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Baby Art Playground: Peekaboo Puzzles

Part I in a three part series


Babies are little balls of adorable gooeyness, like loaves of squishy dough waiting for an adult to move along with them or demonstrate movement. This is what makes baby storytime a challenge and a blessing. While you can do any laptime activity (that’s appropriate) and not worry about them wandering off, they also have very limited capabilities regarding self-control so you must be comfortable communicating to an audience of adults. Which I am totally down for doing. Naw, for real, I got this. Much like storytimes, babies would not be able to enjoy my new program Baby Art Playground without their caregivers.

So now I’m bringing the action, bringing the funk of crafting fun for even the littlest tykes. Baby Art Playground is for ages 0-14 months, the same as my weekly storytime. There are three parts to this program:

  1. Main craft
  2. Sensory bins
  3. Toy area

This program veers away from Hands-On Ones and Twos because the main craft is made by the caregiver to be used later by the baby. The craft could also use baby to complete it (like handprint/footprint art), but the baby is not getting much out of it–which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because the parents love the final result and aren’t they people, too? But I still wanted to model activities for baby development. Enter sensory bins and a space for toy discovery and socialization. Children learn through play and experimentation. Exploring a sensory bin allows them to discover new textures and practice fine motor skills. Also, our library programs are a great way for parents to see that mess can be fun!

Last Monday was the first Baby Art Playground and our main craft was Peekaboo Puzzles. The supplies included:

  1. 10-20 Photographs of family, friends, and things that were important to baby (from participants)
  2. Magazines for those that forgot to bring photos
  3. Fine-tip sharpies
  4. Scissors
  5. Jumbo Knob puzzles or chunky puzzles
  6. Rice
  7. Cotton balls
  8. Toys

I went with the three puzzles below. If you order the puzzles directly through the Melissa and Doug website then you receive BOGO. In the past, I have also taken the slightly worn puzzles available for play or check out in the Youth Department and perused thrift stores or consignment shops for nice looking puzzles. The most popular puzzle at the program was the First Shapes puzzle because they could use more photographs and the shapes were a bit smaller.

The directions were as follows:

  1. Take your puzzle piece and trace over the image with the sharpie
  2. Cut out your image and affix in the slot
  3. Play a game of guess who/peekaboo with baby–talk about the shape on top and the person underneath. Use this experience to communicate and talk with baby!

Parents and Caregivers were extremely appreciative of the program and loved the opportunity to sit down and create a meaningful project for their babies. Although the cost was a bit high, the results were well received.

Little Literacy Librarian, Storytime Katie, and I will be presenting about crafting programs for ages 0-5 at the Illinois Library Association Conference this October. Have more questions? Come check us out!

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Fairy Good Tales: Little Red Riding Hood

Introduction: Why are nursery rhymes and fairy tales important?

  1. Nursery rhymes are strong in rhythm, rhyme, and repetition
  2. Learn the basic patterns of story patterns including plot, theme, and character
  3. Can teach lessons about actions and consequences
  4. Knowing the original tale builds a platform for understanding & appreciating fractured tales

Shake Your Sillies Out, clap your crazies, jump your jiggles, stretch your stretchies

Abra Cadabra
Abra Kazoom
Let Story Time magic
enter the room (pull out paper with fairytale)

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  1.  Little Red Riding Hood:Storytell the original
    • Review Questions: Was the wolf good or bad? What do we call someone that we don’t know?
    • Once Upon a Dragon safety rhyme
  2. Action Rhyme: Little Red Riding Hood Rhyme from
    Note: The kids loved this rhyme! Make sure to point to the parts of the body and make them big!

    (Sung to the tune of ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’)

    Granny, what big eyes you’ve got,
    Eyes you’ve got, eyes you’ve got,
    Granny, what big eyes you’ve got,
    They’re so funny.

    All the better to see you with,
    See you with, see you with,
    All the better to see you with,
    My sweet honey.

    Ears – hear

    Teeth – eat

    And end with a ROAR!

  3. Fractured Tale: Let’s Play in the Forest flannel
    Note: Always a crowd pleaser!
  4. Finger Play: “Little Bunny Foo Foo”
    Note: We sang about another misbehaving, naughty child:

    Little bunny foo foo hopping through the forest
    Scooping up the field mice and bopping them on the head
    Down came the good fairy and she said
    Little Bunny Foo Foo I don’t want to see you
    Scooping up the field mice and bopping them on the head
    I’ll give you three chances and if you don’t behave I’ll turn you into a goon!
    The next day…

  5. Fractured Tale: Red Riding Hood and the Sweet Little Wolf by Rachael Mortimer
    Note: I have been having a much younger audience attend Fairy Good Tales, so I wasn’t able to find to many fractured tales for the preschool age crowd. This was a great one, though!

Activities & Take Aways

  1. Decorate flowers to bring to grandma
  2. Wolf paper bag puppet
  3. Cutting practice from 123 Homeschool for Me –  Riding Hood Pack


  • Brown paper bags
  • Crafty stuff: pom poms, feathers, beads
  • Foam flowers
  • Green pipe cleaners
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Curious Kitties: The Great Outdoors

1. Opening Song: Building Blocks Song

Tune: Hello Ladies
Hello __________ (first child in the circle)
Hello __________(second child in the circle)
Hello __________(third child in the circle)
Come build something with your blocks!

2. Importance of scientific observation—make predictions, test, discuss

3. Intro to outdoor science: Picture a Tree by Barbara Reid–This is a fantastic book with rich images made of Plasticine clay. If I were a teacher, I would love to incorporate this book in a duel science/art class. That being said, the text is nothing extraordinary and the vocabulary is about average. Still an excellent choice for storytimes. We had a lot to talk about during the reading!


4. Fingerplay: Dig Dig Dig (tune: Row Row Row Your Boat)

Dig, dig, dig the earth,

Plant your seeds below

A gentle rain

And bright sunshine

Will help your flowers grow.

5. Prop Activity with song above: Give children scarves for their seeds. Have them plant them inside their hands on the ground. Water them with a watering can and pass over them with sunshine and the kids will throw up the scarves when they’re ready.
(need scarves, watering can, and sun cutout)
Note: Children loved the real watering can. I feel like any time there is an opportunity to bring in a real prop, the preschool crowd goes wild.

6. Book: Seeds by Ken Robbins

7. Book: Clouds by Alice K. Flanagan


  1. Station 1: Outdoor Color Match with color swatches
    Supplies: Color swatches, binder rings, hole punches
    Note: You’ll need to plan in advance to go to your local paint store (I used Sherwin-Williams) and ask for free color swatches. Once I said that it was for an educational storytime, they seemed quite enthusiastic to donate them. The sturdiness of the swatches and the binder rings gives this simple craft a boost up in usability.
  2. Station 2: Cloud identification windows
    Supplies: printed and pre-cut cloud pictures, popsicle sticks, tape
    Note: Because of the preschool crowd I pretty much had these pre-made for them so the kids didn’t have much to do with them except after they left. I spent a decent amount of time cutting out the middles with an exacto knife so beware. Although I didn’t, I would suggest laminating these in advance.
  3. Station 4: Seed Sorting
    Supplies: 2 cookie trays, ice cube tray, seeds
    Note: This is such an open ended play idea that some kids spent a long time here, eventually laying out the seeds on the cookie tray and creating pictures or patterns. Perfect opportunities for talking!
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1000 Books before Kindergarten: Gearing Up

1000Books Train logo

Public Libraries: We’re not just book depositories anymore…

Perhaps those words may be eye-opening to some members of the public but, for years, librarians have been striving to open up the library to various forms of information retrieval, educational entertainment, relaxation, exploration, and the promotion of literacy. Our libraries are free community centers open to all with an interest in basically everything. Did I mention I love my job?

In the Youth Department of Fremont Library, we maintain strong circulation of our materials but we have also discovered our patrons love of programming, particularly passive programming and crafting programs. When programs are not in session, we open up the program room’s doors and invite visiting patrons to play with Legos, K’Nex, Rainbow Loom, and board games. Our stats are through the roof with this simple invitation to play.

That being said, the community still views our library as a haven for literacy. While I fully support this fun use of our space for other activities, I do not believe that we should sacrifice our ability to promote reading. Enter a passive reading program.

…But literacy is still a main focus

Drawing inspiration from several libraries that have implemented 1000 Books B4K (starting as early as 2006!), I am hardly the first to start this program–nor am I the last! Marge Loch-Wouters is known for a lot of amazing advancements and uplifting camaraderie in the realm of Youth Services. She is a huge proponent of 1000 Books before Kindergarten and has blogged extensively about it, including an ongoing blogliography (Say that word out loud. Say it out loud right now.) and general shout outs of other librarian’s posts on 1000 Books B4K. What I’m saying is, go to those links and you will be swept up by the 1000 Books B4K hype and will have no other choice but to do it at your library. Here’s to you, Marge:


So, I started my 1000 Books journey with digital Marge and have not stopped. I received a lot of help from nearby libraries that have started the program, using our networking group Lapsit Leaders to present their programs and their success. After a half year of planning (and some serious crunch time in the past few months), I am proud to start this program up come September. When I started researching this program, I had a slew of questions. Instead of writing in typical paragraph format (ugh, so booooooring), I’ll present Fremont’s 1000 Books B4K in Q&A format. If you have any questions that you’d like me to add, please comment on this post and I will get to them ASAP.

Q: What did your process look like to start this off?

A: After the research I mentioned above, I started by creating a To-Do Checklist (that I am still adding to). I also wanted to give the program a professional flair, so we sought out a graphic designer to help us create several components including: logo, Tally Sheet + Instructions + Tally Sheet Cover, mural, Promotional Poster, and the literacy key fob prize (inspiration from Storytiming). To have done all of this graphic design ourselves would have taken a considerable amount of staff time that warranted third-party help.

Q: How did you get your coworkers on board?

A: My coworkers are very supportive of new initiatives as long as there are clear directions and a supportable goal. If these considerations are followed then they are willing to take on a new task at the desk. The goal is simple, effective, and easy to get behind: to get kids to be read to more! And managers love the idea of increased circulation. As a passive program, we will always be able to provide reading families, and those in search of reading incentives, a way to satisfy their hunger.

Q: Where did you receive your funding? What was the start-up cost?

A: Usually put towards materials, we were able to use our Per-Capita grant towards literacy initiatives this year. It was a sizeable amount so we have stock-piled a lot of prizes to last us for 500 children.

Q: How do children sign up?

A: Children ages birth-5 sign up at the desk. Upon signing up, they receive a binder with all tally sheets that they are responsible for maintaining and bringing in. More than one child participating? Families receive one binder to store all children’s logs. Adults must be Fremont cardholders to participate due to staff time and financial investment.

Q: What are the incentives to keep children participating?

A: Every 100 books read, the child may visit the library and put a dot sticker on the next car on the train mural.

1000Books Mural logo

Mural will be placed on the outer wall of our YS desk. There will be 10 cars where children can place dot stickers.

Every odd numbered hundred, a prize will be awarded. We will be spending about $14.50 per child. The prizes are as follows:

Starting Prize: Binder ($2 per child)

100: Reusable bag with logo ($1.05 per child)

300: Felt alphabet (volunteer time + $2 per child)

500: Picture on the wall

700: Laminated place mat ($2.50 each)

900: Stroller fob (carabiner for $1.50 each)

Ending Prize: Book ($3 each) and Superhero cape that reads “Superhero Reader” ($2.50 per cape + volunteer time)

Q: Why did you choose the format of your tally sheet?

A: My library prefers the less intrusive form of reading clubs that allow a parent and child to focus on reading, not labor intensive documentation (not that it’s that exhausting but, you know…). Instead of writing the title and author for every book read, the child can color in a train car. There is still an opportunity to write their favorite books at the bottom of each tally sheet as a memento to keep. Finally, one early literacy tip is included on each sheet to encourage different forms of interaction while reading and interacting in daily life.

Q: How are you promoting this program?

A: We have set up posters throughout the library with the ominous start date of “September” just in case something demonic tears through the office. In November, we will be celebrating Family Reading Month with the official kick-off of 1000 Books before Kindergarten, 100 Books before High School, and Read for a Lifetime (the latter two will be blogged about at a later date), providing a passive reading program for all youth. We’re hoping to get some star performers!

Q: Do you have other passive reading programs for older kids?

A: We currently have a book of the month program (read 4, get a prize) for grades 5-8 and one for HS students where we interlibrary loan 10 copies of the same book. Remarkably, the books almost always check out but I have never given away a prize, so, yeah. We also have a program called Pin Pals for grades 3-5 where children read 5 books of a certain genre, rate it by number of stars, and then receive a button in that genre. This has been popular in the past but the excitement around it has simmered down (now).

Please let me know if you have any lingering thoughts or questions. Tentative release date is September 1st so I’ll soon let you all know how it goes!


Summer LIBRARY Club: Where prizes and cheating go to die

In a world where the greedy perish and library lovers flourish, we meet a team of librarians with far better things to do with their time than maintain proper supplies of bubble bottles or those furry pom-poms with googly eyes and sticky bottoms. A world where mothers don’t feel the need to lie about how many minutes their 8-year-old child read last week. This could be your world if you are willing to take the plunge.

I work at a library serving a population of approximately 32,000. Our patrons tend to be low income to lower middle class with a sizeable population of Latin@s, Korean-Americans, Fillipino-Americans, and Polish-Americans. Our library is well funded but not drowning in money. We had about 1,000 children birth-6th grade sign-up for our SLC last year (we are currently at 1,300 this year with 2 weeks left). But what I am going to talk about today is not affected by these factors. I believe that our model of a summer library program can be applied at any location. If you choose to go with this model (or decide to apply any other models such as Tiny Tips for Library Fun, Abby the Librarian, or Hafuboti) you’ll be strolling into the summer much like the coolest character in TV history (hopefully not in handcuffs–or for the same reasons):


There has been talk among some blogging librarians about ditching prizes as a form of incentive (see the blogs linked above). I bring to you that prizeless (or less prizes) works AND that a club without reading requirements works, too.

First and foremost, our club is called the Summer LIBRARY Club. Kids are rewarded for visiting the library 6 times with the belief that they will inherently check out books and other materials (magazines, DVDs, video games, etc.), use the computers, attend a program, etc. We want them to use the library as a place of enjoyment, relaxation, socialization, intellectual stimulation, and so on and so forth. The value of our library extends beyond reading and we want to reward all of our patrons.

Our library switched from a Summer Reading Club to a Summer Library Club about 10 years ago. When asking my coworkers why, they begrudgingly recollected parents walking up and down the shelves writing titles of books before handing them the pamphlet for a stamp. They also chose to switch because they didn’t want to give another burden to parents and older children for recording minutes or book titles. We believe that the summer should be a time for joy reading, not a contest–especially not one to lie about. This also opens up our program to reluctant readers that may not be able to keep up with a daunting challenge.

One of my coworkers noted that the backlash from the initial change was minimal. Every now and then there is a parent that is concerned about the lack of reading recording, but the majority of parents are receptive and simply want their child involved in a summer program. They also appreciate prizeless because they don’t have to step on it in the middle of the night. For the competitive folk? They still can “race” to be the first stickers on the 6th poster (the final visit) and finally rest easy after 5 nights of fitful insomnia.

Below, I will outline our summer program for the younger set (the teen program is a beast of its own).

Paws to Read 2014

  • Ages birth-6th grade
  • Duration is 6 weeks
  • One stamp PER DAY in our SLCBrochure2014 booklet
  • Every time you visit, you also receive a sticker to put on our posters. Each poster corresponds to your number visit.
  • Birth-2 years old: Six stamps = 1 free book, 1 finger puppet (hard for babies to bowl or eat a value meal)
  • 3 years old-6th grade = 1 free book, bag of coupons for area businesses
  • We purchase all of our giveaway books through the Scholastic FACE program. Each paperback book averages about $2.50 which is about $2500. The Friends of the Library funds this giveaway.
  • This year, we also gave out a mini-beanie stuffed dog or cat when the children signed up. We usually just give out a pencil and a bookmark with signing up.

Time is always a concern, especially with understaffed libraries. Our library club may cut back on time spent buying prizes, but time is spent preparing other avenues. It is extremely important to note, however, that we rely heavily upon the dedication of our volunteers during the summer to staff our library club table. Volunteers sign up for 2 hour shifts for all days of the week. This is a great opportunity for students to acquire volunteer hours (National Honor Society, a local Catholic school requires volunteer hours) and for adult volunteers to have hands-on interaction with the patrons while sitting. Maybe about 2/3 of the spots fill up–generally during the day–and we’ll keep an eye on the table when necessary. So, while the volunteers man the table, the following activities are completed by staff members. And remember, tailor to your needs and abilities!:

  • Writing up instructions for volunteers
  • Recruiting volunteers
  • Training volunteers the first time they work the SLC table
  • Ordering books from Scholastic’s FACE program
  • Ordering stickers and finger puppets
  • Gathering coupons from area businesses (we had about 6 coupons)
  • Creating/hanging up the posters (but you could have an artistic volunteer help you create them)

As noted at the beginning of this blog post, our numbers climb higher and higher every year. There are no meltdowns without prizes. As long as there is an activity to look forward to (here, put this sticker on a giant poster on a window) and as long as there is a final prize (book, coupons) then they will come. Without the barriers of reading requirements and tedious record keeping, parents and kids are happy. I guess if someone comes six times and doesn’t check out books or doesn’t come to our programs or use our facilities in any way, then her prize is a free book. Hey! A free book for her to add to her own library, hopefully encouraging her to read. But the chances of this scenario occurring are pretty slim. Those that want to participate in a library club will enjoy visiting the library and will leave with a handful of books or a mindful of good memories from our programs.

For those parents that want to give their child a challenge for the summer, our library will be starting three passive reading programs soon. These include 1000 Books before Kindergarten, 100 Books before High School, and Read for a Lifetime (for High Schoolers). The great thing about these is that they will be year-round and won’t stop after 6 weeks, allowing a child to complete it at his own pace.

It is daunting to start something new. It involves a reorganization of thought for yourself and coworkers but our Summer Library Club is successful. It is la bomba. Parents love it. Kids love it (no whiners!). And we love it because we can spend our time providing quality programs and activities instead of dishing out plastic garbage and we can promote our library as a whole experience instead of a log of books.

Have I left anything out from this program? Any lingering questions? I’ll be happy to answer them and add the information to the post for future sight-seeing.