Preschool: Making Something Out of Nothing

I just returned from a vacation and haven’t held a story time in three weeks, so I was happy to see so many familiar smiles this morning! Over fifty people came to shake off the winter doldrums brought on by the unseasonably warm and rainy weather (not much cold and snow here in Alaska!). I was ready for them! As one mom said who joined story time at the tail-end, “it looks like there’s a party in here!” And boy was there! I had the massive clean up to prove it.

With the holidays behind us, many families are like mine and Treasure Art Box have piles of cardboard boxes and paper at home waiting to be taken for recycling.  Unsurprisingly, that “trash” is often fodder for hours of child play, especially during the winter when kids have so much energy but the daylight and weather keep us inside. In fact, my art box, filled with bits and pieces, was created when my kids were wee-ones and I realized what we could do with little treasures and odds and ends. I’m sure your home or library has something similar!

It was time to share the treasure art box fun with library families. Thus, the “Making Something Out of Nothing” storytime was born. (This is a picture of my library art box. See the post-storytime version at the end of this post!)

To begin story time, we got warmed up by sharing lots of personal stories about the holidays and then we rolled the rhyme cube. We had time for two kids to roll the cube today and we sang “Open Shut Them” and “The Hokey Pokey” (using both arms and both elbows).

We then sang a very active song by Nancy Stewart which I recently heard about in a conversation about music in storytime on the Storytime Underground Facebook page. To set the stage you have to imagine several kids standing remarkably still, eyes focused on the shiny, never before seen penny whistle in my hand (a must). I began singing and acting out the lyrics while the kids followed along. Then we got to the part about falling down. I played the penny whistle down the scale as I pulled the whistle’s handle down and fell to the floor. The kids quickly got the gist of the song and were laid out all over the floor, giggling. They were all ready to jump back up when I played the whistle back up the scale and then we acted out the next animal in the lyrics. Kids coming in late were amazed and rushed over to see what all of the fun was about.

The song can be played online via a mobile device like a phone and speakers or sung a capella. Nancy’s voice is lovely, but I opted to sing it on my own which allowed for us to pause between verses as needed and to smoothly add other animals and actions at the end of the song.

Action Song: I’m Hopping Like a Bunny
I’m hopping like a bunny, I’m hopping all around
Hopping like a bunny and now I’m falling down

I’m stomping like a dinosaur, I’m stomping all around
Stomping like a dinosaur and now I’m falling down

I’m swimming like a fishy, I’m swimming all around
Swimming like a fishy and now I’m falling down

I’m walking like an elephant, I’m walking all around
Walking like an elephant and now I’m falling down

I’m flitting like a butterfly, I’m flitting all around
Flitting like a butterfly and now I’m falling down
Credit: Nancy Stewart
We added: a bee (buzzing), a giraffe (walking), a monkey (climbing), and a bird (flapping)

Song: Ready for a Story

If you’re ready for a story, clap your hands
If you’re ready for a story, clap your hands
If you’re ready for a story, If you’re ready for a story,
If you’re ready for a story, clap your hands.
… sit down please (accompanied by penny whistle)

i_stinkBook: I Stink! by Kate & Jim McMullan (Joann Cotler Books, 2002)

I read this book first for a few reasons. It’s longer than the others, the authors have many fans at our library, it’s bright artwork is eye-catching, and its garbage truck star draws in the transportation-lovers in the group.  After reading about what happens to trash during the night on the streets of a city like New York, we talked about today’s storytime theme and what else you can do with trash.

Joseph-Had-a-Little-Overcoat-imageBook: Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback (Viking, 1999)

This book provided a great example of how something that is old and worn can be repurposed into something wonderful. Again, it has bright images so it’s an attention-grabber.  The repetitive elements of the text help kids anticipate the story, but what Joseph creates out of the worn clothing keeps them guessing. Each page contains a small cut out that allows the next item of clothing to lay over the previous as you turn the page.

Time for… dancing!

First, we stretched our limbs and did some forward bends to get our bodies ready for dancing. (This is a subtle way to get kids ready for the weekly yoga I plan to incorporate into storytime beginning in February.)

Recorded Song: Silly Dance Contest by Jim Gill

I played this song via Sound Cloud where you’ll find digital versions of Gill’s songs that you can play on your phone or mobile device and some portable speakers via the Sound Cloud app (iOS and Google Play). It was my first time using Sound Cloud, but I plan to check it out more and see what storytime treasures I can find!

(At this point I can see my coworkers at the circulation desk laughing through the glass windows that separate the storytime fun from the quietness of the rest of the library.)

The kids loved the dance break and were ready for the final story.

Nowhere_Cover_SmallBook: The Nowhere Box by Sam Zuppardi (Candlewick, 2013)

This book was a nice lead into the craft portion of our morning. Many kids can relate to the troublesome, but lovable younger siblings George must contend with. More than a few probably went home to find an appliance box to temporarily escape to where they could image a “nowhere” to explore on their own.  After all, whether old or young, everyone needs some alone time so they can go back to enjoying games with their beloved siblings.

Activity: Egg Carton Owl

Before craft time began, I described the project they could work on and then told them about my art box. I showed them what was inside and told them they could use whatever they wanted out of the box to make something in addition to or instead of the owl. In a mad scramble, the kids immediately dug into the box and pulled out treasures! I know kids have great imaginations, but that was fun to see!Post Storytime Art Box

Here are some kids digging into what’s left for odds and ends to finish off their projects which included a dog frisbee (decorated old CD), a hat (square-shaped bubble packaging) and jewelry (old ribbon rings, bits of paper, and old electronic pieces).  As it refills, I’ll definitely bring out my art box again for open-ended play.

I found this adorable craft online, but the link to the instructions on Small Magazine was broken. The image gave me enough to recreate the owl though, so I’ll describe what I did here.

Egg Carton Owl

Materials (for each owl):

top of dozen size, paper egg carton cut in half (use cartons with tops that are flat, without holes, like this one)egg carton

Egg compartment portion cut so that there are two compartments connected with high point (for nose) attached (like this one)

Owl eyesA variety of feathers

Googly eyes

glue (tacky is best)

markers (for decorating the nose or body of the owl)

After cutting the top of the egg carton in half, for each owl body I cut two feet out of the rounded edge, then cut out sections next to the feet to create the wing effect, and then rounded the top of the owl which originally was the middle of the carton lid. I decided cutting out the bodies and eyes was too much for kids and parents to manage during storytime, so I prepped the projects this far. The gluing and decorating was obviously left to the families which they enjoyed.

Photo Credits:
I Stink!
Joseph Had a Little Overcoat
The Nowhere Box


Preschool: Rhythm and Sounds

This week’s story hour was all about rhythm! I regularly talk with families about the role music, and singing, can play in literacy- it helps kids hear the rhythm (cadence) in language and slows down are speaking so they hear more sounds.  And it’s fun to sing, dance and make music! So, I am a big fan of books that incorporate fun sounds and rhythm into the story. A couple of kids are particularly big fans of any music or sound activities we do, so this story time theme is dedicated to them!

Rhythm books

We started story time at each location with Storytime Katie’s version of Rafi’s Shake Your Sillies Out using shakers. I was inspired after arranging an upcoming summer visit to our library by the musician Andy Mason, who also does a great version. We shook, jumped, stretched, clapped, and stretched some more to get rid of the late January blahs. These kids love to sing, wiggle, and dance! Since only a few kids had arrived at this point I then read Giraffes Can’t Dance to give the others a chance to arrive and get settled.

From there we moved on to more music and movement!  In one of the outreach programs we use a room with a linoleum floor (vs. the carpeted floor at the library) so the sounds we created were fun and different.  We used the the rhythm sticks I made out of dowels to make quite a ruckus banging on the floor, metal chair legs, mats, other rhythm sticks, shakers, books, you name it! After the free form music making we made sounds together with this song I found at Read Sing Play. I read a suggestion somewhere along the way that is helpful with the rhythm sticks- have the kids rest the sticks on their shoulders between trying out the sticks on their own and playing this song. It is a great tool for focusing the kids’ attention.

This is the way we tap our sticks, tap our sticks, tap our sticks
This is the way we tap our sticks so early in the morning!
This is the way we rub our sticks, rub our sticks, rub our sticks
This is the way we rub our sticks so early in the morning!
This is the way we tap our knees, tap our knees, tap our knees
This is the way we tap our knees so early in the morning!

And I added:
This is the way we bang on the floor, bang on the floor, bang on the floor
This is the way we bang on the floor so early in the morning.

The additional verse lets us do what we really want to do, bang on the floor, in addition to making the softer sounds called for in the earlier verses.

We have also used this rhyme with the sticks. It’s a favorite in snow country.

Snow is falling, falling down; Snow is falling hit the ground. (Move hands down, wiggling fingers like snowflakes)
Flurries, flurries (slow beat, slowly said)
Snowing, snowing (faster)
Blizzard (Loud and very fast)
Perpetual School

I continued on with books and read This Jazz Man, Pete the Cat: I Love my White Shoes, and Dancing Feet. With each page, we were predicting, counting, identifying colors, interpreting illustrations, naming animals, and learning about jazz and music. The great questions kept on coming!BINGO

Just before we moved on to the craft for this week, I brought out the flannel board. The kids got quiet as soon as they saw the blank, black rectangle appear. I placed five felt letters on the board, spelling BINGO, and kids immediately began to identify letters. “The letter this week must be B!” a little one proclaimed. I got this idea from the Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy site.

After pointing out each letter as I said it’s name, it was time for a song. Most kids know the BINGO song, so they caught on quickly. As each letter is “removed” in the song’s lyrics, the felt letter is turned over. Instead of clapping, in this version we barked in place of the turned over letter. ( didn’t get a chance to put a dog image on the back as was recommended, but that would be cute.)

The song with the BINGO letters worked very well and I found that more kids, particularly the youngest ones, were able to keep the rhythm going when they barked vs. clapping. It can be tough without well-developed fine motor skills. By the time we got to barking for “N,” there were smiles all around and everyone had it figured out.

To round out the morning, we created fun music makers for the budding performers to take home. These were constructed by 2-5 year olds, so they are simple and can be made with limited adult support. My sample is so boring compared with the kids’ which were featured multicolored rays of streamers, an abundance of giraffe and elephant stickers, and crayon colored patterns!  The story time’s grand finale was an orchestra of paper plate shakers!Shaker

This craft was made with materials I already had at the library:

1 paper plate folded
dried rice, beans, or grain to go inside once the plate is folded
staples and glue to make a tight seal around the edge
crayons or markers for coloring the plate
stickers for decorating the sides
dots of glue on one edge for the paper streamers

Do you know of another easy to make instrument for story time? Let me know!