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?

Flannel Friday: 5 Superheroes

Flannel Friday: 5 Superheroes

This flannel was a part of my superhero storytime that I blogged about previously here.
5 Superheroes

I, like many before me, turned this song by Jbrary into a flannel activity!

It was a big hit and the kids really enjoyed guessing what superheroes I had.  In order to make it less boy-centric I said that it was batgirl not batman, and then also included wonder woman.

Flannel Friday this week is hosted by Lisa’s Libraryland. To learn more about Flannel Friday click here.

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/