Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2011 A'Comin'!

New Year's Eve and New Year's Day don't have anywhere near the impact on children that Christmas does---those holidays don't have presents and they don't have the readily grasped mythology of Santa Claus, reindeer, and Christmas trees. Not to mention that I can't think of any good New Year's songs. So our New Year's Eve storytime was actually a grab bag of vaguely related items.

For post-Christmas Day reflection, we had this poem by Marchette Chute, with felt cut-outs on the flannelboard:

I wanted a rifle for Christmas,
I wanted a bat and a ball,
I wanted some skates and a bicycle,
But, I didn't want mittens at all.

I wanted a whistle
And I wanted a kite,
I wanted a pocketknife
That shut up tight.
I wanted some boots
And I wanted a kit,
But I didn't want mittens one little bit.

I told them I didn't like mittens,
I told them as plain as plain.
I told them I didn't WANT mittens,
And they've given me mittens again!

Then we read The Mitten by Jim Aylesworth. This is a familiar story that has also been done by Jan Brett and Alvin Tresselt, but I like the illustrations in this one by Barbara McClintock. 

We also read How to Be, by Lisa Brown, and Chicken Soup with Rice, by Maurice Sendak.

For our craft, we made mittens.  I cut out the mitten shapes, and the children decorated them with crayons and stickers. I also printed out pictures of the animals that squeezed into the boy's mitten: squirrel, rabbit, fox, bear and mouse.  I used pictures from MS Word clip art, and printed them in grayscale, so that the kids could color them (and so that I could save money on printer cartridges.) 

The kids cut the animals out for themselves, or their moms did it. Then we punched holes around the mittens and laced them together. The kids did a good job of lacing.

All in all, this activity involved a lot of different fine motor skills: coloring, cutting, punching, and lacing. I provided blunt-tip tapestry needles for those who wanted to try them, but some did their lacing with scotch tape on the end of the yarn.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Fun

Today we read Max's Christmas and Minerva Louise on Christmas Eve. Our flannelboard story was the Christmas one from Frog and Toad All Year. We had some seasonal songs and rhymes, and ended by singing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I have a Rudolph puppet that can hide down in the chimney and then slowly come up as the children sing, which adds to the fun.

I am always looking for good puppets. I noticed that my Rudolph, and also the similar Jingle Bear (which can be pulled down inside a gift box) were made by Dakin. Unfortunately, this company, which made lots of stuffed animals and puppets, is now defunct. So I'd better take care of my irreplaceable puppets!

Hope you have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas, Christmas Time Is Here - - - -

The Northstate Library System sent me a huge bin full of moose puppet show stuff. Not only the Morris the Moose puppet show that we are presenting tomorrow, but a bunch of related items. This included a small moose puppet and all the flannelboard props needed for telling If You Give a Moose a Muffin.  Today at preschool storytime I did Moose/Muffin and the kids really liked it.

Our books today were Snowmen at Christmas and Santa's New Suit.  We sang SANTA, to the tune of BINGO.

I know a man in a furry red suit, and Santa is his name-o---
I know a man with big black boots, and Santa is his name-o---
I know a man with a long white beard, and Santa is his name-o---
I know a man with eight reindeer,and Santa is his name-o---
He comes down the chimney on Christmas Eve, and Santa is his name-o---
S-A-N-T-A,  S-A-N-T-A, S-A-N-T-A, , and Santa is his name -o.

Another fun song to sing and act out is "I'm a Little Pine Tree," sung to the tune of "I'm a Little Teapot":

I'm a little pine tree, tall and straight  (stand tall and hold out your arms like branches)
Waiting at Christmas for you to decorate.
Don't forget to put a star on top  (hold one hand on top of your head with fingers spread out in a star)
And please be careful that the balls don't drop.  (make two fists and lower them close to the ground, then clap)   POP!

The thing about the balls breaking takes a bit of explanation for some children. Some kids are not familiar with glass ornaments. But they all like clapping loudly.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Let it Snow!

Really what we've got here is rain, and lots of it. Which is good. But snow was our theme for today, and our line-up included:

The Snowy Day
A Hat for Minerva Louise (gotta love that chicken)
Snowmen at Night

On the board, we had a snowman made out of pellon and felt, and we sung (to the tune of I'm a Little Teapot):

I'm a little snowman short and fat.
Here is my scarf and here is my hat.
When the snow is falling come and play.
Build a snowman every day.

We also stood up and sang the classic "Once There Was a Snowman":

Once there was a snowman, snowman, snowman,
Once there was a snowman, tall, tall, tall.  (Stretch yourself up tall with your arms circled over your head)
In the sun he melted, melted, melted,
In the sun he melted, small, small, small. (Slowly "melt" until you are a puddle on the floor.)

 For our craft we made snowmen out of Chinese take-out boxes. These are very cheap if you buy them from a restaurant supply store like Cash & Carry in Chico. I got 50 for under $6. We decorated the faces with paper eyes, noses, and hats, and the backs with Christmas stickers.

My kids had a choice of a tophat a la Frosty, or a Santa hat with cotton ball trim.What other kind of hat could he have?  Baseball cap, woolly watchcap?  Or how about a snowlady with a snowflake decked chapeau?

These make handy gift boxes or treat containers.

Happy Holidays!  Hope you find some snow so you can make a real snowman!


Red ripe peppers and green leaves--looks kind of Christmas-y, doesn't it? The pepper plants lost all their leaves to the frost a couple weeks ago, but they were lovely and productive while they lasted.

I always like to grow a variety of peppers, sweet and hot both, and it's fun to try a new kind every so often. This year I had Anaheims, several types of bells, this pimento, jalapenos, and anchos. The peppers are gone from the garden, but there are several bags of chopped peppers in the freezer, so we can have salsa, even in the winter.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bears, Bears, Bears

The theme today was bears, with a big bear puppet, Going on a Bear Hunt activity, and a couple of bear books.

We read an old classic and a new classic: Blueberries for Sal and Orange Pear Apple Bear. Blueberries for Sal is a long book, and I wondered if it would hold the interest of the younger ones in the group, but it did. They were involved in the story. And Orange Pear Apple Bear, by Emily Gravett, is a delight. The concept is so simple and the execution is so attractive and engaging. It subtly teaches about colors, shapes, and narrative sequence, with only five words plus some clever pictures.

Here's the fingerplay we did:

One little bear, wondering what to do,
Along came another bear and then there were two.
Two little bears, climbing up a tree,
Along came another bear and then there were three.
Three little bears, ate an apple core,
Along came another bear and then there were four.
Four little bears, found honey in a hive,
Along came another bear and then there were five.
What did they do with all that the honey?
They ate it all up---Yummy, yummy, yummy!

Our craft was a paperbag bear puppet with blueberries.

A paperbag puppet is nothing new, but I thought it was fun to give him some blueberries. We used the eraser ends of unsharpened pencils to do our stamping. Luckily I had a couple blue ink stamp pads. Most of the bears had blueberries everywhere! Messy bears!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Easiest Fall Craft Ever and Why I Didn't Do It

This craft is fun and so easy. Take a piece of masking tape, preferably wide tape, and wrap it loosely around your child's wrist. Once or twice around is enough. Send him or her outside to pick up leaves and stick them to the tape. Voila! Instant Fall Leaf Bracelet!

This is fun, easy, and gets your child outside playing with nature. What's not to love about that?

So why didn't I do it today, like I had planned? The Orland Library is situated in Library Park, a block-size park with lots of trees that right now are shedding their leaves. Yesterday there was a nice and colorful variety of leaves on the grass. This morning I get to work, and the guy from Public Works is mowing the grass and chewing up all the leaves. There goes my craft project.

So I had to go with the back-up plan. Tissue paper leaves on a construction paper tree. Fine, but not outstanding like the leaf bracelet.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fall Fun

Here are some songs and rhymes for fall. Sing them all as you flutter your hands like leaves.

Falling Leaves - Sing to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat:

Leaves, leaves, falling down, 
Falling to the ground.
Red and yellow, orange and brown,
Falling to the ground.

Down By The Oak Tree - sung to "Down By The Station"

Down by the oak tree
On an autumn morning,
See all the yellow leaves
Whirling to and fro.
See how they twist and turn,
Whirling, whirling, whirling.
Down, down, down, down,
Off they blow.

Each time you sing it change the color. Ask the children what other color the leaves could be (red, orange, brown, etc.)

Leaves are Falling All Around

Leaves are falling all around,
On the housetops on the ground.
Leaves are falling on my nose,
On my head and hands and toes.

The song is actually called Rain is Falling All Around.  You can find the tune for this song here: 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Some extra kids today---Hooray!  I like seeing new faces.

Nothing very exciting at storytime, but here's a little song that we had fun with:

Picking Apples (to the tune of Frere Jacques)

Picking apples, picking apples  
One by one, one by one
Put them in a basket, put them in a basket
Oh what fun, Oh what fun!

As you sing, reach up and pick apples, then circle one arm and pretend to drop apples in. Sing this 3 or 4 times, getting faster each time. The kids enjoyed it. 

For a craft, we did apple prints. This was an ideal use for the leftover little apples from our tree that I still had in the fridge. But I didn't have enough, so I had to buy a few apples too. Plus, of course, the kids wanted to eat some apples, and they weren't supposed to eat the apples that had paint on them. So I sliced up a few nice apples for snacks.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween Fun

I didn't mean it to be almost all witches today; it just turned out that way.  We read Ghosts in the House, by Kasuno Kohara (a delightful story about a little girl witch who knows what to do with all the ghosts in her new house), and Winnie the Witch, by Korky Paul (about the problem of having an all-black cat in an all-black house.) Winnie seems to be popular in the UK, but seldom seen in the US.

I also did Jean Stangl's papercut story A Little Orange House. I've been using this story every since I saw it in Highlights magazine some 25 years ago. You can find pictures online for how to do the paper cutting, but not the story. Look up the pictures and make up your own story about a wee witch and her wee cat who need a cozy home for the winter. Fold a piece of orange paper and then cut the roof, the door, a little door for the cat, and a window, and then see what you have when you unfold it. I also add a little box to the side for firewood---that turns into the pumpkin stem. A fun story, and always a surprise.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Origami Halloween

It was after-school storytime at the library today, with a Halloween theme. I told a paper-folding story called The Princess and the Pumpkin, about Jack and how he was able to give the princess a pumpkin, even after all his pumpkins had been devoured by Pernicious Pumpkin-Dust Beetles. He did it with origami!

The traditional origami model used in the story is called a balloon, or a water bomb. It's an ingenious fold that can be blown up to make a ball that can be bounced around, or filled with water and thrown at someone. It's also useful for making Christmas decorations to hang on a tree, or little Halloween pumpkins.

Use any piece of orange paper. It doesn't have to be origami paper. Here is an instructional video for making the water bomb.

To make a jack-o-lantern out of this, just draw on a face and put a twist of green paper in the hole to make a stem. If you want to draw the face on before you fold the paper, draw it in the upper center. (If the piece of paper were a tic tac toe board, or a nine-patch quilt square, you would draw the face in the middle top row.)

Don't know why this came out sideways.  You get the idea.
Happy Halloweening!!

Sing a Song for Babies!

Nothing is more fun than babies and songs. Here's a good one for bouncing and cheering up a baby:

What do you do with a cranky baby,
What do you do with a cranky baby,
What do you do with a cranky baby,
Early in the morning.

Heave ho! and up she rises   (uppity-up!)
Heave ho! and up she rises
Heave ho! and up she rises
Early in the morning.

Take in your arms and tickle her all over,  (you know what to do here)
Take in your arms and tickle her all over,
Take in your arms and tickle her all over,
Early in the morning.

Heave ho! and up she rises
Heave ho! and up she rises
Heave ho! and up she rises
Early in the morning.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pumpkin Time

After taking a break last week to go to a great library conference in Denver (well, near Denver), I am back to storytiming.

This week it is pumpkins. We read It's Pumpkin Time by Zoe Hall, Big Pumpkin, by Erica Silverman, and a fun little pop-up book called Little Monsters, by Jan Pienkowski.

Songs included Did You Ever See a Pumpkin, Five Little Pumpkins, and the Scarecrow Song. This last one is one of my favorites, and I don't think very many people know it. It goes:

When all the cows were sleeping,
And the sun had gone to bed,
up jumped the scarecrow
And this is what he said:
I'm a dingle dangle scarecrow
With a flippy floppy hat!
I can shake my arms like this,
I can shake my legs like that!

When all the hens were roosting
And the moon behind a cloud,
Up jumped the scarecrow
And shouted very loud:
I'm a dingle dangle scarecrow
With a flippy floppy hat!
I can shake my arms like this,
I can shake my legs like that!

A fun song for jumping around and shaking your arms and legs! There is a tune online for this song here:  although it is not exactly the same tune I use. I think I first got this song out of a little old paperback book titled This Little Puffin (from Puffin Books.)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Book Club

I started a book club for young readers last month, and we met again today to discuss our first book. We read The World According to Humphrey by Betty J.Birney, a tale told by a classroom pet hamster.  Here are some of the questions we covered:

Do you think Humphrey would like being in your classroom? What would he like about it?

Humphrey thinks that the students’ names are things like Speak-Up-Sayeh, Stop-Giggling-Gail or Wait-for-the-Bell-Garth. Would Humphrey give you a name like that? What might it be?

Ms. Mac tells Humphrey, “You can learn a lot about yourself by taking care of another species." What do you think she means? Do you think this is true?

Do you talk to your pets? Do you think they can understand you?

Why is Sayeh shy about talking in class? How does Humphrey help her?

At the Halloween party everyone has to share a talent to get a treat.  Some kids tell jokes or riddles, and Sayeh sings The Star-Spangled Banner. Do you have a talent you could share in a similar situation?

The girls (so far it's all girls) talked about their own animals and how smart their animals are (or sometimes not.).  We told some riddles and talked about other talents that could be shared in the classroom or at a talent show. Next month our book will be Shiloh, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.

For refreshments we had hamster food (trail mix) and good old water to wash it down. Just like Humphrey!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Jane Austen Jumps the Shark?

Jane herself could never do that, but the Austen spin-offs . . . . when will it ever end?

I was reading reviews for adult fiction in Booklist (9/1/10), and there, on one two-page spread, were 4 books books based on Jane Austen's works. That's 4 out of 12 reviews on those two pages.  They were:

Dancing with Mr. Darcy (short stories)
Mr. Darcy's Little Sister (the further adventures of Georgiana)
Mr. Darcy's Obsession  (not sure what he is obsessed with, other than Elizabeth Bennet)
Jane and the Damned (in which Jane Austen herself becomes---what else?--a vampire.)

I recently reread Persuasion, and let me tell you, there is nothing like the real thing.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Truck Time

Today the theme was trucks.  We read Duck in the Truck, by Jez Alborough, Machines at Work, by Byron Barton, and The Little Dump Truck, by Margery Cuyler.

On the flannelboard we had My Little Car is Red, sung to the tune of The Farmer in the Dell---

My little car is red, my little car is blue,
I drive and drive and drive and drive until I get to you.
My little car is green, my little car is yellow,
I drive and drive and drive and drive so I can say "Hello!"

The cars were easy to make out of felt--just a VW bug shape, two wheels and a window.

Now if I could just think of a good rhyme for pink--then I could have a new verse. Hmmm---  wink? think? blink?  I need a new line, and a couple new cars.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Garden Variety . . . Turkeys!

We've had these wild turkeys wandering around the neighborhood for a few weeks now. This morning I found them out in the orchard, feasting on windfall apples and walnuts. I counted a dozen nice young turkeys. Now if they will just stick around until Thanksgiving . . . .   I'm no Annie Oakley, but there must be someone who will shoot a turkey for me.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How to make a talking puppet

This little guy is easy to make and stars in his own fun story. The story will help you remember how to fold the puppet.  The model comes from The New Origami, by Steve and Megumi Biddle.  They have a story to go along with it, but I like mine better.

As you fold and tell, make sure that the viewers can get a good look at each change as you go along.

Instructions:  Start with a square of origami paper, any color, white side up. Fold it in half like a book.

Story:  One day I was at home with nothing to do. I heard a knock at the door. I went to the door and opened it, but no one was there. (Open and shut the paper like a door.)

Instructions:  Open the paper flat and fold the right and left top corners down to meet the middle foldline. Now it's a house.

Story:  I looked all around the outside of the house, but didn't see anybody. When I turned around to go back inside, I saw something on the front porch.

Instructions:  Fold the top point down to the bottom edge. Now it's an envelope.

Story:  There was an envelope!  Somebody had left me a letter. I picked it up and read the message.  It said:

Climb the hill behind your house,
There you'll find a friend.
Not a dog, or cat, or mouse,
Just fun without an end!
Instructions:  Fold the right and the left corners down so that what was the top edge now lies along the middle foldline. Now it's a hill. Show the hill to your audience.

Story:  Fun without an end! That sounded good to me, so I ran right around the back of the house. There was a little hill there. I often climbed up and and played on it, but I had never seen anything unusual there. I wondered what was waiting for me at the top. I started to climb up the hill.

Instructions:  Open up both the flaps that you just folded down to make the hill. Fold the top edge of each flap down so that it lays along the fold line created by the last fold. These two folds make the creature's ears. But don't show the creature yet. Instead, hold up the backside of the model to show the little house where the creature lives.

Story:  When I reached the top of the hill I looked all around, searching for whoever sent me the note. Off to one side I saw a little low house, like a doghouse. I'd never seen that here before. I wondered if there could be something, or someone, inside.

Instructions:  Fold up the lower two corners so that the bottom edges lie along the line formed by the center colored portion. Tuck the corners of the lower folds under the upper ones.

Story:  I looked inside the little house. I saw some kind of bundle. I wasn't sure what it was. (Turn the model over and over to show how it looks like a wrapped up bundle.) So I gave it a poke.

Instructions:  All you have to do now is draw two eyes on the face. Your talking puppet is complete! Hold it at the sides, under the ears, and move your hands in and out to make it talk.

Story:  All of a sudden the thing opened its eyes and spoke to me!  It said, "Do you like songs?"  "Yes, I like songs," I said. "Well, sing along with me then!" And it started to sing.

(Introduce a fun song, or use the puppet to introduce another story, or any other activity.)

This is an easy model for children to learn. Once they have made their talking puppet, they can add other features if they want to, like a nose, a tongue, hair, eyebrows, etc.

Origami for one

Last Thursday was the first after school storytime for this school year. I must not have done enough publicity, because I only got one little girl. Since I didn't have an audience, I didn't do the story I had planned (Momotaro). Instead we just did origami together. We made a traditional model, the ball (sometimes called a balloon or a water bomb) which is fun and pretty easy. It's in lots of basic origami books, and you can find directions here:

We also did a talking puppet. The model comes from Steve and Megumi Biddle's book, The New Origami. I don't think it's available online, but I have the book at home. I made up my own story to go with it. I'll post it when I get some pictures.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fly, Fly Away

Today it was birds---Kevin Henkes Birds and The Baby Beebee Bird, by Diane Redfield Massie. I'm really glad that the latter book was reissued with new illustrations by Steven Kellogg a few years ago. It's a fun story, and the kids like to "beebee bobbi beebee bobbi" along with with that wide-awake little bird.

One of our rhymes was "Two Little Blackbirds."

Two little blackbirds sitting on a hill, (hold two index fingers in front of you)
One named Jack and one named Jill.  (wiggle one finger, then the other)
Fly away Jack, fly away Jill, (Put each finger behind your back)
Come back Jack, come back Jill.  (bring them back out front.)

You can change this one up by singing about:

Two little blackbirds sitting on a cloud
One named Soft, and one named Loud
Two little blackbirds sitting in the snow,
One named High, and one named Low. (or Fast and Slow)  With the appropriate voice and gestures.

Our craft was---you guessed it---birds, as seen here:  I love the No Time for Flashcards blog. She has lots of great craft ideas, especially for the younger set. This one was so pretty that I really wanted to do it, even though I knew it wasn't an easy one for children to do. Fan-folding is too tricky for many of them. But they got to color their wings and put the whole thing together.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Our Many-Colored Days

Today at storytime we talked about colors. Our books were:
My Many-Colored Days, by Dr. Seuss, and
Who Said Red?, by Mary Serfozo, plus
my own Peter Rabbit magic coloring book, and Brown Bear, Brown Bear with flannelboard figures.

For a craft we played with red, blue, and yellow playdough.  I made three batches last night (!) but it is very quick and easy to make.  Here's my recipe:

Homemade Playdough

2 cups water
2 Tablespoons cooking oil
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 cup salt
2 cups flour
few drops of food coloring

Mix all the ingredients together in a large saucepan. Add the food coloring to the water if you are making one color of playdough. If you want to make more than one color, mix in the food coloring after it is cooked, when you knead it. Heat ingredients on medium setting, stirring constantly. It will set up quickly. Playdough is done when it holds together and pulls away from the side of the pan. Turn it out on a plate or cutting board to cool. Knead when cool enough to handle, and have fun!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Veggie Time

One of my favorite things to do for storytime---I do it every year---is to bring a big basket of fruits and vegetables. Most of them--the tomatoes, corn, squash, peppers, beans, eggplant--are from my garden. A few things, like the carrots and mushrooms, come from the store. It's fun to talk about them, their colors and shapes, and see which ones the kids recognize and which they don't. They know carrots, they don't know eggplant. I was surprised this year when no one recognized green onions.

We did this a couple weeks ago, and then read Growing Colors, by Bruce McMillan, and Up, Down and Around, by Katherine Ayres. Our craft was making veggie prints. They used a variety of cut up veggies as stamps. Very colorful!

Monday, September 6, 2010

I used to keep track of storytimes on index cards. Then I used a spiral-bound notebook. I started using the computer, and then I thought---Why not a blog? So that's what this is for--storytimes and library activities and fingerplays and crafts.