Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Costume Swap

My big idea for Halloween this year was to host a costume swap- bring in old costumes and get a new-to-you one in return. The Halloween party was planned to coincide with the opening of the Costume Swap Shop, where families who had brought in costumes could come and browse the selection before turning in the ticket that they got when they dropped off their costume for a different one. I had visions of spreadsheets detailing exactly who had brought in what(I love a good spreadsheet), fancy tickets and hot apple cider. A festive shopping experience for everyone.

But a costume swap is only as good as how many costumes you can get and we only got 9. We were able to make a few matches- a mom who brought in her son's old Iron Man get-up was able to take a pumpkin costume for her infant daughter, a few fairies traded in for princesses, and someone got the cutest turtle costume I've ever seen. Seriously, I want that in my size. The leftover costumes were offered back to their original owners and then either given to library kids on actual Halloween who didn't have costumes or donated to a local non-profit pre-school that's always looking to improve its costume chest.

Along the way I figured out a few things to try if we do it again next year. I think my biggest problem is that I only advertised in the neighborhood. Next time I'll go city wide to cast a bigger net. 

The main reason I'm dedicating a blog post to the sad, sad costume swap is I don't think we talk about things that fail often enough. I like results, so when things don't work the first time I'm 1) surprised and 2) discouraged. I expect things to work like I imagine the very first time and that's just not how it goes.

Has anyone out there tried a costume swap? What did you do to increase the number of costume that came in?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Theme Thursday: How Does Your Garden Grow

The local public schools celebrated "Growing Healthy Schools" week last week, where kids learned about school gardens, chefs came in and did demonstrations and local foods were highlighted in the cafeterias. In conjunction with the schools, and in a preview of Summer Reading 2013, our story time this week was all about things that grow.

Song: Good Morning Dear Earth

Finger Play: I Had a Little Turtle

Flannel: Alphabet Soup- GROW

Finger Play: 10 Little Fingers

Book: Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Elhert

Flannel: The Pizza Sally Made (Changed to The Pizza We Made at Story Time)

Song: Shake My Sillies Out

Song: I'm a Little Teapot

Song: Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Book: Pumpkin Pumpkin by Jeanne Titherington

Song: Itsy Bitsy Spider

Song: Turn Around

Make and Take Craft: Painting with Vegetables.
We touched on this idea briefly back when we made apple prints, but today there was a whole host of vegetables for us to make art with.

-vegetables, various, washed and cut
(I used okra, broccoli, apple, onion, celery, and bell pepper)

Process: Before story time, I rinsed and cut my vegetables and laid them out on the craft table with paint. After story time we handed out pieces of paper and went crazy with the different types of prints you can get from different vegetables. Okra makes stars, broccoli looks like fireworks and the leafy tops of celery kind of work like a regular paint brush)
Time: Prep took 20 minutes and the craft took 30-40. A lot of the kids abandoned the vegetable after a while and went straight to finger painting, while the caregivers and I filled sheets with awesome vegetable paintings.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Halloween Party

We had our Halloween party early this year. My big idea was to host a costume swap, which we'll touch on in a separate post, and I wanted the party to coincide with the start of that. Also, I wanted it early enough that I could justifiably not give out copious amounts of candy.

We had four activity stations at the party. They were all pretty much self-run, or easily run by the parents who came with their kids.

The exception to that was the face painting station. I painted faces for 3 hours straight and only quit when everyone and their mother had a colorful design on their cheeks. I brought out every face painting book we had and let the kids look through them or took requests- turns out I can draw a pretty good Angry Bird. Who knew? 

For face paint I followed a DIY recipe- basically corn starch, food coloring, face cream and water. It worked well enough for the simple designs but I had trouble doing the intricate ones that most kids wanted. I think the next thing I ask our Friends group for will be a nice set of face paints. It was certainly a popular enough station to warrant doing it more.

We were supposed to have a Bean Bag Toss. I made a Jack-O-Lantern, taped it to the side of our big box from the castle building day with the appropriate cut-outs and then realized I didn't have ANYTHING I could use as bean bags. But never fear, we had legos!

This game proved particularly popular with the toddlers who would just run up to the mouth and shove a lego in, giggling madly the entire time.

Using a bunch of the smaller boxes left over from our castle building days, we set up a painting station. The IDEA was to paint the faces of haunted house creatures and then we'd stack them together into the basic shape of a house and decorate the top of a book shelf with it. In actuality, I accidentally left the paint bottles on the table after measuring out nice little bits, and it turned into a who can get the most paint on a box competition. I love messy, process oriented art and so do the kids.

And finally we had a Pin the Face on the Jack-O-Lantern.

I honestly expected the party to be me and a few of the after school crowd that I could tempt away from the computers. But, hoo boy, did people turn out for this one. We had over 40 kids, plus their parents, cycling through the stations. We ended the night with an over-sized and slightly scary pajama story time.

 The aftermath.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Flannel Friday: The One that Wasn't

I lost my phone last week.

I didn't realize how much I depended on my FancyPhone until it was gone. No more looking to see if a bike was waiting for me at the bikeshare station after I'd already left my house, no more checking my e-mail on the go, no more listening to, well, anything as I walk through the streets and most importantly, no more camera at my immediate disposal.

We had three major events at the library this week that I would have loved to document but without FancyPhone, I was at a loss. The branch has a camera but it didn't have batteries and after that was resolved I discovered that it has the absolute worst picture quality of any digital camera I've ever seen. I've been making it work for the big events, just barely, by begging co-workers to take pictures using their own FancyPhones but until I figure out something a little more sustainable I'll be taking a hiatus from Flannel Friday.

Bye friends, see you soon (hopefully) and with lots of new flannels to share.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Theme Thursday: Movin' and Groovin'

Last Thursday was all about moving around. A wiggle, a shimmy, a shake and a dance does us all a lot of good.

Song: Good Morning Dear Earth

Song: If You're Wearing Blue Today

If you're wearing blue today, blue today, blue today
If you're wearing blue today
Stand up and shout "Hooray!"

red, purple, green, yellow etc...
(originally learned at the Arlington Public Library)

Book:Wiggle by Doreen Cronin

Song: Open, Shut Them

Song: Shake Your Sillies Out

Finger Play: 10 Little Fingers

Flannel: 5 Little Ducks

Book: Clap Your Hands by Lorinda Bryan Cauley

Song: Turn Around

Make and Take Craft: None!

Instead of a craft for our movement day (I considered things like pinwheels before deciding I didn't want to put sharp pins around the babies) I brought out all of our musical instruments, turned on a dance cd and we had a big ole' party.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Flannel Friday: Lots 'o Dots

This is possibly the easiest flannel set in the world to make. All you have to be able to do is cut an approximation of a circle. Are mine perfect? Nope. Does it matter? Not at all.
I'll probably reuse all of these pieces again, turning them into something else when I need them.
For our art story time I wanted to use Peter H. Reynolds' book The Dot. I liked that it made the point that art can be anything, it doesn't have to look fancy or technically precise to be anything. The book itself is beautiful but "quiet" with small pages and washed out illustrations. For use in story time it had to be a little more exciting. 

By using the felt dots as I read the book out loud, kids could help me figure out which colors and sizes to put up on the board and take a more active role in the story.

First there was one dot

Small dots

Large dots

Dots of all different colors. Even dots made in negative space

And lastly there's the little boy who can't draw dots, but can draw squiggles.

Flannel Friday is hosted this week by Sarah at Read Sarah Read and for more information, past round-ups and ways to get involved, please visit the official Flannel Friday website.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Theme Thursday: Art

After two straight weeks of lackluster themes (shapes and opposites), me loosing my set list (what I like to call the story time script. It makes me feel more like a rock star) and failing to take pictures of the craft, we are back, baby, with last week's story time all about ART.

Song: Good Morning Dear Earth

Flannel: Little Mouse

Finger Play: I Had a Little Turtle

Song: Open, Shut Them

Flannel: Alphabet Soup- ART

(A particularly big hit with the Brown Bear, Brown Bear fans)

Finger Play: 2 Little Blackbirds

Flannel: I Had a Rooster

Song: Shake Your Sillies Out

Song: Grand Old Duke of York

Book/Flannel: The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

Song: Itsy Bitsy Spider

Song: Turn Around from Hap Palmer's Getting to Know Myself

Make and Take Craft: Puffy Paint

At our last children's meeting we had a whole section devoted to process oriented art or art for the sake of making art. With process oriented art, it doesn't matter what the end result it is, it's all focused on making art in new and interesting ways and really focusing on what you're doing, not what you expect. It's pretty easy to see how this ties into early literacy skills- help the kids build narrative skills by explaining to you what they're doing, using the new means to make familiar symbols etc...) and I got really freaking excited about it.

My personal favorite way we experimented with making art in the children's meeting was by using shaving cream and white glue to make puffy paint and I could not wait to try it with my story time crowd.

I think the kids like it as much as I did. Except for the few who do not like getting messy. But I never understood them anyway.

-Barbosol (or any type of puffy shaving cream. I.E. not gel)
-white glue
-tempera paint or food coloring

Process: There was zero prep for this sucker since I mixed the paint in front of the kids. In a paper bowl or plate combine a good size pour of white glue (I'd say about 1/4 a cup) with a squirt of paint or food coloring.

Time: Zero prep and the craft took 40 minutes

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Mark of Athena/Camp Half Blood Party

 Last Wednesday we held a super fun awesome fantastic party to celebrate the release of the latest Hero of Olympus book, the Mark of Athena by Rick Riordian. Not a lot of the kids who showed up had read any of the Percy Jackson books so we made sure to point out our lovely display of Greek mythology books.

To ease the kids into the Greek mythology theme we started with a matching game. Each kid got a slip of paper with the name and description of a Greek god or their Roman counterpart. The kids had to use the descriptions to mingle in and out of the crowd and find their match. We did several rounds, changing the rules each time. The first round was a free-for-all where the kids just had to find their match through any means necessary, in the the second round you couldn't say any of the words on your slip of paper and the final round was completely silent and ended up being a great game of charades.

We have an awesome new person working in the children's room. After two months of running the department by my completely overwhelmed self, back up arrived and this game, as well as the trivia round that followed, were done completely by Ms. E. I can't even begin to describe how nice it feels to breathe again.

Our next game was Pin the Snake on Medusa. Again we did several rounds which got progressively rowdier and more hysterical each time a kid tried to walk straight past the pillar where the poster was secured. We did have to make a rule about no feeling around for the correct place to stick the snake. Those kids were sneaky!

We made shields next. I did quick drawing instructions for symbols for the 12 major Greek gods (plus Hermes and Hestia because they've always been my favorites) and the kids used those to decorate sheilds. The instructions are here in case you're interested in drawing your own winged sandal (not my best effort) or peacock feather.

And after the Wimpy Kid party, I don't think I could get away with not having cookies to decorate.

Some kids used the drawing instructions for their cookies as well- here's D's Key of Hades.

And others just used as much icing as humanly possible...

The last activity before we showed the Percy Jackson movie (which resulted in more than one kid checking out The Lightning Thief and the movie) was our pinata. I made a minotaur pinata (instructions to come in a later post) that we hung from a long piece of leftover window blinds and suspended over the wall into the party room. We had an old toy sword in the Lost and Found and it made a perfect weapon for battling the minotaur. It only took about 3 whacks for the mighty beast to fall and the next time we use a pinata I'll have to figure out a better way of hanging it.                                            

Overall the party was a success. I swore, like I always do, to never again give that many kids that much sugar before asking them to sit still for a movie or any sort of activity. Maybe the next party will feature more apple slices and goldfish crackers and less processed icing.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Flannel Friday: Let's Go Out on a Spooky Night

Since our story time closest to Halloween falls on November 1, I'm planning on doing a Dia de los Muertos story time instead of a traditional Halloween story time. I meant to have a Dia flannel to share today, but with the Mark of Athena party earlier this week and me being very slow in translating the Spanish poems I've found, it's still in the works.

Instead, I retro fitted a flannel I shared at the beginning of the summer- Let's Go Out on a Summer's Night- to Let's Go Out on a Spooky Night.

I kept the moon, stars and flying bats.

And added...

A Jack-O-Lantern

A black cat
(The 2 year old hanging out with me as I took the pictures told me this was a Mickey)

A crawling spider
(and before she'd let me take this one down we had to sing Itsy Bitsy Spider)

and 3 witches hats.

There are also a few trick or treaters- children's faces with masks on- but they were not quite finished when I took the pictures. I figure it will be good practice getting the first time trick or treaters used to some of the decorations that they might see on Halloween before the actual day. Halloween can be overwhelming, y'all, even for big kids like me.

The special Halloween version of Flannel Friday is hosted by Miss Mary at Miss Mary Liberry and you can find more info on Flannel Friday at the official website.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Monster Mash

At the beginning of October, we hosted a "party" and stealth drafted the kids into making Halloween decorations for the children's room for us. Genius I tell you, pure genius and everyone loves a good craft session.

We had four stations set up, as well as some music, snacks and later a movie. After a quick explanation from me about how the stations would work it was off to the races.

I really wish I had taken some before shots so you could see the set up, but we were running short on time and the kids were practically knocking down the door to get in.

Station 1:  Paper Plate Pumpkins

One of the great side benefits to all the produce boxes the guys at Safeway gave us in September were the weird dividers that separated the apples while they were in the boxes. I cut up a few of those and used them to hold pumpkin appropriate paint colors- 2 shades of orange, green and black.

The kids used sponges and tiny paint brushes to make their own, gorgeous jack-o-lanterns.
We let them dry and strung them up like garlands. They are currently hanging in a curtain behind the librarians' desk.

Station 2: Spiderwebs

On top of the butcher paper that was covering all the craft tables, I taped down freezer paper with the waxy side up. Then, using glitter glue, the kids and I drew spiderwebs. Once the glue dried, the webs were easily peeled off and are currently stuck to the windows and doors leading into the room. After a while the allure of peeling off glitter glue grew too strong for mere spiderwebs and kids began writing their names and scary, holiday themed words.

Station 3: Chalk Bats

I love the look of chalk on black paper. For this craft I cut out a basic black bat shape and had the kids color them in with sidewalk chalk. They are also now in garlands, strung out along the top of the non-fiction bookshelves.

Station 4: Trick or Treaters

I left out large pieces of poster board and several Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Faces step-by-step drawing instructions for creepy Halloweeny faces- the skull, a witch, a martian and a Mortica Adams/Cruella DeVille looking woman. A lot of the kids took home their drawings so we don't have any up right now but I have a feeling I'll be whipping up some witches to hang around the room: I really like how they turned out.

After the kids were crafted out we gave them apple slices, a little bit of candy and some apple juice and settled in to watch Monster House . All in all a quick and easy craft program that left our room ready for Halloween.