Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Stuffed Animal Sleepover

Goals of our annual Stuffed Animal Sleepover

We are:
  • Encouraging kids and families to visit the library.
  • Showcasing the library and its resources in a unique way.
  • Instilling a sense of wonder and sparking imaginations in young patrons.
  • Providing a creative outlet for teens in the form of community service.
You're likely reading this entry because you're curious about doing your own Stuffed Animal Sleepover.  Don't worry!  It will be great and everyone will love it!  Skip around to the parts you need and tweak everything to suit your library.

Promoting & Preparing

Our promotional wording is: "Drop off your stuffed animal for an all-night adventure in the Library! Kids can enjoy a story and craft, then head home leaving their stuffed friends for a sleepover. In the morning, pick up your stuffie and make a scrapbook of their fun; volunteers will be taking photos."

The event is open to all ages and we've had quite a variety.  The youngest we've had attend was two years old while the oldest was about fourteen (they were there for their younger sibling, but they still has a lot of fun!).

Registration is up to you.  For special storytimes our policy is "Registration encouraged; drop-ins welcome."  In this way, families who would like a reminder call can sign up.  A grand majority of our attendees are always drop-ins though.

We reach out to teen volunteers about two weeks before the event.  Their task will be to visit after storytime and take photos of the stuffies.  Details about their instructions are below.

The Big Night/Morning (Step by Step)

  1. Have families sign in.  This will be a good reference for you later when you're creating your scrapbook, video, slideshow, etc. as you'll have each animal's name in one place.  You'll also have a phone number in case someone forgets to pick up a stuffie (this has never happened, but we like to be prepared).
  2. Storytime!  Get kids excited by reading a story together and then doing a few songs.  These can be anything!  I've used silly books like Where is Bear? by Jonathan Bentley, Go to Sleep, Monster! by Kevin Cornell, and (most recently) Llama Destroys the World by Jonathan Stutzman.
  3. Create a name tag for the animals.  This can be done as a craft with pre-printed forms.  We also have volunteers glue each name tag to a piece of construction paper and tie a length of yarn to it.  We ask the kids to write the animal's name, their name, and something their stuffie likes to do before bed.  We then have everyone tie their name tags to their animal and voila! You know who everyone is!
  4. Have a craft for the kids (optional).  After their stuffed animal has a name tag and is "tucked in," we let kids make a bracelet with star-shaped and glow-in-the-dark beads.  This way they have something to take home and remind them that their stuffie is safe at the library.
  5. Say cheese!  An hour after storytime, all the kids have left and our teen volunteers arrive.  We provide them with a mixture of cameras and send them off with basic instructions including the "Photo Shoot Ideas" below and the goal that each animal must be featured in a photo (group or otherwise) at least four times; this doesn't include the all-important Glamour Shot at the beginning of the night.
  6. Create a piece of media for the photos.  I originally created video slideshows of the Sleepover but switched to a Scrapbook/Photo Album for the past two years. A downloadable example of our 2019 scrapbook is below.
  7. Let kids make a mini scrapbook in the morning.  This is a BIG step.  Directions for this are below.

Photo Shoot Ideas

  • Glamour shots. Pose each stuffed animal individually with a book.  This is a great way to keep track of everyone and a fun spotlight for the kids to see later.  Our teens usually theme the book choice to the animal or to the "before bed" activity the kids have written.
  • Group shot. Gather all the animals together so they can show their kids all the great friends they made.
  • Have lots of photos with three to five animals.  This way, at least three to five kids will get the joy of seeing their stuffie in one shot!
  • Highlight special collections or areas.  This year one of our stuffies found the Playaways and listened to a book in her glamour shot.
  • General ideas:
    • Play board games (if you library has an in-house collection).
    • Have snacks.
    • Play hide-and-seek.
    • Build with blocks.
    • Visit staff areas.
    • Watch a movie.
    • Color/make crafts.
    • Read stories.
From page 8 of our 2019 Scrapbook: "Chocolate, Teddy, Fox,
Pongo, & Pinky all did a color on this color-by-number
picture. What kind of bird do you think lives here?"

The Mini Scrapbook

For each mini scrapbook, you will need:
  • A printed photo of the stuffie's glamour shot
  • A printed photo of the group shot
  • Three printed photos that feature the stuffie
  • A pre-typed scrapbook title
  • A piece of construction paper
  • Coloring tools (markers and crayons)
  • Glue (sticks)
  • Stickers (optional, but fun)
Pre-cut and gather the paper elements together inside a fold piece of construction paper.  We find a lot of families are on-the-go and need to just pick up their stuffie and jet.

Below is an example for a stuffie from our 2018 visit, King Unicorn:

Did you get my good side?

The Big Scrapbook

Kids love seeing the adventures their stuffie had!  As mentioned above, we've recently switched to printed scrapbooks in lieu of video slideshows.  This makes it easy for families to visit individual photos online (or in the printed Photo Album) and is a lot less work overall.

If possible, create a loose story around your photos or include interactive portions (questions or "I Spy" elements) so kids can enjoy going through the entire album. 

Take a peek at our PDF version below or our Facebook album on the library page.


  • Scrapbook example: Use any photo album template on Word and copy/paste the page format until you have enough slots for what you want.
  • Name Tag template: To make these more durable, cut and paste each name tag onto a 1/4 piece of construction paper. Hole punch one corner and then pre-tie a length of yarn to the tag.  Kids can fill in the blanks, tie the tag to their stuffie, and tuck them into bed.
  • Sign-In list: Have grown-ups or children check in at the desk so you know what animal goes to whom.  You also have a contact in case anyone gets left behind over the weekend.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Storytime: "Get Well Soon"

Discussion Questions:

What do you do when you don't feel well?  How can we get better when we're sick?  Who takes care of us when we're sick or hurt?

Story: Flea’s Sneeze by Lynn Downey*

Everyone is sleeping peacefully... but not the flea.  This short rhyming story was fun for our 2-5 year olds.  Animals were in different places when we visited them in the barn each time giving me an opportunity to play "I Spy" and ask our group where certain animals were.  When the flea finally sneezes, it's BIG!  I made sure everyone got to practice sneezing a few times for this page (covering ours mouths, of course!)

Movement Song: Drive the Fire Truck (credit to Jbrary

Connection for kids: "Who else helps in our community?" Lead kids towards firefighters!

Hurry, hurry drive the fire truck, (place hands in steering wheel position)
Hurry, hurry, drive the fire truck,
Hurry, hurry, drive the fire truck,
Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. (ring bell)
Hurry, hurry, turn the corner, (lean to the right)
Hurry, hurry, turn the corner, (lean to the left)
Hurry, hurry, turn the corner,
Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. (ring bell)
Hurry, hurry, climb the ladder….(climb the ladder)
Hurry, hurry, spray the water hose (wave arms side to side)
Slowly, slowly, back to the fire station…. (lean slowly to the left and to the right)

Repeat again even FASTER!

Movement Song: Head Shoulders Knees and Toes

Now we need to make sure we're healthy from head to toe for our next story!

Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes! (touch each body part as it is said) 
Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes!
Eyes and ears and mouth and nose.
Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes!

Story: Boo Hoo Bird by Jeremy Tankard*

Bird gets bonked on the head while playing catch.  Who can help him feel better?  As Bird visits friends, I asked kids to share their ideas about what makes them feel better.  The kids absolutely loved Bird!  We were sure to blow him kisses at the end of the story.

Craft:  (based on idea from Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas)

You will need:
  • Pre-cut egg shapes
  • Band-aides
  • Coloring tools

Oh no!  Humpty Dumpty had a great fall!  Can you put him together again?  This craft was simple but so much fun as kids had an opportunity for dramatic play as a doctor.

*Links for books are to Amazon; I am not affiliated with the company.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Watercolor Wonderland

My teens (and kids) LOVE art projects!  They get a chance to be creative in a way that homework usually doesn't allow, they can chat with friends (or even make new friends!), and they get to take home a product and say, "I made this!"

Grades 2-6 worked on "Watercolor Webs" in October.
Many librarians (myself included) can be intimidated by art as we feel we have to be good at art in order to offer it.  Not so!  My teens are so artistic, talented, and enthusiastic that they simply need supplies and a general direction before they're off and creating something amazing.  My absolute favorite craft night in 2018 featured watercolors; this project can be easily adapted for both kids AND teens.  You can do it too!


You will need:
  • Watercolor paper of any size
  • Watercolor pans
    • These are surprisingly inexpensive!  Kids and teens are also usually willing to share so you can have a pair working with one pan.
  • Watercolor brushes (extra)
  • Jars or cups with water
    • You will likely need to empty and refill these often with new water if your youth are changing colors a lot.
  • White crayons
  • Salt

Set-Up & Prep

  1. If your paper comes in a spiral notebook, tear out/trim these ahead of time.  Watercolor paper is very sturdy so it will take a bit longer than you think!
  2. Ensure each stations has at least one watercolor pan, one jar, and two brushes per two people attending.
  3. If you don't have a sink available in your craft area, bring a jug of clean water and an empty bowl/bucket to pour out used water.
  4. Place white crayons and a small bowl of salt at each table or station.

Craft Time!

Verbally walk your attendees through the project before they even begin.  It's great to even work on a small example as you speak so they can see the results. The steps are:
The (very quick) trial I did in preparation for our
watercolor projects.  I call this one "Tree in a Snowstorm."
  1. Create a design on your watercolor paper with your white crayons.  Don't be afraid to press hard!  Pressing hard will embed more wax onto the page and will make that area more water resistant. You may need to lean oddly to see your design as you draw as the white crayons will blend right into the white paper!
  2. Paint in watercolors.  Wet your brush and begin mixing water into your chosen color with your brush tip.  Once you have a "watery" paint, paint your brush over a section of your paper.
  3. BEFORE your watercolors dry, sprinkle a small amount of salt over the area.  Watercolors dry quickly so work in small sections.  The salt will absorb some of the water to create a speckled effect on your paper.
  4. Each time you wish to change colors, simply wet your brush down in the water jar and more to the next color in your pan.
Then set them loose on the supplies!  Some may need a reminder about various steps, but most will be set for the hour.  The most time-consuming portion is creating the design with the crayons.

Design Ideas

This artist took inspiration from every color of the rainbow!
We planned two different programs featuring these supplies.

Kids created Watercolor Webs* in October.  Everyone had fantastic concepts and each web was incredibly colorful!  I had some books with images of spiderwebs for design inspiration, but no one took me up on this offer.

Teens were slated to create Winter Watercolors* in December but we were lucky enough to be able to schedule a local art school to visit thanks to a grant from our Local Cultural Council.  We shelved this project for a later date.

*Links are to outside websites with which I have no affiliation.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Storytime: Visiting Friends

Discussion Questions:

How do we go from one place to another place?  How did you get to the library today?

Story: Turtle Island by Kevin Sherry*

Turtle is as BIG as an island, but he gets lonely in the even bigger ocean.  This is a short story so I lengthened it and gave it a bit more depth for our storytime kids by taking this as an opportunity to compare sizes, make animal noises, discuss feelings, and talk about friends and family!  They absolutely loved pointing out new things on each page!

Shaker/Flannel Song: Old MacDonald

Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O.
And on his farm he had some chicks, E-I-E-I-O.
With a peep, peep here,
And a peep, peep there,
Here a peep, there a peep, Everywhere a peep, peep,
Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O.

Various animals and sounds.  Each was presented as a flannel piece and then shakers were used during the song to keep a rhythm!

Story: I Really Want to See You, Grandma by Taro Gumi*

Yumi and Grandma both want to see each other and so go to visit.  BUT they keep missing one another as they travel on the road and have to go back and forth, back and forth until they finally meet in the middle.  The kids paid a lot of attention to this one as there was a bit of suspense and silliness to keep them engaged.  Each time Yumi or Grandma went out again, we identified how they were traveling (bus, train, truck, scooter, etc.).  The adults loved this one too!

Craft: Floating Boats (based on Our Family of Seven craft idea)

You will need:
  • Pre-glued sails (paper or foam triangles on Popsicle sticks)
  • Pre-cut pool noodle foam
  • Basin with water to experiment with floating their boats! (Optional)
This craft was selected due to an excess of orange pool noodle pieces left over from a pumpkin craft.   To add a bit more STEM to this exercise, I got out a small, plastic container and filled it with water.  I left a sign that asks, "Can your boat float?" near the water and showed kids how mine floated too!  We had very little mess and only one boat capsized (mostly due to excitement from the sailor placing it in the water).

*Links for books are to Amazon; I am not affiliated with the company.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Spooktacular Signs and Sweets!

October is often a time for spooky stories, pumpkins, and (of course) candy!  As a library, we want to participate in fall traditions, but in our very own way.

Forget Trick-or-Treat, we do Signs and Sweets!  This was our third annual Spooktacular featuring Signs and Sweets and the kids, caregivers, and volunteers still love it.

How it Works

Here we see two teen volunteers signing "monster" in ASL.
We set up stations around our Children's Dept. with a volunteer at each table.  Each volunteer has an American Sign Language sign or phrase to teach patrons as they visit and a large bowl of treats.  The volunteer shows little patrons the sign and encourages them to repeat it.  Once they sign back, they get to select a treat!

Notice that one of our teen volunteers in the photo (right) is making a scary face as they sign "monster."  In American Sign Language, facial expressions are an important part of communication as it is a very visual language!

Selecting ASL Signs 

I checked in with a friend in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community before executing my plan.  They thought the idea was incredibly fun and only asked that I be sure to teach the signs correctly (i.e. be sure I look up and watch videos from good sources).  The signs for our events all have a spooky, autumn, or sleepover theme.

Our station poster for the sign "monster."

Our station posters were created with illustrations from Baby Sign Language and verified the sign on Signing Savvy to ensure that it was correct for the full version (i.e. grown-up/not simplified for little hands) of American Sign Language.

Selecting Sweets (and Treats)

We provide allergen-friendly treats!  In addition to taffy, bubble gum, and lollipops we also have non-food items such as finger puppet, bracelets, and shaped erasers.  This allows kids who have food allergies to still select something special at each station.  Caregivers are also happy because this cuts down on the sugar their kids will have access to.

Children select treats after learning the ASL sign for "Candy Please!"
This is the ASL version of "Trick-or-Treat!"

Why Signs and Sweets?

I can never pass up an opportunity to enrich a child's mind.  Trick-or-Treating is a tradition with roots across the sea and centuries back, so we wanted a program that hearkened back to its predecessor and gave us a chance to teach kids something new!

American Sign Language was chosen for several reasons:
  • ASL is the third most commonly-used language in the United States.*
  • Kids who are shy or just very young can more easily replicate a sign than a spoken word.
  • Sign language can benefit all children. Research shows hearing children who learn sign have increased vocabulary, reading ability, spelling proficiency, self-esteem, and comfort with expressing emotions.**
  • Experiences like this teach children the beauty of diversity.
Despite having all these reasons and research ready, no caregiver has ever questioned why we are teaching American Sign Language.  They're just excited!

Family events bring in all ages and let people know the
library is a fun and welcoming place.

More at the Spooktacular

We are lucky to have a large team of teen volunteer and so we can offer other activities throughout the children's library.  This has included:
  • Face painting (supplies = face paint, cotton swabs, makeup sponges, wet wipes)
  • Tarantula Tangle (the game of Twister)
  • Green Goo Obstacle Course (green streamers taped all over our Reference section) - Inspired by Chicken Babies.
  • Pumpkin Patch Memory Match (orange paper plates, black construction paper) - Inspired by Simple Play Ideas.
  • Costume BINGO - Made with My Free BINGO Cards.

Here we see a teen volunteer painting a Spider-Man mask.
Patrons can play Pumpkin Patch Memory Match as they wait!

Can I use your idea/posters?

Of course!  At least one other local library has adopted this practice recently and it was a great opportunity for kids to learn, teens to volunteer, and families to bond.

Below are the station posters we've used over the years (plus a few extras we haven't yet used).  All are sourced from Baby Sign Language and Signing Savvy and use copyright free clipart. 

Spooktacular Signs & Sweets - ASL Sign Stations

**Signing with Babies and Children (Commissioned by Two Little Hands Productions)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Storytime: Spiders

Discussion Questions:

We are meeting a friend in our stories today who has many more legs than we have on our bodies! How many legs do you have? (expected answers were 2 or 1, but some Tuesday kids answered 4... Be sure you count together!) Does anyone know how many legs spider have?  Let's count together... (Use photo or stuffed animal version of spider to count all 8 legs.)

Story: Bear's Scare by Jacob Grant*

Bear likes to keep everything tidy so when he discovers sticky spider webs in his home, he searches high and low to remove this unwanted guest. When his carelessness in searching causes him to hurt a (stuffed) friend, he discovers that spiders aren't messy... just different from him!

The kids were SILENT when I turned the page to reveal Bear accidentally tearing the arm of his beloved stuffed animal. I didn't leave them in suspense for long and let them see how the spider mends the arm with her sticky webbing.  Overall, a fantastic book with an easy lesson and many great opportunities for "I Spy" on each page for the spider.

Fingerplay: Itsy Bitsy Spider

The itsy bitsy spider went up the waterspout 
Down came the rain and washed the spider out 
Out came the sun and dried up all the rain 
And the itsy bitsy spider went up the spout again 
Variation: Great big hairy spider

Fingerplay: Five Hungry Ants (credit to KCLS) - Monday Storytime

Five hungry ants marching in a line, 
Came upon a picnic where they could dine. 
They marched into the salad, 
They marched into the cake, 
They marched into the pepper… Uh oh! 
That was a mistake! A..a..a..choo! 

Four hungry ants marching in a line… (etc)

Clapping/Movement Rhyme: Sticky Bubble Gum 

Sticky, sticky, sticky bubble gum 
Bubble gum 
Bubble gum 
Sticky, sticky, sticky bubble gum 
Is sticking on my (body part). 

Count to three and pull hands up! Gum gets stuck in two more places (repeat!).

Story: Walter's Wonderful Web: A First Book About Shapes by Tim Hopgood*

This title has several great components for a storytime crowd.  Hopgood's illustrations are big, bold, and beautiful!  There is also the repetitive use of onomatopoeia (WHOOSH!) for the wind for easy interaction, and the readily recognizable shapes on each page.  The story itself is simple and sweet, making it a perfect ending book for an active audience.

Craft: Spider Web Weaving (based on PBS craft idea)

You will need:
  • Small paper plates with pre-cut notches
  • Yarn (about 5 feet in length for each child)
  • Spiders (stickers, foam shapes, plastic rings, etc.)
Kids were able to "weave" their own web by wrapping their yarn around the paper plate, nestling it into notches for a strong design.  This is good practice in using fine motor skills and the results are stunning!

*Links for books are to Amazon; I am not affiliated with the company.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Storytime: Elephants (and Mice)

Discussion Questions:

We are going to meet some elephants in our stories today.  Can anyone remind me... Is an elephant BIG or small? (show sizes with arms) Does it make a LOUD or quiet noise?  How does it make that noise?

Story: Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young*

Seven mice, identified by colors, visit a mysterious object to determine what it is. Only after Is that really a rope? What part of the elephant is it?
combining their findings are they able to figure out what it really is!  An elephant! This is a fun and simple story; I added lots of interactive questions along the way to ensure the younger listeners understood each aspect of the elephant. 

Movement Song: Elephants in the Bathtub (adapted from Kenosha Public Library)
One elephant in the bathtub 
Going for a swim Knock, knock (clap twice) 
Splash, splash (jump twice) 
Come on in! (swimming motion with arms) ... Repeat until... 
Five elephants in the bathtub 
Going for a swim Knock, knock (clap twice) 
Splash, splash (jump twice) 
They all fell in! (BIG jump then "fall" to the floor) 

Fingerplay: Itsy Bitsy Spider
The itsy bitsy spider went up the waterspout 
Down came the rain and washed the spider out 
Out came the sun and dried up all the rain 
And the itsy bitsy spider went up the spout again 
Variation: Great big hairy spider

Story: That Fruit is Mine! by Anuska Allepuz*

This is a new picture book featuring a team of elephants and a team of mice on opposite sides of a tree with some delicious-looking fruit.  While the elephants squabble, the mice work together to get to the scrumptious food, teaching a great lesson about teamwork while being absolutely hilarious! The elephant's ideas are all a bit silly so the kids can get a good laugh. This is also a great opportunity to ask kids how they would get the fruit before starting your story.

Craft: Elephant trunks

You will need:
  • A long roll of receipt paper (cut into strips about 2.5 feet long)
  • Coloring tools
That's it! We had a roll of receipt paper left over from a previous device.  It was incompatible with our new printers so it became dozens of long elephant trunks instead! The kids absolutely loved creating patterned and colorful trunks and the caregivers were appreciative of a craft with minimal mess.

*Links for books are to Amazon; I am not affiliated with the company.