Baby & Me: Trying New Things

My baby storytime looks very different from the one I started with 4 years ago. I have had so much fun challenging myself by continually adding new elements to Baby & Me.

Parachute

Jbrary’s post on parachutes in baby storytime gave me the courage to finally try something I have been contemplating doing for a long time. This felt really out of my comfort zone and the first week I was really nervous. Lindsey at Jbrary gives a really fantastic breakdown and explanation about how it works for her, which really helped me because a lot of the info I had found previously was about using the parachute with older kids so I wasn’t sure how my babies and caregivers would react.

The other thing that motivated me was that we had such a great group of babies and caregivers in our February-March session. Some had been coming for a year or more already so we were all familiar with each other. So one day I took the plunge and brought out the parachute!

 

And it went really well! Who knows what I was so nervous about. Several of the babies LOVED it. Little ones were sitting under the parachute as caregivers lifted it up and down. The walkers had a great time running under the parachute and back out. I did have one or two kiddos get overwhelmed by the new experience, so I recommend keeping it quiet and gentle at first while they get used to it. We sang the really Let’s Go Riding in an Elevator (by Jbrary of course!).

The second or third time we got the parachute out, we had a bit of a smaller group so I decided to try sitting the babies on top and  pulling the parachute around in a circle. The caregivers were skeptical, but it worked and they absolutely loved it. I can’t wait to do that again in our summer session!

Ball Pit

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For a special surprise at the end of our last Baby & Me of the session, I brought out a ball pit! I was so excited to do this with my babies. I first saw the idea on Brooke Newberry’s fabulous blog, Reading With Red. She  wrote up a great post about her baby play groups. There are a ton of great ideas there, and when I saw the ball pit, I thought, I MUST do that! I was further motivated by her webinar with Kendra Jones, “Successful Programming for Babies and Toddlers.” You can still view the archive, and I highly recommend that you do!

It was especially meaningful to bring the ball pit out when I did, because two of our longtime Baby & Me attendees had their second birthdays and were graduating. Since it was their last session, it was a wonderful way to say goodbye. It was such a hit, I added a Baby Play Day to my summer schedule based on Brooke and Kendra’s great ideas.

 

Booktalked Favorites

Twice a year, in the fall and spring, I do booktalks at a nearby middle school. This year I started visiting another middle school and their excitement about the books I brought was just thrilling! I have been doing this for three years now, and usually every time I end up with at least one or two duds in the group of books I bring. This spring was the first time there were kids wanting to read all ten books. There were no duds!

These are the books I shared with around 300 seventh and eighth grade students this month:

Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler by Phillip Hoose*

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Bradley

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

The Iron Trial by Holly Black

The Siren by Kiera Cass*

Illuminae by Amy Kaufman*

*book trailers

A week later, I am still having kids coming in and asking for these books! They are all great picks for middle school kids.

How the Fun Happens: My Baby & Me Outline

Today I am sharing the general outline I use each week as I plan Baby & Me. In the next few weeks I will put up some more specific storytime plans and information about parachutes and some of my other activities. Enjoy!

Welcome

My welcome message goes something along the lines of: Welcome to Baby & Me! My name is Allison and we have a lot of songs, stories and more planned for today. It is perfectly normal for your child to crawl or wander the room, though if you do have an upset child, feel free to leave the room and come back when they are ready for more.  Everything we’ll do today is something you can do at home with your child every day! Read with your child, sing with your child, talk with your child and your child will be on their way to learning to read.

Bubbles and Music

I hand out bubbles to all the caregivers and we blow bubbles while families are entering the room and getting settled. I play a song or two from a CD as we play with the bubbles. The littles can’t get enough!

The More We Get Together

I play this song on the ukulele. We sing the song once through and on the second go around we add the children’s names to the song.

Open Them, Shut Them

I do a shortened version of this popular rhyme and we repeat it at least 3 times each week. By the end of the session, most of the one-year olds are doing the actions along with us and I love to see that!

Open them, shut them
Open them, shut them
Give a little clap

Open them, shut them
Open them, shut them
Lay them in your lap

Book 1

With our hands  in our laps we are ready for a story! I do use themes, though the books are usually some of the only elements that will fit the theme. I like having a little structure and direction when picking books. There are too many good ones to choose from otherwise.

Familiar Song

Flannelboard or Parachute

We have a lovely selection of flannel stories to choose from (really, they are magnet stories, but hey, tradition). This spring was my first time using the parachute and I’ll be blogging about that more later.

Go In and Out the Window

I added this one to my weekly routine thanks to the lovely ladies of Jbrary. Check out their video for a description of how it is done. We also do the second verse where you turn and face your partner. Occasionally I’ll think about putting something else here, but the delight on the babies’ faces keeps me doing this one every week.

Scarves

We also do scarves every week. My co-worker had some she frugally made herself for a program a long time ago and I had been using those. This year we had some money to invest in some of these Rhythm Band Scarves. They’re so purty!

scarves

Bounces

Book 2 or 1-on-1 Reading

Sometimes 2 books feels like too much for this crowd and I often end up cutting the second book short. But there are so many great books I find it hard to limit myself to just one.

Egg Shakers with Music

I’ll put the CD on and hand out the egg shakers. I alternate between “Alabama Mississippi” by Jim Gill and “I Know a Chicken” by Laurie Berkner because I can’t find any shakers songs I like as much as these two.

If You’re Happy and You Know it

The closing song is also played on my ukulele. I’ve got these two songs down!

Activity

After the closing song I’ll get out an activity and parents and babies are welcome to stay in the room as long as they want. Sometimes the activity is blocks and a big bag of toys and other times it is a craft or a sensory experience. I love trying new things for this portion of Baby & Me.

How We Went From Lapsit to Baby & Me

In the Fall of 2014 we made some changes to our baby storytime. Previously the program had been called Lapsit and it was held once a month. The program was for babies and toddlers from birth to 24 months. And no one was coming. I would generally only have 1-3 babies but I knew from talking to parents who came into the library that there was an audience for this type of program. Something had to change.

I took a good long look at how we were doing things. I ended up making only two changes. I changed the name of the program from Lapsit to Baby & Me. In our community no one knew what the word lapsit meant. It was library jargon. But Baby & Me makes it clear that it is a class for babies and caregivers and it sounds inviting and fun. The second change is that we went from monthly to weekly for 6-8 week sessions.

Now here we are, a year and a half later, and attendance at Baby & Me is through the roof! During the latest session we reached our room capacity almost every week. We are going to need a bigger room!

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I think other libraries have noticed a similar trend. Our Preschool Storytime numbers seem to be dropping as more and more kids this age are in preschool or daycare. But there are a lot of caregivers looking for things to do outside the house with infants and one-year olds. I now know this from personal experience. Trust me, when you have a small baby you can go stir-crazy pretty quickly at home and there are limited things babies can do. Baby & Me is one of them, and of course parents love that its free too!

Stay tuned for an outline of how I plan Baby & Me and some examples of storytime plans. I have introduced lots of new props and activities with my Baby & Me crowd and I can’t wait to share them with you.

 

Allison’s Favorite Reads of 2015 (Part Two)

The Hired Girl bhiredy Laura Amy Schlitz. This book reminded me so much of the types I loved to read as a young girl. I loved to read historical fiction about smart, literary girls who go out into the world to make it on their own. You could also use the term Bildungsroman, if you wanted to sound really smart (look it up, you non-English majors!). I don’t read them so much anymore because my interests tend more towards fantasy and mysteries now that I’m older. But I still have a warm place in my heart for Laura Ingalls, Jo March, Jane Eyre, and the like. And so I loved this book about a young girl named Joan who runs away from her cruel father and the grueling work on his farm. She ends up as a maid in a wealthy Jewish household, and a lot of this book deals with the clash between Joan’s Catholicism and her Jewish employers. Joan wants to do what is right and struggles to understand what that is. There are a lot of interesting things in this book about religion and prejudice as well as fun moments with kittens and carousals.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I listened to this audiobook and was very pleased when my book club selected it as our next month’s pick. More historical fiction here, this book takes place during World War II. What I loved about it so much was that the two main characters had very different experiences than you generally read about. Marie-lightLaure is a blind girl who lives in Paris with her father, who is the key master at the National Museum. During the occupation, she and her father flee to her great uncle’s house. Her father is carrying the most prized gem in the Museum, either a decoy or the real thing. A Nazi collector is hunting for the same gem. Then we have a German boy, Werner, who is an orphan in a mining town. He is fascinated by radios and learns to fix them, a sought-after skill in the Hitler Youth. This story follows the two over the course of several years and at the end their lives intersect in beautiful ways.

warThe War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Another World War II book, and another audiobook. This one is for children. It tells the story of Ada and her brother Jamie. They live with their cruel mother in London. Because Ada was born with a clubfoot, her mother has never allowed her to leave their small apartment. When Ada and Jamie hear that they are sending children to the country they seize the opportunity to run away. They are placed with Susan, a reluctant guardian. I enjoyed seeing the development of Ada’s character as she learns about the world and learns to accept the love of Susan and the good changes that have happened in her life.

deepChallenger Deep by Neal Shusterman. This book is extremely hard to describe. Seriously, just read it! It is about a young man and his struggle with mental illness. The story is told in dual narratives and can be confusing at the start, but that is also kind of the point. If you stick with it it makes a lot more sense. Challenger Deep is a powerful book that doesn’t glamorize or sugar-coat mental illness. The voice is so realistic, which I am sure is in part due to the author’s personal experience with his son going through the mental illness described in the book.

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman. I didn’t read as much nonfiction this year, but this was a book club pi12609ck and I am so glad it gave me a reason to read it. Sometimes when there is a book club book I’m not excited about, I’ll start reading fully intending never to finish the book. (I know, I’m terrible. But there are too many good books out there!) With this book, I was sucked in right away and knew it would be one to read to the very end. The nonfiction writing was just that good. And I learned, so, so much. I highly recommend this fascinating book.

Allison’s Favorite Reads of 2015 (Part One)

I really missed doing my favorite reads list last year (what was I doing? Oh that’s right, having a baby). Even though I rarely blog anymore, this is always one of my favorite posts, so here you go! I will not be reaching my goal of 100 books this year (something about the aforementioned baby sucking up my reading time) but I got respectably close. I still struggled to narrow my list down because there were so many good ones!

princessThe Princess in Black by Shannon Hale. “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little SMASH!” The Princess in Black is here to save the day! No one would suspect that her alter-ego the fancy Princess Magnolia who always wears a pink dress is also a monster-fighting ninja! I adore this early chapter book that shows girls can save the day but they can also wear pretty pink dresses and both are okay. Even better news, The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party is out now and The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde comes out next year. Read them all!

A Darker Shade final for IreneDarker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab. Kell is a Traveler. He can use magic move from his home in Red London to either Gray London or White London. I loved so much about this fantasy novel. The characters are great, there is a lot of action (but not too much), and I found the way magic worked in this universe to be really original and interesting. As I closed the book I was dying to get my hands on Book 2.

carryonCarry On by Rainbow Rowell. I was hesitant about the concept of this one, but I should have trusted Rainbow Rowell to execute it perfectly. Sort of a companion novel to Fangirl, sort of a semi-Harry Potter fanfiction, but really its own amazing thing, Carry On takes all the fantasy and Chosen One tropes and messes around with them in a really fabulous way. Once I got over my hesitations, I loved every minute of this audiobook. And I haven’t even told you what it is about. Simon Snow is the greatest mage, prophesied to save the magical world. It is his final year at Watford and he has his best friend Penny, his girlfriend Agatha, and his arch-enemy/roommate Baz (who may also be a vampire). There are ghosts and Numpties and dragons and lots of fun magic. Give this one a try, you’ll love it!

hoorayHooray for Hat! by Brian Won. This is a charming picture book with lovely bright illustrations. Elephant wakes up in a very grumpy mood but cheers up when he discovers a marvelous hat on his doorstep. He goes out to share the hat and cheer up all his friends. I used this one in storytimes about feelings and sharing and I get lots of smiles every time.

nimonaNimona by Noelle Stevenson. Nimona is a girl with mysterious shapeshifting abilities and she wants to be Lord Blackheart’s sidekick. Lord Blackheart is a supervillain with a grudge against the Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, who works for the Institute of Law Enforcement and Heroics. He and Nimon make plans to take down Goldenloin and the Institute. But this is not a simple good versus evil story. Things are not what they seem. Blackheart doesn’t want to kill anyone. Maybe he isn’t such an evil villain after all. What happened years ago between Blackheart and Goldenloin? What is The Institute really up to? And how did Nimona get her shapeshifting powers?? I highly recommend this fabulous graphic novel!

A Tried and True Storytime Plan

At my location, I am the teen and baby programmer so I don’t often get to do preschool storytime. I really lucked out this week though, because we had3 outreach events scheduled so I got to do a preschool/family storytime 3 whole times! Of course, being the Summer-Reading overloaded librarian that I am, I planned one great outline and used it at each event. Which is a really great idea unless, you know, the same family happens to show up at two of them! That did happen to me, but luckily they didn’t seem to mind. In fact, they seemed rather pleased to already know the words to the songs. And so, without further ado, here is my tried and true storytime plan, used 3 times in one week to great success!

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Sing: The More we Get Together (with ukulele!)

Read: Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney

Sing: Mary Wore Her Red Dress

Fingerplay: Open Them, Shut Them

Read: Jump! by Scott M. Fischer

Sing: Mmm Ah Went the Little Green Frog

Mmm ahh went the little green frog one day
Mmm ahh went the little green frog
Mmm ahh went the little green frog one day
And they all went mmm mmm ahhh!!

We all know frogs go shanananana
shanananana shanananana
We all know frogs go shanananana
shanananana shanananana
They don’t go mmm mmm ahh.

Little blue fish: blup blup, kissy kissy kiss

Flannel Board: Little Mouse, Little Mouse

Read: Count the Monkeys by Mac Barnett

Rhyme: 5 Little Monkeys

5 little monkeys sitting in a tree
hold up five fingers
Teasing Mr. Alligator, “Can’t catch me!”
put thumbs in ears and waggle fingers
Along came the alligator quiet as can be
put palms together like an alligator mouth and weave back & forth
And SNATCHED that monkey right out of the tree!
open palms wide and clap loudly on “snatched”

Read: I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry

Sing: If You’re Happy and You Know it (with ukulele!)

There was no theme to this storytime, just books I love to read! The first time I did it, I used Oh No! by Candace Fleming, but afterwards I decided I didn’t like the way that flowed as a read aloud and I wanted something more interactive. So I swapped it for Count the Monkeys, which was a GREAT decision.

It was my first time using a song I learned from Jbrary’s AMAZING youtube channel and the kids loved it! They are a super great resource for storytime songs, so if you haven’t yet, be sure to check them out! I’m also getting so much better at playing my opening and closing songs on the ukulele. I think I’m ready to start branching out and adding more ukulele songs to my plans!