play. Read one of these.
  • Ages 0-5 – Visit the imagination station: Located in the kids department at the library, this interactive display is regularly transformed into a themed exhibit intended to actively engage, entertain and educate young visitors of all ages.
  • Ages 0-5 – Play and learn around the house: Running out of ideas? Try these easy activities you can do together with common household objects. Watch now.
  • Ages 0-5 – Play…and repeat!: Repeat the same game or activity over and over again. You might feel bored, but your little one feels reassurance and builds important connections through repetition. 
  • Ages 0-5 – Play with music: Dance to an action song like “The Hokey Pokey.” Songs that name body parts build physical awareness. 
  • Ages 0-5 – Play with words: When playing, use big words and small words. Use as many words as you can! The more words your child hears, the easier it will be to identify those words when they start reading. 
  • Ages 0-5 – Moo, honk, beep!: Make noises for different toys, like trucks, baby dolls, or animals. Hearing different sounds and experiencing pitches, tones, and volumes helps your little one develop the basics of language.
  • Ages 2-5 – Play on the go: Play wherever you are! Play “I Spy” on a long car ride or in the grocery store. Introduce new vocabulary each time you play.
  • Ages 3-5 – Make open-ended art: Explore open-ended activities. Encourage imagination and problem-solving with art supplies for the sake of play, not to make a specific craft.
  • Ages 3-5 – Go on a letter hunt: Pick a letter and find five items around the house that start with that letter. Try a new letter each day!

Talk Together: When you talk to your child about different events and ideas, it helps them learn new vocabulary and to use words they know.

  • Ages 0-3 – Say my name: Babies focus on the word spoken immediately after their name. Instead of saying, “Julia, would you like to read a book?” Try saying: “Julia, book! Would you like to read a book?”
  • Ages 0-3 – Talk with sign language: Babies understand more than they can say. Using gestures, including American Sign Language, is a great way to communicate with your child. Practice words like more, stop, and no. Learn more with these books.
  • Ages 0-5 – Narrate your day: Talk to your baby all the time, even if they can’t respond quite yet. The more words your baby hears, the larger their vocabulary will grow. 
  • Ages 0-5 – Read a talking book!: Some books encourage talking. Read one of these.
  • Ages 0-5 – Watch a video: Try some of these games and activities to encourage asking questions. Watch one of these videos.
  • Ages 0-5 – Pause for 10 seconds.: Pause. Toddlers and preschoolers need 7-10 seconds to process what you asked and create a response. Give them plenty of time to think before moving on to another question. 
  • Ages 0-5 – Ask open-ended questions: When playing, ask your child open-ended questions, such as: 
    • What do you think will happen if…
    • Can you think of another way to…
    • What else can you build…
      Give them plenty of time to respond. Some responses might not be verbal. 
  • Ages 0-5 – Notice excitement: Your child will let you know what interests them by using actions, facial expressions, and speech. When they point out a window or give you a questioning look, put their action into words: “Yes! That’s a squirrel. Look at him running along the fence.”
  • Ages 0-5 – Talk with your eyes: When talking to your little one, actively make eye contact. Babies and toddlers learn to recognize emotions from facial expressions. 
  • Ages 2-5 – Dial a story: Hear a story read aloud by your Westerville librarians. A great way to entertain kids at bedtime, in waiting rooms, or on rainy days. Available via phone 24/7. Call 614-665-9696. Learn more.
  • Ages 2-5 – Oops!: Make mistakes on purpose when singing familiar songs or completing familiar activities. Let your toddler or preschooler correct you. Make sure your little one is very familiar with your activity before trying this – you don’t want to confuse them. 
  • Ages 3-5 – Talk about books: Look at a book together. What direction do you hold a book? Identify the parts of a book like the cover, title, author, and illustrator. 
  • Ages 3-5 – Tell a story: Work together to tell a story. Put a series of events in order, tell a familiar story from the pictures, or make up a story using just your imagination. 
  • Ages 3-5 – Talk about new words: Preschoolers learn new words best in context. When you discover some new vocabulary, discuss it at that moment. Try relating the word to a word they already know. 
  • Ages 3-5 – Follow directions: Encourage listening with games that include clear directions, like Simon Says. 

Write Together: Giving children opportunities to write, even if it is just scribbles, helps children understand that print can represent spoken words. It can also help children develop eye-hand coordination and the fine motor control they need to hold a pencil.

  • Ages 0-3 – Pick up sticks: Practice activities that build finger muscles, such as picking up Cheerios and grasping toys.
  • Ages 0-5 – Read a book about shapes: Learning shapes helps children more easily recognize letters when the time comes. Read a book about shapes.
  • Ages 0-5 – Watch a video: Practice a fingerplay to build the muscles needed to hold a pencil. Watch one of these videos.
  • Ages 0-5 – Read a writing book!: Some books encourage writing. Read one of these.
  • Ages 1-3 – Crumple paper: Practice activities that build finger muscles, such as crumpling paper and grasping small objects like shakers, straws, spoons, and more.
  • Ages 1-5 – Explore shapes: Explore shapes. Letters are made of shapes, so identifying shapes is a first step towards recognizing letters. Go on a shape scavenger hunt, finding three squares, three circles, and three triangles around your house. 
  • Ages 1-5 – Color and scribble: Encourage your little one to color and scribble. You don’t need a coloring page–coloring outside the lines is just as beneficial as coloring inside them. Grasping a crayon helps build the muscles needed to hold a pencil in school.
  • Ages 1-5 – Play with letters: Build finger muscles and learn to recognize letters by playing with them! Make letters out of playdough or explore letter magnets. 
  • Ages 2-5 – Complete a puzzle: Challenge your toddler or preschooler with a simple puzzle with shape cutouts. Looking for something homemade? Create a DIY puzzle out of baby-safe around-the-house objects.
  • Ages 2-5 – Write while playing: Incorporate writing into play activities. Write a pretend grocery list. Help your child pretend to take your order at a restaurant. Sign pretend receipts when you play store. 
  • Ages 2-5 – Play with tweezers: Make pick-up games more challenging with a pair of toddler or preschool sized tweezers (plastic child-safe kitchen tongs might work too). Use the tweezers to sort pom poms, cereal, dice, or other small items. 
  • Ages 3-5 – Write about your art: Ask your preschooler to write about their drawing. Even if they aren’t writing letters, this helps them recognize that written words stand for spoken words.
  • Ages 3-5 – Use scissors: Build writing muscles by practicing an important kindergarten skill: using scissors. Consider one of these activities or make up your own:
    • Cut lines in the top of a paper towel tube to create silly hair (don’t forget to draw a face too).
    • Cut along the lines separating paint chips.
    • Cut through rolled strips of playdough.
  • Ages 3-5 – Make dots with glue: Create a sheet of paper filled with evenly spaced tiny dots, about the size of the tip of a pencil. Give your child a bottle of liquid glue with a squeeze-top, and challenge them to limit the amount of glue they use–just enough to cover a single dot. 
  • Ages 3-5 – Write together: Keep a journal for you and your child. Encourage them to draw a picture of something they did that day or something they are excited about. Ask them to tell you about their drawing, and write down what they say underneath. Read their words back to them, drawing your finger underneath the words as you say them.

Reading Lists

Our last bonus feature on our ReadSquared page is our 1000 Books Reading Lists. Approximately 40 Reading Lists are filled with book suggestions to help families keep reading. Topics include:

  • Animals & Pets
  • Baby Faces
  • Baby Favorites
  • Bedtime & Bathtime
  • Beginning to Read
  • Being Kind
  • Change the World
  • Dinosaurs
  • Early Literacy: Play Together
  • Early Literacy: Read Together
  • Early Literacy: Sing Together
  • Early Literacy: Talk Togeter
  • Early Literacy: Write Together
  • Explore Outdoors
  • Family Love
  • Family Read Alouds
  • Favorite Characters
  • Getting Dressed
  • Growing Up
  • Holidays & Celebrations
  • Kids Like Me
  • Laugh Out Loud
  • Learn Colors
  • Learn Shapes
  • Learn the ABCs
  • Learn to Count
  • Lift-the-Flap & Pop-Up
  • Nonfiction Fun
  • Potty Training
  • Preschool Favorites
  • Real Stories: Biographies
  • Seasons
  • Siblings
  • Starting School
  • Talk About Race
  • Things That Go
  • Time to Eat
  • Toddler Favorites
  • Unicorns, Fairies, and Everything Magic

Access those lists and more here (without logging in).

…and that is it! All of the different parts of our ReadSquared 1000 Books website. What kind of recording do you use for your library’s 1000 Books program? Share in the comments!

Learn more about our program on our website and via the first post in this series that focuses on the physical workbook.

1000 Books Before Kindergarten, Part 1

After over a year of planning, I finally launched my library’s 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program last week. These blog posts often focus more on day-to-day or week-to-week library activities, like reading, programs, and storytimes, but on any random day, I’m also working on a lot of large behind-the-scenes projects too. I’m thrilled to finally be able to share one of those projects with you.

This post will focus on the logistics of the program as well as our physical workbook. Check back for Part 2, focusing on our online component run through ReadSquared.

And before this gets buried in all the upcoming text, a big shout out to my library’s marketing department who designed the physical book and put up with all of my edit requests.

What is 1000 Books?

1000 Books Before Kindergarten is a nationwide initiative, adapted by many libraries and educational institutions, to promote reading and encourage child/caregiver bonding through reading.

The goal is simple and pretty self explanatory: read 1000 books together before your child starts kindergarten.

Why run a 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program?

A child is more successful in school when an adult actively read, spoke, and engaged with them during the 0-5 years. The more words children hear at young ages, the larger their vocabulary, and the more prepared they will be to learn to read. Setting a high goal with a concrete reward system—like reading 1000 books before starting kindergarten—encourages adults to actively and continuously engage with their children. Children who start out ahead typically end up ahead. Studies show that these early language needs are even higher in lower socioeconomic households.

Other benefits to a 1000 Books program:

  • Brings a sense of ownership and pride to reading. After completing this program, kids know they accomplished something big.
  • Builds parent knowledge and interest about their role in school readiness.
  • From a library statistics perspective, 1000 Books programs boost circulation numbers.

How long will this take?

Parents may be daunted by the large number, but, by just reading one book a day, a child should finish the program in less than three years. Some possible program lengths:

  • 1 book a day = 1,000 books in 3 years
  • 2 books a day = 1,000 books in 1.5 years
  • 3 books a day = 1,000 books in 1 year
  • 5 books a day = 1,000 books in 6 months

1000 Books Before Kindergarten Program Specifics

Before starting your program, there are some specifics you need to figure out. These include:

  • How will participants log their reading?
  • What are the incentives?
  • How will you fund the program?
  • Answers to Participant FAQs

How will participants log their reading?

We give participants two options: a physical, spiral-bound workbook (more info below) and an online system managed through ReadSquared (more on that in a future post).

What are the incentives?

Our incentives include:

  • Sign up = workbook & pencil
  • 100 books read = 1 sticker for every 100 books read (10 total)
  • 500 books read = free book
  • 1,000 books read = free book, backpack, graduation certificate & invitation to annual graduation ceremony  

I’ll share pictures of some of these below, but the timeline for purchasing some of these items depends on reaching certain program milestones (such as registering our first 50 kids). So, while I know what I would like to order, specific prize books have not been officially selected yet. For each prize book earned, families will have a choice between three prize book options.

How will you fund the program?

Our program is sponsored by our library’s Foundation. (Those incentives aren’t cheap!) I wanted to make this a program that would really engage our community and keep them participating over the years it will take them to finish, so we chose incentives that will hopefully encourage people to keep participating.

Answers to Participant FAQs

Your library’s answers to these questions might differ, but some of our FAQ include:

What if someone else reads to my child?
Count all reading! Books read by caregivers, siblings, grandparents, friends, teachers, librarians, and more all count. Watch a storytime and count those books, too.

What if we read the same book more than once?
Every time you read a book, count it in your reading log! Repetition is wonderful for reading development. Your child will notice new details during each reread. If you read Pete the Cat ten times in one day, that counts as ten books read!

We finished! Can we keep reading?
Of course! While you can only receive prizes once, we encourage you to keep going. Stop by the library anytime for book recommendations.

1000 Books Before Kindergarten Workbook

At sign-up, each reader gets their own physical workbook and a pencil to log their reading. I love our 64-page workbook filled with many pages to log your reading, early literacy tips and book recommendations, advertisements for various library services, and more.

Our workbook begins with a page to label your workbook in case it is lost and to track how long the program took you to complete.

The next spread focuses on how the program works and those frequently asked questions we highlighted above.

Moving on to a spread with a reminder to log online if you would like (more on that in Part 2) and the first of two All About Me pages. This page should be filled out at the beginning of the program, with the second, similar page being filled out after you’ve read 1000 Books.

Next come the early literacy spreads! I love how these turned out. Four age ranges are featured: 0-1, 1-2, 2-3, and 3-5. Each spread has an early literacy tip for read, sing, talk, play and write, as well as 12 book recommendations.

Listing books in a printing of this volume (we purchased 1000 of these logbooks at once!) was quite an endeavor. While we still ended up publishing pages filled with many of my favorite books, some of these were round two or round three suggestions. I worked with our collection development team to find books that we could bulk up on copies of now and that we would hopefully still be able to purchase (or would still own) in 3-5 years, since these log books will be sticking around a while.

Next we have lots and lots of book logging pages. Each page contains 25 images. Each image represents one book. Families can color or check off each image for each book read.

Pages marking 100-book intervals have a special spot for a sticker that participants can pick up at the library. Our marketing department designed and printed our stickers in house on label paper:

But what if a family really wants to write down the names of the books they read? There are a few pages to record up to 30 favorite titles in the workbook, and the online system encourages writing out each title.

Wrapping up the workbook, we have our second All About Me page and advertisements for some of our other library programs and services.

Learn more about our program on our website, and come back next week for more information about our online ReadSquared page!

Subscription Bundles for Kids

Long before the covid pandemic, books have been a core part of library services. Getting those books into the hands of kids and families while the physical building has been closed has been a challenge. My library decided to try a service that many libraries already offer in some capacity: subscription bundles.

Subscription bundles are similar to the concept of a subscription box (except free and no box). Readers fill out an online form and library staff pull 5-8 books for them, based on age and interests, each month for three months (with the option to renew).

The concept is simple, and the reader’s advisory work can be a lot of fun too. You are limited by what is on the shelves at the time, but you aren’t rushed by a grown-up who only has a few minutes in the library. You can promote different kinds of materials a family may not always consider (or find)–graphic novels, nonfiction, and more. And there is a small benefit of sometimes being able to squeeze into a bundle an on-topic book that is a hard sell in person–but a kid might give it a try when they are looking at it on their own.

Subscription Bundle Form

Families sign-up for the subscription bundle service by filling out a Google form found on our website. The public-facing description of this service, crafted by our marketing department, is:

Spend more time reading, and less time choosing! Let your favorite Westerville librarians bundle together 5-8 books for you each month, based on your interests. For ages 0-18

You’ll receive an email when your bundle is ready to pick up at the drive-thru. (After 3 months, you’ll have the option to continue your subscription.)

Our website directs people to our Google form:

The questions on the form include:

  • Email Address
  • First and Last Name
  • Recipient’s Name (if not you)
  • Library Card Number
  • Recipient’s Age (changed from an initial grade range)
  • Tell us about 3 things the recipient is interested in. (Examples: trains, dinosaurs, fairy tales, comics, mysteries, favorite authors, series, etc.) 
  • Is there anything else you’d like us to know? (Optional: book you enjoyed recently (or didn’t), reading level, etc.)

The form has stayed the same for the last few months with a few small updates including an increased time frame of expecting your bundle to be ready in 5 days (started at 3 days) and a change to the age question. Initially, this question had been a drop down based on grade (Baby/Toddler, PreS, K-3, 4-6, Middle School, Teen). This worked for most age ranges, but the K-3 age range could be particularly tricky, since the books a Kindergartener may want to read or have read to them can be very different than the books a 3rd grader is looking for. So, we changed this to a fill-in-the-blank general age question.

Subscription Bundle Organization

This is where things can get tricky, particularly at the incredibly high volume we are operating at.

The Google form populates a spreadsheet of responses. The spreadsheet looks a bit like this. (Columns with any patron identifying information are hidden. Filter is only on to highlight bundles I’ve personally filled.)

The left part of the spreadsheet contains the rest of the columns that match the form–date the form was submitted, email address, recipient’s name, library card, etc.

We fill in the columns starting with “Bundle 1 Staff Member.” Each round of bundles has its own set of columns, including:

  • Bundle 3: Staff Name (the staff member who took the bundle)
  • Bundle 3: Date (the date the bundle is supposed to be filled)
  • Bundle 3: Books (books pulled for that bundle)
  • Done: Initials of staff member who processed the bundle and took its contents to the drive thru
  • Bundle 3: Email Sent? (labeled when an email is sent the next morning to the people whose bundles were filled)

You may have noticed that, unless you cancel or don’t pick up two bundles, families are automatically set to receive three bundles, and then they can renew for an additional three months (and so on). This makes for a very long spreadsheet.

Since part of the perk of a bundle is to make sure a child doesn’t receive the same books twice, we don’t want to delete old columns or start a new spreadsheet for renewals (since that means more places to check for titles that were shared before). And we can’t hide columns that aren’t as necessary later (such as the name of the staff member who filled the first bundle when you are filling bundle four, because, at the very bottom of the spreadsheet, new forms are being filled out–meaning some people on the spreadsheet haven’t received any bundles yet.

I do wonder if there is a way to streamline this a bit more–maybe with a tab based system? Maybe bundles could be moved to a new tab when they move on to bundle 2 or bundle 3–that might allow for some columns to be hidden for bundles farther down the renewal process, while still allowing first bundles to be added to the original tab. That would involve checking more places, but they would all still be in one spreadsheet–and we still have to scroll a ton to check each column when we are receiving a mix of bundle 1, 2, 3, and 4’s to fill each day. (Sorry if that didn’t make sense–figuring out a way to make this process flow a little smoother still flummoxes me).

Keeping Track of Bundles

There is another step here as well. The spreadsheet doesn’t auto-populate bundle 2 and bundle 3 dates, and we had quite a rush of bundle form submissions over the course of just one week in early January. Those renewals have since been spread out using our Google Calendar.

Whenever we fill a first bundle, we also create an appointment on our department’s Google Calendar. This lets us see (and print out) a list of all of the bundles to be filled on a particular day. This looks a little like the image below (much of it is blurred because of kids names).

During pandemic hours, we are closed on Sundays,
and we moved bundles off of Saturdays due to how many other responsibilities we have on those days.

Our manager works on assigning bundles to various days to spread out the workload.

For many of us, our first step for the day is adding the dates for bundles to be filled that day to the spreadsheet for easier searching. This isn’t a permanent part of the routine, but for myself and many of my coworkers, we’ve found it really useful to see those dates in the spreadsheet too instead of having to look back and forth between the calendar and the spreadsheet multiple times a day.

Cancellations, Renewals, and No Shows…Oh my.

There are many more components to this service too including:

  • keeping track of patrons who have chosen to cancel their subscription
  • keeping track of patrons who failed to pick up their bundle repeatedly
  • asking if patrons want to renew their bundle after their first three months are up

My manager has been keeping track of all of these moving parts in separate spreadsheets.

Subscription Bundle Creation

A few hundred words later, and I haven’t actually talked about making a bundle yet! Each bundle takes time–I’d estimate about 20-30 minutes each from start to finish. Sometimes more, sometimes less–more if someone has particularly nuanced requests, and you can’t select books used in the last 2-3 bundles; less if someone more generally wants “series for third graders.”

Filling a Bundle:

  1. Look at the calendar and spreadsheet for bundles assigned to that day. Type your name in the appropriate “Staff Name” column for any bundles you are claiming.
  2. Look at the reported age and interests, as well as previously selected books if this is a bundle that has been filled previously. Either use the catalog or walk the shelves to find 5-8 books that fit those interests that haven’t been given to this person before.
    *To save time, I’ve been intentionally picking bundles that are for a similar age range and interests, if possible. For example, if there are 30 bundles that day, and 6 kids say they want Dog Man readalikes, I start by claiming all of those bundles. This lets me sweep the shelves for anything that applies, divide them up by kid, and then look for more specific titles to flesh out remaining gaps. This has also helped me from “competing” with my fellow coworkers for titles–if we are all looking for the one “available” copy of the newest InvestiGATORS book, only one of us will find it, and the rest will need to find a new book to fill our bundle.
  3. Once I’ve found all of my books (and sorted them by kid), I type the titles of the books into the Google Spreadsheet column for that bundle’s books. I double check that anything I pulled wasn’t used before.
  4. At this point, if this is the first bundle, I add appointments to the Google Calendar for the next two bundles.
  5. At a service point with access to our ILS, I put the books on hold for the appropriate library card. There may be some rearranging if a book I pulled off the shelf is on hold for another patron.
  6. After putting the books on hold, I check them in, processing hold slips for each book.
  7. Books are bundled together using a H-band. Shortest in the front for easiest check out at the drive thru window.
  8. If this is a first bundle, the bundle gets a manila envelope with some goodies–a bookmark, a sticker, a library flyer, and more.
  9. Whether this is a first bundle or a later bundle, a card is added to the front of the pile with the recipient’s name.


Our bundles are secured with H bands. These four-way rubber bands work well for holding big stacks of books together.

These Amazon ones are more brightly colored, but they can be a bit floppy depending the size of the stack you are filling. (See the lack of fit over the smaller, thinner first chapter books.)

These DEMCO H bands fit better to essentially any size stack of materials, but they do have a different texture that I’m not personally a fan of.

Giant rubber bands have also worked in a pinch when we run out of h bands. We don’t ask patrons to return the h bands, though they sometimes do.

Subscription Cards:

Each bundle comes with a subscription card taped to the top book. These have room for us to write the recipient’s name:

These were designed, printed, and cut by our amazing marketing department.

Bundle Contents:

What kind of books might make it into a bundle? There are some pictures above, but I’ve also pulled some title lists of bundles that I’ve created over the last few months. I aim for the same selection principles I use for my book talks — a variety of types of materials, some easier and some harder, and lots of diversity, but I’m also trying to meet each child’s needs and interests with what we have on the shelf at that moment. This can make some bundles frustrating to pull when all of my favorite books are checked out!

  • 18 months. Board books, lift the flap, really any topic.
    • Where’s the Unicorn? (Arrhenius)
    • Never Touch a Tiger
    • Where is the Very Hungry Caterpillar (Carle)
    • Baby’s Big Busy Book (Katz)
    • What Is Baby Going to Do?
    • Baby Faces Peekaboo?
    • Let’s Find the Kitten
    • Pop-Up Peekaboo Pumpkin
  • 2nd Grade: Comics, Robots (Big Hero 6), Science
    • Baloney and Friends
    • Sadiq and the Bridge Builders
    • Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot (Pilkey)
    • Big Hero 6 (graphic novel)
    • Hilo The Boy Who Crashed to Earth
    • Cat Kid Comic Club
    • Krypto the Superdog Here Comes Krypto
    • Max Axiom: Volcanoes
  • Grades 4-6. Dogman, Sports, Cars, Hilo, Minecraft. Reluctant reader.
    • Investigators Take the Plunge
    • Geronimo Stilton: Sewer Rat Stink
    • Bird and Squirrel: On the Run
    • Time Museum
    • Pacey Packer Unicorn Tracker
    • Agent Moose
    • Monster Mayhem
    • Drew and Jot
  • Teen. War, Magic/Fantasy, Space.
    • Illuminae
    • Mechanica
    • The Circle
    • Scythe
    • Rebel Rose
    • Poisoned

Tips and Advice

Ah, the hardest part of this to write, buried at the bottom of an already lengthy post.

First, the pros:

  • Subscription bundles are very popular at my library. We have had over 500 bundles to fill in one month.
  • During a time when people cannot or may not want to come into the library, this is a great way to get books into kids’ hands.
  • Circulation numbers are high!
  • Great books that aren’t always picked up can be sent home in bundles and given a chance at circulating.
  • I see the caregiver appeal, even outside of the pandemic. This is a great service for grown-ups-on-the-go with busy schedules, and for caregivers who simply can’t make it to the library regularly, especially bringing one or more kids in tow. There is a convenience to this service that can’t be beat.
  • The patron feedback is overwhelmingly positive. There is more positive feedback for bundles than many other services we offer.

Then, the cons:

  • Subscription bundles are very popular at my library. We have had over 500 bundles to fill in one month.
  • During this intermediary time, when the public is allowed back in the library but we are doing our best to stay away from them, pulling bundles is tough, since patrons get first use of the shelves.
  • Pulling bundles is time consuming. Selecting books for a child and all of the necessary processing can take 20-30 minutes per kid. Sometimes more (and sometimes less). In an effort to move through 30-40 bundles in a day, I sometimes find myself having to sacrifice finding the “perfect” book for a kid in place of finding something that is sort of related to their interests, simply because I don’t have enough time in a day to fill this many bundles and cover the rest of my responsibilities.
  • Long term, I wonder how this will affect weeding. We weed based on circulation numbers (and other criteria, but circulation is a big part). There are some books that I see get selected for bundles that are a bit dated and grungy looking, and that I know haven’t circulated on their own in a year or more. Will weeding stats still reflect kids’ interests if we are “forcing” (not the right word) them to check out books they wouldn’t have checked out otherwise? How will this reflect in physical space on our shelves in a few years?
  • Due to the popularity and patron feedback, subscription bundles can become what feels like the “most-important service” instead of one of many that serve different needs.

Before starting a subscription bundle service, here are some questions to ask:

  • Do you have the staffing to select, pull, and process bundles? If so, how many bundles can your staff reasonably do in a day while not detracting from other duties? If your staff doesn’t have the time to do each step of that process, is there a way to remove one or more steps to make the process easier? Do you need to set a cap on this service?
  • How does this fit in with what else you currently offer or don’t offer? There are some similarities in this service to teacher collections. Is there a way to merge the two?
  • Do you want this to be a subscription service? Do you have the long-term staffing to handle that? Do you have the current staffing to handle the additional organizational components of a subscription service–processing renewals, recording cancellations, scheduling future bundles?
  • What will your response be to families who want this service to be more frequent than your interval of choice? For example, each family gets a new bundle each month, but we have had many requests for us to pull new bundles for a family on a weekly or biweekly basis.
  • Where will people pick up their bundles? Do you have the physical space to put these bundles on holds shelves? What is the capacity of your physical space?
  • Who will handle cancellations? If your circulation staff normally processes cancelled holds, can they handle the increase in cancelled items created by this service?
  • Is there a way to make this service more accessible? For example, our service requires you to fill out a form online. You could call us, and we could fill out the form for you, but do people know that? For us, people have to pick up books at our physical location (for now anyway–schools might be an option long term). Can these bundles be picked up at other service points? Related–how easy is it for people in your community to get the library card required for sign-up?

Now, I’m going to be blunt. But, I also think you *really* have to be committed to this service to have read this far down the post, so if you have put the time in, you deserve to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Subscription bundles are great. Families love them. In small does, I love them. I love reader’s advisory, and I love picking out the perfect books for a child. More books check out than ever before. Our service are more convenient than ever before.

At the same time, my biggest pro and con for this service is what my particular library experienced: we got a little bit of social media promotion from some happy families, and we have been filling over 500 bundles a month. That means, in a month like February, we pulled at least 3000 books for patrons (estimating 6 books out of 5-8, though most bundles include 8 books). If each bundle takes 25 minutes (average) to work through all of the steps of selection and processing, we spent, as a staff, at least 200 hours pulling and processing bundles (in perspective, with four 40 hour weeks in a month, one person works about 160 hours a month).

We are lucky to have a very large staff, but with many hours work from home to accommodate social distancing, reopening to the public, desk and customer service hours, full programming schedules, and more–this has been tough. It makes work days even more exhausting, during a period of peak stress as we all adjusted to the library building being available to the public again, many personal questions about vaccines, and the reintroduction of services (or even just conversations around reintroduction of services), all on top of everything we have added to our plates since the pandemic began.

Bundles are great when everyone has time to handle the workload. Before starting something like this, really think about what you and your staff have time (and mental capacity) for. Maybe you need to set a cap–only 100 bundles at a time, with a waiting list of additional participants. Maybe you need to evaluate how to make each step of the process take less time by not getting quite this elaborate. Plan a way to back out if needed. Subscription bundles are a fantastic service–but make sure to be wary of the time and logistics before committing.

Paw Patrol Rescue Academy

Paw Patrol and I have a bit of a history. During spring break 2019, I planned a program featuring one of the most popular kids TV shows of the time. It was scheduled for a Friday morning, and while we could tell from patron questions that there was some excitement, I didn’t really know what to expect. I had been planning for a storytime followed by eight hands-on games, crafts, and activities where you earned badges, and ending with an obstacle course where you earned your Paw Patrol “uniform” (hat and necklace).

Before the program started, I debated dropping the storytime portion because my overzealous planning had led to very little room for attendees to sit down before completing their activities. I believe I left the room to get extra supplies about 30 minutes before the program and was extremely surprised to realize that there were over 100 patrons in the hallway. Waiting for a program that started in 30 minutes. A program that was supposed to take place in meeting rooms that have a firecode of around 200 when the room isn’t filled with tables and activities. The storytime portion was dropped, and by the end of the program over 300 people stopped by.

I have never written about that program on this blog because it didn’t go the way I had hoped (high attendance or not), and I didn’t actually have that many resources to share. Pre-COVID, I had been planning to try this program again this summer with quite a few modifications. Post-COVID, this program turned into another online special storytime, following the path of the recent Baby Shark Storytime and Elephant & Piggie Storytime.

To help continue the fun at home, I curated a PDF packet that we shared with event participants. Download it here and view it below:

The general storytime layout is below, with videos where applicable.

Backdrop Setup: Pennant banners and Paw Patrol shields helped make my backdrop more on-theme to increase the Paw Patrol excitement:

Paw Patrol Intro: We got ready for storytime with the Paw Patrol theme song and explained our mission: to complete training activities to earn six Paw Patrol badges and become junior Paw Patrol members.

Book: Pit Crew Pups from Five Puptacular Tales Five Puptacular Tales! (PAW Patrol) (Step into Reading ...

Badge #1: Flying Badge with Skye: Airplane Song by Laurie Berkner

Whenever it was time to earn a new badge, we received pup mail. We had to guess which pup’s badge we were going to earn based on the front of our mail and then read about our challenge.

Our first challenge was to practice our flying skills with Skye!

Badge #2: Water Safety Badge with Zuma: Zuma Are You In a Boat?

Badge #3: Safety Badge with Chase: Crazy Traffic Light

Badge #4: Fire Safety Badge with Marshall: Hurry, Hurry Drive the Firetruck

Badge #5: Construction Badge with Rubble: Tip Tip Dig Dig by Emma Garcia
This was supposed to be just a read of the book, but I couldn’t get a copy of the book in time, so it turned into a last minute magnet. I’m sure I’ll reuse this set at some point in a toddler storytime. Tip Tip Dig Dig (All About Sounds) (9781906250829 ...

Badge #6: Handyman Badge with Rocky: Our Friend Rocky Had Some Tools

Graduation: Now that we had earned all six Paw Patrol badges, as shown in our Paw Patrol Badge Zone:

We recited the Paw Patrol Pledge:

And danced the morning away as Junior Paw Patrol members!

Closing Song: Pup Pup Boogie

Play & Learn at Home

Last summer, a coworker and I ran a very successful baby and toddler play program. Each week, about 80-100 parents and little ones joined us for a variety of interactive activities.

Six months ago, when we were planning for May-August 2020, we were thrilled to be able to offer Play & Learn again this summer, plus an additional four weeks in May.

Then COVID happened.

Obviously we weren’t expecting a pandemic, but luckily we were able to shift our plans to adapt this program virtually for the month of May, creating Play & Learn at Home.

Each week, Lisa (my coworker) and I emailed caregivers registered for Play & Learn at Home a video and instruction sheet for two DIY play activities, made from objects commonly found around the house.

My share of the content can be found below:

Cereal Boxes and Straws

Cereal Boxes & Straws Instruction Sheet

Tissue Box Play

Tissue Box Play Instruction Sheet

Tape Play

Tape Play Instruction Sheet

Card Slot Drop

Card Slot Drop Instruction Sheet

Make sure to check out Lisa’s great content as well. Check out the links below about how to make:

Virtual Baby Shark Storytime

This has been a crazy past week of storytimes, but I kicked off May family storytime Saturdays with Baby Shark Storytime!

I ran this program in person back in January to a whopping 185 people! While that was just a few months ago, it feels closer to three years, and it was also something easy enough for me to replicate virtually that has a strong following.

We had a 30 minute storytime followed by about 10 minutes of Baby Shark bubbles and dancing. Videos of most content can be found below–as usual, there are a few more videos than I actually had time for during the storytime.

I also made a PDF for families filled with Baby Shark activities to do at home. See and download below:

We had about 63 live viewers, with 100 one-minute views by the end of the live recording. Not a bad turnout for one of our slowest virtual storytime days of the week.

Background: While my library is closed during the COVID pandemic, we are hosting five virtual storytimes a week, livestreamed through our Facebook page. While those livestreams are deleted soon after they are complete, we are also making YouTube clips of select elements of our storytimes that our patrons can view anytime they would like–and that I can share with all of you!

Introduction Song

We sung and danced along to Shake Your Sillies Out. I can’t upload a YouTube video of this one because of copyright.


Apparently I never uploaded the video of the fingerplay we did to get ourselves settled for our first story.

We did Two Little Sharks:

Two little sharks in the deep blue sea,
One named Luna and one named Lee,
Swim away Luna, swim away Lee!
Come back Luna, come back Lee!

Continued with: Swimming on a wave…Dorothy and Dave

Book: Baby Shark

Baby Shark: Bajet, John John: 9781338556056: Books

Song: The Goldfish Song by Laurie Berkner

Puppets: Slippery Fish

Magnet: 5 Sharks in the Bathtub

Book: Shark in the Park

Shark In The Park: Nick Sharratt: 9780857534781: Books

Closing Song: Baby Shark


Recommended Free Apps & Podcasts for Kids

Like many libraries around the country, we got the news last week that we will remain closed throughout the month of April. Since we now have a better timeline, we are able to move forward with virtual content more easily–including a ReadSquared online stay at home learning program highlighting free resources like books, apps, and podcasts.

We don’t have any prizes, just virtual badges that kids and families can earn by completing activities at home. Some are directly related to books, some connect to the library, and others just provide ideas for new ways to explore your home or the (limited) world around you.

One of the “missions” I worked on involved exploring technology. I created curated lists of apps and podcasts that families can experience at home.

After much finagling, I was very proud of myself for managing to create a list of recommended free apps that work on both iOS and Android devices. All free app suggestions are listed below and can be downloaded or shared as PDFs here:

Recommended Free Apps, Ages 2-5

Play and Learn Science by PBS Kids

Caregivers and children work together to explore scientific concepts and to develop problem solving skills. Explore water, weather, physics, light, and more. Android, iOS, Amazon

Little Chickies (Los Politos) by Encantos Media Studios, PBC

Interact with the traditional Spanish lullaby “Los Politos” through a story, art projects, music activities, digital scrapbooks, and more. Available in eight languages. Android, iOS

Fish School by Duck Duck Moose, LLC

Practice letters, numbers, shapes, and colors through fun games with colorful fish and friendly sea creatures. 
Android, iOS, Amazon

GoNoodle—Kids Videos  by GoNoodle

Filled with short videos that teach music, movement, patterns, dance, yoga, and mindfulness. Suggested to watch and dance along as a family.
Android, iOS, Amazon

Animal Sounds for Baby (Laugh & Learn Animal Sounds)by Fisher Price Inc.

Babies and toddlers can practice identifying animals and their sounds with engaging, brightly-colored illustrations and vibrant sound effects.
Android, iOS, Amazon

The Cat in the Hat Builds That by PBS Kids

Explore STEM concepts through mini-games and activities. Includes a variety of downloadable materials and ideas for caregiver and child interaction. Android, iOS, Amazon

Khan Academy Kids by Khan Academy

Explore thousands of educational activities, books, songs, and games teaching reading, language, writing, math, social-emotional development, and more. Android, iOS, Amazon

PBS Parents Play & Learn by PBS Kids

Discover games for parents and kids to play together in familiar locations, like the garden, the kitchen, the bathroom, and more.
Android, iOS, Amazon

Itsy Bitsy Spider by Duck Duck Moose, LLC

Sing along to various versions of the classic children’s song “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Includes free-play activities related to on-screen characters.
Android, iOS, Amazon

Artie’s World by Minilab Ltd

Follow Artie around the world. Create presents for Artie’s friends by tracing basic shapes on the screen. Watch your drawings come to life!
Android, iOS, Amazon

Baby Games—Piano, Baby Phone, First Words by RV AppStudios

Toddlers can engage with simple sound effects and pretend play with virtual musical instruments and simple nursery rhymes.
Android, iOS, Amazon

Pokémon Playhouse by The Pokémon Company International

Engage in this open-ended play app by interacting with Pokémon characters, listening to stories, solving puzzles, and more. 
Android, iOS, Amazon

Elmo Loves 123s by Sesame Street

Trace each number (1-20) and explore with Elmo and Abby through puzzles, games, coloring, and videos. Free version only includes numbers 1-3. Android, iOS, Amazon Cost: Free (Lite) $4.99 (Full)

Endless Alphabet by Originator Inc.

Learn new vocabulary words and practice identifying letters in this interactive puzzle game. Free version only includes seven words. Android, iOS, Amazon | Cost: Free (Lite) , $8.99 (full)

Recommended Free Apps, Ages 6-8

Molly of Denali by PBS Kids

Explore the Native Alaskan village of Qyah with Molly using diagrams, pictures, field guides, and maps. Solve problems, play games, and accomplish community tasks. Android, iOS, Amazon

Pet Bingo by Duck Duck Moose

Practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division to earn adorable virtual pets, pet food, and pet toys.
Android, iOS, Amazon

ScratchJr by Scratch Foundation

Create your own interactive stories and games by snapping together programming blocks to make your characters move, jump, dance, and sing. Android, iOS, Amazon

Tami’s Tower by Smithsonian Institution

Use basic engineering principles to help Tami the golden lion tamarin solve problems encountered in the jungle.
Android, iOS, Amazon

Jet’s Bot Builder: Robot Games by PBS KIDS

Build and personalize your own robot before traveling through outer space to complete STEM challenges. 
Android, iOS, Amazon

Think & Learn Code-a-pillar by Fisher Price, Inc.

Learn basic coding and problem-solving skills as you move your virtual caterpillar through a variety of logic puzzles. 
Android, iOS, Amazon

CyberChase Shape Quest! by PBS KIDS

Practice geometry and develop spatial reasoning skills through puzzles and games as you try build a new environment in Botopolis. 
Android, iOS, Amazon

Recommended Apps, Family

ChatterPix Kids by Duck Duck Moose

Turn pictures of real life objects into silly, playful messages with filters, recorded audio, stickers, and more.
Android, iOS

Storytime Online by SAG-AFTRA Foundation

Watch diverse celebrity readers perform both classic and timely children’s picture books for all ages.
Android, iOS

Toontastic 3D by Google LLC

Draw, animate, and narrate your own cartoons. Record your voice, insert pictures, and share your creations with friends and family. 
Android, iOS

Merlin Bird ID by Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Identify birds flying through your backyard by answering five questions or taking a picture of the bird and identifying where you live. 
Android, iOS

NSF Science Zone by National Science Foundation

Learn about hundreds of scientific discoveries with exciting videos and high-resolution photos that will take you from the far reaches of space to the smallest bacteria. Android, iOS

Seek by iNaturalist

Learn about nature by using recognition technology to identify plants and animals in your backyard or on a nature hike. 
Android, iOS

Pick Your Plate! by Smithsonian Institution

Explore cultures from around the world through food. Learn about new cuisines and select nutritional meals that fit your virtual budget. Android, iOS, Amazon

Recommended Podcasts for Kids

1. Aaron’s World. Journey to the distant past into the world of dinosaurs and imagination.

2. But Why. Approaches silly and very real questions in a kid-friendly manner—from “why do we taste food?” and “why do lions roar?” to the timely “But Why Special On

3. Cirlce Round. Share folktales from around the world, adapted into modern radio plays.  

4. Ear Snacks. Music duo Andrew and Polly create a fun soundtrack for all ages
performing original children’s music.

5. Molly of Denali. Listen to the adventures of Molly Mabray, an Alaska Native girl
determined to discover the identity of the creature that stole Molly’s birthday cake.

6. Pants on Fire. This hilarious game-show style podcast keeps kids guessing. Two
grow-up “experts” talk about a topic—one is an expert, and one is a pants on fire liar. Listeners have to figure out who is who!

7. Peace Out. Yoga and meditation for kids. Practice relaxing and mindfulness through visualization and breathing exercises.

8. Smash Boom Best. Debaters enter heated competitions over some intense
match-ups—such as unicorns vs. dragons and chocolate vs. cheese—to convince
listeners which is the best.

9. Story Pirates. Amazing performers turn original stories written by real kids into podcast episodes often featuring celebrity guests.

10. Story Time. Designed to serve as bedtime stories, these short, sweet episodes feel like miniature audiobooks with music and sounds.

11. What If World. Mr. Eric examines kids’ most wacky “what if” questions from “What if sharks had legs?” to “What if dinosaurs were alive today?” with humor and levity.

12. Wow in the World. Jump into the wonders of the world with Mindy and Guy in this daily kids podcast by NPR.

What great resources am I missing? Share them in the comments below!

At-Home Baby Play

I’ve written a ton of baby play posts on this blog, and, since many of us are stuck at home for a while, I wanted to highlight some of my favorite at-home baby play activities that can easily be replicated with around the house objects.

Other awesome play ideas with everyday objects:

What at-home baby play ideas am I missing? Post other ideas in the comments, and I will add them to the lists above.

Baby Shark Storytime

Baby Shark is popular. I know this. I use the song regularly in my storytimes for all ages. However, I don’t think I realized how popular until I had 185 kids and adults crammed in our programming space for Baby Shark Storytime.

Like many libraries, we are generally short-staffed on the weekends. While we provide a weekly Saturday storytime, many of our other popular programs, especially for the 0-5 crowd, take place on weekdays. This works better for us, and those events still get large crowds, but working parents do not often get a chance to attend these party style events.

This was my second Saturday Tales @ 10 “takeover” (read about Mother Bruce Storytime to learn about my first one). I like using this programming slot for a bigger event because you have a guaranteed built-it audience (our regular weekend storytime attendees), and you also provide an opportunity to attract new faces to the library without having to ask for an additional staff member to work that weekend to cover your desk time.

Baby Shark Storytime was a celebration of all things Baby Shark. We had a shark-themed storytime followed by a collection of shark activities in place of our regular free play.

My storytime powerpoint is available below:

Baby Shark Storytime

My storytime followed a very similar structure to our standard family storytime. I tried to not make everything Baby Shark related so that parents wouldn’t pull their hair out (though, surprisingly, I think this just confused parents).

Opening Song: I Wake Up My Hands by Rainbow Songs

Opening Rhyme: Open, Shut Them
Open, shut them; open shut them.
Let your hands go clap, clap, clap.
Open, shut them; open, shut them.
Drop them in your lap, lap, lap.

Walk them, walk them,
Walk them, walk them,
Right up to your chin, chin, chin.
Open your little mouth,
But do not let them in!

Book: Bedtime for Baby Shark
This baby shark title has some easy to replicate hand motions without just singing the song (which we will get to) as a group in book form.

Song: Row, Row, Row Your Boat by Old Town School of Folk Music

Fingerplay: Two Little Sharks
Two little sharks in the deep blue sea.
One named Luna and one named Lee.
Swim away Luna, swim away Lee!
Come back, Luna, come back Lee!

Action Rhyme: Slippery Fish
Slippery fish, slippery fish, swimming through the water.
Slippery fish, slippery fish, Gulp, Gulp, Gulp! (clap)
Oh no! It’s been eaten by a…

Continue with: Octopus, Great White Shark, Humongous Whale

Magnet: Five Sharks in the Bathtub
One shark in the bathtub
Going for a swim
Knock, knock (clap twice)
Splash, splash (slap knees twice)
Come on in! (wave)

Book: Shark in the Park

Music: Baby Shark! by Pinkfong

Magnet: Five Little Fishies
Five little fishies, swimming in the sea.
Teasing Mr. Shark — “You Can’t Catch Me!”
Along comes Mr. Shark, as quiet as can be…
And (claps) SNAPS that fishy right out of the sea!

Closing Song: Shake Your Sillies Out by Rainbow Songs


After the storytime, many parents bolted because 185 people in a room meant for 75 is a lot.

But for those folks that stayed, we had some activities in the room as well as a scavenger hunt around our youth department.

Shark Fin Hats

Since this was my “easy” craft, it ended up being a bit more complicated than I would have liked. Each headband required 2-3 grey strips of paper–1-2 for the standard headband and another across the middle that the grey shark fin would be attached to. A standard shark fin shape was printed on grey cardstock to create the fin.

Shark Clothespin Puppets

The more complicated craft. Kids colored their own shark prints (found here) to make moveable shark clothespin puppets. I tried to have folks use glue dots instead of bottled glue to attach the sharks to the clothespins. That wasn’t the best idea, as they didn’t stick very well.

Pin the Fin on the Shark

This is exactly what it sounds like. Kids played pin-the-fin-on-the-shark with our lovely Baby Shark banner print from our marketing department. They received a button made on our button maker afterwards.

Feed the Shark Bean Bag Toss

This game was designed to be a standard bean bag toss game. Kids threw our toy fish into the shark’s mouth. They received a sticker after a successful throw.

This sort of worked out as planned, but essentially became a fascinating activity for our younger kids (ages 0-2) who just wanted to pick up the fish, put them in the shark’s mouth, take them out, put them in the basket, and dump them back out. Since this activity seemed to work best for the little kids, this helped the flow of the room since the older kids focused on the crafts.

Baby Shark Scavenger Hunt

Our last activity was our Baby Shark scavenger hunt, which got parents and kids out of our cramped programming space and into the youth department. After completing the scavenger hunt, each kid received a Baby Shark bookmark. Download the scavenger hunt here and the printable images here.