Movers & Makers: the first month

The new toddler/preschool program that I've been working on, Movers & Makers, is merrily making its way into its second month of existence. We're having a lot of fun and also constantly making small adjustments to help everything run smoothly. We're getting a great response to the program so far, which is wonderful and also poses some challenges (we are very tight on space, and our groups are getting pretty sizable! Good problem to have of course). We've hit upon a pretty good template that we're only changing up slightly each week. The kids really like our activities and are picking up on the games and songs quickly. 

Here's a few photos from a stamping project we did a few weeks ago. I was a little nervous about introducing paint into a crowded program, but the kids did really well with it; we had one blob make it onto the floor but otherwise any "extra" went onto the tabletops which were easily wiped down afterward.

Movers & Makers: First day!

Yesterday was the first day of a new program at the library. Talk about butterflies! This was really the first library program that I've worked on developing myself (as opposed to inheriting outlines or routines from others) so let me tell you, I was nervous!

At my library we offer two early literacy programs per week for our small town of just over 5,000 residents. Wednesdays are our toddler/preschool story times, and Fridays - up until this week - are a drop-in craft activity that, due to staff time constraints, typically amounted to coloring pages cut out and taped onto construction paper backgrounds. We definitely have regulars at the craft days, but Fridays turned in to more of a social hour for the grown-ups than entirely focused on the kids and early literacy practices. Since I started at the library just over a year ago, these craft days and ways to revamp them had been on my mind, but it was only recently (with the hiring of additional hourly staff) that I've been able to really devote time to thinking about potential changes to the program.

With the anticipation of more program prep time on the horizon, I talked with our children's room staff member who organizes the early literacy programs about some potential changes to our Friday craft days. She gets tired of doing the same thing each week, too, so she was on board to change up our approach to Fridays. With more free time during the day, I'd be able to assist with the program and to prep for it, too - something that her half-time schedule simply did not allow for. 

We bounced some ideas around as our pre-holiday programs wrapped up, and eventually settled on a program that would be part-music and movement, part-hands-on activity that would draw heavily from early art education curricula. Especially during our cold winter this year, we were noticing that the kids really needed to get out their wiggles during story time, so we wanted to make sure we accounted for that with the new/expanded Friday program. We've also been fortunate enough this year to acquire a lot of new props - a parachute, scarves, beanbags, and handbells - so we wanted a dedicated time each week when the kids could work and play with those. 

Together, we arrived at the title "Movers & Makers" for the program - something that parents could look at and recognize the two main components of the program. Our activities are aimed at the 18 mos - 3 years crowd, with older siblings and friends welcome (preschool age kids are fabulous role models and helpers and we didn't want to exclude them). I sourced some program templates from libraries that I know are doing fun and effective programs for that age group, and cobbled together a program template based on the outlines I gathered. Our template has a lot of activities on it, because let's face it, there's nothing worse than sitting up there feeling panicky because every finger play you've ever learned has gone out of your head.

Because we were keeping with the same time on Fridays as our programs had always been, we didn't need to advertise the new program too much. We wrote an article about the revamped program for our local paper, and posted about the changes on our Facebook page complete with a photo of some of the props we'd be using. 

So - what'd we do on our first day? Like I said, we definitely over-planned with our activities, but better that than the alternative! Here's a quick overview:

  • As people came in, we used bubble blasters to give our on-time arrivals a special welcome. We sang "The Bubble Song" by Pam Schiller and encouraged the kids to pop the bubbles while we sang.
  • After bubbles, we did a name game that ended up going a little long because we had so many people! (Not complaining about this!) In the future, we will likely do a drum welcome (each person hits a drum and says their first name) since that goes a little faster.
  • A "Walking, Walking" song that gets kids walking, hopping, running, and stopping!
  • Our letter-sound of the week (this week was B-B-B).
  • The A-B-C handjive.
  • An on-your-feet activity about colors.
  • Jim Gill's List of Dances. They liked this so much we did it twice - from beginning of the list, and then starting at the end and working our way up the list.
  • We will end each program with "We Are the Dinosaurs" by the Lori Berkner Band.

Normally we'd also do a prop-based set of activities (I was planning on using the parachute this week) but we simply ran out of time. 


Then it was time for the "Makers" part of the morning. For our first week we did "no mess finger painting" with primary colors to talk about what new colors we could make using red, blue, and yellow. We had prepped two folding tabletops with projects ahead of time and simply moved the tabletops right onto the floor so that the little ones could sit directly on the floor and do the project on the hard table surface. The kids (and grown-ups) really liked this simple, mess-free project. 

Note: I LOVE the toddler art class ideas by Carissa Christner at Library Makers. I'm sourcing project ideas for this program from her website. 

We got all-around good feedback from attendees on our first attempt at this program. As far as future adjustments go, we'll scale back the introduction portion since that went a little long, and we'll prioritize our weekly prop activities to make sure that the kids have a chance to use them in the program. And, as long as we still have our audience's attention, we'll allow the Movers part of the program to go longer than the originally stated thirty minutes. We are due to get some awesome carpet squares so we're looking forward to using those hopefully in our second week of Movers & Makers - this week we made do with a mat and some quilts. 

ote: we are lucky enough to have two staff members who can partner to present this program. It did take several hours of prep work to make the first program run the way it did!

The library in awesome & unexpected places

Artwork by John LeMasney,

Artwork by John LeMasney,

I'm super excited to be part of the Show Me the Awesome multi-blog series, coordinated by Kelly Jensen (read her introductory post), Sophie Brookover (check out the Show Me the Awesome Tumblr) and Liz Burns.

My Show Me the Awesome post is all about bringing the library and a lot of the neat stuff we support: literacy, creativity, and child development, outside of the library. Early on in my career as a librarian (first as a youth librarian and now as an Assistant Director focusing on programming and outreach) I discovered that as much as I enjoy facilitating programs that take place in the library, surrounded by our books and other media, I really really like popping up in funky or unorthodox places to bring library activities to the community at times outside of the regular library routine. 

I have two “pop-up” programs taking place this summer in my capacity as Assistant Director for a small public library in Wisconsin. One is a library table at our town’s Saturday farmers market. We provide supplies for a hands-on project that kids (and grown-ups!) can do, along with a bookmark with “related titles” of books and other media from our collection.

Another activity (one that we’re trying for the first time in our community) is a partnership with our local swimming pool! Every week I’ll be at the pool under an umbrella (armed with a big floppy sunhat) for “Break with a Book” - a short (20 min.) story time that coincides with the afternoon adult swim time. Kids sit on their towels and I read a picture book (something familiar that they can engage with and don’t have to crowd super close to see the pictures) and we sing a couple of songs. When the whistle blows, it’s back into the water. 

I love these encounters, brief though they may be, that take place outside of the library in the summer time. For one thing, we’re adding value for important community partners like our local growers association and our community pool - both groups mention us in their advertising as an added draw for families. Prep for these activities need not be extensive; I keep a running list of titles and songs that would work at the pool going constantly and always try to sing familiar songs so that I don’t need to bring song sheets with me.

I find that these activities are a good way to connect with kids and families who aren’t necessarily coming to the library for summer reading events and programs. It's a chance to remind them about upcoming events, and answer questions about library cards and fines. 

I KNOW that other libraries "pop-up" in unexpected places - without being able to point directly to other examples, I know that I've heard about story times and other activities at campgrounds, on the banks of a river, in parks, stadiums, and more. The opportunities are endless. Unexpected, yes, but awesome? Absolutely! 

Follow the awesome on Twitter at #30awesome.

Spring break tech workshop

sploder workshop.jpg

Over spring break week I facilitated a tech workshop for teens (5th grade and up) on video game making. We used, a really easy-to-use web-based game maker that lets kids make old-school space shooter games, retro arcade games, and basic platformer games among others. 

I wrote about the workshop in more detail on the Library as Incubator Project. The kids had a really good time; it's definitely one we'll do again on the Tech Thursdays I'm planning for next fall.