Little Explorers: Sensory Playgroup

Little Explorers: Sensory Playgroup

side note before I get into this post: you may have recently started seeing ads.  While I used to pride myself on being an ad free site, I do need to find some way to try and supplement the money I put towards the hosting and maintenance of Miss Meg’s Storytime.  After all, I do live on a small town librarians salary ;)
I am going to see how using google adsense works for the time being, and I truly truly do apologize for any inconvenience.  Hopefully it will not need to be a long term solution. -Meg

Sensory storytimes and playgroups are happening all over the place and I’ve been wanting to try it for awhile so I was excited when we started getting requests for Friday morning programming (when I had previously been told no one comes to) and could try it out!  We are offering a sensory playgroup once a month for the spring and may continue it through summer or start it up again in the fall.  Our first group was a great size for our first time and was very mangeable…there were about 10 kids that came.

In addition to having a sensory enriched setting I also wanted to have a lot of DIY toys and activities that parents could replicate at home.  Out of all of our stations, only one was fully store bought!

Little Explorers | Miss Meg's Storytime

I advertised the playgroup as a sensory playgroup that encourages participation from both caregiver and child.  It was open for ages 6 mos to 5 years and we had kids come that were every age in that range.  I set up the room with different stations and had a powerpoint slide up explaining the guidelines of this group.  Since we already do a regular playgroup and I had many families come that go to our other playgroup I really wanted to set up the expectations I had for this one:

Little Explorers | Miss Meg's Storytime

I was very impressed with all of the grown ups in the room– they really stayed with their tiny human and interacted.  It was so so so amazing to hear all of the great conversations that were happening in the room:

Do you like touching this?  It feels crinkly!

How does that feel on your toes? Hot or cold?

Is that slippery?

Here are the different stations we had set up:

Dyed Sensory Noodles

Little Explorers Noodles | Miss Meg's StorytimeLittle Explorers Noodles | Miss Meg's Storytime

Source: Growing a Jeweled Rose

This was a HUGE hit.  Biggest recommendation: lay down a tarp or something.  If you have carpet- lay down an extra big tarp.  The noodles got stuck to the shoes and then ground into the carpet quite a bit.  Towards the end a few kids had taken theirs shoes off and it was like a whole nother level.  We had a relatively small group and all of the parents were attentive so that’s why I didn’t ask shoes to remain on, but it was a bit of a hazard because the noodles were so slippery so I’d keep that in mind.
As for making the noodles, the tutorial on Growing a Jeweled Rose is great.  I made mine the night before and they were just fine the next morning.  I actually used Easter egg dye (I ran out of food coloring and Walgreens didn’t’ have any and it was 9pm so I wasn’t about to drive to a grocery store) and it worked great as well!  Half of the green and the pink/orange color were dyed with the egg dye.  When making it, I would recommend wearing gloves because your hands will most likely get stained.  Unless I am just a messy person which is completely possible.

Amount of prep time: 1 hour (I did 3 batches of noodles)

Sensory Board

Little Explorers Sensory Board | Miss Meg's Storytime

source: mamiblock , linked on Storytime Underground and my local CT chapter of SU

The video is not in English but if you google diy sensory board and look for it in pinterest there are a TON of ideas.  For ours, I tried to use whatever I already had and it ended up being relatively cheap.  All I bought was the board (a trifold board), some sparkly pipe cleaners, hair gel, and the orange fuzzy fabric.  We had an old numbers puzzle that was just sitting in storage so that’s what I used for the numbers on the top right corner.  Behind the board I have two zipper boards and a pull box (both from Laughing Kids Learn).  These were very simple to make and were also a big hit.  The pull box was a great way to introduce cause and effect!

Prep time: The longest thing to do was the pipe cleaner star and combined with the zipper board and pull box it probably took about 2 hours total.

Paper Pool & Bubber

Little Explorers Bubber | Miss Meg's Storytime Little Explorers Paper Pool | Miss Meg's Storytime

Both of these things were introduced in our regular playgroup before I was even here, so they are already crowd favorites.  The paper pool is very simple: shredded paper in a kiddie pool!  I have also seen some librarians do it on a parachute or just on a tarp.  The second thing is called Bubber and it is usually a favorite toy with the parents and we get questions constantly about what exactly it is.  Bubber is similar to play doh but doesn’t create a big mess, doesn’t dry out, is easy to pick up off the floor and is wheat, gluten and casein free and 100% safe and non-toxic.  It is like strange new miracle stuff, basically.  We have a bunch of play dog toys in with it including little letter stamps.  The most popular toy with it, though, is a little toy play doh knife.

Prep Time: this one you don’t have to do any pre-set up!  Except for shredding paper… But we get ours from a staff member’s husband who is a professor and shreds stuff at school.

Coloring Table

Little Explorers Crayon Table | Miss Meg's Storytime

The picture isn’t great for this one so hopefully I can explain it well enough… This is just a table set on the floor without the legs up with plain paper taped on the top.  I made some homemade crayons with little broken crayon pieces we had donated and set them out for the kids to draw and color and explore!  The crayons were made in a muffin tin and cooked at 275 for about 16ish minutes.  There are a lot of diy crayon tutorials online to look up!  (I initially googled “crayons from crayons” and somehow google knew what I was getting at…)

Little Explorers Crayon Table | Miss Meg's Storytime

The crayon table was near the noodle area so toward the end it ended up being a little bit of a crayon and noodle collage :)

Prep Time: 30 minutes (if you soak the crayons in water it is so easy to take their wrappers off before you cook them!! Really saves time)

Baby Zone

Little Explorers Baby Zone | Miss Meg's Storytime

Baby zone was a very low key area of the room.  I set up some fleece fabric scraps I had from previous projects into a patchwork type layout, put some board books out and foam pieces that were used year ago for a project of some sort.

Prep Time: 10 minutes, maybe


All in all, this was a super successful program, but it did take quite a bit more prep time than I put into our regular playgroup.  We will be meeting monthly through the spring and will probably continue it beyond that.

Do you do a sensory playgroup or storytime? I’d love to hear about it! What do you call it, what do you include, how is it received?

Babies Needs Words Everyday

Babies Needs Words Everyday

BNWEDBlogTour

I am so so so excited (and honored!) to have been asked to be a part of the ‘Babies Need Words Every Day’ blog tour.  To view the other rockstar blogging librarians (seriously, how did I get so lucky to get in this mix!?) on the blog tour click here! Babies Needs Words is an ALSC initiative focused on bridging the 30 Million Word Gap.  It includes 8 beautiful posters that promote four early literacy practices: talk, sing, read, play!  In addition to the FREE posters it includes a downloadable book list and a media kit.

I am so excited to share with you this poster that promotes reading!

BNWED_Poster_Read2-page-001

Before my tiny tots storytime we have 15 minutes of play time & so I decided to put the poster on our toy tubs:

READ1

Having something different on the tubs attracted a lot of curious looks and the parents all noticed the posters during playtime.  I hadn’t thought of putting anything on the tubs in the past but I may switch out each of the different posters ever month or so for something new to look at that includes a new early literacy tip!

READ3

Reading, in a library!?

Reading may seem like a no-brainer in a library, but I think the biggest way we can promote this early literacy practice is being great models for parents.  Many that come to my tiny tots storytime mostly come for the social aspect of it & to get their baby around other tiny humans.  And then while they are here I surprise them with some early literacy tips and they go home with things they can practice outside of the library.

I hear quite often from new parents that they don’t even realize that reading to their baby is beneficial… sure, they sing and talk to their newborn but reading!? They can barely even sit up– what good is a book going to do!? When we read stories in storytime I share an early literacy tip about how to read to baby and let them know that it is completely okay to not finish a book.

Each storytime includes a choral reading of a board book.  As we are passing out the books I mention that if your little one is near you and looking at the pages to point to each word as we say it, or the pictures in the story.

READ2

Depending on how the group is I also read a big book.  Sometimes with the big book I will ask questions and point to the pictures.  This helps the caregivers realize that the book can be a conversation– we aren’t just reading the words and moving on.

Tips to promote Reading

  • In the first couple months, reading is a bonding experience.  Snuggle in with baby and read a story that you loved yourself when you were a child.  (True story: We have a dad who is reading his newborn The Hobbit, because he loves The Hobbit and they snuggle and baby usually falls asleep but zomg they are bonding SO MUCH)
  • Soon, baby will be able to enjoy looking at the pictures in the story.  Pick a high contrast book or one with fun textures.
  • When baby is able to sit up and hold things, have board books around the house.  Point to the pictures in the book and name them.
  • As you share stories, point to the words on the pages.  This will help them realize that the words you are saying are those weird black squiggles they see on the page.
  • Read often and read stories you yourself enjoy. It is okay to not finish a book or only read a few pages at a time.
  • Picture books have a lot of unique language that we don’t always use in our day-to-day!  These unique words helps build a strong vocabulary which then makes your tiny human more ready for school, helps them be a rockstar in school, graduate at 12, go on to MIT or something, and become the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize.  Really. Just from reading Moo Baa La La La.

 

One again, I am so honored to be a part of the Babies Need Words Blog Tour.  Go check out all of the amazing resources ALSC has to offer.  Seriously.  They have this Press Release that all you have to do is insert your Library’s Name and then send it to local organizations to try and see if they will display the posters!  Not only is this a great way to promote early literacy in your library (more so than you already are) but it can be a huge community partnership!!  The Letter to the Editor that they include has the biggest mic drop I’ve seen when it comes to early literacy:

By participating in the Babies Need Words Every Day campaign, we can work together to build a healthy, sustainable community in one of the most high-impact and cost-effective ways: by investing in its youngest members.

So yea, check out everything there is to offer– and share how you plan to use Babies Need Words in your library!

Four of the Babies Needs Words Posters in our boardbook and play area
Early Literacy Evening

Early Literacy Evening

 

My library recently hosted a workshop for parents based on Every Child Ready to Read.  This was funded by our town’s School Readiness Grant.

Early Literacy Workshop

This was an hour long evening event for parents. My description for the event was:

An information session for parents or caregivers of children ages 0-5.  We will be exploring ways to promote literacy at home through reading, writing, talking, singing, and playing.  Childcare will be provided in the children’s room and every parent or caregiver in attendance will take home an early literacy gift bag

These were my goals for program:

  • Parents and caregivers will understand that children need help getting ready to read. They will understand the importance of developing early literacy skills in children, beginning at birth.
  • Parents and caregivers will learn about the five early literacy practices- talking, singing, reading, writing, and playing- that they can use to help children develop early literacy skills and get ready to read
  • To give parents and caregivers suggestions for creating an effective and affordable early literacy environment at home
  • To help parents and caregivers understand that developing early literacy skills should be an enjoyable experience for children and adults
  • To promote the library as a place that supports early literacy through our parenting and teaching resources, programs, and the collection as a whole

The program was broken into two parts: a short powerpoint presentation and then a hands on activity.  At the end of the program each parent went home with an early literacy gift bag.

I began the program with some basic info: what early literacy is, when learning to read begins (at birth!), and by letting the parents and caregivers in attendance know that they are the child’s first and most important teacher. Also, since I had parents of children who were a range of ages from birth to 5 I made sure to let them know that it isn’t too late to help their young one develop important literacy and pre-reading skills.  My goal was to not make the parents of older kids feel bad for not doing anything at home.

Also, since we live in Connecticut I made sure to have some information about the kindergarten standards for Connecticut. Giving them these facts hopefully helped them to see exactly why it is necessary to foster early literacy and pre-literacy at home.

I then focused on each of the skills of Every Child Ready to Read: Talking, Singing, Playing, Writing, and  of course Reading.  I didn’t want to bore them with information so I gave a brief overview of how to promote that skill at home.  I also gave them specific ideas of what they can do (make up songs about what you are going to do that day) and why that helps (singing helps break a word down as well as creates opportunities to learn new words).

After  the 25 minute powerpoint presentation we did the hands on project: creating an early literacy ‘toy’ to take home!  I decided that the simplest (and cheapest) craft would be to make an I spy bottle.  For this I needed sand or rice, small toys/craft objects, and some sort of bottle.  I got a small jug type of thing from the dollar tree. You can find out more on how to make this from Because I Said So.  I also made sure to superglue the lids on when we were done because there are small parts in the jugs.

Lastly– everyone got to take home an early literacy gift bag! This included a few toys, a board book, information from the session, a booklist and a take home activity page.

I purchased all of the toys from Amazon and here is a fancy little widget thing with links to each one:

The board books included in the bags were

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell • Moo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton • Peek a Who by Nina Laden • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle • Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney • Big Little by Leslie Patricelli

The booklist included these titles:

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae
Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang
Machines at Work by Byron Barton
A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker
Little Gorilla by Ruth Bornstein
Moo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
Birds by Kevin Henkes
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
Elmer and the Rainbow by David McKee
Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
Pete the Cat and his Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin
Curious George by H.A. Rey
Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker
Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh
Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems
Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson
How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight by Jane Yolen
The Mitten by Jane Brett

And lastly, the take home activity!  This was my favorite part because it connects what they learned to actually doing something– and getting rewarded for it!

ECRR Activity Board | Miss Meg's Storytime

 

This is a jpg of the image and feel free to download it and use it yourself!  If you would like and editable publisher doc then feel free to comment or email me at missmeg@missmegsstorytime.com!


 

these are the resources I used when planning my early literacy evening:

Obviously the Every Child Ready to Read handbook… We have edition 2 which is the most recent edition.

Edmonton Public Library: Early Literacy
Austin Public Library: Shared Resources for their Play Read Grow program
Dallas Public Library: Every Child Ready to Read
Zero to Three

Early Literacy Scavenger Hunt: Rainbow

Early Literacy Scavenger Hunt: Rainbow

Every six weeks or so I change our scavenger hunt.  Lately I’ve been trying to do more out of the box things instead of just looking for a picture and crossing it off a list.  Those are great sometimes and the kids love them but I wanted to incorporate more early literacy.

Our newest scavenger hunt is bilingual (English/Spanish) and helps us to learn and identify colors!

Early Literacy Scavenger Hunt
**the typo in the spanish translation has been fixed in the downloads but had not yet when I took the picture **

 

The idea is that the kids have to find something for every color in the rainbow and then draw a picture of it or write it in the circle of the corresponding color.

I have all of the downloads available for you to do it at your own library!  The PDF is here and is recommended because the fonts and formatting will all stay the same.  If you need an editable version you can use the Google drive link here.

Music & Movement: or, how you can learn from my mishaps and also not be smelly

Music & Movement: or, how you can learn from my mishaps and also not be smelly

Music & Movement

According to the internet, “music and movement is the use of rhythmic song and dance, thought of as beneficial for childhood development¹”.  Kids can lean important school readiness skills from being exposed to music and physical movement at an early age.  In a time of schools getting restrictive budget cuts to the arts and often spending more towards meeting standardized testing goals, the library can be a place to fill this necessary part in child’s education.  In a study from 2008, it was noted that “the arts can train children’s attention, which in turn improves cognition²”.

But really, I just wanted to boogie with a room full of toddlers.

and so, I set off to create a music & movement program for my community.  I’ve read great things from other librarians that have done something similar so I was very excited to start it here. So, I got the word out.  I told a bunch of parents I thought may be interested.  It was in our fall newsletter.  It was in the town newsletter.  It was on our sign out front.  I put signs at the adult circ desk.  I set up registration to have a max of 25.

I figured, “oh, I’ve got this… just pick some songs… some stretches… I’ll be golden”
So I did that.  I had an outline and songs ready to go on the smart board. I researched some good stretches to do with kids and figured out how I was going to introduce this new class. Mostly, I did keep to my outline but also improvised a bunch, and we ended up jumping around a lot more than I had planned for (or dressed for).  So without further ado, my plan:

Music & Movement!

“Music and movement is supposed to be noisy and a little bit crazy!  Parents, you are encouraged to participate with your young one to model the importance of active play. We hope to learn some new concepts including following directions, rhyme and rhythm, and creative play!” (side note: while I would have loved more parent participation it was a full room and we were very active so I understand)

Then we worked on trying to keep a beat by singing our ABC’s, counting to 10 forwards and backwards while also clapping, and marching in place.

Before being too active we of course have to stretch… and work on controlling our breathing!
Straddle, reach hands up and forwards and to each side
Arm swings
Lay on our bellies and fly
Lift up with our arms
Downward dog
Cat, Cow stretch
Lay on our backs, leg lift
Jump 5 times on command
5 Jumping Jacks

Then we moved onto actually getting up and dancing… I had these two songs up on the smartboard for us to dance to:

 

Then I attempted to create a circle and we were going to do some circle songs but that 0% worked.  So, instead I passed out some egg shakers and we shook our eggs all over the place (on our heads, bellies, etc..) and then danced to Icky Sticky Bubble Gum by David Landau– which is a HUGE hit with the storytime kids as well and worked great here.

Since we practiced our marching at the beginning I had them do some more marching exercises… We marched to The Grand Ol’ Duke of York and The Ants Go Marching.

And then, Miss Meg was exhausted.  I was sweating.  So, we ended about 20 minutes early and just did some cool down stretches.  By this point we had been jumping, moving, dancing, and singing for 40 minutes.  AND, in the future I will have someone else in the room with me but she was gone this first week.

I also have egg shakers, a parachute, scarves, and wrist ribbons for the future!

SO NOW, HOW CAN YOU LEARN FROM ME?!

My class went pretty well… As long as you are willing to adapt and have backup songs and activities you will be fine.  And if you’ve been doing storytime’s for awhile you probably already have tricks up your sleeves and go-to songs and activities.

You will also want to wear comfy clothes. Bring a backup to change into afterwards.  If you have a class like mine where the parents aren’t being active you really need to be a good role model in being active and doing what you’re asking the kids to do.  If it’s winter make sure you bring a t-shirt to change into because you will be sweaty and hot.

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Sometimes I need to dress professionally at work and sometimes I need to dress like I’m going to spend my morning stretching, dancing, and jumping with a room full of toddlers. #childrenslibrarian #librarianwardrobe #reallife #ilovemyjob

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Have water in the room with you and easily accessible.

  Bring extra deodorant.  Or go a step closer and just always have extra deodorant. 

 

If you’re feeling extra exhausted and need to cool down do some breathing exercises with the kids!

Don’t make any assumptions. Maybe you have a kid in class who isn’t moving and dancing at all.  I had one little girl like this in my class and her nanny let me know beforehand that they were mostly just there to be social because the little girl can’t really move around on her own yet due to a genetic disorder.  That’s okay!  The great thing about the library is we accept everyone!

And, if you’re female… the most important thing to remember:


¹ and by ‘internet’ I of course mean wikipedia. “Music & Movement” (page last modified on 6 June 2014)

² Arts and Smarts: Test Scores and Cognitive Development.  http://sharpbrains.com/blog/2009/04/16/arts-and-smarts-test-scores-and-cognitive-development/

Quote

Quote

so I keep seeing stuff on pinterest for www.picmonkey.com and I decided to check it out myself today! I am pretty pleased with the results– this was a web application that was very easy to use! I will definitely be using it for promotional materials and for making things things to share on our facebook page (which is what I did with this image).  It is completely free so go check it out

children are made readers

 

Baby Storytime

Baby Storytime

After my mild freak out a month ago about doing baby storytimes I am starting to get the hang out it.  By no means am I anywhere near an expert and I still have a lot to learn (from both the babies and my children’s librarian peers) but so far I am enjoying it!

I came into my position in the midst of a storytime cycle so currently we are using the Babygarten curriculum. It is also for babies 0-35 months which is a pretty huge age difference for me and something I’ve already noticed a problem with. I did page through the binder and find some interesting things but honestly I learned more from asking on twitter and visiting other blogs (again: see freakout post).  For these first few weeks I really have been sticking to stuff I already know and have done before until I get a real feel for the kids and caregivers coming in.

So, without further ado, here is what a typical baby storytime has been for me:

As they are coming in we have a short playtime and BUBBLES.  This goes on for about 10 minutes which gives everyone a chance to come in and not be late and miss the songs and stories.  I am not sure if I want to keep it like this or not so we’ll see what happens!

Opening Song I have been using Hi, Hello because it helps me to remember everyone’s names.  Also, last week, after three weeks of struggling and getting embarrassed about having to ask every session what names were, I brought out nametags. SUCH A BIG HELP.  I  just grabbed some mail labels (which for some reason were being hoarded in my office– seriously i have boxes of them) and wrote each baby’s name on it.  I was honest about my fault and just told each parent “I am really terrible at remembering names so hopefully the nametags will help!”  No one seemed to mind.

After the opening song I’ll do 2 rhymes/songs and repeat each at least twice.  Check out my BRAND SPANKIN’ NEW Songs & Rhymes page to see some of what I do :)

Next I’ll read a Big Book to the group…This last week I did The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

1 rhyme, again repeated at least twice

Felt Game… so this started out by accident; I had a duck storytime for the pre-schoolers and decided to use the same felt activity with the babies to see how it went and the absolutely LOVED it.  For the weeks after that, instead of doing the eggs, I just hid the duck behind shapes.  When I am doing this activity all of the walking kids.  I later found that Brooke at Reading with Red does something similar!  I currently don’t have themes for my baby storytime so we’ve just been using the duck, although I like Brooke’s idea of hiding something that represents the theme.

Shape Game Baby Storytime Shape Game Baby Storytiem

Knock knock knock
baby duck, baby duck
are you behind the (blue rectangle)?

Next we do a Board Book read together.  I recently asked on the Storytime Underground facebook page for board book recommendations and got some awesome responses!  I plan on making a post about the recommendations and the books I ended up purchasing soon.  This week we read Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox… It was a little bit longer than what we’ve done in the past but it went well.

Another ryhme… repeated!  Sometimes I do two shorter ones here.

Egg shaker song!  I pick a shorter song to play and give every kid an egg shaker or scarf.  Always a hit.

Closings Rhyme My favorite has always been Tickle the Clouds so that’s what I’ve been doing with this group.

Afterwards I give them a chance to play with the felt game!


So far it all seems to be working but I assume I’ll always be making some little changes here and there.  Really, it’s about being flexible and working with your group that day.  Sometimes it’s a younger group and you can do more baby bounces and lap rhymes and sometimes it’s older and we need to shake our sillies out!  I am also loving doing storytime’s with this age group :)