Saturday, February 9, 2019

Hugs & Kisses - Family Storytime

I had actually planned a Valentine's theme, but the crowd I ended up with was way too young for the only actual Valentine's Day book I had (Froggy's First Kiss), so I ended up using the shorter books I had pulled, which were all about hugs and kisses, though we still did some Valentine's songs/rhymes.

We started with our welcome song, and then I introduced the topic. We talked about how Valentine's day is about love, and the ways we can show we love someone, ending with hugs ("let's all give ourselves a big hug") and kisses "can you blow kisses?"). Then we got settled for our first book by singing our story song

valentine's storytime, love storytime, hugs and kisses storytime
For our first book I selected All Kinds of Kisses by Nancy Tafuri because it focuses on familiar farm animals and the sounds they make, which I hoped some of the younger ones would recognize and be able to do. I also like that it shows mother animals with their babies, and introduces some new vocabulary with the specific names for the young, like "calf" for a baby cow, "kid" for a baby goat, etc. 

The text is short and simple, and the illustrations are Tafuri's typical sweet, simple, and slightly understated style (though I'd actually prefer slightly bolder).

We followed that with a little movement. I introduced the following rhyme by having them feel their heartbeat, then jump up and down and see how it beats faster.

I Have a Little Heart

I have a little heart    [place hand over heart]
It goes thump, thump, thump.     [pat chest 3X]
It beats even faster when I jump, jump, jump.     [jump 3X]
I get a special feeling when I look at you.     [point to eyes, then audience]
It makes me want to give you a hug or two!     [Hug yourself]

After repeating once, we moved on to a Valentine rhyme, and repeated it as well:

Valentines, Valentines

Valentines, valentines, how many do you see?
Valentines, valentines, count them with me.
One for mother, one for father, one for grandma, too.
One for sister, one for brother, and
Here is one for you!
(make heart shape with hands)

valentine's storytime, love storytime, hugs and kisses storytimeWe went from kisses to hugs with our second book, Kitty's Cuddles by Jane Cabrera. I fell in love with this book as soon as I saw it because of Cabrera's bold, rich illustrations that have a heavy texture that makes me want to touch them.

In this book, Kitty shows us all of her friends, and we try to guess her favorite one to cuddle with. While the first book featured familiar farm animals, this one introduces some exotic animals, like the peacock, porcupine, and armadillo, and has short, simple text. 

After that, we did one more Valentine counting rhyme:

Five Little Hearts

Five little hearts, all in a row.
(Hold up five fingers, point to row)

The first one said, "I love you so."
(Hold up 1 finger, put up number 1, make sign for love)

The second one said, "Will you be my valentine?"
(Hold up 2 fingers, put up number 2)

The third one said, "I will if you'll be mine."
(Hold up 3 fingers, put up number 3)

The fourth one said, "I will always be your friend."
(Hold up 4 fingers, put up number 4, make sign for friend)

The fifth one said, "We'll be friends until the end!"
(Hold up 5 fingers, put up number 5, make sign for friend)

valentine's storytime, love storytime, hugs and kisses storytime
I debated on whether to read a 3rd book since my crowd was so young, but it seemed all the super wigglers had already bailed, and the remaining kids were having no problem listening, so I decided to indulge my dark sense of humor and end with a favorite funny book about kisses that is still short and simple, Dinosaur Kisses by David Ezra Stein.

In this story a hatchling dinosaur is exploring the world and after witnessing a kiss, decides she wants to try that next. But every time she tries to kiss someone, it goes horribly wrong as she accidentally whomps, chomps, stomps, or EATS her intended recipient! Then another dinosaur hatches out, and they have fun chomping, stomping, and whomping each other, then falling down in a fit of giggles.

We then sang a closing song, and moved on to our optional craft, which only a few of those attending were really old enough to do.

For our craft I had originally wanted to give them lots of hearts of assorted sizes and colors and have them put them together to make various animals, a la Michael Hall's My Heart Is a Zoo; however, our copy was checked out and our new ILS is so slow at processing requests that I didn't get a copy from another branch in time, plus I didn't have time to cut out all those hearts.

So I switched to something a little simpler, making a Valentine person with one large heart, accordion pleated strips of paper for arms and legs, and smaller hearts for hands and feet. I gave them red, pink, and purple small hearts to choose from, plus googly eyes (of course!) and crayons for making the face. [The example I showed had a more simple face, but I decided to embellish it a little afterward.]

Valentine storytime craft, valentine's day craft, heart craft

How It Went 
This was a perfect storytime for 2-4 year-olds. Unfortunately, I had a bunch of infants and 1-year olds! I had such a sinking feeling when I realized this, especially since at first it was all babies, until thankfully one family showed up a few minutes late with two boys around 3-4. I just froze mentally and didn't know what to do, other that power through what I had planned.

I have extensive experience with preschool storytime, but I have never done a baby storytime and only a couple toddler storytimes, and was not at all prepared for such an overwhelmingly young crowd, and did not know how to change gears that drastically at the last minute. It was a very frustrating and humbling realization. I should have incorporated a couple of baby bounces, but my mind just went blank since it's not something I've done since my own kids were babies! I always have a couple of longer books in case I get older kids, but I realize I have not been adequately prepared for an even younger than the usual young crowd.

Despite the program not really being quite developmentally appropriate for most of the audience, it went okay, though I did lose some of the audience right away. But that always seems to happen anyway as our storytime area opens into the play area, and some kids are just too distracted by the other children playing behind them. Some of the younger kids could be heard making animal sounds, or seen trying to imitate some of the motions we did, and though the two oldest got a little bored during the second book, they LOVED Dinosaur Kisses and laughed and giggled. Thankfully, most of the parents participated and helped answer for their babies, and reinforced what I was doing.

I am definitely going to have to work on my repertoire of songs and bounces to use with the little ones, and make sure I have at least 1 or 2 prepared for each storytime in the future. Just when I start thinking I've got the hang of this family storytime, it throws me curve ball... 

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Youth Media Awards 2019

Now that the ALA Youth Media Awards have been announced and we've all had time to mull it over a bit, what do you think about the books that were honored, and the ones that weren't? Did you pick any winners?

As usual, I was not familiar with many of the winners and honorees, but I really didn't expect to be this year as the demands of work, school, and family haven't allowed as much time for reading or making an effort to follow the book buzz or any mock-Newbery or -Caldecotts. I kinda gave up after I made a concerted effort last year, and even dared to make a few pics and predictions, but was wrong on most of them.

BUT, for the first time I had actually already read the Newbery winner! It was one of the ARCs I selected to read from NetGalley during my short break from school in August. I chose it because I recognized the author from reading her YA book Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass back in my multicultural literature class the previous summer. I did like Merci Suarez Changes Gears quite a bit, but I had not really thought of it for the Newbery, though I think it is better than last year's winner. I would have liked for My Year In The Middle by Lila Quintero Weaver or The Dollar Kids by Jennifer Jacobson to have at least been honor books. I just finished reading one of the two honor books selected, The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, and I must say I really liked it.

I was also happy to see two of my favorite books from 2018, The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by Ekua Holmes and Dreamers by Yuyi Morales, win illustrator awards (the Coretta Scott King and the Pura Bel Pre, respectively), but I was disappointed neither of them were recognized by the Caldecott committee. 

I had read one of the Morris finalists, Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Aeyemi, and though I had some issues with the book, I think it is significant enough to warrant being a finalist. I really enjoyed Educated, a memoir by Tara Westover, that was one of the Alex Award winners, but I don't really see why the committee thought it had particular appeal to young adults over any other memoir written for adults, but it will likely be on some school reading lists. 

Some winner/honorees that were on my radar or already sitting in my "to read" pile, were Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka, The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown, Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram, Drawn Together by Minh Le, and Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall, but so many more, including all of the Printz, I had not even heard of. I am very happy that the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, Sydney Taylor Book Award, and American Indian Youth Literature Award are going to be included in the YMA ceremony from now on.

Since the roots of this blog are in storytime and early literacy, and because it's the only award I've had a chance to read the winner, all the honor books, and some others than had been tossed around as potential winners, I'm going to now focus on the Caldecott Award, starting with the winner, Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall. 

I will say this is a perfectly lovely book, the illustrations are pretty, the story is sweet, and *I* really like it. But, "perfectly lovely books" appeal to adults, NOT to children, yet this is the type of book the committee chooses time and time again. I just can't see this being of much interest to a child, unless they just happen to have a thing about lighthouses. I think awards that are supposed to recognize the best in children's books should pick books that are truly written/illustrated for and appeal to, >gasp< CHILDREN! 

I did like the honor books better, and feel children are much more likely to connect with them. Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal is a super sweet story, telling about each of the ancestors Alma is named after, and what trait she has in common; I loved it. I had noticed Thank You, Omu! when it first came in, and thought it, too, had a really sweet story about food, tradition, community, and sharing, and I really liked the collage illustrations.

For the second year in a row, we have an honoree that is about the death of a pet and furry friend, but unlike Elisha Cooper's Big Cat, Little Cat, Brian Lies' The Rough Patch starts with the death of Fox's pet dog right at the beginning and gets the sad part out of the way, then shows how Fox learns that life goes on, with bright, detailed illustrations. And finally, A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin is a pourquoi story that explains and demonstrates the phases of the moon with a charming story of a little girl nibbling away at it little by little each night. I did like how the honor books covered a range of cultures and ethnicities, though I still think Stuff of Stars and Dreamers should have been among them, if not the medal winner. 

One final  book that some were disappointed was not chosen for Caldecott honors (though was selected for the Stonewall award) is Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love, which shows a dark-skinned boy of unspecified ethnicity/culture (though Spanish words like "abuelo" and "mijo" are used) who spies women dressed as mermaids on the subway and decides he really wants to be a mermaid, too. He improvises a costume using his abuela's curtains and fern fronds, and thinks he's in trouble when she sees him. However, instead of punishment, his abuela gives him a pearl necklace to wear and takes him to join the festival on the beach, which features adults and children dressed as mermaids and other sea creatures. 

This book has been the subject of much discussion and disagreement; some see it as being about a transgender child joining a drag parade, and in that light find some things problematic. I personally see it as a child simply engaging in play that goes against gender stereotypes, and the grandmother wisely being supportive, and the parade being a festival that everyone dresses up for and participates in. Others have objected that it is not written by an "own voice", as the author is neither a POC nor a member of the LGTBQ+ community. But then, some of these are the same people that criticized Sophie Blackall for only depicting white people in Hello Lighthouse, so writers/illustrators are damned if they do, damned if they don't.

I thought the illustrations were beautiful and charming, and one thing that I really liked was the depiction of many different body types, particularly at the very beginning in the swimming pool. There were women who were tall, short, skinny, curvy in various shapes and sizes. I did have to look at this book a few times before I could decide what my interpretation was, and I supposed like all art, others will see it differently based on their own biases and experiences. The author says it is intentionally ambiguous, and wanted a character that both boys who like to play dress-up and transgender children could identify with. In her interview with Kirkus Reviews, she is quoted as saying, "You'd have to ask Julián how he identifies." 

So now I will be playing catch-up like always, trying to read or at least familiarize myself with as many of the award winners and honorees as possible, and by the time I'm done it will probably be almost time for next year's YMA Awards.... 

So how did you fare? Did you pick any winners? How many had you already read? Which books do you think got snubbed?

Monday, January 28, 2019

You Know You're A Children's Librarian When...

What does it take to be a children's librarian? An MLIS? Maybe. Knowledge of children's literature? Absolutely. Knowledge of child development? Preferably. The ability to relate to children of all ages (even teens) and their parents? Most definitely. But there's a whole lot of little unexpected things that go along with working in youth services that are rarely mentioned in job postings or taught in library school.

Somewhat recently a colleague and I were discussing materials needed for a program we were helping to plan, and she made the comment that "You know you're a children's librarian when you have three bins at home: trash, recycling, and trash you're going to upcycle for a children's program."

A couple of weeks later, I thought about her "you know you're a children's librarian when..." comment when I found myself planning my family's meals around my need of metal cans for my "Icy Experiments" program. I wondered what other things people found themselves doing that could only be explained by being a children's librarian [and in this case I use the term "children's librarian" loosely, to include all youth services professionals and paraprofessionals], so I posed the question in a large online group of children's librarians and other youth services people, and got over 100 comments!

A number of the comments, like my colleague's and mine, had to do with coming up with supplies for programs, including the ubiquitous staple: toilet paper rolls. Others had to do with going home or to after-work events only to find they had remnants of the latest library craft on them, everything from paint to glitter to googly eyes; sometimes days later. 

Several comments had to do with all the assorted crap we seem to carry around with us everywhere, filling our cars and tote bags. Still others had to do with being recognized away from the library, or not being able to turn it "off" and finding themselves reading to or playing with kids elsewhere, or providing reference or reader's advisory to friends and strangers alike outside the library. 

Here are just some of the comments on "you know you're a children's librarian when... 
  • ... you never go on vacation at normal times because you're even busier at work during school breaks."
  • ... you go out to dinner with the unibrow penciled in with eyeliner because you were doing spy school make up with the kids that day and forgot about it."
  • ... you find glitter in places you didn't think glitter could go."
  • ... you have a "work" ukulele and a "home" ukulele."
  • ... someone hands you a toilet paper roll, 2 coffee filters, a glue stick, some pipe cleaners, a sharpie, and a fluorescent orange marker and you make a work of art monarch butterfly in less than 2 minutes."
  • ... your friends and family's mouths drop open when their normally shy/quiet/introverted love one goes from that to the rare creature they've never seen called 'Ms. Ashley'."
  • ... you sing "Five Little Ducks" [or other children's songs/rhymes] in the shower."
  • ... you sneeze glitter."
  • ... you have the urge to discuss books with any kid you see with a book in their hand, no matter where you encounter them..."
  • ... you start entertaining someone else's kid while standing in line at the store."
  • ... you have an iron, a hack-saw, and a 5 pound bag of flour in your work bag."
  • ... random children run up and hug you in the library....the grocery store, the eye doctor's, and the local day care center."
  • ... the trunk of your car looks like an old time general store. Tools, books, grocery store items, art supplies, and pool noodles."
  • ... you ask for puppets as birthday presents, as an adult."
  • ... you clap your hands when someone does a good job and then you notice there are only adults in the room!"
  • ... you go clothes shopping and one of the criteria is 'can I do storytime in this?'."
  • ... you [go to a bookstore] and try to fix the shelves."

Of course these are all fun and entertaining, but you know what else they tell me? That children's librarians are incredibly creative and resourceful; they often operate on shoestring budgets and are able to come up with an amazing number of different crafts and activities using everyday items, often upcycling discarded items. Children's librarians are dedicated and like to help people. Many comments referred to performing librarian-type work while not on the clock or at the library, just to help people. Others also showed that people in youth services are ALWAYS thinking about how things could be used for programs, often planning and preparing materials on their own time. Children's librarians are able to laugh at themselves; I mean, going out to dinner with forgotten fake unibrow? 😆

But most of all, I think these show that most children's librarians love their jobs! Out of the over 100 comments, not a single one referred to the generally low pay, lack of respect much of the rest of the library world seems to have for youth services, or student loan debt many may have. Rather, pretty much everyone thought of funny, quirky, and rewarding parts of the job, which is pretty incredible.

I am technically not quite a children's librarian yet, but I count myself as part of the tribe. I have worked in library youth services for 6 years now, first as a page, then an early literacy outreach specialist, and now as a library associate. I actually did my first library program back when I was a teen, assisting my high school biology teacher run a natural science program at my childhood library. I am *almost* finished with my MLIS, just 3 classes to go after this semester, and after that I hope to be a full-fledged, card-carrying, glitter-wearing, toilet-paper-roll-hoarding, silly-song-singing children's librarian! 

Please feel free to add your "You know you're a children's librarian when..." in the comments below! 

Monday, January 21, 2019

"Ice Fishing" & Other Icy Experiments - STEAM Program

Experiments with ice and salt for kids, winter experiments, activities with ice

Experiments exploring the interactions of ice and salt are definitely seasonally appropriate in January (but could also be a nice escape from the heat in the summer). This was a fairly simple program that wasn't glamorous or flashy, but the kids really had fun with it. Best of all, it did not require a lot of special supplies.

I settled on three activities: growing frost, "ice fishing" (picking up ice cubes with a string), and excavating something trapped in a block of ice. Another activity that kids would love and would go well with the theme is making ice cream (or sorbet) in a bag, but I decided to save that for a later "kitchen chemistry" program because a coworker had done it recently in another program.

Ages: 5-10 (but kids as young as 3 could do the first two activities)

Time: 1 hour (an additional 15 minutes would have been good)

Budget: $10-$15 (plus an additional $18 for optional molds & eye-droppers)

Number: 13 (but could easily work with larger groups)

  • Crushed ice, 2 gallons (I used the crushed ice feature on our refrigerator)
  • Cubed ice, enough for everyone to have 3-5 pieces
  • Water
  • Table salt, 2 cartons
  • Ice Cream salt (rock salt sold in smaller quantities in the baking section), 1 box
  • Cotton string
  • Metal cans
  • Spoons
  • Bowls 
  • Dixie cups
  • Multiple small containers (I used short, wide plastic cups)
  • Small objects to freeze (I used small plastic dinos I had left from another program)
  • Variety of tools for excavating ice (I gave them corn cob holders, popsicle sticks, and skewers)
  • Optional: fish-shaped molds for making fish-shaped ice cubes, food coloring to tint the ice fish, styrofoam cups and eye-droppers for hot water to help melt ice block.

Activity #1 - Growing Frost
  1. Each participant was given a metal can, a Dixie cup 2/3 full of table salt, and a spoon.
  2. A bowl of crushed ice was passed around, and participants were instructed to fill cans 1/2 full with crushed ice.
  3. Participants then added 4-5 spoonfuls of salt, and I topped them all off with the remaining crushed ice (the ice was added in 2 steps to be sure there was enough for everyone, and that the salt didn't all end up close to the top).
  4. The salt and ice were mixed well with the spoon, then the cans were pushed to the front of the table and the kids were instructed not to touch them after this, but just to observe them over time.
  5. Since the frost takes a while to form, and is about as exciting to watch as watching paint dry, we moved on with the other two activities while continuing to monitor the frost formation.  [Click on any image to see full-size]
Making frost activity for kids, experiments with ice, activities with ice

Activity #2 - "Ice Fishing"

This is an old trick that I decided to give a little bit of a fun twist by making fish-shaped ice cubes, but if you don't have the budget for molds or the time, you can certainly use regular ice cubes.
  1. Each participant was given a bowl with 3-4 fish-shaped ice cubes (regular cubes in a cup would work, too) with enough water to float in and a piece of string, then instructed to "catch a fish". I let them try for a couple of minutes, and then sneakily demonstrated that *I* could catch one, why couldn't they? Then of course they knew there was a trick to it, and were ready to listen to instructions.
  2. First wet the end (or all) of the string, then lay the end on top of a piece of ice.
  3. Sprinkle with just a tiny pinch of table salt, and wait 2-4 minutes (being patient and waiting was the hard part), then carefully pull the string up and see if you've caught a "fish"! 
Experiments with ice for kids, catching ice cubes with salt and string, activities with ice for kids, winter experiments

Activity #3 - Excavation

You could do this with multiple individual small ice blocks as I did, or fewer larger ones and have kids work together, and use whatever small items you want to freeze. I happened to have a bunch of cheap small plastic dinosaurs, so that's what I used (though mammoths or cavemen would have been more appropriate!). I've seen people use beads, cool erasers, Lego minifigures, and dolls (such as Anna for a Frozen theme).
  1. I prepared ice blocks in advance.
    • I first added a small amount of water to the plastic cups and froze, trying to make sure it wasn't too thick or thin as this is what the kids will have to get through (mine turned out to be too thick for our 30 minute time frame, so just make a thin layer, about 1/8").
    • Then I added the plastic dinosaurs and covered with water and froze solid overnight. [If your items float rather than sink, put them in before freezing the first layer.]
  2. I dipped the cups in hot water and unmolded into small bowls. Each child was given salt (half were given table salt and half were given rock salt to compare), and an assortment of digging tools. We discussed how salt affects ice, and I encouraged them to keep that in mind as they tried to free their dinosaurs. Some decided they wanted to try the other kind of salt, so I let them trade.
  3. A few got theirs out just by using the salt and tools, but many were having trouble, so I also had hot water. I originally was going to give them hot water in styro cups with eye droppers, but the water was really hot and they weren't being as careful as I'd like, so I decided instead that I and a couple of the parents would go around giving them squirts of hot water to boost their efforts.
  4. As we approached the end of the hour, a few dinosaurs were still ice-bound. One family opted to put theirs back into the cups they were frozen in and take them home to finish, and for the others I just poured on more hot water to finally free them as they were so close. [I was letting them keep the dinosaurs; if you are using something you can't afford to give away, just be sure that is clear in advance.]
Icy excavation activity, activities with ice for kids

The Science Behind It

Salt has a seemingly paradoxical effect of both melting and freezing when mixed with ice that is a little hard to wrap your head around, and difficult to explain. 

When you add salt, it begins to melt the ice. This creates a small amount of a salty solution, which has a lower freezing point than plain water, thus can reach colder temperatures. The melting process actually pulls energy, in the form of heat, from the mixture, thus allowing the temperature of the salt water to drop below the normal freezing point of water, producing temperatures cold enough to freeze other solutions with a higher freezing point that it contacts. 

This is how it freezes ice cream, how it froze the water vapor in the air causing frost to form on the can of ice and salt, and how it caused the wet string to freeze to the ice cubes, allowing them to be picked up. But, eventually it melts even more of the ice and the temperatures equilibrate, and given enough time and salt, the overall effect is melting, which is why we use it to melt ice on sidewalks and streets.

How It Went

Even though this was not the most flashy or glamorous of programs (as compared to my Spooky Science or Paleontology programs), the kids really enjoyed it! The frost experiment was a little dull, but they were really impressed with the "Ice Fishing" trick, as were some of the adults! Not only was every child successful on their first or second try, some of them took it one step farther and started catching multiple "fish" on a single string at the same time! I told them this was a very simple trick that they could easily do at home to impress the rest of their family or friends!

Most of them really got into the ice excavation, though some struggled with it and some got a little frustrated that it wasn't quick and easy. This is an activity that requires time and patience, and does not provide instant gratification, which is a good lesson to learn. They tended to forget about using the salt to assist them in their efforts, and I had to keep reminding them to add it, and to spoon it back on top if it washed away. The rock salt was clearly better than the table salt for melting. I did end up have to use hot water to assist the last few kids in freeing their dinos at the end.

Overall, it was a great, easy, and inexpensive program and I was very pleased with how it went and how much the kids and adults all seemed to enjoy it. I highly recommend the picking up ice cubes with a string trick! I did go to the extra step and personal expense of purchasing fish molds to make fish-shaped cubes tinted orange to make it even more fun. It's not necessary, but it added a nice touch of whimsy. The frost forming was a little dull and could easily be skipped to allow more time for the other two, but it didn't take much time, either.

I tried to explain the science, but I'm not sure if they got it, though at this young age I think impressing them with cool, fun experiments to get them interested in science and encourage scientific exploration and curiosity is the most important thing, and maybe when then are exposed to these concepts again later it will "click" much faster.

What I'd Do Differently:

If I were to do it again, I think I'd start with the ice excavation, and just give them the ice block and let them first think about and discuss how they'd go about getting the dinosaur out, leading them to the idea of using salt. Then I'd give them the rock salt to put on top and just let sit while proceeding with the frost experiment. After that, I'd have them check on the melting, and see what they thought they should do next: chip at it with tools? more salt? different salt? I'd then suggest spooning the accumulating salt water over, chipping away a little bit with the tools, then spooning the rock salt back on top and sprinkling a little table salt to get in all the little nooks and crannies and waiting while we did the next activity.

They really need to let the salt do most of the work, and just use the tools to chip away at weakened fragments occasionally, then put the salt back on. The rock salt works best, but table salt can be sprinkled over and work into the small spaces in between. The tools do not work on solid portions of ice, only salt-corroded areas! And still have hot water if needed to speed the process.

My next STEAM program with have to do with icky germs, and I think will be a lot of fun!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Snowmen - Family Storytime

I chose this theme to have something seasonal, and because I have a really fun snowman activity I love to do. Though I had planned it 2-3 weeks ago, it turned out to be the day we had our first significant (though barely) snowfall!

As always, I started with our welcome song and introductions, then of course we had to talk about the weather and things we like to do in the snow, ending with talking about building snowmen, and pretending to build a snowman along with the following rhyme I first saw at Storytime Katie:
I Built A Little Snowman

I built a little snowman; he had a carrot nose.
(pretend to build snowman & place carrot)

Along came a bunny, and what do you suppose??
(hold up 2 fingers & "hop", shrug)

That hungry little bunny, looking for his lunch,
(rub tummy, hop bunny around)

ATE the snowman's nose! Nibble! Nibble! Crunch!
(pretend bunny is eating nose/carrot)

Then I led into our first book, a pop-up version of Snowmen At Night by Caralyn and Mark Buehner, with our story song. I like the pop-up version for younger or less-attentive kids because it is a little shorter than the original story, and pop-ups are always a big hit and more engaging. 

This story is very cute and has a nice rhythm when read aloud, and has nice illustrations, but the young kids usually need a little help realizing the real reason the snowman looks different is because he has melted. This led in nicely to the next activity.

After that is was time for one of my favorite activities, based on the fingerplay, "Five Little Snowmen", for which I made these props using the "Shapes" tools in Word (you can find downloadable files and more pictures in my original "Flannel Friday" post):

Five little snowmen, standing in a row.
Each with a hat and a carrot nose.
Out came the sun and shined on all day.
And one little snowman melted away.

[Continue down to the last snowman]

The first time I did this, I had a sudden moment of inspiration and turned it into a game after we did it the traditional way first. I had the kids all stand in a circle and be the snowmen. I was the sun, and walked around behind them as we said the rhyme, and if I tapped them on the shoulder, that meant it was their time to melt. It was so much fun, I've done it that way whenever space allowed every since.

After all of our little snowmen had finished melting and turned back into children, we moved on to a story about a very different kind of snowman, the "Abominable Snowman", a Western misnomer of the Yeti of Nepali legends. I gave an introduction and explanation of the Yeti before we read our second book, No Yeti Yet, by Mary Ann Fraser.

In this book, two kids go out looking for a Yeti, with the older one hoping to get a picture. As they walk through the woods, the Yeti is close by, but they never spot him, and all the while the younger child keeps questioning the older one about the Yeti. Finally, they reach the Yeti's cave and run into him, then run away in fright. Kids will love trying to spot the Yeti on each page, and laugh at the kids being afraid when the Yeti chases after them when they realize he is just trying to return their camera.

After that we of course had to go on our own Yeti hunt! First in the form of a call-and-response chant modeled after the classic "Going On A Bear Hunt". First start a clapping rhythm, then the leader says a line, and the audience repeats.

Going On A Yeti Hunt

We're going on a Yeti hunt.
Gonna find a big one. 
With great big feet,
And long white fur.

Look, it's a great, big snowfield!
Can't go around it,
Can't go under it,
Have to ski across it!
(pretend to ski)
Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh!

[Repeat beginning verse]

Look, it's a wide, frozen river!
Can't swim across it,
Can't go around it,
Have to skate across it!
(pretend to skate)
Glide, glide, glide!

[Repeat beginning verse]

Look, it's a great big mountain!
Can't go around it,
Can't go through it,
Have to climb up it!
(pretend to climb)
Climb, climb, climb!

[Repeat beginning verse]

Look, it's a deep, dark cave!
Just like where the Yeti lives.
Let's go in it!
(pretend to walk carefully)
Step, step, step.

Whoops, what is that?
I feel two great big feet!
And long, shaggy, fur!

[Say the rest quickly, without pausing for response while acting out the motions]

It's the Yeti! Run!  Run, run, run
Climb down the mountain!   Climb, climb, climb
Skate back across the river!  Glide, glide, glide
Ski across the snowfield!  Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh
Go back in the house, and shut the door!  Slam, lock
Ah, safe at last!

Yeti Hunt, snowman storytimeAfter that, we went on actual Yeti hunt, looking for a small, stuffed Yeti I had hidden in the picture book section next to the storytime area. Since we were running a tad over our time after that, I skipped the closing song and went straight to the craft.

Today's craft was very open-ended. I started with the idea of making snowmen by gluing cotton balls on a piece of construction paper. I provided blue paper, cotton balls, both liquid glue and glue sticks, pieces of scrap paper of several colors for added details, scissors, and crayons. At the last minute, I decided not to provide an example to discourage parents from thinking it had to be made the "right" way.

I just put out the materials, and told them to use the cotton balls however they wanted to create their own snowy scene. I suggested they could use them to make snowmen, Yeti, snow forts, snowballs in a snowball fight, snow falling down, or whatever they wanted.

I was pleased to see that the parents did just let the kids do whatever they wanted, and not worry about how they turned out. 

This one little boy [pictured with permission] was so cute! We have the glue sticks that are purple when "wet" and dry clear, and evidently he had only seen regular white ones because he kept opening one after the other, exclaiming "Look, purple!" each time. He had the sweetest little smile, too.

How It Went 
I was a little concerned about whether I would have anyone show up for storytime, because, ironically, we were forecast to have snow, possibly heavy and possibly mixed with freezing rain, overnight and in the morning. Luckily, we only got about a couple of inches of snow, no ice, and it was over before morning. I still had a smaller crowd than normal, but still a decent number with about 8 kids and 7 adults, and one family had actually already been out in the snow that morning and built a little snowman, so in a way it was good timing for the theme.

The kids were all on the younger side, and a couple had a little trouble listening to the stories or participating in some activities, but overall they did great. They didn't get into acting out the "Five Little Snowmen" like slightly older kids do, but some did (I'll have to remember to save the "game" version for older kids). One little girl was too shy, so her dad held her and melted to the floor holding her! I was pretty impressed with that. I was really glad to see several dads in the audience, and see them participating. 

They all like spotting the Yeti in No Yeti Yet and liked the twist of the Yeti chasing after the children not to get them, but rather to return their camera, and everyone enjoyed the Yeti hunt. All in all, I was very pleased with how it all turned out, and we all had a lot of fun with it.