Be a Moviemaker: An iPad Program

Be a Movie Maker
The other day, I did a really awesome program with school-agers:  We used LEGOs, puppets, art supplies, and the LEGO Movie Maker app to create some fun movies.  What I loved most about this program (other than how much fun everyone had) was that it incorporated so many educational aspects: storytelling, crafting/making, teamwork, and technology!

Prep time was also next to nothing for this program, which was an added bonus. As a matter of fact, I kind of inherited this program at the last minute. An awesome coworker of mine is the original mastermind behind this, but she was unavailable the day of the program, so I took over.

So here’s what we did:

Supplies Needed:

  • iPads with LEGO Movie Maker app
  • Art supplies (paper, cardboard, markers, scissors, tape/glue)
  • Puppets
  • LEGOs

Program Procedure:

  • Welcome participants, go over the program guidelines, and do a brief demonstration of the app.
  • Have participants break off into groups. They should spend a few minutes coming up with a team name and brainstorming a few ideas for their movie.
  • Once they have a few ideas, they can come up and start to get LEGOs/puppets/art supplies and start setting up for the movie.
  • When they’re ready to start filming, they can come up and get an iPad. The LEGO Movie Maker app is very simple to use; most of the kids who were participating were able to film awesome movies with very little instruction from me.
  • If you have the technology, you may want to project videos onto a screen when you’re finished.

Program Guidelines:

  • Handle iPads gently and carefully.
  • Ask questions. We’re here to help!
  • Work together with others in your team. You may need to compromise or share.
  • The program ends at ________. Please return your team’s iPad and all supplies when you are finished.
  • Have fun!

Mixed Ages Storytime (K-5): Three Little Pigs

Three Little Pigs Activity
Today, I had to give a storytime to a group of kids who ranged in age from Kindergarten to 5th grade. As we all know, these types of storytimes can be very tricky. Normally, I feel as though I lose the kids’ interest when I attempt a storytime for such a wide age range, but today…today things were amazing, so I’m going to share my plan with you all. This plan was inspired by Amy Koester’s Three Little Pigs STEAM program.

Set Up and Supplies:

You will need:

  • A table divided into three areas with tape.
  • Duplo
  • Plastic Cups
  • Index Cards (about half of them folded in half)
  • Jon Scieszka’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs
  • Music and possibly other cool books (for later)


  • Ask the older children to raise their hands. Select 6 volunteers from older children.
  • Bring older children over to the table and assign 2 kids to each of the three supplies (Duplo, cups, and index cards)
  • Tell them that they should build a structure (house, tower, whatever) using their supplies
  • Their building time is during the story. Once the story is over, they are finished.


  • Read The True Story of the Three Little Pigs
  • Have children participate by sneezing loudly


  • Once the story is over, have the builders step aside.
  • Tell the other kids that we’re going to try to huff and puff and blow the three structures down.
  • Select three volunteers. They get one breath to try to blow the structures down.
  • Continue selecting volunteers until index cards (and possibly cups) have been blown down.
  • The Duplo will most likely still be standing (unless you’ve got a kid with some amazing lung capacity).
  • Have children return to their seats and break out a hair dryer.
  • Blow everything down.

Follow Up Activities:

  • Depending on time, you can either turn on some music and boogie (the kids really liked doing The Freeze today), read another book, or talk about the library.

How It Went:

This was, by far, the best storytime that I’ve done for such a wide variety of ages. Usually I lose the 4th and 5th graders during storytime, but they LOVED this (even though not all of them got to build). Seriously, I had kids of all ages cheering during this storytime.

And the best part was that they had so much fun during the activity, that they were really up for anything afterwards. This was supposed to be a 30 minute storytime, but the Three Little Pigs activity lasted about 15 minutes, so I had to do a few other activities. The younger ones wanted to read Pete the Cat, and I was afraid that the older ones would stare at me blankly during the story, but they sang along. I then turned on some music, and everybody danced.

So, yes, this was a success, and I’ll definitely be doing it again in the future!

Pre-K Storytime: Super Heroes

I am jumping on the bandwagon and posting about the Super Hero Storytime that I did a few weeks ago for my library’s Free Comic Book Day event! As most of you know, I have given up themes for storytime, but I was happy to do a themed storytime for this special event. Not only was it fun, but it also gave me a chance to read Supertruck to a group!

Opening Song:  The More We Get Together with ASL

First Book:  My Mom Has X-Ray Vision by Angela McAllister

My Mom Has XRay Vision
This book runs a teensy bit on the long side, particularly if your crowd skews to the young side. However, this is a great book to share with older children! A young boy is convinced that his mom has X-ray vision because she can always tell when he’s up to no good. He tries to test his theory one day by hiding in a closet when he’s supposed to be helping Mom with the groceries. He’s convinced that if she finds him in the closet, then she has X-ray vision. However, Mom is too busy saving the neighbor to come find him, so the boy determines that she does not have X-ray vision. But when she catches him sneaking some snacks  under his shirt, he determines that she has eyes on the back of her head! The twist at the end caused the adults to chuckle.

First Activity: X-Ray Vision Flannelboard Game

X Ray Vision Flannelboard
This is my super hero rip-off of the ever classic little mouse game.  I told children that a robber stole some money from the bank and hid it behind one of the stars on the flannelboard.  I then told them that they were to use their X-ray vision to find which star the money was hiding behind. We did not do a rhyme with this one. Instead, since the stars were numbered, I told children to hold up the number of the star that they think the money was behind, and I chose what seemed to be the most popular star.

Second Book:  Eliot Jones, Midnight Superhero by Anne Cottringer

Eliot Jones
Again, this book was a smidgeon longer than what I normally read in storytime. (Or maybe I just tend to read really short books in storytime?) Eliot Jones is a quiet boy by day, but a superhero who saves the world by night.  I loved the colorful illustrations in this, and despite the text being a little long side, it still flowed well for a read aloud.

Second Activity: Five Superheroes Flannelboard/Fingerplay

Five superheroes ready to fly,
Here comes a villain. Stop that guy!
This superhero can save the day.
Off he/she flies — up, up, and away!

I got this rhyme from the amazingly talented Jbrary, and, while it’s not pictured, I used a flannel set that I based off of this one from Storytime Katie.

Third Book: Do Super Heroes Have Teddy Bears by Carmela LaVigna Coyle

Do Super Heroes Have Teddy Bears
This book is a more appropriate storytime length (for my standards at least). It’s told in rhyme that is easy to read and discusses all the things that super heroes may have/do.

Third Activity: Did You Ever See a Hero? (with puppets!)

Super Hero Puppets

Did you ever see a hero, a hero, a hero,
Did you ever see a hero, flying through the sky?
Flying this way, and that way, and that way, and this way.
Did you ever see a hero, flying through the sky?

…hopping on one foot…twirling around…saving the day

Rhyme credit goes to Jbrary, and the template for the Popsicle stick super hero puppets goes to Hello Bee.

Last Book: Supertruck by Stephen Savage

I loved this book from the moment I read the first review! Most days, Supertruck is a normal, bespectacled garbage truck. But when a blizzard comes, he takes off the glasses and puts on a plow and saves the day! This was a very short book (perfect for those wiggly toddlers) with great illustrations!

Closing Rhyme: Put Your Hands Up High


Apps That I’m Really Excited About

Mid-to-late May is always such a weird time of year for me. Mostly because it’s the calm before the storm. Many of the big projects that I worked on during the fall and winter are either finished or about to take a back seat, but the Summer Reading mayhem has yet to officially start.  Yes there are school visits and library tours going on to get kids excited about Summer Reading, but even those don’t take up all of my time.

Therefore, for the past couple of days, I’ve been able to sit down and bring myself up-to-date on a few work-related things. One of those things that I’ve been researching is apps! I am one of the people in charge of keeping up with the newest and best children’s apps for the library, and I am sad to say that after my work with the Cybils finished earlier this year, apps took a backseat to things like the puppet show.

But now I am back to paying attention to the app world, and here are a few newish apps that I’m especially excited about:

David Wiesner's SpotDavid Wiesner’s Spot by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

iTunes – $4.99

David Wiesner has won the Caldecott Medal three times now, so it’s really not a big surprise that this app is amazing. In this app, children can explore various imaginative worlds by pinching and zooming into different scenes. Children can also tap to reveal hidden animations! And, as an extra bonus, you can also download a (FREE!) ebook: David Wiesner’s Spot: A Parent and Educator Guide! This e-book takes you behind the scenes of the app (Exclusive sketches! Learn about the origin and creative process!), and it also provides questions, activities, and story prompts! How fun!

Library Usage:  I would most likely use this app with 3rd through 5th graders. It could be a great activity for a visiting class to do, and it could also work in a creative writing program!

Steam Train Dream Train AppSteam Train, Dream Train by Oceanhouse Media

iTunes – $3.99

Steam Train, Dream Train AND Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site are two of my favorite picture books to share in storytime, so of course I’m happy to see that they’ve both been turned into storybook apps! Like many of the best picture book apps, you can choose to have the narration on or off, it highlights words as you read along, and you can tap objects in the pictures to see the corresponding word.  You also have the option of recording your voice while you read!

Library usage:  I think the most obvious choice would be to use these apps in a storytime, either a traditional one or one that is solely focused on apps. I also like the idea of sharing both of these titles in an apps booklist.

Toca Boca AppsPretty Much Anything by Toca Boca

iTunes – $0.99 – $2.99

Any app reviewer will tell you that Toca Boca is one of the big names in the app development field. I admittedly have a love/hate relationship with the big name developers because, on the one hand they create so many wonderful apps!  But on the other hand, I like to highlight well-done apps that aren’t necessarily from the big name developers. In the app world especially, it can sometimes seem like the big names get all the publicity, while the little guys fade into obscurity. With that said, Toca Boca, which is a big name, releases some amazing apps!  Three recent-ish apps that I think will be a big hit with kids in a library setting include: Toca Nature, Toca Robot Lab, and Toca Hair Salon.

Library usage: I think all three of these apps will work well in a relaxed iPad free-play program.  I would recommend Toca Nature to the pet enthusiasts, and maybe even some Minecraft fans.  I’d point future engineers and robot fanatics towards Toca Robot Lab.  And Toca Hair Salon is for anyone who wants to have some silly fun.

Dentist BirdDentist Bird by Literary Safari Inc.

iTunes – $1.99 (all proceeds go to charity)

Literary Safari contacted me months ago about this app, and I’ve been meaning to write about it, but obviously haven’t gotten around to it until now. (Which is a fail on my part.) (I should probably also mention that they are not paying me to review this app; they just asked me to take a look at it.) This app has received many accolades from sources such as School Library Journal, Children’s Technology Review, and Digital Storytime. Dentist Bird is based off of a West African folktale in which a bird helps heal a crocodile’s toothache. Not only do children get to hear the story of Dentist Bird, but they also get to help cure crocodile’s tooth ache by playing in-story games! A teacher’s guide and parent guide are also available along with this app for educational connections!

Library usage: This is another app that I would include on an apps booklist. It could also be great to include in a Día program that focuses on West Africa OR a folktale program that shares folktales from around the world.

MetamorphabetMetamorphabet by

iTunes – $3.99

Alphabet apps are pretty much a dime a dozen these days. And, honestly, most alphabet apps are only so-so as far as quality is concerned. Metamorphabet, however, wins bonus points for: ease of use, creativity, and vocabulary. What other alphabet app would include the word, “amble,” as an example of the letter A? The best way to get a feel for this app would be to watch it in action, so here’s a video review by Shannon Briggs.

Library usage: Great for free-play programs, storytimes that are focusing on a particular letter, or wall-mounted iPads in the children’s department.

Life Lately at the Library: Spring 2015

Spring 2015
When I first started Life Lately at the Library, I really hoped that I’d be able to post every month.  Clearly, I have fallen off track, so while I plan to continue with this blog series, it might have to be a seasonal thing.

So here’s what I’ve been up to this past spring:

1) Spring Preschool Puppet Show

I once again participated in my library’s annual Preschool Puppet Show, and it was so much fun!  And a lot of work.  But mostly fun!  Preschools, day cares, and families from all over the area flocked to the library to see our show.  We did 9 (NINE!) performances over four days for close to 1,400 people.  By the end of the week, I was exhausted with a capital E.  But it was also very, very rewarding, and one of the things that I’m most proud of.  Since I embedded the video of last year’s show on the blog, here’s the video for this year’s (I don’t expect anyone to actually watch it):

2) Building STEAM with Día

Several months ago, I was awarded the Building STEAM with Día mini-grant. During the months of March and April, I implemented programming for this grant. Our target audience was at risk children, particularly those who are reticent to attend our usual library programs. Therefore, we focused on offering weekly passive and pop-up programming.  Here are some of the things that I did/offered:

Table Top STEAM:  This was an all day, passive program that I offered every weekend.  Each week, I would put out a different STEAM activity on the tables that are in front of our Computer Lab.  Activities included: Build a Tower Out of Index Cards, Dig for Dinosaur Bones, Construct a Minecraft Creeper.

Early Learning Center Pop-Up Activities:  We have a 2200 sq ft Early Learning Center in my department, and it’s an amazing room for children and their grown-ups to learn together and play together.  I’ve been trying to offer programming in this room for ages, but it’s tricky to do because sometimes the room is too full for programming and sometimes the room is…empty.  By offering pop-up programming, I was able to go in whenever it was most convenient and do some simple STEAM activities with the young-uns and their parents. We did things such as Sink or Float, Color Mixing, and Cubelets! (Psst, I highly recommend Cubelets!)

Book Giveaways: One of the greatest things about this grant is that, along with programming, it allows you to earmark money for book giveaways. What’s better than getting FREE books into the hands of children who really need it?

Bells and Whistles: While the majority of our programming for this grant was passive or pop-up, we also tried to entice children into our traditional programming by offering some shiny bells and whistles.  For example, we brought the 3D printer into the Children’s Department to get kids interested in our 3D printing program. (And one day, 5 boys ranging in age from about 6 to 14 spent a good 30 minutes just standing in front of and staring at the printer.) We also bought microscopes for our already established STEAM program: Science Explorers.

The programming for this grant is finished now.  It was a lot of fun (and a lot of work — that must be the theme for my Spring), and it was a big success.  Here’s a photo:

Index Card Tower Edit
3) Free Comic Book Day @ the Library!

Last Saturday, we offered an exceptionally well-received Free Comic Book Day @ the Library program.  It was a hoot, let me tell ya.  I wasn’t the mastermind behind this one — two of my awesome coworkers dreamed up and implemented this, but I did get to help out at many of the activities including: Super Hero Storytime, Costume Factory (capes! masks! wristbands!), and Super Hero Training.  Super heroes also visited the library and we, of course, offered free comic books all day long.  Here’s a picture of some super heroes reading (photo belongs to Allen County Public Library):


Perfect for Storytime

Perfect for Storytime Banner

If I Had a TriceratopsIf I Had A Triceratops by George O’Connor

This book is in the same vein as O’Connor’s If I Had a Raptor, only this time the dinosaur takes after a dog instead of a cat.  While I have shared If I Had a Raptor in storytime before, I personally believe that If I Had a Triceratops would be more easily understandable to a preschool crowd.  The illustrations, for example, are a bit more humorous for a younger crowd and feature the large triceratops in the dog house (only his nose fits), hiding under the bed (the bed rests precariously on top of him), and sniffing another dinosaur’s — erm — posterior.  Overall, this would be a great addition to storytime, and I honestly can’t wait to read it in front of a group!

Elephants Can't JumpElephant’s Can’t Jump! by Jeanne Willis

Lions can jump.  Monkeys can jump.  Even giraffes can jump.  But elephants can’t.  A little elephant is determined to learn how to jump, and he tries everything to no avail.  Just as he’s about to give up, he learns that there is something that he can do.  While the illustrations are adorable enough for a young crowd, I actually think that this one will work best with the 4 to 5 year old crowd.  The story runs a tad on the long side, and I’m fairly certain that most younger readers (or even older readers who are a bit wiggly) will lose interest.

if you plant a seedIf You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson

The illustrations steal the show in this picture book about a rabbit and mouse who plant a tomato seed, carrot seed, and cabbage seed. When some hungry birds want to eat the vegetables, rabbit and mouse react not so pleasantly.  In the end, all the animals learn that it is better to share than to be selfish.  I already shared this one with a storytime group, and it worked so, so well! I think the parents in particular appreciated the moral of the story, and everyone loved the pictures! I’m sure this book will be getting some definite Caldecott buzz!

Toddler Art — March 2015

Even though I’ve been doing Toddler Art every month, the last time I posted about Toddler Art was last year…in December! This is mostly due to the fact that I haven’t been inspired to write about Toddler Art, but also because I’ve been busy and this blog has kind of taken a back seat. But I’ve got some time today, so here’s what I did for Toddler Art last month:

Circle Stamping

Circle Stamping

  • Paper of any color (paint looks most vibrant on white)
  • Paper towel or toilet paper tubes
  • Non-toxic paint


  • Children use the tubes to stamp circles onto their paper


Chalk Art

Chalk Art

  • Dark construction paper
  • Chalk


  • Children draw with chalk

Both of these crafts were super simple as far as prep work and execution went. The program basically ran itself, and the results of both projects were awesome! I will definitely be doing both of these crafts again.