Thanks Miss Julie!

I had been looking for a library story time for Max.  The problem was that most nearby programs began at 11 a.m. and I had to pick up Max’s sister Nora from preschool at 11:30.  Finally I found a time that worked great at the West Acres Branch of the West Bloomfield (MI) library, and they allowed residents from nearby communities to join in!   I loved having this special opportunity for Max, and I was very grateful and impressed by Miss Julie – the story hour teacher.

This story time was special because Miss Julie has really mastered the art of presenting to preschoolers.  She understands early childhood development, she is always well prepared, and her enthusiasm and attitude make it so much fun for the children.

Each week there are between 25-30 children who attend this free program, along with their respective adults!  The little ones range in age from small babies to 4 year old preschoolers, with an occasional older sibling visiting too!   One of the challenges Miss Julie takes in stride is that this room also contains dramatic play equipment, built in along three sides of the room.  There are some children actively playing throughout story time, going back and forth between the program and playing.  There are many other disruptions, such as parents calling their child’s name across the room, phone conversations taking place within a few feet of Julie reading a story, upset toddlers and babies… but Miss Julie just smiles and goes on with her program.

Because Julie understands that young children need consistency and feel secure when they know what to expect, she has a basic format that she uses each week.  She begins the program by encouraging the children to move around and stretch different parts of their body – that also helps them develop self and body awareness.  Then she sings/chants a simple tune:

Come on everybody clap your hands, come on everybody clap your hands

Come on everybody cause we’re gonna read a story, come on everybody clap your hands.

Then she changes it to stomp your feet, pat your knees, wiggle your body, etc. and the final verse is:

Come on everybody take a seat, come on everybody take a seat,

Come on everybody cause we’re gonna read a story, come on everybody take a seat.

Julie uses a wonderful combination of noticing individual children, acknowledging those who blurt out or come up very close to her, and ignoring disruptive behaviors.   Some parents sit on the floor with their kids, others sit in small chairs or stand next to tiny babies in strollers.  Some children are very attentive and follow every move and direction, some come and go, others seem oblivious of the fact that a program is going on in the room.  With so many children and adults in the room, what could be chaotic and unmanageable just seems to work out okay.

Each week Julie has a theme and choses an appropriate story, movement songs and a simple craft that all tie together.  She usually has at least two books that go along with the theme, but often only reads one with the group.  Sometimes she is able to sit down and read to the group, but occasionally she has to stand up to read, carefully holding the book so the children can enjoy the pictures.  Her voice is strong and loud enough for the children to hear without sounding like she is yelling over the crowd.  Her enthusiasm and inflection make listening to the story fun for the children.

What impressed me the most from the first time I brought Max to this story time is how well Julie manages transitions.  After releasing their wiggles, the introductory song ends with the children sitting down ready to hear the story.  She often follows the story by passing out finger puppets that encourage the children to interact in a thematic song.

Sometimes she uses recorded songs for the children to sing along and dance, other times she just plays and sings with them without music.  Her use of technology is seamless – she prepares a playlist on her phone or iPod and simply presses the button to play the next song on a reliable, small speaker.  I never saw her take any time away from the children to find the song or materials she needs – her preparation and organization are remarkable.

I also appreciated the wonderful materials the library made available for these preschool story hours.  I especially loved the amazing variety of finger puppets they shared; and they always had enough for every child.   She always has all the materials she plans to use organized and close at hand.  The first time I took Max I thought he would cry when it was time to give the finger puppet back, but she had the children trade in the puppets for scarves (or rhythm sticks, or another play prop).

Julie gives the children opportunities to follow directions with the materials she shares.  She uses concepts like fast and slow, quiet and loud, up high and down low, as she plays along with the children.  Sometimes she encourages them to make letters by holding the two rhythm sticks in the shape of a V or a T.  The music and songs she uses go along with the weekly theme.  Sometimes she adapts a familiar song to go along with her theme – like instead of 5 Little Monkeys swinging in a tree – 5 Little Fish swimming in the ocean, along came a shark… hungry as can be!

The last thing she passes out to the group every week is small bottles of spill proof bubbles that must need to be refilled often!

After a few minutes of enjoying the bubbles and songs she encourages the children to return the bubbles by singing their good bye song.

“We had some fun and now we’re done!  Good bye!  Good bye!”   Of course you could use any good bye song you like, but it is a clear, friendly signal that story time is over.   Following that the children go out into the main part of the library where materials are organized and available on tables to make a simple thematic craft.

Julie circulates around the room and stops to notice the colors or techniques children are using, and appreciating their effort.

Attending story time each week has been a highlight for Max!  He calls it Story School and always gets excited when Friday comes along.  I just wanted to tell Miss Julie thank you… Max loved it!

 

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Super Heroes!

The Commerce Township Library started off their summer reading program with a really fun Super Heroes Day!

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There were lots of fun activities and projects.

Masks

They provided precut masks that were cut out of different colors of thin foam sheets.  Small holes were punched on each side and elastic string was tied onto each hole to hold the mask on.  Lots of great materials were provided to decorate the masks – stickers, foam stickers, markers – but the FAVORITE was glitter glue!

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The kids loved putting on these “HULK” type gloves and crashing through cardboard blocks and large Legos.

They were also invited to draw any type of Super Hero they wanted to.  Anna drew Super Blue-y – based on her favorite stuffed dog.

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Capes

I loved these capes made from brown paper grocery bags.  These were also precut in a simple cape shape and ribbon ties were attached at the top.  Larger stickers were provided, along with markers and more glitter glue!

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I’m always happy when they include movement activities in the fun.  They taped and tied red string in a crisscross design to make a pretend laser course for the kids to crawl through.  Another fun detail was the Super Hero duct tape they used to hold the string in place!

Thanks Commerce Library, for another great day!

The Pigeon Party!

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Our family spent another fun evening at Commerce Township Community Library celebrating the Pigeon, and other favorite Mo Willems characters.  If somehow you haven’t met and fallen in love with these books, take some time to look at them.  All of my grandchildren love them, from 15 month old Max to 6 year old Owen; and I know they will keep enjoying them for a long time.

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Here are a few that were on display at the Pigeon Party.  Our favorites are probably Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and Knuffle Bunny, but we haven’t read them all either!

They began the special evening by reading a Mo Willems book and giving the children a chance to try out some special dances:  Piggie Jiggle, Twist and Snout, Air Piggie, Shakin’ Bacon, Happy Hooves, Elephant Slide, The Shy Guy, The Funky Trunky, Jumbo Gumbo, and Rob-Gerald 3000.

After dancing the families were free to explore all the great centers that were set up around the room.

Paper bag puppets

The kids loved making paper bag puppets, they could choose either the Elephant or Piggie.

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Duckling They had fun pretending to be the duckling or the pigeon trying to “eat” a cookie.  The head with an eye was glued onto a spring clothespin and the children counted how many pom poms they could pick up.  Some of the pom poms were decorated to look like chocolate chips – or nuts?

Knufflebunny pics

The illustrations in the book Knufflebunny, and Knufflebunny too are photographs with the characters drawn into the scenes.  For this activity the children chose a large photograph and colored and glued on any characters they liked.  There were lots of background photos to choose from, as well as a whole bunch of characters.

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The children enjoyed trying to walk carrying a paper nest filled with plastic eggs on their heads.  I am not sure which book this is from!  I need to check it out!

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This Mad Lib activity was great for the school aged children who attended.  Even the little ones could make suggestions to fill in the blanks.

Elephant and Piggy

I loved seeing what all my grandchildren drew and wrote in their cartoons.

Let's Draw the Pigeon

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The children had fun making play dough clothes to cover up the Naked Mole Rat!

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There are lots of wonderful ideas for extensions of more Mo Willems books on Pinterest, and also on Mo Willems’ website.  Thanks again Commerce Library!

 

 

 

Hawaiian Luau

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My grandchildren enjoyed another wonderful program at the Commerce Township Community Library.  This time the theme was a Hawaiian Luau!  I never would have thought to include Hula Hoops!  They enjoyed some Hawaiian music and tried out some Hula moves.  They had a chance to try out a few traditional instruments too!

 

Palm trees

The Palm tree bowling was a big hit.  The pins were large soda bottles filled with crumpled blue tissue paper, with laminated palm trees taped on the front.  They used small inflated beach balls to try to knock them down.

 

Lei

They made leis by stringing pre-cut foam flowers alternating with small pieces of pre-cut colored straws.  Great practice making a pattern!

 

Fish

These cute fish were preassembled, but many children could cut the triangle and glue it onto the back independently.  The library program has limited time and lots of fun activities so some projects are often pre-cut.  The children used markers, stickers, bingo markers and glue on jewels to decorate their fish.  They could also cut out shiny scales – just like Rainbow Fish!

 

Beach blanket

 

 

There were large beach towels on the floor to play Beach Blanket Bingo, but my kids chose to stand at the table.  I loved the colored shells they used as markers – I am guessing you could color them by shaking them in a baggie with a bit of food color and alcohol.  They were set out in small buckets – so cute and fun!  The high school helper pulled a picture out of her container.  I liked how this game showed some things that are special about Hawaii – birds, flowers, hula, surfing, etc.  The prize for the game was a candy bar – everybody played until they won!bingo

I found some free clipart online in case anyone wanted to make their own bingo boards.

Limbo

The kids loved using a plastic stylus to scratch designs in these black shapes.  As they drew with them, pretty colors showed up.  There was string if the children wanted to hang these up.

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Of course they loved the special snack of Hawaiian Punch (what else?) and pretzels mixed with colored Goldfish crackers.

 

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They set out a few books based on Hawaii – Owen was anxious to check one out!

It was a great evening.  Just for fun I looked up a few Hawaiian terms that would be fun to use with children.

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Mahalo  Commerce Library!  It was such a fun evening!

 

 

Tape Town!

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Commerce Township Community Library presented another fun family activity called Tape Town.   They filled the entire multi-purpose program room with colored tape that was used as roads for match box szied cars.  Throughout the room they set up all kinds of fun towns!

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Our girls LOVED Fairy Tale Town!

tape town 6 Owen’s favorite was hands down the Monster Truck Rally!  They created small foil cars by pressing squares of foil over a car and carefully removing it.  Then the children used small Monster Trucks to crash over them!  Who wouldn’t love that?

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At each town they displayed several books that were related to the town.  It was so fun to see the children playing and parents reading throughout the room!  Another great evening!

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S.T.E.A.M. Fun!

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The Summer Reading Program at our local library (Commerce Township Community Library) was based on S.T.E.A.M. – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math!   Along with many other fun activities, they offered a different program one evening each week through July.  The last one we attended was based on experiments!  Don’t my little scientists look great – and protected – in their safety glasses?

As always the evening was well organized and lots of fun.  We began with the Elephant Toothpaste experiment.

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Each child took a paper plate containing dish soap, water, and yeast.  I love how they have everything measured out and easy to use.  Of course, if you did this at home it would be a great time to practice measuring too!

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They each got to choose which food color to add, our kids all chose different colors.

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Lily is looking a bit frightened because the librarians demonstrated the final experiment for the group and it made a loud noise inside the room, so she was a little worried this was going to POP!

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They loved watching it foam and fill up the plate!

A scientific explanation was provided too!

 

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Our next experiment was trying to blow up a balloon without using our mouths.

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The kids loved using the funnel and pouring the baking soda into the balloon.  After an adult pulled the balloon over the bottle they helped shake the soda into the vinegar – and then they watched it inflate!

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We went outside for the last 2 experiments.  The kids loved using the eye droppers!  The straws were standing up in a pile of baking soda on a paper plate.

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The last experiment was my favorite.  I used to do this with my Kindergarten families at Parent/Child Activity Nights.

Each child received a small film canister that contained a small amount of watered down tempera paint and a half tablet of Alka Seltzer.  They were instructed to break the Alka Seltzer tablet and put it into the water.  Then they securely snapped the lid onto the film canister.  Finally they set the film canister UPSIDE DOWN on a piece of paper, and backed away.  This was the experiment that the librarians demonstrated at the beginning so they could emphasize the importance of safety glasses, and backing away from this experiment.  When the tablet dissolves in the liquid it expands and pops the film canister way up in the air!  If you do this experiment inside (as I did with my classes, you must use plain water and leave the canister right side up so it doesn’t go quite as high!

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The canister shot high into the air, leaving a neat design on the paper.  Hey!  I just had an idea of using this as a sequential writing activity – First – Next – Last!  A fun way to integrate science and writing!

By the way – if you have trouble collecting film canisters, they are available online through Steve Spangler Science materials!  Lots of fun things for sale on that site!

This was such a wonderful family evening.  It was so great that we used common kitchen ingredients like baking soda, vinegar and yeast because now when we use these materials in the kitchen we can talk about the chemical reactions!  Being a Nana is so much fun!