Friday, February 26, 2010


A few weeks ago, my 6-year-old son came home and asked me if other galaxies were real or not (we've been watching Star Wars lately), so we got into a discussion about planets, galaxies, and what makes up our universe. Since I like talking about science and space, I decided to cover that in this week's storytime. I did have a harder time finding the books this week because most books that discuss the planets and stars in any detail are just too long and difficult for a preschool group. I know these books must be out there, but I don't feel like I exactly found what I wanted - a simple non-fiction book that named the planets without going into much detail, talked about stars and moons and other things on a pretty basic level. I'll keep my eyes out something like that for next time.

Anyway, I started this week by showing a display we have here at the library that shows the solar system and talked about how all the planets go around the sun. Most of them could pick out which one was Earth, and several already knew that the sun was a star. We all sang "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" then as a transition to our books.

Book 1: The Little Star by Deborah Nash
We started off this with this reader about a star that wants to live on Earth. The moon then gives him a tour of things in the sky and he decides to stay. At the end, a boy says he wants to live in the sky instead of on Earth. A simple story, but I do have a little problem with it that there's not a distinction between "sky" and "space", so the moon & star bounce on clouds and also roast hot dogs by the sun. Even some of the preschoolers notice that clouds and rainbows are not what we find in space. I did like the way it ended, because then I asked them questions like "Where do boys live?" "Earth" "Where does the sun live?" "Space".

Book 2: Night Goes By by Kate Spohn
Another book that didn't quite get at what I wanted to cover, but it was a nice soft story about the sun and moon (and star) taking turns in the sky. Loved the illustrations, and the soft colors and minimal text made me think about using this one for a bedtime book some time.

Book 3: My Place in Space by Robin & Sally Hirst
I kept this one for my Kindergarten group as it was too in-depth for my younger ones. A neat story about a young boy Henry and his sister getting on a bus and the bus driver getting quite an education when he patronizingly asks them if they know where they live. Henry goes into a detailed explanation of city, country, planet, solar system, galaxy, supercluster, and universe. Lots of neat facts about just how big space is, and this is a book that would only get more interesting with more readings.

Activity: Magic Stars
I found this one on the DLTK Kids' site. I laid down white paper on our tables and drew stars, moons, and planets all over them with white crayon. Then we painted over the paper with diluted tempera paint (washable paint, of course). My black paint was almost gone, so I mixed it with blue, and it turned a beautiful midnight blue color. The kids loved making it "turn from day to night" and find all the stars.  I don't think there was any white space left at the end of any session - the kids probably would have painted longer if they had more paper. I think we may use this project again this summer when we do an ocean theme - I'll take some time to draw fish and other sea creatures for them to "find" next time!
This theme was used the week of February 22, 2010.

Next week: Pigs!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Presidents' Day

Since the library was closed on Monday for Presidents' Day, I wanted to talk to the kids about who the President is and what he does. Quite a few of the kids knew who our current President was, and several shared opinions about him that they had heard at home - good and bad!  Many also knew George Washington was the first President (though some guessed George Bush). I also brought up Abraham Lincoln, since some knew his name and since it tied in with the craft we did later.  I showed them several coins and talked about which President was on each. We discussed how the President was in charge of the whole country just like their parents were in charge at their house or teachers were in charge in the classroom.  In one of my groups, a girl asked how a person became President, so we talked briefly about how adults get together and vote and pick the person they think will do the very best job, and whoever gets the most votes, wins.

Book 1: What Does the President Do? by Amanda Miller
A brief non-fiction overview of what the President does - make laws, meet with other leaders, lead the military.  I like including non-fiction books, and this was at the perfect level for preschool and Kindergarteners.  A recent book, it includes photos of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.  The kids were most impressed that the President has his very own airplane.

Book 2: I'm Going to Washington to Visit the President by Tanya Roitman
Readers are nice filler books - they're very short and cover basic concepts.  This book shows a little boy, who is going to visit the President. President Lincoln? Nope. President Washington? Nope. President Jefferson? Nope. THE President at the White House. A nice addition because it reinforced some of the ideas from the first book (White House, Oval Office) and listed a number of former Presidents (all of who happen to be on coins).

Book 3: Madam President by Lane Smith
The final book, Madam President, worked ok for storytime, though it would be best as a one-on-one book. A humorous look at a girl pretending to be President, it shows approving lunch, doing "photo-ops", and "attending state funerals". Some of the concepts were simple and silly enough for the children to grasp right away (being protected by her secret-service pet), but others such as the toys in her "capable cabinet" are amusing, but would need a little more explanation than I can do in a group setting. So we just moved through that part and spent a little more time on the "veto" section, where the kids really enjoyed vetoing everything, complete with thumbs-down signs.

Activity: Penny necklace
I gave each of the children three stars cut out from cardstock - one red, one white, and one blue, each about half an inch smaller than the last. They decorated each star, glued one on top of another, then glued a penny to the middle.  I punched a hole in their stars and let them thread a string through to make a necklace that they could wear. As we were working, I talked about Abraham Lincoln (the penny guy) and had each child repeat the name as they put their penny on their necklace. George Washington would have been easier to work with since more kids knew his name, but I wasn't about to spend a quarter on each necklace.
Theme used week of February 15, 2010

Next week: Space - the final frontier!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is a nice holiday for preschoolers because they "get it". Christmas? Well, there's Santa, Jesus, presents, lots of snow...many things to focus on. Same with Easter. And other holidays like Martin Luther King Jr Day and President's Day require a lot of background knowledge that they just don't have yet. But Valentine's Day is about love. And candy. Mom loves me, so I get candy. Easy enough. :)
So we began our talk about Valentine's Day with a talk about love, and how parents love us when we're good and even when we're naughty. It's reassuring to the kids to hear that even though mama may be mad and yell sometimes, she will always love you.

Book 1: How Do I Love You? by P.K. Hallinan
This is a cute, short book about love. It's written in first person, telling of how "I love you on your very best and very worst of days." The easy rhyming makes it a nice read-aloud book. It's also got parts that will make the parents smile, like how "you wear your pants with the front part in the back", but it doesn't go over the kids' heads either, like some of the picture books that we adults like.

Book 2: Happy Valentine's Day, Mouse! by Laura Numeroff
A new board book by Laura Numeroff, the kids were excited by this, because almost all of them know the mouse from her "If You Give a Mouse..." series. Very short, it shows all of mouse's friends and tells why she loves each of them. It ends up with all of them arriving at his house for Valentine's Day. It ended a bit abruptly, but board books are so short that it is difficult to have a complete story sometimes. So I changed the ending a little bit - my license as the one telling the story!

Book 3: The Day It Rained Hearts by Felicia Bond
This is a short, sweet story about a girl who catches hearts in the rain and uses them to make different valentines for four different friends. I like this one because it emphasizes creativity (she makes the cards herself) and thoughtfulness (each card was different, based on who was getting it). We read it straight through, (noticing at the end that hearts are growing on trees) then paged back to see which of her friends had received each valentine.

Book 4: Slugs in Love by Susan Pearson
For my 5-year-old group, I left out "How Do I Love You?" in favor of "Slugs in Love". It is a bit longer than books I usually read for storytime, but it's a cute story and I knew the older kids would enjoy it. It has two slugs writing each other love notes in slime on various things in the garden. I ham up the slime part a bit and the kids think it's pretty funny. They also were getting excited about the rhyming parts of the love notes the slugs sent, especially since that class is talking about rhyming right now.

Activity: Valentine's Cards
Nothing too complicated this week. Just printed off a card on red paper with an image of a heart on the front and let the kids decorate with markers and stickers to give to someone they love. It's nice to have some open-ended activities every so often so the kids can really use their creativity. Happy Valentine's Day!
Theme used week of February 8, 2010.

Friday, February 5, 2010


In honor of Groundhog's Day this week, we talked about the seasons in general.  Seasons seem like a basic concept, but can get confusing for some preschoolers. Yes, spring is a season, but no, Easter is not a season and March is not a season. Easter is actually a holiday in the month of March which falls in the season of Spring... you can see where they can get a little mixed up. The easiest way I've found to discuss seasons is what we do and what we wear in each one.  I did originally want to read "Red Sings from Treetops" by Joyce Sidman instead of "Old Bear", but several kids in my first group on Tuesday actually wandered off when I was reading that, so I finished the "spring" section and did our craft then. That's why I always have a back-up book! I do think it's a great book, but probably needs more concentration and explanation than is available in a storytime setting.

Book 1: Curious George Seasons
It's nice to start with a character everyone knows. And who doesn't love Curious George? This board book has limited text, and a wheel you spin to show things that we associate with each season. I pretty much disregarded the text and said things like, "What do we see in springtime?" and pointed to each picture to have the kids name what George was doing or wearing.

Book 2: The Circle of Seasons by Gerda Muller
This is a nice peaceful book with descriptions on all four seasons and lovely illustrations. Originally four separate books, now each section is linked by "You know it's Spring (summer, fall, etc.) when..." and then a discussion of what we do and feel that season.   Several wordless pages are included in each section, which I could see getting more scrutiny if you were reading one-on-one instead of to a group.

Book 3: Old Bear by Kevin Henkes
I am a fan of Kevin Henkes. And though this is a much simpler story than some of his others, the illustrations complement it perfectly. A bear, sleeping (I sneak in a little talk about hibernation in there) in his den, dreams about the different seasons and then finally wakes up when it really is spring. Simple story, but the repetition reinforces the names and concepts with spring, summer, fall, and winter.

Activity: Season Sorting
I made up a sheet for the kids, divided into quarters. Labeled each quarter with "spring", "summer", "fall" and "winter" along with a little illustration of flowers, a sun, leaves, and snowflakes so the pre-readers could tell which was which. Then I gave them each a stack of 8-10 stickers that I had made up in Word with various clip-art pictures of skis, sandcastles, baby chicks, pumpkins, and other seasonal items. The kids then were to put the stickers under which season they represented. They also drew pictures of things from that season. If you were doing this individually, you might also have the kids cut out pictures from magazines and paste them in as well. The kids especially loved the snowmobile sticker I put in there...
Theme used week of February 1, 2010.