Library Bonanza

Ready, Set, Program!

Baby Art Playground: Texture Blocks

Part III of the Baby Art Playground Series

Texture Blocks

Oh oh oh, this was one of my favorite baby crafts. LET ME TELL YOU EVERYTHING.

Why texture blocks?

Textures are a wonderful early learning experience for growing senses. As babies explore their world, they are building curiosity, strengthening eye sight, and being able to discriminate between objects. We can increase their joy and excitement by providing language for the experience and engaging with their playtime.

I received my inspiration for texture blocks from Fireflies + Mudpies, two very inspirational things.

Caregiver Reception

Caregivers were in LOVE with this craft. While they were gluing and affixing, baby could squeeze and scrunch something that was ready to be put on the block. The options were colorful and fun to sift through. Babies were immediately interested in the final product and it was the perfect size to tuck away inside a diaper bag.

Things to keep in mind as a library program…

There was a LOT of prep time for this one. I purchased the cheaper (but lighter) blocks for the program. For extra security, I sanded down all sides of 100 blocks which took a considerable amount of time. My recommendation? Enlist the help of volunteers for this prep. Also involved in the prep time was measuring and cutting 2×2 squares of fabric, foam paper, fuzzy tape, and bubble tape. The sticky tape was the best because one side was already measured out to 2″ so this saved some time. If it’s readily available, a circular paper punch would work wonders with time management.

To save money, I went to the store at the end of the summer season and got a ton of clearance items. I also used leftover fabric, stickers, and foam letters. The foam letters were divided by letter into baggies which saved the caregivers some time as they juggled baby with their brick crushing arms. Also a time saver? Items with one adhesive side.

I have been advertising these special programs on a local caregiver networking group through a nearby hospital and it has worked wonders in bumping attendance. I would highly recommend seeking on out via social media!

Supplies List

  • 100 2″ square blocks ($70) – I preferred these over the “square blocks” because they were lighter and cheaper. I wanted every caregiver to leave with 2 blocks to stack, but you can easily cut the cost by providing only one block.
  • Sticky Foam sheets ($1.49 each)
  • Fuzzy Tape rolls ($6.99 each)
  • Foam stickers (on sale, < $1.00 each)
  • Bubble wrap roll (on sale, $1.19 each)
  • Fabric patterns cut into 2″ squares
  • Foam letters
  • Felt
  • Any other random items including buttons, pipe cleaners, pom poms, sand, rice, gem stones, etc. I tended to avoid these due to potential chocking hazards and time needed to affix the items

Total Cost = $133.08

ROI (price per 80 participants) = $1.50

Idea for next year

Get more animal stickers. Parents can play a game where they roll the dice or simply turn it about in their hands. Whatever animal comes up, the parents can make the sound!

Leave a comment »

Baby Art Playground: Discovery Bottles

Part II of the Baby Art Playground Series

Discovery Bottles

A big hangup with baby crafting is the threat of a big mess. Oftentimes, this is a wonderful thing as babies explore their world and express their curiosity through play. But sometimes it’s nice to have an activity with minimal mess paired with a long-lasting toy. Especially if you have a terror monster on your hands and/or are hosting a program for 20+ babies. Enter Discovery Bottles! I received inspiration from FamilyliciousLearning Through Play, The Imagination Tree, and Fun at Home with Kids.

Why discovery bottles?

Babies are fascinated with the world around them, using their mouths to explore new textures and objects. But for the mesmerizing things that may pose a choking hazard, we can place inside a bottle and seal it up tight. While the sense of touch and smell may be taken away, baby can use their eyes and ears to explore things that have been previously unattainable: glitter, feathers, tinsel, gemstones, pom poms, pipe cleaners. Basically, if there were a craft monster and he coughed, these things would come out.

The beautiful thing about discovery bottles is its low-cost allure. All those extra bits and pieces at the bottom of your craft box? Put it in the bottle. Music making rice and bells? Put it in the bottle. All your life’s responsibilities and obligations? Bottle.

Caregiver Reception

Another program (that I am blogging months later), another success! Parents loved the flexibility and independence to choose a variety of supplies to fill their bottles. Just like during the 15 minutes of playtime after my storytime, I find that many caregivers are fervently seeking social connections. While I start the program with a brief overview, a couple early childhood development tips, and instructions, the rest of the program is free-flowing and open for conversation.

I also provided the option to create a calming glitter discovery bottle which many parents and babies enjoyed. (To save money) The proportions are about half a bottle of glue, half water, 1-2 drops of food color, and about 1-2 tablespoons of glitter. Stick with silver glitter, especially if you are dying the water. I’ve heard that hot water allows easier mixing, if that is an option for you. BE ALERT: Parents may want to furiously shake the bottle upside down, as they have much practice, but let them know that the seal is not impenetrable and water may leak out.


  • 48 plastic Voss water bottles ($1.34 per bottle) = $64.32
  • Supplies, esp. clear Elmer’s glue = $107.50
  • ROI (cost per attendee) = $2.15

Supplies list

  • Voss water bottles (Gatorade and Sobe water bottles also work really well. Just make sure the plastic is think and sturdy)
  • Feathers
  • Rice and funnel
  • Clear Elmer’s glue (about one half per bottle)
  • Glitter and funnels
  • Food Dye
  • Pom poms
  • Foam objects and letters
  • Tinsel
  • Pipe Cleaners
  • Random stuff out of the craft closet
  • Hot glue gun (operated by a volunteer)

Things to keep in mind as a library program…

You can find a wide variety of baby crafts on blogs and in books but they take on a whole new level of finesse when provided to a room full of babies.  To avoid exorbitant costs, I try and restrict my crafts to have ONE component that I will purchase for each individual baby. For this craft, it was the bottles.

You will need to call upon the aid of your coworkers as much water was drunk and much skin was hydrated.

Leave a comment »

More Than Raffi: Caspar Babypants


What is your favorite song about fruit? “Bananas in Pajamas“? No, too suggestive. “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts“? No, the lyrics are always rudely interrupted. “Apple Bottom Jeans“? Yeah, probably. But let’s choose a song that is a bit more family friendly. A lot more soothing…

“Movin’ to the country,
gonna eat a lot of peaches
Movin’ to the country,
Gonna eat me a lot of peaches.”

Peaches” by The Presidents of the United States of America peaked at #29 on the Billboard Hot 100. Released in 1995 and accompanied by “Lump,” the band’s self-titled debut album was a great success and has been certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Chris Ballew has led PUSA throughout the years while also maintaining other side projects. Yet what started as a donated album to a nonprofit for parental support became a much beloved icon of the Kindie Rock scene.

Caspar Babypants was born in 2009 in Seattle, Washington. Although he still primarily performs in Washington, his music has touched the hearts of many a librarian and family. Ballew takes note from the guitar strumming simplicity of Raffi and Elizabeth Mitchell. Even when the music gets fast and spunky it never feels heavy and overproduced. The debut album Here I Am! (2009) is an excellent introduction to Caspar Babypants. Ballew provides a wide array of musical genres to spice up even the mundane–yet crucial–things that all children should learn about. A country twang accompanies “Small Black Ant” that quickly turns into a ragtime piano riff as parents can tickle their children while imitating an ant climbing over their bodies. Bust out your egg shakers for “The Island Hop,” a fun tongue twister to celebrate summertime.

To read more, check out my More Than Raffi series over at Riff ‘N Ralk Music Tock!



Leave a comment »

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!

1 Comment »

More Than Raffi: Jim Gill


Ask any children’s librarian if they’ve heard of Jim Gill and their reaction will be an exasperated yes followed by an insistence that you need to check out everything on shelf followed by a rambling, star-struck story about when they met him. Jim Gill has been making the library circuit for quite some time, spreading his delightful love of music play to all families. From the very beginning, Gill has focused his music primarily to be moved with, sung along with, and, finally, laughed on the ground with. Jim Gill began using music in his early twenties with a weekly play group for families with young children with special needs. The parents soon saw this deceptively casual play group have an impact on their children’s development, encouraging physical and language development and interpersonal skills.

To see more on my review, check out my More Than Raffi series over at Riff ‘N Ralk Music Tock!

Leave a comment »