Baby Play Day

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This program is probably the one I had been looking forward to the most all summer. We had a 6 week series of regular Baby & Me and the seventh week we had Baby Play Day!

This program was mostly inspired by Brooke Newberry at Reading With Red and her fun Play, Baby, Play program. She also gave a fabulous webinar co-hosted with Kendra Jones at on Successful Programming for Babies and Toddlers.

My second biggest planning resource was the awesome and essential book 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids by Asia Citro. This book has tons of recipes for play, everything from finger-paints to play-doughs to slimes. She labels which are taste-safe for babies which has been a huge help. I have made probably 5 recipes from this book (or the author’s website) without a single fail.


So for Baby Play Day I put out about 10 activities and we had unstructured playtime for an hour. These are the things we had:

Cloud Dough (similar to what some people call Moon Sand): Part flour, part sand, and some vegetable oil.bpd15_censored

Colored Rice: Dyed with food coloring and vinegar.

Ball Pit: 200 balls purchased on Amazon and a kiddie pool. I blogged about our first time using this here.

Crinkly Paper: Bright orange and green packing paper from a box from Mango Languages.

Tunnel: Brought from home, my daughter’s first birthday present.bpd14_censored

Texture Boards: Pieces of cardboard with bits of various textures hot-glued on.

Kleenex Box Scarves: Pulling colorful scarves out of tissue boxes.

Pom-Pom Chutes: Tubes taped to the wall to put pom-poms through.bpd3

Boxes: These were empty soda can boxes left over from when I did Giant Jenga with the teens a couple weeks ago. The babies loved stacking them and pushing them over. The boxes were nearly as big as them!

Dance Corner: Rainbow ribbons, shakey dggs, and bells. And music!

Books: I put out books from our Parenting section on play activities for babies and toddlers as well as a selection of Board Books.

Oh, and there were also bubbles, of course!

Even with all that, I worried that there wouldn’t be enough to do, or that parents would be expecting more structure or direction. I didn’t need to worry! They got right down to play and had a grand time. At the 30 minute mark, I did turn up the music and invite people to come on over and dance with me, but only a few took me up on it. Everyone was so engrossed in all the other activities. It was a really great time for all (even though I was completely exhausted the rest of the day from all the set up, clean up, and playing!). And I am already planning to do another one in November.


Movie Scavenger Hunt

I love scavenger hunts and teens always seem to enjoy them too.  In fact, during a recent Boys & Girls Club visit to the library I gave the Middle School kids a scavenger hunt and as the group was leaving, I overheard one of the boys (who had been acting too cool for school) say to his friends, “That was actually pretty fun.” I consider that high praise from a teenage boy!

But I have done a lot of scavenger hunts in the library, my friend. And they were starting to get a little stale. So when I started planning my April programs I wanted to try something a little different. And that is how I came up with Movie Scavenger Hunt! Really, my thought process when I came up with the idea was, “I need a draw to get teens to come to a scavenger hunt program. What do teens like? They like movies! I will do – A Movie Scavenger Hunt!” And I had no idea what that was but I had a few months to figure it out, so I went with it.

It turned out to be pretty cool! Here’s what we did. I selected several movies from a variety of genres that I like and hopefully teens liked too. I played clips from the movies and each movie clip helped solve a clue to find the next book in the library, which would have another clue and we would watch another movie clip and so on. For example, I showed the following clip from Toy Story 2 and the clue they were given was, “The aliens might need help writing what kind of note to Mr. Potato?”

And of course, the answer is “A Thank You Note,” which lead them to find a guide to writing thank you notes in our stacks. Preparing this scavenger hunt was lots of fun and also made me feel rather clever! Plus I loved revisiting some of my favorite scenes in some really great movies.

Read below for the rest of the scavenger hunt:

The Princess Bride: “If Fezzik runs out of rhymes, he might need this book to help.”

(Answer: A Rhyme Dictionary!)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: “What creatures should Harry prepare to meet in the next task?”

(Answer: A book about Mermaids)
Robin Hood (Disney version): “”Eww! They’re ______! If Skippy wants to know more about what he and Maid Marion did together, he could read this book.”

(Answer: A book about kissing)
The Lego Movie: “Find a biography of the latest actor to be able to say the iconic line, ‘I am Batman’.”

(Answer: A Ben Affleck biography)
The Wizard of Oz: “Oz is clearly very different from Dorothy’s home state. Find a book about the state east of where Dorothy is from.”

(Answer: a book about Missouri)
Guardians of the Galaxy: “Find a young adult novel about a girl with the same type of leg as ‘that guy’s leg’.”

(Answer: The Running Dream by Van Draanen)

More Books for Baby & Me

Two years ago I posted about my favorite books to read with the babies. I still use those regularly and love them just as much two years later. Here are a few more that have worked really great with my Baby & Me crowd.

Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett: My coworker shared this one at a youth services meeting and instantly I knew it was perfect for Baby & Me. The repeated refrain encourages parents to join in and the illustrations are just darling.

Leo Loves Baby Time by Anna McQuinn: I love to do this one at the beginning of a session. Leo attends Baby Time where they read stories, sing songs, bounce, and play with scarves. It is a lovely introduction to a lot of the same things we do in our program.

Clip Clop by Nicola Smee: This one has more ‘plot’ than the books I normally read, but I had caregivers bounce the babies as we read it and there was joy and laughter all around.

Ten Tiny Babies by Karen Katz: Of course we know that books by Karen Katz are baby-time gold. This one is no exception. It is a really fun counting book plus it has a great rhythm and rhyme and shows the babies doing everyday activities.

Duckie’s Rainbow by Frances Barry: I have yet to find a colors book I like more. This one is short and sweet and makes a rainbow as you turn the pages.

If You’re Happy and You Know it by Jane Cabrera: I love Cabrera’s sing-along picture books! The illustrations are so bright and cheerful. This one is especially fun because it adds lots of verses with different actions all the animals do.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See? by Bill Martin Jr: I mostly don’t need to mention this beloved classic but I am so delighted by the way parents recite it along with me as I read that I will never fail to include this one. It’s a great way to remind parents that re-reading favorite books over and over increases print motivation.


What to do with Doc McStuffins? Increasing Circulation Part 1

My number one goal for 2016 is to increase our circulation. It seems that in libraryland that circulation of print books at most libraries has been trending slightly down. Now, on the flip side, circulation of ebooks and other electronice materials skyrocket as we devote more funding to them. (If you are really curious, check out this annual report from the Public Library Association to get into the nitty-gritty numbers of library statistics.)

When it comes to children, though, ebooks will never take the place of physical books. Kids need the tactical experience of holding the books in their hands, the page turns that add moments of suspense, and so on and so forth. This is why I am confident we can reverse our downward trend in the Children’s Room and bring circulation back up.

I am attacking this goal on four fronts: Weeding, Focused Selection, Displays and Booklists, and New Collections. In October we introduced our new collection: the Character Shelf.

26783333861_c8ec54ee65_zThere is nothing new about putting all the media-tie-in books together. Tons of libraries do this. But it was nothing short of revolutionary for our patrons and our staff. Previously, a good amount of staff time was taken up by searching for ‘Barbie books’  or ‘Thomas books.’ They were cataloged by author, they all have different authors, and were not even in the same collection (some are Easy Books, Easy Readers). Plus most are very thin paperbacks making them even trickier to find. It was really time consuming for staff and frustrating for kids because they couldn’t find books about their favorite characters on their own.

Now, voila! We have one place to go where all the Disney Princess books are next to each other, all the Superhero books are in one place and easy to find, etc. Needless 26756982152_7bf7b50d8b_zto say this has been great for our circulation. These books are flying off the shelves. All it took were some stickers and a new shelf location in the OPAC. This is only one part of  our “giving the patrons what they want” strategy and already we are seeing great results. It gives me a huge burst of pleasure every time a child comes in and says, “Where are the Dora books?” and I can walk them over to one shelf and say, “They are all right here!”

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.


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


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!


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.


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!



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!


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.