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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Favorite Books: Baby Storytime Edition

These are some books I’m loving right now for the under twos. I use them in my baby storytimes again and again.

Selecting books to read aloud for this age group is a challenge. A lot of our favorite toddler books are just a bit too long or too complex for infants and one-year-olds. I get a mix in my storytimes from the occasional newborns up to very active walkers, so I do target my books more towards the older babies to capture their attention.There are many board books that I also love, and while I use them occasionally and recommend my favorites to parents, I try to stick to the picture book format during storytime for easier viewing.

Plot is not the main thing when picking books for this group, in fact, with the possible exception of Baby Danced the Polka, none of these books have any plot at all. They are simple, repetitious books about every day events that babies can recognize from their lives.  Illustrations are simple and clean and in bright primary colors. I Like it When… is especially exemplary in this way.

Baby Danced the Polka by Karen Beaumont. A charming, romping, rhyming story of a little one who does not want to go to bed. I absolutely LOVE a book with a good rhythm, and this one is just begging to be read aloud.

The Baby Goes Beep by Rebecca O’Connell. A day in the life of a toddler, complete with fun sound effects on every page as the “baby goes yum, yum, yum” eating lunch or “the baby goes splash, splash, splash” while taking a bath. I love the level of interaction the sound effects bring and parents often join in.

Hello Day! by Anita Lobel. This one has the feel of a classic and is just perfect for an animal sound theme. I quite love the cheerful watercolor and marker illustrations. It is a quiet book compared to some I use, so it also adds balance that way.

I Like it When… by Mary Murphy. I like to read this one around Valentine’s Day because it is a very sweet tale of a little penguin and her parent and the things they like to do together. It’s sentimental but in a fresh and non-saccharine way. And I can’t say enough good about the illustrations

Toddlerobics by Zita Newcome. This one’s perfect for your very active one-year-olds. It is not a sit still and listen book, it is a get up and move book! The actions are lots of fun, and the pictures show a very cute group of toddlers having a blast moving around.

Please share your favorite books for baby storytime! I would love to hear what books you read to your under two lapsits.

February Lapsit

This month my storytime babies were on the older end. I had twos and almost twos, plus one big brother who I was happy to use as a helper! Looking back, I reused a lot of the same songs as my Teddy Bear lapsit in December, but they were all great songs so it never hurts to repeat!

Opening Song: “Hello Everybody” 

Hello everybody, and how are you?
How are you? How are you?
Hello everybody, and how are you?
How are you today? 

We repeat this song using each child’s name to welcome them to baby storytime. I love the way hearing their name grabs their attention and makes them feel welcome. It really helps me learn their names too!

Bubbles and Music: “Teddy Bear Hug” by Raffi 

I would like to get to where I don’t use recorded music at all, but I’m not there yet. For dancing and blowing bubbles, nothing is easier than popping in a tried and true CD.

Fingerplay: Open Them Shut Them

Read: Uh-Oh! by Rachel Isadora 

This book has lovely illustrations of an African American child making messes and trying to be independent throughout the day. I always thing this book is sweet and charming, but when I am reading it in front of parents, I start feeling a little awkward about the message it sends, especially for older toddlers. I can just imagine what is going through the parents’ minds – don’t give my child any ideas about making messes! But it so accurately depicts life with little ones at this age that I think I’ll keep using it.

Sing: Skinnamarink 

Sing (with ukulele!): Mary Had a Little Lamb

Okay, so this was my debut performance on the ukulele. I had been practicing for about 3 weeks, but a combination of many things meant I didn’t get as much practice time as I would have liked. Mary Had a Little Lamb went surprisingly well. I had the children hold up flannel board pieces of lambs I pulled together from various sets to get them involved in the song. They really enjoyed that.

Read: I Like it When… by Mary Murphy

This book is pitch perfect for its bold black, red, and primary color illustrations and depictions of daily interactions between a parent and child. It helps that they are penguins too. Kids love penguins!

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

This song was more of a fail. I couldn’t transition to the different chords quickly enough and it quickly fell apart. The parents kept singing along and I just laughed and said, “I think this one needs a little more practice!” And that was the moment I decided to take the ukulele home to get more practice time.

Dancing with Rainbows Ribbons

These toddlers sure loved dancing! And it sure helped that the parents got into it too! We danced to a couple songs and the kiddos still wanted more!

Goodbye Song

Clap, clap, clap your hands
Clap your hands together.
Clap, clap, clap your hands
Clap your hands together. 

La la la la la la la, la la la la la….

Wave, wave, wave goodbye.
Wave goodbye together.
Wave, wave, wave goodbye.
Wave goodbye together

La la la la la la la, la la la la la….