Sunday, March 29, 2015

Fashion Forward: A tween fashion design program

I used to be a huge fan of Project Runway (haven't seen the latest seasons cause we don't have cable anymore which makes me sad and, while I'm on the subject, Tim Gunn is a master and a gentleman.... but I digress), so I thought I would use some of that enthusiasm to create a teen/tween program.

First, you need dolls. I made some fleece dolls for last year's program, so I brought those out again, and this year I also added some Groovy girls that I picked up at various garage sales. The girls (I had all girls this year, though that has not always been the case) could pick the doll they wanted to dress.

The fleece dolls. 
The Groovy Girls. 
I then put out fabric, safety pins, hot glue guns, and a set number of threaded needles. It's easier to start the program with the needles already threaded, though I do end up threading them again as we go. I put out ten needles and make extra sure that I get ten back.

Threaded needles in their holster. 
I also put out buttons, feathers, sequins, beads, pom poms, and ribbon in case the kids want to add embellishments to their outfits.

They don't really need a lot of instructions, but I let them know that the dolls will be on display in the library and to keep in mind hairstyle and shoes (to "use the accessory wall very thoughtfully," to quote Tim Gunn). I also make it very clear that they may glue outfits together or glue accessories to the outfits, but they may NOT glue anything to the dolls. Some of the girls choose to work in groups, some prefer working individually.

I spend my time during the program helping with ideas and giving suggestions as needed. And threading needles. I re-thread a lot of needles. Because it can take some time to help each group or kid, I suggest having at least one other person volunteering or helping so that no one has to wait very long.

Here are some of the results from this year (the girls name their own dolls and then tell me something about them).

Alyssa has flowers in her hair. 

Bella works as a farmer.
(Seriously. That was on the information card her dresser wrote for her.)

Crystal is bold with patterns. 

Mary has a fascinator in her hair which is amazing. 

Note Julianna's awesome shoes made of flowers. 

Other iterations of the program that have worked in the past:

Once, I received a donation of large pieces of fabric so that year everyone worked in groups and chose someone from their group to be the model. The rest of the group dressed that model and then we had everyone walk a runway and fill out comment cards to vote for the best one.

Another time, I had the girls work in groups and then we displayed the dolls for a month near the entrance of the library. Patrons were invited to vote for their favorite and the winners got a prize.

The program has always been a hit. The kids always surprise me with their creativity and their capabilities and being able to display the results in the library makes everyone proud.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Flannel Friday: Seven Blind Mice

This flannel is inspired by Ed Young's Seven Blind Mice.

First, the mice:

Then the elephant as the mice perceive him. I put up each piece as each mouse investigates, but here's what he looks like when six of the mice have gone.  

Side note: When I tell the story while reading the book, I use the cliff piece you see above. When I just tell the story by myself, I prefer the wall for the body. I feel it's more recognizable, but who knows? Maybe I'm just fooling myself. 

After the seventh mouse investigates, he comes back and says "Yes, it's strong like a pillar and wide like a cliff (wall) and long like a rope and moves like a snake....." etc. I replace each piece one at a time with the elephant pieces so the kids can see it coming together. Here he is mid replacement: 

And the elephant all put together. 

Here are the separate pieces of the elephant. I usually go in this order (to make it easier to replace the pieces and also to keep the elephant not quite so obvious till the end): legs, body, tail, tusk, ear, head. (Of course, if I'm reading the book then I just go with what the book says). 

It's served me well just as a fun story, but also for my Preschool Lab on the senses. Only drawback is that you can't repeat this story too often because your kiddos will remember what the mysterious thing actually is and will not hesitate to blurt it out. Spoiler alert, anyone?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sweet Snacks: Popcorn

As I was running through ideas for my Sweet Snacks program (check this post for a run-down of how I cook with my kids), I came across the idea of flavored popcorn in one of the cookbooks. A little bit of googling revealed a world of flavored popcorn that I could never have imagined (seriously, google it. It's astounding).

I narrowed it down to four options based on what I thought the kids would like, what might be a little different for them, and what took the simplest ingredients. Here's what I picked: cinnamon sugar, parmesan cheese, ranch, and rocky road.

Here are the ingredients you'll need for the toppings:

Not pictured: sugar. We mixed our own cinnamon sugar - you can always buy premixed if you prefer. 
The popcorn itself is just needs some vegetable oil and popcorn kernels.

I pulled out my trusty skillet (is there anything it can't do?) and we went to work.

First, put 1/4 cup of oil in the skillet.

Throw a few kernels in the oil and cover it. 

Wait. Use this time to talk about kernels vs. popped corn or microwave popcorn vs. the kind we are making or which kernel you think will pop first. 

When one pops, cover the bottom of the pan with kernels. Cover the skillet. 

It will start to pop pop pop and be oh, so very fun. Once the popping slows down, turn the heat off and wait a minute or so. Take the lid off (carefully! Some kernels may still be popping!). 

We divided our popped corn into four large bowls with lids and added the toppings. 

Ranch Flavor: 
Ranch dressing mix

Cinnamon Sugar Flavor:
Cinnamon sugar

Rocky Road Flavor: 
Chocolate Chips

Parmesan Cheese Flavor: 
Parmesan Cheese

Put the lids on the bowls and SHAKE!


For those keeping score at home, the Ranch dressing was far and away the parent favorite while the kids were totally enamored with Rocky Road. 

To each his own... popcorn.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Life-sized Candyland

What's more fun than Life-sized Candyland?? Don't answer that. The answer is nothing. (Well, ok, I'm sure you could think of other things. But trust me, this was fun, too.). 

I set up a life-sized Candyland board in our meeting room last month for families to play on together. This is the second time I do this program and let me just pause for a second and say "THANK GOD I saved the things from last year!!" A cancelled flight, a sick day, and a snow day gave me about 8 hours to set this sucker up (for reference, I set up and took down all by my lonesome) and I DID IT. 

Here's the set-up from this year:

Yup, that's Olaf hanging out with Queen Frostine. Someone donated an Olaf for our Frozen sing-a-long, and I thought Frostine might want a friend. Also, they are both all about snow. So that's something. 

I set up foam squares around the room to make the path and placed various special characters around the room along that paht. Candyland aficionados will recognize characters from various versions of the game. Honestly, I made the big character boards by putting Candyland clipart into large poster-sized Publisher files, printing, and carefully taping together, so I needed character images that wouldn't blur under this re-sizing. These are those images. 

Here's Jolly, one of the first ones you run across in the board. I used boxes in a pile covered with a tablecloth and a couple of gummy cut-outs (using sparkly foam!). Every special space was made with four foam squares to make it clearly visible. The gumdrops are the image on the card (more on that in a minute) that would direct you to Jolly. 

Here are some more of the characters: 

Mr. Mint. 

Grandma Nut. 

Princess Lolly.

King Candy at the end. 

Each family received a bag with a spinner, a small stack of cards (two cards of each special space) and instructions. The spinner had the following sections: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, "Take a card" and "Double jump!". If they spun "Double Jump!" they were instructed to spin again to discover which color they were to jump twice (like the double square card in the game). If they spun "Take a card" then they picked a card from the bag and went to that particular location.  I found this easier than handing everyone a huge stack of cards. Caveat: It took me a while to make spinners last year, but this year it was a breeze since all I had to do was take them out of the box. 

Whoever reached King Candy first could take a prize. There was also candy at Jolly and at Mr. Mint, since I had leftover candy that fit their specific candy type. Kids could take one the first time they passed these characters. 

I let four families play at a time on a first-come-first-served basis. For those who were waiting, I set up three tables outside the meeting room with crafts. Last year. I had coloring sheets, licorice and fruit loop necklaces, and paper gingerbread men. This year, I had coloring sheets, paper lollipops, and Candyland BINGO. Both sets of crafts were equally successful as far as popularity, but I felt the potential for germs, etc., as everyone handled the licorice ropes and the fruit loops was just too great, so I axed that craft this year. The BINGO was equally distracting for those who were waiting. 

Another tweak from last year to this year: last year I used construction paper squares that I stapled to our carpet. Big pain the a$$. HUGE pain. Not only did the squares come up all the time (so I had to spend a bunch of time during the program trying to staple them back down), but getting them all up (and picking up all the staples) at the end of the program was far more effort and annoyance than it was worth. I asked for foam squares as part of the year-end wish list requests and it got granted! (Yay!) Everyone was thrilled with the squares and several patrons took the time to comment about how much better they were. If you have tile floor, this may be different for you - maybe tape would work. After all, the construction paper just came out of the supply closet and was therefore free, so if you can make it work for you, that's definitely more budget-friendly. 

If you can get volunteers to help you set up and take down: DO IT. You can also use volunteers to help you run the game, as it is best to have at least two people there to help with crowd control.

This was very popular with parents and kids (many played more than once) and was, after the hours of set-up and take down, a lot of fun for everyone including me. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Flannel Friday: 3/13 Round-up!

What a great start to Flannel Friday's fifth year! Here are some fun, inspiring, and adorable flannels for your enjoyment.

Kathryn from Fun with Friends at Storytime has a chicken and egg storytime that's perfect for Easter - or any time you want to talk about hatching!

Miss Sue at Library Village has a whole round-up of her own: all spring and Easter flannels to inspire you.

Brenda at Story Tree has a quick and fabulous game to play with shapes and dogs or bunnies for a Lost and Found theme. Need a flannel in a hurry? This one's a sure-fire hit.

Thrive After Three has an amazing felt table with a road, cars, and some amazing community buildings (car wash and gas station for the win!!). It's really making me wish I had a felt table, too.

Kim from Destination Stoytime has a hot air balloon game that's just itching to be played.

How fast can you flannel? Well, double that speed because Roving Fiddlehead Kidlit has a Saint Patrick's Day flannel that you will definitely want to use this year. Rainbow stew? Leprechauns? Yes, please!

Katie at Story Time Secrets flannelized a book about a bouncing bunny and his adventures. Fun for both the bouncing and the animal noises.

We should all be so lucky as to have Katie's talent! Over at Storytime Katie you can see her amazing ballerinas complete with tutus and toe shoes with ribbon.

Heather from Books and Giggles has the cutest weather doll - complete with template  and tutorial! - for helping her kids decide what to wear in the morning. Let's hear it for autonomy without power struggles! I'm definitely making one of these for my son.

Sandy at Storytime Sparks has beautiful felt flowers and rhymes to go with them. Come on and get here, Spring! I want to use these rhymes!

Thanks to everyone for your wonderful work.

For more info about Flannel Friday, check out the Facebook page, the official blog, or find them on Pinterest. Happy flanneling!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Family Fort Night

Guys! Guys guys guys!! How much fun is family fort night? OMG so much fun!!

(Yes, I did make walking smores (see below) and I may have eaten a few... why do you ask?)

Following the example of so many stellar blogs before me, I did a Family Fort Night at my library. While it seems that people tend to do these when the library is closed, my library is open late into the evening every night, so that wasn't really an option. The Children's Room really quiets down in the evening, though, so we weren't in anyone's way (though the circ staff was surprised by the noise coming from the room!). 

Here's what I did: 

I had a mish-mash of ages from 3 to 8, and I wanted to make sure to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, so I read two books that I feel fit those specifications. 

First, I read Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds. After all, I explained, forts were a little like camping and what's camping without creepy stories? The kids enjoyed this one. 

Then, by request, we sang "The Bumblebee Song" which I love and they did, too. (For the record, we bring home, smash, lick, spit out, and wipe up. I used to puke up, but I think spitting is just as effective and somehow less offensive. Go figure.)

What other book could I read? Oh, come on, you already know: The Book with No Pictures of course! It went down like gangbusters as you all know it always does. 

Then I unleashed the kids to build their forts!

They all choose to drape their blankets over the low shelves in the middle of the room. I was worried about getting the blankets to stay up, but discovered that strips of masking tape did the job nicely and came up easily when it was time to go home. 

When everyone was settled in, I handed out our walking smores: mix teddy grahams, chocolate chips, and mini-marshmallows in a bag and enjoy. It's a sweet and tasty version of trail mix. Yum! 

Altogether a very simple program and the families all really enjoyed it. I worried they wouldn't want to read in their forts, but the parents all gamely went in with their kids and a good time was had by all.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Preschool Story Time 10/7/14

I'm going through my backlog of story times to put on the blog, so this one was from ages ago. Still good to have a record, though...

Opening Song: Oh Hey, Oh Hi, Hello

Book: Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard

This was a good one to start with. The kids thought it was funny and I liked playing up my grumpy voice. 

Flannelboard Song: B-I-N-G-O

Book: Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won

I thought this would be a nice tie-in to grumpy bird, what with the whole grumpy theme going in this book, too, but it turned out to be too much of the same thing. Both good books, I think, just maybe not at the same Story Time. 

Dance: Silly Dance Contest

I sing this Jim Gill song a cappella, since I never play recorded music in Story Time. It works well to sing it, and I can modify the verses: jump, spin, clap, stomp, stretch, dancing slowly, dancing fast. I always thought it was weird that he didn't end with fast dancing on the recording, as that's always the favorite. 

Dance/Settle: Jump Up, Turn Around

Another Jim Gill classic that I love singing. I do the regular verse, then we do it with our hands in the air, our eyes closed, and holding our breath. I end by doing the regular verse very slowly then speeding it up verse by verse and ending with "Jump up, turn around, clap your hands, sit back down!" so it's a great settling down rhyme as well. 

Flannel Story: Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes

I told this story to my Toddler group, too, and maybe it was just my crowds that day (I have both story times on the same day), but it seemed too complex for the Toddlers and too easy for the Preschoolers. I will have to try it again, because it's such a favorite story of mine. 

Dance: Head and Shoulders Knees and Toes

Book: Rrralph by Lois Ehlert

I thought this book was funny, but I wasn't sure it would work as a read-a-loud. Maybe I cursed myself with my second guessing, but it went right over my kids' heads. Perhaps I didn't read it right....? I think this book could be very successful if done properly, i.e., not by me. :-)

Fingerplay: I Wiggle wiggle wiggle*

Flannelboard/Stuffed Animal Story: Bear's Picture

I use flannel pieces and my stuffed animal menagerie to retell a version of Frank Asch's Bread and Honey. It brought down the house with my first grade class visit, but I think the final silly picture may have been too absurd or too scary for the littler ones. 

Closing Song: We wave goodbye like this

All in all, a "meh" story time. The kids were great listeners even when they weren't quite connecting to the material, so the session wasn't a total disaster. 

* I Wiggle wiggle wiggle
I wiggle wiggle wiggle my fingers
I wiggle wiggle wiggle my toes
I wiggle wiggle wiggle my shoulders
I wiggle wiggle wiggle my nose
I wiggle up at the ceiling
I wiggle down at the ground
I wiggle in a circle
And I put my hands down.

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