Saturday, June 22, 2024

Art Storytime - Preschool

Art Storytime

As with the previous toddler storytime, this preschool storytime took place during the third week of summer reading, which had an "Exploring the Arts" theme as part of the overall "Adventure Begins at Your Library" summer theme, so our books and one of our songs were about art, and the activities afterward were arts-related.

We started with a "Hello" song, introductions, and expectations, then proceeded with our warm-up song for the month, "Hello, Everybody". Then I introduced the topic of exploring the arts, and asked the kids to name different types of art. They immediately came up with painting, drawing, and coloring, and with a little prompting added music and dancing, and I added sculpture. One of the kids also mentioned jewelry-making. 

After our lead-in song, I read our first book, simply titled "Art", by Patrick McDonnell. There is a little word-play involved, as it is about art, but the boy's name is also Art. 

Though I wish the book were a little bigger and had bright, bold colors rather than muted ones, I liked that it was short and simple, had motions to mimic, colors to identify, and showed various types of art - zig-zag lines, wavy lines, dots, splotches, blotches, splatters, black & white doodles, and full-color drawings.

I followed this with an action-song about painting to the tune of "This is the Way We..." (aka "Do You Know the Muffin Man"):

This Is the Way We Paint

This is the way we stir the paint, stir the paint, stir the paint.
This is the way we stir the paint, when we are painting.

This is the way we dip the brush, dip the brush, dip the brush.
This is the way we dip the brush, when we are painting.

This is the way we paint on the canvas, paint on the canvas, paint on the canvas.
This is the way we paint on the canvas, when we are painting.

This is the way we blow it dry, blow it dry, blow it dry.
This is the way we blow it dry, when we are painting.

This the way we hang it up, hang it up, hang it up.
This is the way we hang it up, when we finish painting!

For the second book I chose Arlo Draws an Octopus by Lori Mortensen and Bob Sayegh, Jr. I chose this book not only because it has a cute story with colorful illustrations and a child of color, but primarily because I love the way it addresses creativity, making mistakes, perfectionism, and frustration.

Arlo is trying to draw an octopus, but in the end becomes frustrated because he doesn't think his drawing is good enough, and doesn't really look like an octopus. He initially tries to push through, and reminds himself that it's okay not to be good at something, because no one is good at everything, and recalls some of the things his friends & family are not good at. But he ends up crumpling his drawing up and throwing it in the floor. But, in a twist ending, he discovers that an actual octopus thinks it looks just like his aunt!

This story was a little long for this group, and I was started to lose some of the kids by then end, so I decided to scrap the song I had planned, and do something more engaging instead. In the story, Arlo thinks his attempt at drawing all the suckers on the octopus's tentacles looks more like a bunch of bubbles, so I decided to do bubbles instead.

Then I ended with a "Goodbye" song, prefacing it with saying we did have activities afterward, but we would go ahead and sing our goodbye song now, in case we didn't get to say goodbye to all of our friends later.


Just as I did for the toddler storytime earlier that week, I had a variety of different artistic activities for them today to "explore the arts":
  1. Sculpture - I provided multiple cans of Play-Doh, rolling pins, cookie cutters, rotary cutters, and plastic knives.

  2. Painting - The kids are always excited about using paint, and this time I jazzed it up by giving them a few unusual items in addition to thick and fine paintbrushes - textured paint "brushes", textured scrapers, sponges, cotton balls, bubble wrap, and fluffy bath scrubbers made of wadded plastic mesh, along with red, blue, and yellow paints. When they asked for other colors, I reminded them they could mix the primary colors to make new colors.

  3. Music - I provided a variety of musical instruments: maracas, bells, cymbals, triangle, tambourines, wooden sounder, and toy microphones.

  4. Drawing - I put crayons and paper out on one table, but I don't think any of the kids actually chose to do this activity, finding the often forbidden-at-home paint, play-dough, and musical instruments much more exciting.
How It Went 

I would have preferred to have had one of the books be about some type of art other than drawing/painting, but I couldn't really find anything suitable in our collection about sculpture, dance, or other types of art. I did find one board book about musical instruments, and in hindsight I wish I had used it instead of Art. I had originally thought I might be able to sneak it in as a third book, but since Arlo was on the longer side a third book just wasn't going to work.

The kids really enjoyed the play-dough, painting, and musical instruments since unfortunately most parents don't allow those activities at home. My assistant did not particularly enjoy the musical instruments, but sometimes you just have to let kids do the noisy, messy things. Especially when they are not only very developmentally appropriate, but also bring such joy, and they get so limited opportunities to do them elsewhere. This was a much smaller group than for toddler storytime, so it was not as noisy at chaotic.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Exploring the Arts - Toddler Storytime

Art storytime, exploring the arts with toddlers

This was our second week of summer reading, which had the overall CSLP theme of "Adventure Begins at Your Library". I usually pick loose weekly themes after I've booked performer/presenters based on their shows; this week I booked an interactive steel drum performance so used "Exploring the Arts" as the theme for the week. This was a very fun, busy, and noisy storytime!

My toddler storytimes incorporate a lot of repetition and movement, with generally only one book, followed by activities that are usually open-ended, exploratory, and play-based. We started with our "Hello" song, followed by this month's warm-up song:

Hello, Everybody
(from Jbrary)

Hello, everybody, can you touch your nose?
Touch your nose, touch your nose?
Hello, everybody, can you touch your nose?
Touch - Your - Nose

(I do 4-5 verses with various body parts/actions)

Next we did two movement songs with props. This month, we are using shaker eggs and I chose two recorded songs, "I Can Shake My Shaker Egg" by Eric Litwin & Michael Levine and "I Know a Chicken" by Laurie Berkner:

Then I tried to get them settled down with several verses of our lead-in song:

If You're Ready for a Story

If you're ready for a story, stomp your feet!
If you're ready for a story, stomp your feet!
If you're ready for a story, if you're ready for a story,
If you're ready for a story stomp your feet.

(turn around, clap hands, take a seat, say "shh"...)

Since we already incorporate so much music into storytime, I chose a book reflecting a visual art form, Beautiful Hands by Bret Baumgarten and Kathryn Otoshi. 

This book has beautiful, creative illustrations that use handprints and fingerprints to create images of flowers, trees, butterflies, a dragon, and more. I immediately fell in love with the idea of using handprint art for one of our activities, but as I read the book in storytime I realized the text really didn't flow that well or tie in to the pictures well enough. 
Sometimes I do an additional song or rhyme after the book, but I had a large group and I was losing them, so I went straight to counting with bubbles, which is how I end every toddler storytime.
Ten Little Bubbles

One little, two little, three little bubbles,
Four little, five little, six little bubbles,
Seven little, eight little, nine little bubbles,
Ten little bubbles go POP!

(blow bubbles during second verse using a bubble gun)

Pop, pop, pop go all the bubbles,
Pop, pop, pop go all the bubbles,
Pop, pop, pop go all the bubbles,
All the little bubbles go POP!

(repeat second verse as many times as needed)

Ten little, nine little, eight little bubbles,
Seven little, six little, five little bubbles,
Four little, three little, two little bubbles,
One little bubble goes POP!

Then we sang a "Goodbye" song, which I prefaced by telling then that we did have activities afterward, but we would go ahead and sing our goodbye song in case we didn't get to say goodbye to all of our friends later.


I set up four different "stations" with simple, age-appropriate activities to explore various types of art:
  1. Handprint Collage - Inspired by our book, but I used large stamp pads with washable ink instead of paint because it is easier, less messy, and dries much faster. Also provided markers for adding details.

  2. Dot Painting - While perhaps not as creative as others, young kids really love this and it gives them practice with their fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination, and they can play with color. While I do give them printed templates with the circles to fill, they always have the option of turning it over and doing their own thing on the back.
  3. Play-Dough Sculpture - Provided several different colors of play-doh, cookie cutters, rotary cutters, plastic knives, and rolling pins and just let them do their own thing! Parents love when we do this at the library, because so many don't do it at home (unfortunately). I emphasize that rolling, squishing, and cutting dough is such great exercise for little hands and fingers, building strength and motor skills.

  4. Musical Instruments - I could not come up with anything I liked for the sensory bin, so I decided to just put all the instruments in it. After all, they are definitely sensory! I felt a little bad about it, because I knew my assistant and some of the adults (and some kids) would have a hard time with the noise, but I felt I just had to this time and knew most of the kids would love them.

     [Btw, a set of musical instruments is a great passive-aggressive gift to give to a child whose parents have annoyed you, but also very developmentally appropriate! A couple of my nieces/nephews may have received such a gift in the past 🤣]
How It Went

I had a large group (for this library) of at least 22 children and 18 or so adults (it's so hard to get an accurate count because of people coming and going due to arriving late, needing to step out early with a fussy/wiggly child, or not staying for the activities afterward), and it was a very busy, noisy, but fun storytime.

The book I chose was great for inspiring an activity, but not so great for a group read-aloud, and I lost all but the oldest kids' attention, but of course quickly re-gained it when I brought out the bubbles! A few families opted not to stay for the activities, or not very long, due to being overwhelmed by the noise and number of people, and that's okay. Usually, after they have been coming regularly and get to know people, they get used to it, plus it's usually not as noisy as it was today 😉. For example, the child in the photo above gleefully banging the cymbals with a huge grin of pure joy on their face used to be very quiet and shy, and would leave right after storytime instead of staying for the activities. Now, they stay afterward and dive right in!

Saturday, June 15, 2024

A Day in the Life of a Children's Librarian


a day as a children's librarian
We are now in the thick of summer reading, when kids and family programming doubles and we have increased foot traffic. It is very busy and exhausting, but luckily only for two months; I'd never be able to sustain this amount of programming year-round without additional programming staff.

This was a day when we had a performer coming in, which you would think would give me a break, but though I don't have to plan a program I still spend a lot of time and energy on set-up and take-down of the meeting room and interacting with people. In addition, I had not one, but two, meetings. Although every day is different, I'd say this was a fairly typical day during summer reading. So here's how it went:

    • 9:00a-9:15a - Arrive to work, clock-in, check e-mail, check schedules.
    • 9:15a-10:00a - Lower thermostats in meeting rooms, clear out all the tables and set up chairs. Make a few adjustments after performer arrives at their request. (Fortunately, a co-worker who arrived earlier had already started this for me and another arrived to help when she had to return to the desk; without help this would have taken much longer.)
    • 10:00a-10:15a - Check both service desks and info table to see if they are sufficiently stocked with summer reading brochures and reading challenge sheets; get clicker-counter and performer's check from office, refill water.
    • 10:15a-10:30a - Return to meeting room, give performer check, and open doors for audience to enter and be seated, count attendees.
    • 10:30a-11:15a - Make opening announcements, then stay in room for show to monitor.
    • 11:15a-12:00p - Rush to meeting with reps from science center (who were 45 minutes early!) about traveling exhibit we are to host in the fall.
    • 12:00p-1:00p - Looked over books assistant had pulled for me for consideration for next week's storytime, covered children's service desk, re-filled displays and summer reading info, asked another staff member to put tables back in meeting rooms and return to normal arrangement, checked e-mail, recorded program attendance stats, assisted patrons.
    • 1:00p-2:00p - Lunch
    • 2:00p-3:00p - Checked in with staff member who was just beginning shift at children's desk, discussed scheduling off-desk time for them to participate in webinar the following day, various administrative tasks, prepared for upcoming meeting, prepared books to be dropped off at daycare next day.
    • 3:00p-4:00p - Management team meeting, discussed changes in purchasing, program planning, and marketing, upcoming performance reviews, and departmental updates.
    • 4:00p-5:00p - Reviewed plans & preparations for next morning's elementary program and re-arranged tables & chairs in program room to be ready, put away materials left from previous programs, general tidying. Pulled a few more books for displays, checked in with various staff, checked-email, checked library's social media.
    • 5:00p - Clock out & go home.
That's most of it, anyway. I am sure there are things I have forgotten, as well as multiple quick conversations with co-workers and patrons while passing through, trips to the printer, short breaks for the restroom, water, or a snack, etc. It's all kind of a blur by the end of the day.

This was one of those days where I am busy non-stop, going from one thing to the next with very little downtime in between. I enjoy those days because they go by quickly, I'm too busy to get tired, and I'm usually interacting with a lot of people, but I am glad that every day is not like that or I would never have time for planning, collection work, and professional development. Plus, being a true introvert, I need some down-time with less interaction to recharge. 

I enjoy the busy-ness of summer reading, though I wish I was not the sole person responsible for planning ALL kids and family programs. Maybe by next summer one of our new youth services staff will be ready and willing to taking on some programming themselves. I'd still be there to help and guide, but it would be nice to have someone else be able to take lead on a few things and genuinely participate in overall planning. I find the *planning* of summer reading to be incredibly stressful! By the time it's actually here, it's a relief and just busy rather than overly stressful.