Thursday, June 26, 2014

Vegas, Baby! (For a Professional Librarian Conference!)

Yes, I'm headed to Las Vegas for the next several days, attending the American Library Association's Annual Conference! To be completely honest with you, my brain is fried between READING and summer and SUMMER READING. I feel like I need an aide to take my hand and lead me to all the fun and educational things. But I am hoping to tweet, so follow @abbylibrarian for conference goings-on. 

Luckily, the lovely folks at the ALSC Blog will be live blogging, so if you're playing along at home, don't forget to check them out! 

And I'll be back to blogging sometime after the conference.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Preschool Lab: Five Senses

This week in Preschool Lab, we talked about the five senses. This was a really simple and fun science storytime and the kids were amazing this week. (I really needed a simple program this week!)

Here's what we did:


Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello - our standard opener that signals to all that it's time to start listening. Bonus points for this week since we used several sensing parts in our song (nose, tongue, hands...)

Book: Cold, Crunchy, Colorful: Using Our Senses by Jane Brocket. Large, colorful pictures and a simple text makes this book a great one for sharing with a group. It talks about the five senses (sight, touch, smell, taste, and hearing) and things we can experience with our five senses. This is a great book for introducing some new vocabulary!

Felt: The four tastes! I am a lucky girl that Miss T did the five senses for her Toddler Times last week, so she had already made all my props. For this felt, I put up each tasting word (sour, sweet, bitter, and salty) with one picture to remind us which one it is (salt shaker, bitter & sour faces, and sugar). Then I held up the rest of the pictures one at a time and asked kids where I should put them. Bitter was hard (probably these kids have not tasted much bitter stuff!), but they got all the rest with flying colors!

Song: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. I did this one as a quick stretcher and mentioned that we'd use some of our sensing parts. Really, I just wanted the kids to get some wiggles out. ;) 

Book: Shark in the Park by Nick Sharrat. This is a fun story for talking about sight. Timothy Pope keeps thinking he sees a shark in the park through his telescope, but it keeps turning out to be something different. I made this participatory by asking the kids to use their hands to make their own telescope and we all looked up at the sky, down at the ground, left, right, and alllll around! This is a short, funny story and a crowd-pleaser. 

Book: Rain by Marya Stojic. This is another book that uses all five senses as different African animals wait for rain to come. 

Closing Song: Do You Know What Time It Is? Before we go into the closing song, I explain the stations briefly and encourage grownups to accompany their children and talk with them, using lots of different words to describe what they're sensing. 


Short and sweet this week = just what I needed!

Touch. Miss T made these touch boards to use with her toddlers. She cut out small pieces of cardboard and glued different textures to one side and a list of words on the other side. The touching side has aluminum foil (smooth), a feather (tickly), a sponge (spongy), lace (bumpy), felt (soft), and sandpaper (scratchy). 

Mystery Boxes. Miss T also turned empty tissue boxes into mystery boxes. The idea is that kids will stick their hands in and try to tell by touching what's inside. If kids pull it out to look at it, that's okay, too. They're using their senses of touch and sight together to figure out what's inside. 

Smelling Bottles. Miss T used little spray bottles and put a cotton ball soaked in extract in each one. She used orange, vanilla, strawberry, banana, grape, and lemon extracts. Since she was using them with the younger kids, she kept it to nice smells. Other ideas: coffee, spices, dirt/mud, etc. 

And that was it for this week! We had a big crowd - 28 kids with siblings counted - but the stations were simple and pretty quick and that made things go really smoothly. Of course I had a book display and their take-home packets. We're halfway through our summer Preschool Labs! 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Reading Wildly: Reader's Choice

What is Reading Wildly like in the summertime? Well, we're lucky if we can carve out half an hour when it's quiet enough in the Children's Room and we're all here. Usually, we go around the circle and each person is welcome to talk about as many books as they would like to share. In June, I asked everyone to keep it to one title until everyone had shared and we could go back around if we had time. We didn't have time. It picked up again in the department and I sent everyone back to work.

I didn't get it together this month to hand out an article, which is probably just as well since we wouldn't have had time to discuss it. I did, however, read and think about Amy Koester's great post at The Show-Me Librarian, Thoughts on Reader's Advisory. Before we shared, I introduced the concept that even though we are all preparing ourselves as generalists, it's great that we have team members who gravitate towards certain genres and reading levels. I asked everyone to think about what kind of reader they are and to share that with us if they felt like they knew. If they felt like they weren't sure yet, I asked them to be thinking about it and we'll talk about it again next month.

A is one of our team members who gravitates towards scary books and books about the supernatural. If I have a kid who's read every scary book I can think of, I'll tag A in and I know she'll have some suggestions. Myself, I have developed a great love for nonfiction and I tend towards tween-level books. I encouraged everyone to let me know if they ever need help coming up with nonfiction suggestions. We'll all be thinking about which genres or formats we each feel like we are experts in and I think that'll help us provide great reader's advisory as a team.

Everyone shared at least one book with the group this time around, but we ran out of time to discuss (and photograph) all of our books. Since we didn't get to hear about everyone's books, I'll compile the book review sheets everyone submitted and share them with staff so they can learn about some great books. I'll also add each of the books to our Reading Wildly book lists that we keep in our catalog. Here's the list of what we read this month:

Next month (July) will be Reader's Choice again. Again, I don't have an article and I'm not sure how much time we'll have to meet. That's how things go in the summer! Our staff Summer Reading "log" has been working great to show everyone how much we're reading. The meetings are nice to touch base with each other, but we all know we're all reading anyway!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Preschool Lab: Dinosaurs

Last week in Preschool Lab, we had big fun talking about dinosaurs.

Here's what we did:


Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello

Book: Bones, Bones, Dinosaur Bones by Byron Barton. We talked about scientists who search for dinosaur bones, the tools they use, and where the bones go.

Book: Inside-Outside Dinosaurs by Roxie Monroe. This is a simple book that shows the inside (skeleton) of a dinosaur species and then a picture of the dinosaur as the whole animal might have looked, existing in the wild. Simply went through and read the names of the dinosaurs and we talked about some of their features (triceratops has three horns, brachiosaurus has a long neck and a long tail, etc.). This was a great lead-in to our next activity...

Felt Activity: Dinosaurs. We had a set of felt dinosaurs from a previous program and I handed them out to the kids. When I called the dinosaur they had, they brought it up to the felt board and put it up. After we were done, the kids helped me count while I took the dinosaurs off. (This is a sneaky way to get a head count!)

Book: Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs by Byron Barton. I maybe didn't need this book, but it was a nice, simple one to talk about the dinosaurs we had already learned. It also shows that dinosaurs hatch from eggs.

Closing Song: Do You Know What Time It Is? Before the closing song, I let them know that I am all out of stories and I explain the stations so parents (if they are listening) will have some ideas about what to do. I encourage them to check out some books and take a packet home. Then we sing our closing song and go to stations.


Mud Dough. Miss A had this leftover from the previous week's play dough program. I put out this brown play dough with pasta and shells. They could use the pasta to make a dinosaur skeleton, experiment with making prints, or use the play dough to form a dinosaur. They had lots of fun with this station and it's a great sensory experience, even if their creations didn't have anything to do with dinosaurs (most of them didn't). 

Dino Footprint. We got this activity from the American Museum of Natural History: How Big Were the Dinosaurs? One of my librarians used it for a dinosaur program last summer and I recreated it. I asked Miss T to cut out a dinosaur footprint from our bulletin board paper. The shape is approximate and it measures 4 feet long by 2 feet wide. I taped it to the floor with tons of packing tape and then posted a sign inviting kids to walk across and count how many of their steps would fit inside this dinosaur footprint. 

Stegosaurus Spike Game. I found this activity on the blog Sorting Sprinkles, via Pinterest. Kids roll a die and put that many spikes on their stegosaurus. This is a good activity for practicing counting, and pinching the clothespins is a great activity to build fine muscle control. 

Toys & Felt Board. We have some dinosaur toys with the toys we use for Toddler Time and I put out our dinosaur set on the felt board for kids to explore. 

And, of course, I put out a book display and take-home packets! I may rethink the take-home packets after this summer because it seems like only half of them are getting taken each week. We'll soon be planning our fall storytime sessions and that may be something we eliminate. While it's great to give them something to take home, it's fairly staff-intensive to put them together. Maybe we can do without! 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Science Activity Packs: Texture Book

Texture Books are a great activity for young children in your program (though older kids may enjoy making them, too!). For this activity, we included several sheets of white construction paper (purchased for our Tangram packs) and 3 crayons of various colors (we ordered crayons in bulk from Amazon, $10 for 250 crayons. There are many places you can get crayons in bulk for pretty cheap!).

To make a Texture Book, children go on a hunt through their house or neighborhood and use the crayons to do texture rubbings to add to their book. Examples of different textures they might find include tree bark, sidewalks, the bottom of their shoe, etc.

This is another cheap and easy one and it's great for young children to do.

This year, we've revamped our Summer Reading Club prizes to get rid of cheap, plastic toys and encourage kids to keep exploring and learning after they're done with the SRC. Check out my post on revamping our Summer Reading Club prizes for a full list of Science Activity Pack ideas!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Science Activity Packs: Tangram Challenge

The Tangram Challenge is one of the cheapest and easiest Science Activity Packs to put together. Tangrams are a Chinese puzzle consisting of seven "tans" (shapes). The challenge is to create each of the shapes included using all seven tans. They can't overlap and each shape has to touch another shape.

If you search Google images, you get LOTS of ideas of tangram challenges and you can find the shapes used in tangrams, too. Our copier will take construction paper run through the manual feed, so it was super easy to run off copies of the tans that kids can cut out. Then we included a sheet of challenges for them (with solutions on the back side).

We ordered a pack of 300 sheets of construction paper from Amazon for $9.29, but you may have an even cheaper source or you may have some on hand already!

Stay tuned for more about our Science Activity Packs!

This year, we've revamped our Summer Reading Club prizes to get rid of cheap, plastic toys and encourage kids to keep exploring and learning after they're done with the SRC. Check out my post on revamping our Summer Reading Club prizes for a full list of Science Activity Pack ideas!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Science Activity Packs: Marshmallow Builders

Here's another Science Activity Pack: building with marshmallows and toothpicks! For this pack, we included:
  • 30 mini-marshmallows (5 bags came to about $9.00 at our grocery) and
  • 40 toothpicks (17 boxes came to about $10 at our grocery)
We felt that this activity was pretty self-explanatory, so we included some questions to help kids explore and try some different things: 
  • How tall is your creation? 
  • How long is your creation? 
  • How many shapes can you make? 
  • How many toothpicks did you use? 
  • How many marshmallows did you use? 
Anyone have bets on how many kids just eat their marshmallows instead of experimenting? :) 

Stay tuned for more Science Activity Packs coming up!

This year, we've revamped our Summer Reading Club prizes to get rid of cheap, plastic toys and encourage kids to keep exploring and learning after they're done with the SRC. Check out my post on revamping our Summer Reading Club prizes for a full list of Science Activity Pack ideas!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Science Activity Packs: Exploding Stick Bomb

First of all, this is NOT actually a bomb or any kind of weapon/firearm. :)

Here's another one of our Science Activity Packs we're using for prizes this summer. This one is super simple. It just includes 10 jumbo craft sticks (purchased from Amazon, $7.27 for 500) and the following instructions: 

Step #1: Cross two sticks into an "x" shape like in the picture. Slant the sticks so that there are two obtuse and two acute angles. The stick on top will be stick 1 and the stick on bottom will be stick 2, see picture #1 for note.

Step #2: Add stick 3 by tucking one end under the end of Stick 2. The new stick should go over Stick 1.

 Step #3: Add another stick by tucking it's end under Stick 2 and letting the rest lay over Stick 3.

Step #4: Continue adding sticks like the pictures until you've reached the desired length. Just remember that patience will pay off and the longer the stick bomb you make the longer explosion show you'll have.


The website has videos that may help explain and we've included photos of each step to help our young builders figure it out. 

Stay tuned for more info about our Science Activity Packs in the coming days! 

This year, we've revamped our Summer Reading Club prizes to get rid of cheap, plastic toys and encourage kids to keep exploring and learning after they're done with the SRC. Check out my post on revamping our Summer Reading Club prizes for a full list of Science Activity Pack ideas!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Science Activity Packs: Balloon Rocket

I've mentioned before that we're revamping our prizes for the Summer Reading Club this year. Part of that is providing a choice of Science Activity Packs when kids complete the Summer Reading Club. Science Activity Packs include supplies and instructions for a science activity that kids can do at home.

Our Balloon Rocket activity packs include: 

  • 1 balloon (purchased in bulk from Amazon, $12.97 for 144 balloons)
  • 1 long piece of kite string (we had this already)
  • 1 plastic straw (purchased at our local grocery for a couple of dollars, I think)

The only thing we don't include is a couple pieces of tape. And we include instructions. 


1. Tie one end of the string to a chair, door knob, or other support.

2. Put the other end of the string through the straw.

3. Pull the string tight and tie it to another support in the room.

4. Blow up the balloon (but don't tie it.) Pinch the end of the balloon and tape the balloon to the straw as shown above. You're ready for launch. Let go and watch the rocket fly!


The website includes some additional ideas for experimenting and explains how the science works. 

Stay tuned for more Science Activity Packs in the coming weeks!

This year, we've revamped our Summer Reading Club prizes to get rid of cheap, plastic toys and encourage kids to keep exploring and learning after they're done with the SRC. Check out my post on revamping our Summer Reading Club prizes for a full list of Science Activity Pack ideas!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Summer Reading Check-In

Summer Reading. We're in the thick of it, for sure.

You've read about how we revamped our SRC prizes this year and that's going really well so far. I can't tell you how happy it makes me to see kids coming in and picking out prize books. This year we have two prize levels and we've gotten rid of our "Grand Prize" drawings. I didn't even think about this, but I think it's going to make life easier for us all summer long since kids won't be checking in for prizes after they hit that second level. I'm already thinking about what we can do next year - maybe adding a sticker to a picture for every 5 books read or building something like this robot over at the La Crosse (WI) Library.

(Children's Librarians: we're ALWAYS THINKING. Even when we're in the thick of this summer, I'm thinking about next summer.)

Here's what our staff reading "log" looks like so far. Lots of books being added! It's been really fun for me to see what we're all reading, especially since our Reading Wildly meetings are not really on schedule. We'll get back into the swing of things in August, but for June and July we snatch any time to meet that we can!

I've been chatting up a lot of teachers to promote our classroom booktalking this summer and I have a list of teachers to contact once we get close to school starting. (There I go again, thinking about the future, but this is a great time to corner teachers who are bringing their own kids to the library!)

Basically, we've been really, really busy. With the kids finally out of school and our programs in full-swing, we're seeing hundreds and hundreds of kids each day. This is GREAT!!! But it's exhausting. Pretty much all the favorite series and pop-culture subjects are all checked out right now. It feels like we're doing more readers' advisory this summer than every before. Whether that's a product of us being more confident and offering the service more or whether the kids listened to us at our school visits when we challenged them to ask us for suggestions, I don't know. Maybe it's a mix of both.

Our self-directed science activities are going AMAZINGLY well. Our caterpillars are snug in their cocoons. I switched out the slides in our science viewers because they were getting a little rough around the edges (which makes it hard to push them back into the slot). And we put out our magnet wands and pipe cleaners on our science table, which has been really fun for a wide range of ages. Plus, it's super easy to clean up the spilled pipe cleaners and it's fun enough that the bigger kids will do it for us!

One big change (for me) is that I'm not as concerned about numbers this year as I have been in past years. Our schools are changing their calendars and summer vacation is shorter than it's ever been. We had a ton of snow days, so it's taking everyone a little longer to get in gear for summer. And I'm finding it more valuable to have meaningful interactions with our patrons than to push everyone to register for Summer Reading, whether they really want to or not. ;)

How's your summer going?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Those Summer Reading Club Prizes

So. Revamping the prizes for the Summer Reading Club. We're doing it this year and I'm really, really excited about the changes we've made. We typically have about 1000 PreK-5th grade kids finish the Summer Reading Club and earn prizes. This is in addition to our Daycare Summer Reading Club kids, who get a different prize for simplicity's sake. Our programming budget for the year is $5000 and out of that, we designate $3000 for Summer Reading Club. This includes hiring performers, ordering SRC supplies like book bags and reading logs, decorations, prizes, and supplies for all programs throughout the summer.

For many years, we've offered a packet of coupons donated by local businesses (free ice cream, pizza, zoo passes, etc.), which we're still doing. I also like to give them a little something with the coupons because not everyone can use the coupons, and the idea of coupons is vague, especially for littles. BUT. I HATE the idea of giving them some cheap piece of plastic. 

So this year, we've put together a bunch of different Science Activity Packs. When kids complete the Summer Reading Club (for us, it's reading 30 books or reading for 10 hours), they'll get their freebie coupons and they'll select from a menu of science activities that they can take home and do. Here's our menu: 

Each of these links will take you to more details about the activity, but basically we provide the supplies and a sheet with instructions, challenges, and/or ideas for additional activities they can do with the materials provided. Each of the packs we're providing cost 30 cents or less to put together, including the plastic bags. We made at least 100 of each to start with and they're costing WAY less than the plastic prizes we were giving away before. 

Yes, they were labor-intensive to put together, but it gave us a great project to utilize the volunteers we have at the library! And they have been very popular with the kids. They love choosing from our menu and we've not had one complaint about them not getting a toy. 

The other big change we made with prizes this year was to eliminate our "Grand Prize" drawings in favor of giving away a free book to every child who completes two levels of the program. In the past, kids could earn raffle tickets for every so many books or minutes they read. The prizes were high-appeal, but only a few kids would actually win them. 

This year, we've culled together prize books from donations and from review copies I receive for this blog. We may also supplement by ordering additional books through the Scholastic FACE (Family and Community Engagement) program, which provides books at a very low cost to organizations who will give those books away to children. 

I wondered if we'd have upset kids and parents when they didn't see all those prize drawing boxes on the back of our desk, but so far everyone's understood the need for a change. We only have to tell them that this way, EVERYONE has the potential to win something, not just 20-odd kids at the end of the summer. 

There are more reasons than that, of course. By giving away books, we're practicing intrinsic motivation (reading for the love of reading) rather than encouraging extrinsic motivation (reading because you might win Legos). Guess which kind of motivation is more effective in creating life-long readers? To go along with that, we've emphasized to kids throughout our school visits that we would love to help them pick out books that are AWESOME and will be fun to read this summer and we've been doing a LOT of readers' advisory.

I'll have more information about our science activity packs in the coming days, but in the meantime I'd love to know what creative ideas you've had for Summer Reading prizes!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Preschool Lab: Ocean Animals

This week for Preschool Lab, we talked about oceans. Specifically, we talked about ocean animals. This was a really fun theme and the kids enjoyed it. I realized that the books I picked out this week were not really stories and, while they worked just fine and I love showing the kids real pictures, if I was to plan this one over again I would probably include a story for one of the books (maybe A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle or Swimmy by Leo Lionni). One of the nice things about this theme is that there is a LOT of material to choose from!

So, here's what I did.

Always include a book display!


Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello

Word Cloud: What lives in an ocean? We started by making a word cloud of ocean animals. I asked the kids what lives in an ocean and wrote down what they said. This is a great activity for showing that printed words have meaning, for introducing lots of new vocabulary words to the group, and for validating each child's own knowledge.

Looking back, I should have had a familiar song to bring the group back together after this time of talking out. My kids were not ready to listen yet. Maybe if I had started with the word cloud and then gone into our opening song, it would have worked better.

Book: Life in an Ocean by Carol Lindeen. This nonfiction book shows photos of oceans and some of the animals that live in the ocean. As part of the Pebble Plus series, you know it has big, colorful pictures, which are great for sharing with a group.

Felt Activity: Ocean Animals. I passed out pictures of ocean animals and the kids brought them up to populate our "ocean" as I called the animal they had. This activity helps kids practice listening and following directions.

Book: Ocean Counting by Janet Lawler. This is another book with lots of great animals to see in the pictures. Reading this book introduces children to lots of new vocabulary words and they can practice counting with you.

Book: Gooey Jellyfish by Natalie Lunis. I didn't read the text of this book, but I showed the kids the first few pages of the book and we talked about what jellyfish looked like. I wanted to make sure to include a jellyfish book since I had a jellyfish station. We talked about how jellyfish are see-through and they have tentacles and come in many different colors.

Closing Song & Station Intro: Do You Know What Time It Is? We sang our closing song and then I asked them to freeze for one minute while I explained the stations we had to offer. Then they were allowed to visit whichever stations they wanted.


Jellyfish. I put out supplies for them to make this jellyfish collage found on Juggling With Kids. Instead of using contact paper, I used wax paper and pre-cut the jellyfish bells and taped two together with one piece of tape at the top. This was easier for the kids to manipulate. I set out all kinds of decorate-y stuff (sequins, pieces of tissue paper, and ribbons for tentacles) and they glued it onto the bottom shape and then pressed the top shape down and the glue held the pieces together. This was easy for the kids to do and they came away with a neat-looking jellyfish.

Shells. We had decorative shells in our craft cupboard (you can get them at any craft store or ask friends to bring you some home from the beach). I put those out with magnifying glasses and a book on shell identification. Anything with magnifying glasses is a big hit!

Ocean Animal Cards. I found a bunch of pictures of ocean animals and laminated them to make cards that the kids could look at or sort. Mostly, they liked looking at the pictures and telling what animals they were (vocabulary!) but if you have a less-chaotic group than I had they might enjoy spending some time together sorting. I wrote the names of the animals on the back.

Toys & Felt Board. We have some ocean animal toys in our Toddler Time toy box and a velcro fishing set. I put those out and kids enjoyed playing with them. I also put our ocean animal felt set out on the felt board and they could play with those, too.

Of course, I put up a display of ocean books and take-home packets for them to pick up.

I found so many other cool activities that I would have loved to do, but I am trying to keep these programs simple because summer is so crazy. Other things you might consider adding:

Friday, June 6, 2014

Cheering from the Sidelines #48hbc

Today begins the annual 48-Hour Book Challenge, hosted by Pam over at Mother Reader. Sadly, although it is like my favorite weekend of the WHOLE YEAR, I won't be participating this year since I can't blog about books. (And who am I kidding? Every day is like a 48-Hour Book Challenge for me this year!)

It's not too late to sign up! Pam's got the starting line up at Mother Reader. If you're not participating this year, head on over to the starting line anyway and give the participating bloggers some encouragement!

This year's theme is #WeNeedDiverseBooks and I'm so excited to learn about some new-to-me diverse books through everyone's blog posts.

So, read on, readers. I'll be rooting for you!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Your Librarians Are Reading, Too!

I have been a busy summer blogger this week! I'm over at the ALSC Blog today talking about our displays that show kids their librarians read over the summer, too.

For more information about our group "summer reading log" and displays that provide self-directed readers' advisory, click through to my post on the ALSC Blog!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Fizz Boom Read: Self-Directed Science Activities!

We've kicked off our summer of Fizzing, Booming, and Reading, and the Summer Reading Club is going full-force. While we have lots of fun programs planned for the summer, I wanted to talk about some of the self-directed science activities we've got around the library this summer. We've only had them up since Monday and already they've been a HUGE hit!!

Our Science Explorer Table. For the summer, we've replaced our make-and-take craft table with a Science Explorer Table. Last summer, it was cumbersome for staff to supervise and stock a craft table. This table, with science activities set out for self-directed exploration, is MUCH easier on staff. We straighten it up as we walk by, and otherwise we let kids and families interact with the materials. 

Shown on the table is the Can Do! Magnification Kit from Lakeshore Learning. It includes magnifying glasses, several small objects, and challenge cards so even kids who can't read yet can get an idea of what there is to do on the table. We purchased several of the Can Do! kits to rotate throughout the summer. 

While the kits are certainly convenient, you don't need to purchase a fancy kit to give kids a science experience this summer. Put out magnifying glasses and a variety of objects - interesting rocks, leaves, stamps, magazine pictures, etc. Put out rulers or a scale with a variety of objects to practice measuring. Use blocks and cars to demonstrate motion. Put out magnet wands and variety of objects so kids can test what sticks to the magnet (be careful with magnets - they are harmful if swallowed!). 

Science Viewers. We also purchased a set of Science Viewers from Lakeshore Learning. They come with sets of slides that show animals. To make life easier, we put only have one slide out for each viewer and we'll rotate the slides throughout the summer. The kids LOVE these and parents remember them from childhood. This is another easy activity that kids are really digging. 

Raising Butterflies! Inspired by Storytime Katie, I ordered a set of caterpillars from Insect Lore and the kids have been obsessed with them since they got here. We made a little caterpillar station by our reference desk so we could keep an eye on them. We put out a binder with blank paper and labeled it our "Field Journal". We're encouraging kids to add to our Field Journal and draw a picture or write down what the caterpillars are doing (this is sneaky pre-writing and writing practice!). 

We also put out some books about butterflies and the instructions that came with the caterpillars in case people are curious about their life cycle or want to know when they should be making cocoons or emerging. The kit also came with plastic figures showing the butterfly's life cycle, which kids have been exploring and playing with. 

I always thought raising butterflies would be a lot of work, but the kids have LOVED, LOVED, LOVED them and we're doing it pretty casually, so it's not been a huge amount of work for staff. 

All of these have been really fun for kids and families to explore and they've been easy on staff - a huge bang for our buck! 

Are you doing any self-directed science activities this summer? I'd love to hear what's going on at your library!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Preschool Lab: My Body

This summer, I'll be doing Preschool Lab every week since we're concentrating on science with our Fizz Boom Read Summer Reading Club. This week, we talked about the human body and some of the body parts inside us. I borrowed heavily from Amy Koester's Body Science program, which made planning super easy! Make sure you click through and see what she did.

Here's what I did!


Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello - this is our standard opener for all preschool storytimes. It's especially relevant here because we're talking about body parts!

Book: Parts by Tedd Arnold. I read this silly story about a boy who thinks he's coming apart because he notices hair in his comb, peeling skin, and something gray fall out of his nose. It's a funny intro to different body parts. 

Felt: Body parts. I used the templates that Amy linked to to create a felt person with various body parts. As I put the parts up on the board, we talked about where they are in the body and what they do. The body parts I included were lungs (we all took a couple deep breaths), stomach, brain, and heart. I also included the bones to tie in to our next book. 

Book: Dem Bones by Bob Barner. Before I read this book, I asked the kids to tell me where they could feel bones inside their bodies. You can feel bones in your forearm, your lower leg, your fingers, your toes, etc. I sang the book and as I turned each page, I asked children to find the body part it talks about.

Song: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. Besides just being one of my favorite storytime songs, this is a great song when you're talking about body parts. I like to do it slowly and then repeat it faster and faster. When we were done doing it SUPER FAST, I told the kids to feel their heartbeats! 

Closing Song: Do You Know What Time It Is? - our standard closer, which signifies to the kids that storytime is over.

After our storytime, families were invited to explore the stations I had set out. I encouraged grown-ups to talk to their kids as they worked at each station, to reinforce our new vocabulary and concepts. 



I ran this station just like Amy did in her program. I put out plastic baggies (I didn't tape mine and they held up just fine) and various foods. Kids put some food in their baggies and then ground it up just like our stomachs grind up the food we eat. The kids really enjoyed smashing the stuff in their baggies! I provided sheets for them to draw what their food looked like before and after it was smashed, but many families skipped this step; they were so eager to get to the smashing!


I found this idea on Coyne's Crazy Fun Preschool via Pinterest. I had volunteers cut out body shapes for me ahead of time and I provided glue, scissors, and q-tips for children to add the bones to their person. 


Again, this one came right from Amy's program. This station was the least-used and I think I had plenty to do without it. It was kind of loud in the room and I'm not sure that kids could really hear a heartbeat anyway. I think a few people visited this station, but families gravitated towards the stations where they created something. 

Take-Home: Because one of our prizes for the Summer Reading Club is a science activity to take home and do, I didn't want to give out a craft every week with Preschool Lab like I have during the school year. I still put together some activity ideas for families to do at home and I included a book list. I also included some fun, free printables from 2 Teaching Mommies. They still had some things to do at home, but it was much less labor-intensive to include printables than to put together all the pieces for a craft. 

Of course, I also put out a display of books for families to check out.

We had a lot of fun with our Preschool Lab and I'm excited to continue for the rest of the summer!