Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Beyond Storytime Successes

Storytime is definitely a bread and butter program almost all libraries offer for preschoolers AND their parents/adult caregivers. But we wanted to explore other types of programs we can do with preschoolers besides storytimes. Here are some of the ideas that the class had:

Stuffed Animal Sleepover
- We invited kids to drop off their stuffed animal on day 1 and then they could return on day 2 to pick up their animal, along with a special souvenir. While the children were away, the animals played. We arranged the animals in groupings of 4-5 and had them play out different scenes like tea party, baseball, copy machine, book drop, etc. We also had all of the animals sit around the story room carpet and listen to a story read by Ms. Jennifer's childhood stuffed animal. We took a ton of pictures and made photo souveniers for each child that including a few scenes for their evening at the library and a group photo at story hour.  Many of the kids returned the next day to pick up their animals and were loving the souvenier booklets. We made sure to put a label on the back that said to like our library facebook page to see all the pictures.  This little tip really worked out because we had over 600 views on our stuffed animal sleepover slide show on Facebook.

-One of our most successful programs beyond storytime was when we did a "Teddy Sleepover" (all stuffed animals were invited).  The drop off time was between 4:00 and 5:00, the kids signed their stuffed animals in, made a nametag for thier animal with contact information, and then were able to play games and read stories with their animal before leaving them at the library for the night.  After the animals were all checked in we posed the animals doing things like having a tea party, playing checkers, watching a video, reading books, making a mess of the children's area, etc.  The children were encouraged to call and check in on their stuffed animal, they did and that was fun, they wished their stuffed animal sweet dreams at the end of the conversation and then it was off to bed for the stuffed animals.  The kids could pick up their animals the next morning when we opened, and also pick up a memory book of what their stuffed animal did on their library sleepover.  The memory book was created with photos of the evening with captions.  These books took time to make, but so worth it when you saw the child's face seeing their stuffed animal have so much fun at the library :)  

1000 Books Before Kindergarten Parties
Since starting 1000 Books Before Kindergarten last January, I have hosted 3 parties, all of which were great! The usual program plan is a super short storytime with one book (since the entire program is about reading) and a song or two to get the wiggles out.  Then the kids break out into different areas to play and work on early literacy skills.  We also had a special guest named Too Tall Torrie, a stilt walker who makes balloon animals that the kids loved (and I got a T-Rex so it was a win-win!).  Last August I had a graduation party and if you want to see the cutest thing ever, have kids walk across the stage to Pomp and Circumstance.  Adorbs!

Early Learning Readiness Program
- We have an Early Learning Readiness program that meets in our space two mornings a week for two hours each time that is designed for children ages 0-5 and their caregivers. It is run by the YMCA. They have a very specific set of guidelines they have to meet for the program, which includes a welcome circle and a closing circle, at least 3 age-appropriate books, and 13 different activity centers that help develop different skills children will need in school. They also provide snacks to the children and caregivers during the program. In our space, we tend to see children between 12 and 20 months of age with just a couple of children under 3. We actually don't currently have any between 3 and 5. The kids open with a 20 minute circle time with songs, finger plays, and 2 books before being released to play. They always get at least an hour to play in the centers, sometimes longer if everyone comes on time. We have 10 minutes of clean up time before we gather for closing circle to sing more songs, read one more book, and do some dancing. I pick out all the books based on the month's theme and lead one of the circle times whenever I can. Because it's run by an outside agency, it uses minimal library resources and staff time. I can work at my desk during the play times and be available to answer any questions parents have or help them find books for their children. The YMCA goals for the program are to enroll 10 children and caregivers for regular attendance. 

Movement Programs
- Our most popular preschool program is Little Wigglers!  We pick a theme for each month (Little Wigglers meets every Tuesday morning at 10:30 am).  We play the same games, sing the same songs, etc for the month and by the end of the month, the kids know the program very well!  We try to incorporate musical instruments, bean bags, scarves, rhythm sticks, balls and the parachute into the songs and games.  We end the program with a story and juice box to "cool down."  I think this program has been so successful because the kids are free to move and have fun!  For some in this age group, it is very hard to sit still for an entire book.  I have had many comments from grateful moms who were embarrassed their child wouldn't sit for a storytime (of course we squelch any worries and encourage them to keep coming for storytime, too!).  My favorite part about Litttle Wigglers is to watch the shy kids who hide behind Mom at first, but then eventually come and stand next to me to help lead the group--awesome!

- I've been presenting Let's Move, a creative movement program for preschoolers and toddlers for about six years. I offer the program on Friday mornings for 18 months and up, although I occasionally get kids who are slightly younger. In story time, I sing all the songs myself, but in this program all but the welcome songs are recorded. I use CDs that I burn myself of all my favorite songs. There are dance songs, shaky eggs songs, scarf songs, drumstick songs, instrument songs, bean bag songs, parachute songs, and wand songs. Each week, I do a variety of dance songs and then pick two of the props to play with that week. I have at least five or six songs in each category and can therefore switch out the music frequently, even when we are doing the same prop. 
This is one of the most popular preschool programs I offer. It routinely gets the largest crowd and everyone really enjoys it. I think they love moving to the music, but they also love the chance to do something different. It doesn't hurt that the music programs in the area for preschoolers are insanely expensive. 

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