Family: Sound & Music

As part of the summer series of Family Storytimes, we explored sounds and music this week.  I was actually giddy as I set up! It wasn’t because we had a guest who regularly reads, plays guitar and sings, but that was great. It wasn’t because of the fun books he read, but those worked well. It wasn’t because of the cute tissue box guitars we were going to make, but they were a hit. It was because I was going to blow the minds of preschoolers with the Makey Makey!

For the first half of storytime, our guest played music, sang and read stories related to sound and music with families. Whenever he comes to storytime, he reads and I pick the books, plan the theme, and take care of the second half of storytime. I usually pick out the books for him because I plan the storytime themes before I know when he’ll be reading. (It also helps to have a plan if he’s sick or can’t make it for another reason at the last minute.) He’s an excellent addition to storytime and has been joining us every six weeks or so for years. We talk often about how storytime went and change what we need to.

Hilda Must be Dancing (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2004) by Karma Wilson and Suzanne Watts
The Loud Book (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) by Deborah Underwood and Renata Liwska
Squeak, Rumble Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!: a Sonic Adventure (Candlewick, 2012) by Wynton Marsalis and Paul Rogers

Activity Stations
This week I created four activity stations. The only way I can do this is employing the talents of a summer teen volunteer who is quickly settling into the busy storytime routine.  I can have her run one station while I run another. The other two stations were either independent stations that have directions for caregivers or require only minimal help and I can assist from a nearby station.

Tissue Box Guitar
I explained to kids that, all over the world, people make instruments out of what ever they have around them and that was just what we were going to do! Marsalis’ book really demonstrates that sounds come from all kinds of “instruments.”


You’ll find examples of this craft all over the internet, but Instructables has step-by-step instructions if you need help. I had cupboards full of donated tissue boxes and paper towel tubes that were perfect for this craft, so start gathering! Before storytime, I went through the collection of rectangular boxes and made sure they had holes only in the bellies. (Some boxes have holes that run from the center around one side and obviously don’t work for this project.) I also made sure the plastic was removed from the hole.

Caregivers and kids selected a tissue box, drew the outline of the paper towel tube on one of the short ends of the tissue box, cut out the hole (slightly smaller than drawn to create a tight fit), glued the tube if necessary, attached rubber bands, decorated and then played the new instrument.

tissue boxes (one for each child)
varying sizes of rubber bands (each size makes a different sound)
paper towel tube
glue gun (used by the teen volunteer)
foam alphabet stickers
construction paper for decorating the belly of the guitar
crayons and markers

Basket of Musical Instruments
I have a small collection of individual, kid-friendly musical instruments that I placed in a basket for families to explore. Some musicians played together while others made their own music. I encouraged caregivers to ask questions of their young musician, observing what kind of sound each instrument made, how the sound could be changed, and if it was loud or soft.

Coloring sheets
I printed out several music-related coloring sheets and placed them at a table with markers and crayons. This helped ease the crowds at the other stations.

Makey Makey/Sago Mini Sound Box
I regularly use new media in storytime and programs for kids of all ages, but I was especially excited to introduce everyone to the Makey Makey at storytime. I first heard about the Makey Makey from Stephen Tafoya in a discussion on the Little eLit listserv and knew I had to get one. I bought one and played with it at home with my two kids before bringing it to storytime.

The basic idea is this. The Makey Makey is an invention kit that fools a computer into thinking its a keyboard, thus allowing you to turn almost anything into something that can create sound, type text, be used to play a game, or create an image.


Playing a SCRATCH piano with bananas and the Makey Makey

I love the Makey Makey for several reasons.

  • It gets kids (or teens or adults) creating while using digital technology in addition to consuming it.
  • It makes some ho-hum digital content more dynamic and gets kids and adults playing and talking together, encouraging joint media engagement.
  • Using it warrants basic scientific questions. What happens if you do this? How does this work? Why did it stop working?
  • It allows kids and parents to learn about the big concept of electricity in a kid-friendly, hands-on way.
  • It introduces parents to Arduino, an open source platform for manipulating electronics in cool ways that artists, designers, and hobbyists can work with to make great things.
  • It seems like magic, but isn’t! I believe that if kids realize they can make music with play dough or bananas, they can do anything!

I set up a laptop and the Makey Makey at a table with enough space for several kids and adults to experiment together. I also had four bananas and four containers of different colored play dough. On the laptop, I had the Makey Makey Piano-2 site ready to go. This provided a visual keyboard on the screen so kids could see and hear what happened when they touched the banana or blob of play dough.

I did a quick demo of how the tool worked and gave a brief explanation of electricity. For many kids and adults, this alone was mind bending. (I have to admit I learned a few things about electricity preparing for this storytime.) The best part, though, is that each time a child sat in the player’s chair, we talked about how electricity works and demonstrated how it works at the same time. Several three year olds got it and applied their new knowledge as they manipulated the new toy. It was amazing. Caregivers were b-l-o-w-n away. You just have to make that happen at storytime sometimes.

As each child took their turn controlling the Makey Makey, I asked them if they wanted to use play dough or bananas to make music. Once they chose, I showed them how the tool worked and hooked up the alligator clips (either by sticking each of the four clips into a different blob of play dough or clipping them to the end of four different bananas). I showed them how they had to hold the ground/Earth/negative clip in one hand and then, with the other hand, tap one of the four “keys” they created. I gave each child enough time to understand all of the pieces involved which was key (no pun intended). Every child was patient as they waited for their turn, which blew my mind.Makey Makey Set Up

At the table, I also had an iPad with Sago’s Mini Sound Box app loaded on it. I wanted to offer another way to make digital music and sound through touch and provide a second option for play while kids waited for the Makey Makey. The app, a nice choice for toddlers and preschoolers, gets kids making music and sound by tapping, shaking, and moving the iPad and the images on the screen. I really like the fact that this open-ended app employs multi-touch so kids or kids and adults can play together. I engaged the device’s Guide Access feature so I wouldn’t have to worry about kids leaving the app accidentally while I was using the Makey Makey. A few kids explored the app and a couple of parents asked about it, but most kids weren’t particularly interested.



Family: Taste & Smell

During the summer my preschool storytimes become family storytimes, including not just the 3-5 year olds, but also the 6 & 7 year olds. I do this by incorporating lots of STEAM elements and multiple activity stations so there is something for most, if not all. Here’s what I did this week during the first EXPLORE Family Storytime of the Summer.

This week we explored the senses of taste and smell. To get the ball rolling, we talked about all of the senses and what we use them for. To do that, I brought along a beautiful book which helped us talk about parts of our body and what we use for each sense.

Book: Cold, Crunchy, Colorful (Millbrook Press, 2014)
We “bookwalked” our way through Jan Brocket’s latest title in her Clever Concept series. The books in this series introduce concepts exemplified by real-life objects or activities well-known to many preschoolers. This title demonstrates how we use five senses to interpret the world around us and is a good starting point for talking about how friends might compensate for hearing impairment or blindness. The book uses clear, eye-catching photographs and simple text to encourage kids to observe the world around them.

Book: Dragons Love Tacos (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012)
Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri teamed up to offer kids a silly story about dragons and their love for tacos, but not tacos with spicy salsa. This book is a crowd pleaser, even for those who have read it before, not because it is a mesmerizing story, but most likely because of its ridiculous premise (dragons eat tacos? No way!), the presence of the beloved dragons, and the whimsical illustrations. We had fun exploring this book as a group, even discussing the senses of taste and smell in regards to tacos and dragons, and kids had lots to say.
Movement:  Making a Purple Stew
I sang the first verse of this old favorite using the color purple and then had kids call out colors for additional verses. By the third verse everyone was making stew.
Making a purple stew, whip, whip
Whip Whip Whip (pretend to stir a huge bowl, circular motion with arms)
Making a purple stoobie-doobie-oobie-doobie
Purple potatoes, and purple tomatoes and (pretend to throw things in from over your shoulder) 
And even a purple you! (point to a child)
Credit: Scout Songs (This link includes one version, but I sing a modified version I learned somewhere else)
Book: Bear Wants More (M.K. McElderry Books, 2003)
We have quite a few fans of Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman’s rhyming bear books! The lovable critters are fantastical, especially to Alaskan kids, but offer opportunities to talk about hunger, taste, hibernation, and of course what bears eat (and don’t eat in this book). While many of these animals would not be found together as friends in the wild, the large format graphics envelope the reader, drawing us into the sweet world of unlikely companions, even if just for a few minutes.
Movement:  Pop Corn by Mr Kim Webster (2004)
We pretended to make and be popcorn during this song. It repeats so the first time I demonstrated the actions and the second time, kids (and adults) joined in. Here are the actions: pretend to pour oiling the pan, move imaginary pan back and forth over stove, pretend to pour in popcorn, use fingers to outline grin and smile, squat on floor and shake hands at sides, move slowly up to standing as Kim sings the word “sizzle,” dance to pop by pushing hands into air, then out to sides, and turn in circles, jump, or free dance. I played this song on my iPhone with portable speakers.

After making imaginary popcorn, it was time to make real popcorn! I brought my friend’s air popper to show kids how it worked and to talk about what happens to turn kernels of corn into popcorn. Want to know more about popcorn science? Visit the popcorn website! (It’s all about the water.) Just plugging in the popper was interesting, but once the corn started to pop kids actually started to jump! I popped enough for each child to have a small cup at the tasting station (see below).

Smelling Station
I got the idea for this station off of Science Friday. (I try to listen to the show as much as possible for general interest sake and for good program ideas.) During the Scientists Test What the Nose Knows (3/21/14) episode, Andreas Keller tested Ira Flatow’s sense of smell by asking to him to smell three different samples and to then identify which two are the same. While Ira was given samples with multiple elements, I gave kids simpler smells. I left the experiment the same otherwise.

I put several drops of an extract on a cotton ball and placed it in a dixie cup. It was obvious which cup held which scent, but I marked the cup underneath just to be sure. Each child had three cups in front of them. Two of them were the same and one was different. The child smelled each of the three and then selected the two that smelled the same. We had multiple scents so a child could test their sense of smell multiple times if they wanted to.
dixie cups
cotton balls
extracts (vanilla, banana, almond, peppermint, orange)

Tasting Station #1: Popcorn
I took the large bowl of popcorn we popped over tot he tasting station where kids could season it with salt, nutritional yeast, or cinnamon/sugar. The original idea was to have the kids take the popcorn home and eat outside the library, but that didn’t really work out. I ended up doing a little vacuuming afterwards.
small plastic bags
nutritional yeast
cinnamon/sugar mix (1:1)

Tasting Station #2: Apples vs. Potatoes
I thought I would need a fourth station so I added this one, but it was not very popular and I would exclude it next time. The idea is to have kids use their sense of taste (minus sight and smell) to determine if the white food in front of them is apple or potato. To do this, kids take a bite sized piece of apple/potato and eat it while plugging their nose and closing their eyes. It is designed to show kids how much we rely on multiple senses to taste the food we eat.
1 apple, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 large potato, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 plates
something to put the chewed bits of potato into (kids will want to spot out the potato!)
Credit: Science Kids

Food Stamping Station
As always, I included an art station. I’ve stamped with food at home with my kids and as a volunteer in classrooms. It was time to paint with fruits and veggies at the library. It’s obviously not a new idea and lots of examples can be found online. For more ideas for a food storytime and food stamping visit Sturdy for Common Things.

Fruits and Veggies for Painting

At the stamping station, kids found cut fruits and veggies, paint, and paper. I showed them what I created, but they needed no encouragement and quickly got started testing out the different painting tools. Many kids also used their fingers to add more depth to their paintings.
paper plates (for paint)
washable paint in various colors (I used 3 per table)
cut veggies and fruits (I used a green pepper, an orange, a scallion, a mushroom, and an apple)

Here are some of the results: