To Blog or Not To Blog

To Blog

You may have noticed that my blogging has slowed down. And, considering that I was never a frequent blogger in the first place, that’s sort of saying something.

I started this blog back in 2011, when I was still a brand new children’s librarian. Back then, blogging was easy. Storytime was a large part of my job (I was doing 3 different storytimes a week), and I had enough time to blog at work. Therefore, this blog was predominantly about storytime, and I was able to publish a few posts a month. Easy peasy.

When I moved to my current position 3 years ago, I didn’t know what to do with the blog. I didn’t have as many storytime plans to post (I basically do 1 storytime a month most months), and while I was doing lots of other fun things, those posts weren’t getting as many hits as my storytime posts. I also couldn’t blog at work anymore (unless it was on my break), so I found myself scrambling to write posts at home.

But a high-quality blog takes time and effort, and work/life balance when you work full time is both tricky and very important. Three years ago, I spent a lot of my outside of work time working on work-related stuff (blogging, making flannelboards, catching up on professional blog reading). I enjoyed (and still enjoy) doing all of those things but, as the months went on, I started to feel bogged down by how much of my life was centered around work and work-related stuff. So I started to cut back on how much work I do at home.

As I started cutting back on doing work-related stuff at home, I started filling my personal time with other activities. I exercise regularly. I meal plan. I volunteer. I’m studying Spanish. I started a book club with my three besties (which kind of ties in with work, except that we don’t read children’s books). And do you know what I’ve found? By having a better work/life balance, I am actually happier and more productive when I’m at work!

Several months ago, when it looked like I would be moving from salaried to hourly, I seriously considered giving up the blog all together. But the law didn’t go through, and it looks like I’ll remain salaried for the foreseeable future. And, honestly, I don’t think I could give up the blog. Maybe someday. But not right now. I love it too much, and I think it’s important that we keep ideas and information flowing in the profession.

I can’t promise that I’ll blog regularly. Personal time is too precious, and in addition to all of the things that I’ve mentioned before, I’m also house hunting this year. But I promise I’ll try not to leave you hanging. And maybe someday, as I continue to figure out this work/life balance thing, I’ll find a system that allows me to consistently blog at least once (maybe twice?) a month. Until then, I’ll just keep on keeping on.

Take and Make: Easy Knit Scarves

Easy Knit Scarves

I posted back in November about the monthly Take and Make projects that we offer at the library. This is a passive program in which we leave a Ziplock bag with instructions and supplies out for grown-ups to take home and make with their children. This is just another way for us to offer early learning experiences for grown-ups and children without having to add another official program to our already busy schedule.

The Take and Make projects have been very well received by library customers, though some projects are more popular than others. Our most popular Take and Make so far was December’s Easy Knit Scarves.

I prepped the loom by taping Popsicle sticks to a toilet paper tube. I did not provide the yarn, but I did provide instructions on how children should weave and loop the yarn around the Popsicle sticks to make a scarf.   50 of these projects flew off of the shelf within two weeks! We probably could have easily surpassed 100 with this project; however, we ran out of toilet paper tubes after the first 50. So once they were gone, we moved on to something else.

If you’d like to offer Take and Make at your library, just throw some supplies into a bag (this could be a good way to get rid of left over crafts from various programs!), add an instruction sheet, and place them in an area where parents will find them.

Program: I SPY Creations!

ispy-booklets

Months ago – or maybe even a year ago…probably a year ago – I made a resolution to blog more about some of the amazing things that my coworkers are doing. And I kind of failed at that resolution (okay, I massively failed). But when I saw the I SPY Creations program that my amazing coworker, Dori, presented, I knew that I had to blog about it. So I asked her to write up a quick summary about the program, and here’s what she had to say:

Kids came in and sat down on a rug in front of three tables worth of “stuff” (buttons, animal figurines, clothespins, dominos, blocks, toy cars, balls, and other eclectic items). I passed out I Spy books for them to flip through while we waited for the program to begin. Once everyone was there, I talked to them about I Spy books and how we were going to make our own book. We took a quick look at some of the layouts and the clues, then I let kids decide if they wanted to work in groups or by themselves. (Most kids broke into groups of two or three, but there were a few who chose to work alone.)

I then assigned each team to a color; I had ten different sheets of 24 x 36 construction paper spread out on several tabletops and a few spots on the floor. These served as the backgrounds to their I Spy scene (additionally, having ten different colors helped me pair their hint sheets to their scene photos.)

I then had them each grab a gray bucket and fill it with 10-15 items each (to start with), then they worked to arrange them as a team. Once everyone had a chance to grab a handful of items, I opened up the supply tables for them to take items as they needed—but for the first round, I limited them to 10-15 because I wanted everyone to have a chance to get “the good stuff”.

Once they were done arranging, I gave them a Clue Sheet with a spot for them to write their background color and up to ten hints for their scene. Then, I took a picture of each scene and collected the Hint Sheets.

At the end of the program, I got information from each child/family about how they wanted to receive their book once they were compiled (two days later). Some chose to have theirs left at the Ask Here Desk for them, and some gave me their address to have it mailed.

All in all, it was a pretty fun program with a really decent final product. If I could change one thing, though, I would spend a bit more time going through an I Spy book as I talked about the hints and the scene layout—particularly how to come up with clever hints (some hint sheets were nothing but “I spy something green and yellow,” but I did have some five- and six-year-olds, so that might be as good as they could give me even with a stronger focus on hints/clues).

Supply List:

*tons of “stuff” in various shapes/sizes/colors (i.e. anything you’d find in an I Spy book)

*various background options (poster boards, table clothes, etc.)

*a camera

*a hint sheet form

*I Spy books for examples

 

(Plus, a color printer and slide-binder report covers to print and make the books.)

Take and Make

take-and-make

At my library, we are always trying to find new and fun ways for grown-ups to have meaningful interactions with their children. In addition to storytime and a wide variety of programs, we also offer passive activities that grown-ups and children can explore together.

For the past couple of months, I’ve been creating Take and Make bags for families to bring home and work on together. Each month is a new activity. Last month we did nature orbs (credit for this idea can be found here). I provided clear, plastic ornaments and some string, and I instructed grown-ups to go on a nature walk with their children, collect various bits of nature, and to place the nature items in the ornament and hang it up at home. This particular project was such a huge hit, that I needed to buy extra ornaments just to keep up with demand!

Other Take and Make projects that we’ve done include crystal suncatchers and thaumatropes!

To make Take and Make bags, I simply place the project’s materials and a learning page into a clear, gallon sized bag. We keep these bags out by our book bundles display so that grown-ups can pick one up as they pick out some book bundles for their children.

Toddler Time: Bugs, Bugs, Bugs

We recently started offering a Toddler Time storytime for our nearby preschools/daycares. We do this special storytime once a month, and I’ve been assigned to them in July, August, and September (and hopefully October, November, Decemeber, etc.). I am absolutely loving this storytime, and I was so excited about August’s bug theme that not even a bad sinus infection could stop me!

Since it’s been a few months since I posted a storytime on this blog, here’s what I did for my bug theme:

toddler-time-bugs-books

Books:

I Love Bugs! by Emma Dodd
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Pop-Up Book by Eric Carle
Some Bugs by Angela DiTerlizzi

toddler-time-bugs-activities

Activities:

Here is the Beehive:
w/ bee puppet

Here is the beehive,
But where are the bees?
Hiding away where nobody sees.
Here they come.
Out of the hive.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5
BUZZ!

Itsy Bitsy Spider:
3 ways

The itsy, bitsy spider,
Went up the water spout,
Down came the rain and,
Washed the spider out,
Out came the sun and dried up all the rain,
And the itsy, bitsy spider,
Went up the spout again.

Great Big Spider w/ great big voices
Rockin’ Rollin’ Spider sung really, really fast

Very Hungry Caterpillar Flannelboard:

Hand out various food and retell the story. Children put the food on the flannelboard when the time comes.

Wiggle Worms Movement Activity:

I created movement cards based off of bugs: wiggle like a worm, flutter like a butterfly, jump like a grasshopper, buzz like a bumblebee. For this activity, I would randomly select a card and we would move like that bug. The kids loved it!

Fuzzy, Fuzzy Bumblebee
w/ pom-poms as our bumblebees
to the tune of Mary had a Little Lamb

Fuzzy, fuzzy bumblebee,
Bumblebee, bumblebee,
Fuzzy, fuzzy bumblebee,
Landing on my toes [place pom-pom on toes]

Repeat with: knee, elbow, shoulder, head, bed (putting the pom-poms back in the tub)

Three Makerspace Challenges (July, August, September 2016)

It’s time to celebrate, because I’m back with not just one, but 3 makerspace challenges! I’ve decided that posting about each challenge on a monthly basis is tough, so I’m going to try posting 3 challenges quarterly. We’ll see how this goes…

July: Paper Folding

July Makerspace Challenge Paper Folding

While July isn’t as busy as June, it’s still a month in which a LOT of kids are hanging out in the Children’s Department on a daily basis (except for the weekends…we’re dead on the weekends in the summer). Since I knew we’d be busy, I needed an activity that was cheap, simple, had a huge kid appeal, and was easy to stock. Paper folding met all of that criteria.

I bought some origami paper, placed some paper folding books out at the makerspace, and let the kids have at it! I will say that while there were plenty of kids who tried their hands at origami and paper airplanes and other forms of paper folding, there were also a lot of kids who preferred to just cut a bunch of shapes out of the paper. And that was fine with me.

August: Mystery Bags

August Makerspace Challenge Mystery Bags

I was very excited for this one! I love the idea of giving kids an open-ended challenge, and mystery bags are perfect for this kind of activity! I filled the bags with a random assortment of supplies and told the kids that they could only use what was in their mystery bag + scissors + tape to create whatever they can imagine.

This one was a HUGE hit with the kids! I would put three bags out in the morning, and usually by afternoon all three were gone. I even had one child in particular stop by the desk on her way out to tell me out much she liked the mystery bags. Will definitely be doing this one again.

September: Straw Sculptures

straw-sculptures

Straws are a staple in the makerspace, but the straws that we usually use are clear. For this project, I went out and bought colorful straws in a variety of sizes to make the challenge more fun. I also throw in some colorful pipecleaners as a way for children to construct their sculptures, though they also use tape when they don’t want to use pipe cleaners.

I’ve been gone on vacation for most of the month (and the month isn’t over yet), so I can’t say how popular this one is, but a group of girls did make some straw pyramids, which they then put on their heads to become unicorns, so I know at least some kids are having fun with it.