Family Play: Curating and Sharing Apps in the Library

Holidays, especially those accompanied by a significant number of days off from school, are excellent opportunities to recommend family time activities for in and out of the library. Along with passive “programs” and early literacy toys for families to enjoy in the library, I recently pulled out books for a display which are great for sharing at bedtime, in the car, and any old time. I added to the display a sign with some of my favorite apps that are fun for the whole family and by design, encourage joint media engagement and coplay. Here are the apps I included in the Family Play Recommendations, many of which have been featured on our mounted iPad.

family-play-apps-for-kids

 

family-play-app

 

Sesame Street Family Play
Sesame Street

This is an app that sparks ideas for off-screen play. Even the most savvy parents and caregivers run out of ideas, especially in stressful situations when families are logging time in crowded doctors’ offices, at airports during flight delays, and inside during harsh weather. This app provides more than 150 ideas based on where the family is playing and how many will join in the fun. The familiar Sesame Street characters will appeal to both kids and adults who are fans of Sesame Street. The app is research-based and boost learning skills while promoting fun, family play. For librarians and teachers this app could be introduced to families during a program by letting children help choose an activity and then playing the game as a group. it might be used similar to a song cube.
iOS/Adroid
Paid
Ages: 3-6

Toca Hair Salon Me app

 

Toca Hair Salon Me
Toca Boca

This app is one of my favorite Toca Boca apps because of its broad age appeal. The idea is to cut, wash, color and style hair with multiple tools in this open-ended play app. The app uses a photo from the device and then with a few adjustments the image is ready to makeover. There are no gender preconceptions and the styling possibilities are only inhibited by imagination. The concept and the design invite onlookers to become participants and the repeat usage is high. I prefer this app over the other fun Toca Hair Salon apps, although they are also noteworthy, because of the ability to upload a photo instead of using the provided images and characters. There is just something disarming about seeing an adult’s goofy selfie being altered by a group of kids. I’ve used this with young children, tweens, and grandparents as a party game and program icebreaker. A quick introduction gets the group off and running quickly. Photos of the final product can be saved to the device.
iOS/Android
Paid
Ages: 3+

grandma-gourd

 

Grandma’s Great Gourd
Literary Safari

Grandma’s Great Gourd is a trickster tale, story app based on the award-winning picture book, Grandma and the Great Gourd by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and Susy Pilgrim Waters. Reminiscent of classic stories like Little Riding Hood and The Three Billy Goats Gruff, this is the tale of a smart, adventurous grandmother off to visit her daughter on the other side of the perilous jungle.
The entertaining story is enriched with subtle, story-relevant interactive elements, an original musical score, friendly, almost familiar, narration, and sound effects which all bring the humorous, Bengali folktale to life. For example, readers help decide in which order Grandma negotiates with the three beasts in the jungle; a black bear, tiger, and fox. The paper book’s textile-like illustrations are digitized and slightly animated in the app, accentuating the layered effect envisioned in the original book.
Families can enjoy the story together in read-to-me or read-on-my-own mode from start to finish or the back button (once in the story) can be used to select favorite pages. The home and settings button can be found on the navigation panel also. A sound studio offers readers the opportunity to record personalized narration, in a particular home language for example, and new sound effects to become part of the story. The app also includes a physics based game featuring Grandma and a flying gourd and a way to learn more about the Bengali region of South Asia, Grandma’s World, through in-app, informational videos. Topics include wildlife, clothing, food, art and language. (This information was also included in Beanstack’s collection of media reviews.) Check out the Grownup guide for extension activities!
iOS/Android
Paid
Ages: 3-8

fairytale-play-theater-title
Fairytale Play Theater
Nosy Crow

Do your kids like dramatic play? This open-ended app lets children create their own retellings of 6 fairytales (featured in Nosy Crow’s story apps). Storytellers can change characters, backgrounds, storylines, and props from a select menu (again all featured in Nosy Crow’s story apps). They can even record narration and action which they can playback for an audience. Characters lip-sync along with the custom narration. This creativity app would be a lovely tool to extend book readings of fairytales to help kids learn the fundamentals of storytelling or a new way for families to create their own stories together and then present the final product as a show on a large monitor. The app is well-suited for multiple players either at home or in a classroom/library setting. The app is available in two versions- ‘standard’ with In-App Purchases and ‘complete’ with all of the available stories. If you want to try out the app before committing, go ahead with the standard version, but the complete version offers kids more flexibility.
iOS
Paid
Ages: 4-8 (Young children will experience a learn curve and may need initial help navigating the in’s and out’s of the app.)

me-app
Me
Tinybop

Me is a playful, digital storytelling tool in which kids and their families design personalized avatars and then create self-portraits, of sorts, using the app’s prompts and the digital device’s microphone, keyboard, touchscreen, and camera. Multiple kids, or kids and adults, can each craft their own story with drawings, photos, and words. The prompts pop up on the screen like thought bubbles and a quick tap reveals a question or direction which encourages kids to share their likes, dislikes, and feelings. Kids document their world and answer the ultimate question, ‘who are you?’ Imagination is strongly encouraged so kids can easily create a story for a pet or imaginary friend. Unanswered prompts can be saved for later and more options will appear. All of the pieces of each creation are kept in one place – perfect for sharing with friends and family – but nothing is shared outside of the app. The prompts are silly, interesting, and even peculiar, but all are well-suited for the whole family. Me successfully uses fun activities and thoughtful technical design to help kids find their voice and share it with others. (This information was also included in a monthly article I write for the Homer News about early literacy and children’s media.)
iOS
Paid
Ages: 4+ (younger with help)

Miximal App
Miximal
Yatatoy

Miximal mimics what singing does for language development in a silly literacy app that invites families to mix animals and sounds. To play this flipbook-inspired app, families switch the three sections of a handcrafted animal illustration by swiping on the screen to the left or right until a picture of an animal is complete. Tapping on the arrow at the bottom switches the display to a screen listing the three syllables of the animal’s name- for example, ‘go-ril-la’. If the name and animal represent an actual animal, versus an imaginary one, then the illustration animates and the animal does a little dance. While the goal is to make a whole gorilla or penguin, for example, the fun is in finding out what a mixed up animal looks like. Try the app to see a ‘fla-qui-saur’! (Hint: flamingo-mosquito-dinosaur.) The app supports five languages. (This information was also included in a monthly article I previously wrote for the Homer Tribune about early literacy and children’s media.)
iOS
Paid
Ages: 3-7

dipdap-winter
Dipdap Winter
Cube Interactive

Dipdap Winter is one of two drawing apps by this developer that lets kids contribute to short video stories. I like to share this one at my library because it’s very relevant to the local experience. Snow is covering the ground and kids will be familiar with the activities. For kids in other regions this might be a nice intro to life in colder climates.

The app’s idea is basic, but offers lots of opportunity for conversation. Kids draw a missing element to complete one of multiple short stories featuring the character Dipdap. Kids are given a prompt and pulsating dotted lines to follow if they choose. Creating the missing elements supports early writing practice whatever they ultimately draw for the missing element is acknowledged and used in the story- very rewarding for young children just beginning to write and draw.  In the creation mode, kids watch the complete story first to give them context for their drawing and then they get to work. In play mode, they watch the short video story without adding their own drawings. It is easy to move back and forth. The stories are winter related and feature everything from snow play and baking activities to waking a bear from hibernation.
iOS
Paid
Ages: 3-6

Family Storytime: Heroes, Flight & Gravity

This summer, we’re celebrating heroes in our summer learning program along with many libraries across the US. It’s quite a fun theme because it incorporates superheroes and comics on the one hand while also providing a great backdrop on which to celebrate the hero within. Many of the books and ideas I plan to share this summer during storytime will encourage kids to do great things. This week was no different.

I have been using letter cards at the beginning of storytime as a welcome activity to support letter recognition, to get kids physically stretching, and to break the ice, so to speak. My pack of letters has 26 cards (plus some duplicates) and each one has an uppercase letter and the picture of a child forming the shape of the letter with their body. I keep the cards in a bag and, one at a time, kids pull out the first card they touch. I hold it up so all can see and we say the letter’s name and then make the shape with our bodies. The cards include a diverse group of kids which I appreciate.

This week I decided to only have the letters that spell AIRPLANE in the bag. After we played the game, I organized the letters into the word as a hint for the storytime theme. I was glad that I simplified things because kids kept pouring into the room and I never would have had enough letter cards for everyone to pick a letter. Frankly, we would have been there all day playing just this one game if we went through the entire alphabet. During some storytimes in the Winter I can get away with every child who arrives at the start picking a letter because the crowds are smaller, but not in the Summer.

Once everyone was settled down on their storytime mat (with a little help from the song If You’re ready for a Story), it was time to read.

Violet the Pilot by Steve Breen (Photo source: Zoobean.com)

Violet the Pilot by Steve Breen (Photo source: Zoobean.com)

I recently came across the book Violet the Pilot by Steve Breen (Dial Books, 2008) and knew I had to read it at storytime for a couple of reasons:

  • Violet is a “maker” and designs her own airplane,
  • She stands up to bullies,
  • Her parents support her creative passion,
  • The story has several historical references to innovators, and
  • She is recognized as a hero when she rescues a group of boy scouts stranded in a river instead of competing in the airplane competition she was headed to when she discovered them.

The book also gave me a great opportunity to talk about flight and gravity, the focus of this storytime. Too technical for storytime and the 3-7 year olds who attend, you say? No way! I infuse STEAM in my storytimes every week and have found that breaking down big concepts, like flight or electricity, into bite size pieces can work. Kids may not be ready for rocket science, but everyone starts somewhere. Why not at the library storytime? We do that with reading, why not with science, technology, engineering, art and math?

Before I shared this book, I asked the group what we needed to fly. I was delighted when a girl said “lift and thrust.” The adults were blown away! Over the course of storytime I explained the ideas and what parts of a plane handle lift and thrust using the two books I read, the books’ illustrations and the experiments we did in the second half of storytime.

One thing I would do differently if I wrote this book is make sure the boy scouts are wearing life jackets in the rescue illustration. Drowning is a significant problem in Alaska (many families spent a lot of time on the water) and we are always driving home the idea that everyone needs to wear a life jacket when they are on a boat or dock (young kids). I took a moment to talk about life jackets when we got to that part of the story, but it would be nice to have the book model this important practice.

Kids were wiggly by the time I was finished with Violet’s story, perhaps in part to the large number of people, so we got moving. I had my phone and a portable speaker on hand with the storytime playlist ready to go. I also had my collection of shakers to use with Laurie Berkner’s The Airplane Song. I actually ran out of shakers for the first time ever, but the kids without them handled it well. The song is full of action and the movements work with or without shakers.

Flight School by Lita Judge Photo Source: simonandschuster.com

Flight School by Lita Judge Photo Source: simonandschuster.com

We then read Flight School by Lita Judge (Atheneum Books for Young Readers (2014). It’s the story of a penguin who desperately wants to fly, but can’t so he goes to flight school. While his body is meant for swimming and he can’t get airborne on his own, the other students get him off the ground, demonstrating heroism on a smaller scale and helping penguin fulfill a lifelong dream.

Time for experiments! I like to refer to this storytime as Physics for Preschoolers.

Boy, did I miss my summer assistant this week! With three stations going and over 60 people, I could have used an extra hand. She is on vacation so we made do without her…just barely. Designing multiple stations lets me offer a variety of activities and most kids will find at least one that appeals to them. It also helps to spread out the crowd a bit.

Gravity Painting

Station: Gravity Painting
I love painting during storytime. I can handle the mess and so can the families who come. Kids know to wash their hands as soon as they are done at the painting tables (there is a sink in the kids’ room) and caregivers often help clean up. I make t-shirts available, but they never get used. I stick with washable tempura paints to make things easy. Gravity painting was an easy leap for me. I modified a project I found at the Artful Parent, a great place to find ideas that can be adapted for storytime.

Gravity Painting ExampleBefore storytime, I built 12 stands for this activity. I used aluminum trays I have stored away and book ends. I taped the back of the tray to the book end to keep them upright. To paint, kids used eyedroppers to suction watered down tempura paint out of bowls on the tables and then squeezed it on to the 1/2 sheet of cardstock paper in the upright tray. The paint slides down the paper, thanks to gravity, and creates beautiful designs. Some families taped the paper in the tray until painting was complete. We talked about gravity in a very basic sense, remembering again, that we’re introducing big ideas in bite sized pieces.

Materials:

  • aluminum roasting trays (1 per painter)
  • tempura paints in various colors (I had 4 colors at each table)
  • eyedroppers (1 per color)
  • bowls or containers for paint
  • book ends (1 for each tray)
  • packing tape (to attach tray to book end)
  • white cardstock (1/2 sheet)
  • pencil (for writing names on paper before painting)

Straw paper airplaneStation: Straw Paper Airplanes
We’ve made these airplanes at the library before and I love them. They seem ridiculous, but always fly. I got the idea from the DIY Network. The materials are minimal and I have a nice spot for creating an airstrip where kids can measure how far their play goes and practice throwing the plane. Some kids ended up adding wings and other decorative pieces and then tried to fly them again. Pretty cool.

Airstrip

Airstrip

Materials:

  • Paper straw
  • 1″ x 10″ strip of cardstock for large circle (plane’s tail)
  • 1″ x 5″ strip of cardstock for small circle (plane’s nose)
  • Scotch tape (to attach circles to straw)
  • Blue painters’ tape for marking distances on carpet airstrip

Balloon PlaneStation: Balloon Planes
I spent the most time at this station since it it was the least self-explanatory. I used a similar experiment at a Maker Monday: Forces of Flight program for older kids last summer and thought it would be fun to show the younger kids. it was a hit! The idea is that a blown up balloon provides the thrust to push the straw it is attached to along a string. One end of the string is tied to a chair  and I held the other end. Kids or adults blew up balloons and we taped them to the straw. I talked to them about Isaac Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion and explained that the air escaping the inflated, but untied balloon would cause the balloon to go in the opposite direction. This helped them position the balloon with the tail towards me and the round, or top part of the balloon, int he direction they wanted it to go- towards the chair. I held the one end of the string so we could see if holding the string up higher or lower changed the speed at which the balloon and start traveled. Many kids tried this experiment over and over. Here is the balloon airplane in action.

Materials:

  • Paper Straw
  • String (like kite string)
  • Scotch tape
  • Balloons
  • Chair
Robot Factory by Tinybop

The Robot Factory by Tinybop (Photo Source: tinybop.com)

As a nice compliment to the storytime activities, we offered the app The Robot Factory by Tinybop on our children’s library mounted iPad. While the app isn’t useful during storytime, it’s a nice sandbox style app that extends the tinkering and learning we did during storytime. The app was available throughout the week. (For more about my library’s mounted iPad and the curated apps I feature see this related post.)

The Robot Factory app is a design studio for young inventors & lets kids build robots from more than 50 parts that can be placed on a robot body in a variety of configurations. Once the robot is built, inventors can test the creation & its physics-driven movements. The design can then be modified as needed or added to a robot gallery. Individual profiles can be created for multiple builders. The app includes a parent dashboard w/tips & settings. :: $2.99 :: For ages 5+. (Source: Homer Public Library’s Kids App of the Week Pinterest Board)

Preschool: My Body

This week was a busy one at our library! We celebrated National Take Your Child to the Library day on February 1st with a LEGOs at the Library program, hosted a tech lab for 8-12 year olds on Digital Learning Day, added an additional preschool storytime at the library (bringing the in-house count to three) and offered a family storytime at a community fire hall as part of our two month Storytime on the Go outreach program. I got the chance to interact with a lot of community members and share library resources with lots of kids and their families!

This week’s storytimes were all about My Body. I began the preschool and outreach programs with a book instead of a song because this book is so engaging and fun to look at.

Ain't Gonna Paint No MoreBook: Ain’t Gonna Paint No More by Karen Beaumont and David Catrow (Harcourt, 2005)

Ain’t Gonna Paint no More is about a boy who loves to paint anything, much to his mother’s dismay, and gets messy while doing it. The words could be sung, but the images are to be savored so reading the text is my preferred mode. I love that kids can anticipate the next body part to be painted by the rhyme that comes before it. Catrow’s illustrations are colorful and exciting, providing for lots of conversation. My favorite page features a painted arm with small black ants all in a row. We find out that the source of those ants is a mouth painted on the boy’s hand featured on the next page.

After talking about our basic body parts it was time to talk about what’s under our skin. I brought out the book, My Body (DK Children, 1991), part of the What’s Inside? series. The first chapter includes one picture of a fully clothed boy on one side and then a picture on the right of the boy’s photo peeled up revealing a skeleton underneath. It’s an easy way for kids to appreciate the connection between their bodies and bones and begin a discussion about bones. 

fablevision_digital_learning_day_2014_bannerIn honor of Digital Learning Day, I brought my iPad to storytime again! Digital media, like apps, give me and the caregivers in attendance more teaching tools and different ways to engage kids. Using an app like this one in storytime, lets parents learn about new high quality apps they could try at home and let’s me model how to use apps with kids. I strongly support joint media engagement and encourage families to use apps together. When I include digital media in storytime, I use it along with many other familiar tools so kids see there is a time for digital media and a time for books, toys, songs, and the like.

App: This is My Body (urbn;pockets, 2014)my body app This is my Body is one of two iPad apps I looked at for use during this storytime. The other app called The Human Body (Tinybop, 2013) is a more complex app with high quality images, incredible detail, and an interesting Q&A feature, but I felt that This is my Body offered the basic features I needed for a quick activity in a preschool-friendly package. I chose to focus on the skeleton with this app and introduce it by talking about the skeleton as a puzzle.

I started by showing families the starting page and what is included in the app. Then I tapped on the skeleton section, revealing a completed skeleton with a place to tap for the activity page. Select bones are skittered around the outline of a body and with a tap and a drag a bone can be slid to the right location. If the bone is slid to the right spot, it will stick. If not, it will slide back to the area outside of the body. Kids took turns tapping and dragging different bones to the proper location in the body outline.

Using the app in the storytime setting didn’t work quite how I expected, but I would try it again. Here’s what we struggled with: Even with its smaller number of bones, the page still had some bones that kids, particularly the younger ones, weren’t sure where to place. After the larger, more recognizable bones were dropped into the right spot, kids weren’t quite sure what to do. This put kids, especially the younger ones, on the spot as we huddled around the iPad. This may work better mirrored on a big screen so kids don’t feel the need to crowd the iPad making each other feel rushed to figure out the right location for the bone. If I used the app again, I would drag and drop more of the harder to recognize bones (not just one) as I demonstrate how to play the bone game.

I provided an information sheet on a healthy media diet and how to find quality digital media for kids so parents had information to take home.

Action Song: Are you Ready for a Story
If you’re ready for a story, shake and wiggle!
If you’re ready for a story, shake and wiggle!
If you’re ready for a story, If you’re ready for a story,
If you’re ready for a story, shake and wiggle!
… sit down please (with penny whistle)

stand tall mlm

Book: Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell and  David Catrow (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2001)

Molly Lou’s body is unique, like everyone’s. Catrow’s illustrations celebrate Molly Lou’s beauty and strengthen the book’s message. This is a colorful, fun to read story celebrating our individuality, the love of family, and friendship. A nice read aloud for toddlers, preschoolers, and early elementary.

Action Song: Hands are for Clapping by Jim Gill (1993) via Sound Cloud

This song got us moving and using specific parts of our bodies as Gill sang. I played the song using my phone, the Sound Cloud app, and a portable speaker. I connected the phone and speaker using an auxiliary cord so the two would stay connected. (Previously, I’ve had the bluetooth connection disconnect between the time when I set up for storytime and when I actually wanted to play the song.)

partsBook: Parts by Tedd Arnold (Dial Books for Young Readers, 1997)

Unlike the other books we read, Parts features a boy who is scared of his own body! He worries about bellybutton fuzz, hairs in his comb, loose teeth and ear wax. Thankfully his parents finally get him sorted out. At one storytime, the kids and I decided this boy, who we named George, should come to storytime to learn a few things about his body!

We ended with this fun action song. We started slowly and then repeated the song multiple times, going faster and faster.

Song: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes (using multiple tempos)
(Sing to the tune of London Bridge is Falling Down)
(Have child mimic you and place hands on the appropriate parts of the body.)
Head, shoulders, knees & toes, knees & toes,
Head, shoulders, knees & toes, knees & toes,
Eyes and ears, mouth & nose,
Head, shoulders, knees & toes, knees & toes.

Activities:

IMG_1614Potatohead Station

Potatoheads are a fun, hands-on way for kids to learn the basics about body parts. I borrowed this set of potatoheads from a local teacher who is a close friend. Before storytime I made sure all of the potatoheads were blank so kids could build the characters however they wanted to. This also gave caregivers a chance to talk about the body parts as kids added them and what goes where. Some kids added parts in imaginative ways and others placed each part with anatomical accuracy. This set of 7 large and small potatoheads worked for well as a station for storytime groups of 7-40 in combination with the second station.

Life-size self-portrait

Life Sized Self-portrait

I brought a roll of butcher paper from home for this activity. Along with our boxes of markers and crayons that regularly sit at each table during storytime, the paper was the only material needed. The butcher paper was just wide enough for preschool size kids.

Caregivers had their child lay on top of the precut sheet of paper while they traced the outline of the child’s body. This often resulted in giggling because outlining a preschooler or toddler’s body often leads to unintended tickling!

Once the outline was complete, kids and caregivers went about coloring in body parts and clothes making each one unique.

Photo credits:
Parts: Eva’s Book Addiction
Stand Tall, Molly Lou MelonThe Illustrated Book Image Collective
This is my BodyUrbn; Pockets
Ain’t Gonna Paint No More: Amazon