- Shaker Eggs
I started using my homemade shaker eggs with babies and toddlers early in 2012, and though the babies didn’t like them much, the toddlers really did. I plan to use these much more in the coming year, along with a lot more props and movement-based activities.
- Balloons Guessing Game
I only used this activity a handful of times in late Fall, but it was very well-received. I found images of different types of balloons on Google images, pixellated them using Fotoflexer, printed them out, and mounted them on construction paper. Then I printed out the original images and printed them out and mounted them on the backs of the pixellated ones. The kids in my preschool story time and Pre-K class visits guessed what the different shapes were and I turned the page around to reveal the correct answer. There are so many possibilities with this concept - I plan to try some more in 2013!
- Bug Puppets
As I was going over the most well-received rhymes and songs I shared this year, I realized that most of them were related to the three insect puppets that live in my story time closet: a ladybug, a bumblebee, and a butterfly. Flutter Flutter Butterfly and Buzzing Buzzing Bumblebee are some of the only songs the adults will actually sing with me. Ladybug, Ladybug Fly out of the farm is a great rhyme for an insect theme, or a body parts theme, and this Spring, I plan to make enough ladybugs for everyone to act out the rhyme (at least in my small-group story times). Finally, the best and most popular rhyme I used with these puppets is I’m a Little Ladybug. It was definitely the favorite of anything we did at baby story time all year long.
- Paper Stars
These stars are the simplest item on this list, but they worked so well. I used them over the summer along with Nancy Stewart’s “Stars Shining Bright.” Kids between the ages of 3 and 5 loved the song and loved shouting out the names of the colors. They got so excited, I started having to hide the star’s color while we sang. I’d like to do a couple of piggyback songs based on Stars Shining Bright just to get more mileage out of this concept.
- Bubble Machine
Our teen librarian, who also does a fair amount of children’s work, purchased a bubble machine for our Circle Time over the summer, and we both said over and over again that it was the best 12 bucks anyone ever spent. The kids loved catching the bubbles in their hands and guessing at how many they had popped. We also discovered that toddlers were excited by bubbles and would clap and laugh as they watched them. I plan to make this a more regular part of some of my programs in the coming months.
- Let’s Make a Noise Flannel Board
This simple flannel board came from Stories and Fun for the Very Young. I blew up the images on the color copy machine, and memorized the text that goes with them. I know that my groups tend to like making noises, but there is something about this particular mix - a baby, a sheep, a truck, a train, a dog, and a cat - that brings down the house every single time. I’ve also learned that it helps to make the sounds twice - once as they go on the board, and once as they come down.
- Harold’s Other Crayons Flannel Board
This was a flannel board I came up with when I was called upon to fill in for a librarian at another branch. It started out as an extension of Harold and the Purple Crayon, but in my Flannel Friday post, I got to brainstorming about all the other possibilities. I’ve got it in mind already for my rainbows story time at St. Patrick’s Day, and it’ll always be on hand for a rainy day story time for those really wet mornings.
- Chicken Puppet
I almost never use the stuffed chicken puppet that sits in my story time closet, but again, when I was called upon to fill in at another branch, I decided to bring her along just in case. I could never have expected how much the kids would love her. Every child wanted a turn to pet her, and some of the kids even wanted to pretend she was biting them! I’ve got chicks and chickens on the schedule for early Spring, and I fully intend to have Mrs. Hen in attendance.
- Fairy Tale Chart
This summer, my colleague and I offered an experimental story time for ages 3 to 5, called Circle Time. One of the sessions was about fairy tales, and I had the kids help me create a chart identifying the elements of a fairy tale story. Some of the kids were not quite old enough to stick with me the whole time, but most of them did, and though this was not the most polished of exercises, I think it will serve as a model for some of the games and activities I do with the preschoolers this year.
My favorite story time prop of the year, of course, is my ukulele. It’s fun to play, the kids are curious about it, the adults are intrigued by it, and it’s a great conversation starter for some of the shyer kids, as well as kids I know who play it themselves. I am still working out how best to incorporate it into my story time routines, but I’m getting better and the responses have been nothing but positive. The best experiences were playing the songs for our end-of-summer indoor campfire sing-along and playing Jingle Bells for the preschoolers while they joined in on triangles, rhythm sticks, and shakers. (Special thanks to my husband, Michael, who bought the ukulele, taught me to play it despite my weak left hand, and even managed to find a strap for it that matches my blog background.)