Shadow Play

Shadow Puppet Play using a bed sheet stage

Shadow Play free-form shadow puppets princess kitty

Shadow Play free-form puppets

Stories + Art + Dramatic Play = Latest Pages to Projects post on Library as Incubator Project!  If you hop on over to Library as Incubator Project, the newest addition to the Pages to Projects series is up featuring shadow play with the book The Black Rabbit by Phillippa Leathers and DIY shadow puppets. Hope you’re able to take a moment to stop on by!




Connecting Children to Nature in the Library


Connecting Young Children to Nature in the Library

Please take a moment to head over to School Library Journal to check out the article “Children Are Being Connect to Nature Right in the Library”, which explores how public librarians are creating unique opportunities for their young patrons and families to develop a deeper connection with their environment. The environmental programs outlined in the article not only assisting in developing an ecological literacy in youth, but are active catalysts in instilling a magical sense of wonder about the world in which we live. Read more about it HERE…



Pumpkin Stew

Pumpkin Stew Prop

Pumpkin Stew

I was looking through last year’s Pumpkin & Compost Storytime blog post and just now noticed I left out one of my favorite parts of that storytime! Pumpkin Stew!

My former coworker, Vicki, made this fun prop to go along with this autumn song and was so kind to allow me to borrow it for this storytime. She cut out the top of a decorative styrofoam pumpkin that can be found at dollar stores or craft stores and she also made or found all the ingredients mentioned in the song. I can’t believe I forgot to write about this, because it was one of the highlights of that storytime! I even found the pictures I had meant to include in a file from last year! Oh well. Better late than never, right?

I kept all the ingredients for the pumpkin stew in a separate bowl that the audience couldn’t see into and added them to the hallow pumpkin as each item was mentioned in the song. As we sang the song, I invited the audience to pretend to make their own pumpkin stew  by making stirring motions and putting ingredients in a pretend pot as they sang along.



Pumpkin stew, pumpkin stew
Let’s cook up some pumpkin stew! (Stirring motion with arms)

Squirrel brings acorns. (Add acorns)
Owl brings leaves. (Add leaves)

Pumpkin stew, pumpkin stew
Let’s cook up some pumpkin stew! (Stirring motion with arms)

Spider brings web. (Add cotton)
Mouse brings corn. (Add corn cob)

Pumpkin stew, pumpkin stew
Let’s cook up some pumpkin stew! (Stirring motion with arms)

Chipmunk brings apple seeds. (Add apple seeds)
Scarecrow brings straw. (Add straw)

Pumpkin stew, pumpkin stew
Let’s cook up some pumpkin stew! (Stirring motion with arms)

Now, pumpkin seeds and pumpkin goo (Add pumpkin seeds and ribbon for pumpkin goo)
But I don’t think I’m hungry..

How about YOU?! (Show audience the inside of the pumpkin with all ingredients added and say something like “Eeeeeeeewww! Yuck!”)



If you’re looking for books to enjoy during this time of the year, check out the autumn book list I put together earlier this week. Oh, how I love this time of year. Happy Fall!




Pages to Projects: Wild About Shapes

WIld About Shapes


Look closely and use your imagination… Shapes are everywhere! The newest Pages to Projects series post is up on Library as Incubator Project. Please take a moment to check it out: Pages to Projects: Wild About Shapes



DIY Black Light Booth Provocation

black light booth painting 5

Looking for a fun way for kids to explore a variety of senses playing with light and color? I made this Black Light Booth on a dime and it has been a favorite indoor activity in our home ever since. It’s portable and durable, so it is also a great feature in a classroom or library. I’ve had a lot of interest in how I made ours since posting about via Twitter, so here we go!

Black Light Booth Materials:

Making the booth takes probably 10 minutes max to assemble.

black light booth 3

Attach the black light to the top of the container. Attach the mirror to the back (bottom) of the container with duct tape. Boom. Done.

black light booth 6

black light booth 4

black light booth 5

I set our Black Light Booth on a chair, but a short, secure bookshelf or table will also do. Then, I draped a piece of black fabric over the both to block out light, turned on the black light, and that’s it. After that bit of construction is done, the possibilities to explore and excite the senses are endless! Here are a few kid-approved provocations we’ve explored…

black light booth pom poms 2


black light booth pom poms

White gloves

black light booth pipe cleaners 2

 Pipe cleaner construction

black light booth book

 Reading a glow-in-the-dark book. Here we are reading The Game in the Dark, by Herve Tullet.

black light booth highlighter

black light booth highlighter 2

black light booth highlighter 1

 Drawing and writing with highlighters.

black light booth molding dough

Sensory crafting with glow-in-the-dark foam modeling dough.

black light booth paper

black light booth paper 1

black light booth paper and highlighter

black light booth paper 2

black light booth paper highlighter glue

Experimenting with neon paper cutting, glue, and highlighters.

black light booth halloween

black light booth halloween 2

 For Halloween, I bought glow-in-the-dark stickers and poster for some spooky holiday fun in the Black Light Booth.

black light booth painting

black light booth painting 1

black light booth painting 2

black light booth painting 3

black light booth painting 4

black light booth painting 6

black light booth painting 7

Last but not least! Painting with neon paints.

Really, any materials that are neon, white, or glow-in-the-dark are fair game. Many of the materials I found I already owned or purchased at my local dollar store. Using the Black Light Booth has been a great way to dive into the science of florescence, light, and color. It’s an excellent prompt to spark creativity and inquiry and most of all, it’s a great way to light up playtime.



Pages to Projects: Mix It Up!

Mix It Up book

Color Theory for Kids Create Your Own Color

I’m over at Library as Incubator Project for my latest Pages to Projects post, Mix It Up! Herve Tullet’s latest interactive picture book, Mix It Up!,  is a slam dunk for teaching children of all ages about color theory. Prompt kids to play Pantone by playing will a little color mixing of their very own!

Read the full post HERE!

Color Name Jars




Nature Center Snowflake Study

Snowflake Provocations

In December, right before the Winter Solstice, I winterized the library Nature Center with one of nature’s exquisite cold weather wonders: Snowflakes. Learning about snowflakes, or snow crystals, is a terrific exploration of science, math, and art. It also doesn’t hurt that the craze for the movie Frozen has sparked even more curiosity into these teeny frozen fractals.

Snowflake Activity Center

So, what’s on this table anyway?  There is a sign with general facts about snowflakes and another about symmetry. Even though it looks like snowflakes are symmetrical, no snowflake has ever been found to be perfectly symmetrical. There are two interactive activities. I really liked this snowflake craft idea on Buggy and Buddy, but transformed the concept into an exploration in designing a snowflake using loose parts. Using a tray, a piece of black felt, and a collection of loose parts including pipe cleaners, gems, pom poms, Q-tips, and beads, children are encouraged to construct their own snowflake on the sheet of felt. I thought the temporary nature of loose parts was fitting for the activity. The other activity is a snowflake matching game using pictures of real snowflakes. Six unique pictures of snowflakes have been divided down the middle, and patrons are invited to match each snowflake that has been divided in half with its correct pair.  I created this matching game by googling pictures of snowflakes, copying them to a document, sizing the snowflakes so that they were the same size, printing them out, laminating them, and then cutting each snowflake down the middle.

Snowflake Bently Activity


Two books served as the primary inspiration behind the activities and also acted as the Nature Center’s resource materials.The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder by Mark Cassino and Jon Nelson is such an awesome introduction to the science behind snowflakes.  Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Mary Azarian, is a favorite picture book of mine, not to mention a Caldecott winner, and a wonderful insight into the temporary beauty and art of snow crystals.  I thought the kids might enjoy seeing actual photographs by Wilson Bentley, so I created the above flipbook featuring his photographs.


My favorite part of this snowflake study.  Finding snowflake designs left by kids. To me, they’re as magical as finding the perfect crystal star flake on your mitten. These are a few snowflake designs I’ve come across while at work that I happened to snap pictures of.  


I found this combo of matching the snowflakes with the snowflake design pieces this week. There have been two issues with the snowflake design activity. The first being that the pieces are taken on accident and on purpose. The second is that the Nature Center is close to the Bookmaking Station and a craft table, both equipped with glue sticks, and kids have made good on the urge to glue the pieces to the black felt. The felt has since been replaced with construction paper and it happens every so often, but whatever. No biggie. This is understandable, because the idea of loose parts is unfamiliar to most. Other than that, it has been a great addition. One of my coworkers relayed to me just the other day that a couple young patrons said the Nature Center was their favorite part of the library (instant prickly happy feeling). I was worried these activities wouldn’t be enjoyed the same way it had been in the fall, but it’s still going strong.

And of course, we winterized our home Nature Center.

Snowflake Home Activity

Snowflake Loose Parts Design

Actually, I set up our this snowflake provocation in our home way before I gave the library’s Nature Center a wintery makeover.  L was the one that had an interest in researching snowflakes and sparked the idea of setting up a specific exploration into snowflakes at the library in the first place. My constant source of inspiration. :)



Nature Discovery Bottles

Nature Observation Globes

Back in September, I introduced the Nature Center discovery stations at both my library and home that I’ve been supplying with treasures found from outside to invoke a curiosity for the great outdoors. There has been interest regarding what has been on display since, so I’m writing up a couple posts outlining a few of the highlights. First up, these nifty nature discovery bottles! Tennessee had a long a beautiful fall and towards the end I found a way to preserve and observe pieces of it at home and in the library.


While on a grocery store run I spotted these flavored water beverages and was instantly reminded of a Pinterest find about creating natural artifact globes. The water bottles were fifty cents a pop, so I bought several that the 4-year-old inhaled and I later repurposed into these….


Isn’t it awesome how the globe magnifies the specimen inside? And there really isn’t much to making these discovery bottles. All I did was remove the water bottle label, added natural specimen my daughter and I found, filled the bottle with tap water, and then sealed it. That’s it! For the discovery bottles housed at the library’s Nature Center, I wrapped a long, durable piece of table around the cap. Just in case.


I regularly rotated 3-4 discovery bottles at the library’s Nature Center every other week. Depending on what was inside the bottle and the temperature of the building, the water sometimes grew murky and eventually needed to be changed. I would either change the water out and keep the specimen inside the bottle or change out both the water and add a new item for observation. They were quite the attraction! At home we kept 3 discovery bottles that L and I would change out whenever we felt like it. Sometimes the bottles would be stationed at her little Nature Center indoors or we would keep them outside for experimentation with temperature.


As it grew colder and colder and the world around us because brown and brittle, I reached out to the local arboretum, Reflection Riding Arboretum, to see if they had touch table artifacts they’d be willing to lend the library. They graciously loaned a turtle shell, snake skins, wild turkey feathers, and a piece of coal to be on display for a few weeks in November and December along with other circulated found items on display.

Arboritum Touch Table Nature Center


Another addition was this pesky, parasitic plant that’s also a well known decoration around this area that encourages lovers to kiss at Christmas. You guessed it… Mistletoe! A coworker shimmied up a tree outside the library and collected a stem for the kids to observe. It was fun to introduce the kids to both the mistletoe and piece of coal during the time of year when popular holiday culture was in full swing. The majority of them didn’t know what either was and it was exciting for them to hold the items in their hands and make the connection.

Onward march into wintertime!

Tomorrow, I’ll post about the Nature Center’s current provocation… The magic of snowflakes.



Photography Fun in the Library

Photography Press Pass and Camera

As an ongoing effort to incorporate various opportunities for creative forms of documentation and self expression for children in the library, I recently added a photography provocation that can be used anytime by kids during regular library visits.

Fun, right? Here’s how it works.

Young library visitors can ask to be the “Official Kid Photographer” for a 1o-minute session, which we keep track of using a browser timer. And really, I only use the time limit if multiple children want to use the camera. The librarian working the desk equips the young photojournalist with an easy-to-use, drop-safe camera, a Press Pass badge to wear, and then the child is off  to capture the world around them.

library photo gallery


A random selection of photos taken by kids are hung up in our Library Photo Gallery display for all to enjoy. In the near-ish future,  a digital picture frame will join this display and stream a slide show of the photos taken. If a child is especially fond of a picture, it is printed out for them to keep. From the start, this photography activity has been quite popular with patrons and is a great tool for visual literacy, practicing  hand-eye coordination, and introducing the concept of documentation. It also provides kids with a sense of ownership of their library when they see their photographs proudly displayed.

library photography station

 Do you offer visual literacy activities in the library? If so, please share!



Draw a Yeti

Draw a Yeti

When I saw this tweet floating around the DC Public Library Twitter feed the night before Thanksgiving, I thought it would be a great project for our Kids’ Room craft station. So that night, during a blimp of down time, I whipped up this document and that was it! Since then, a flurry of yetis have taken over the library! (And yes, “flurry of yetis” is the collective noun for “yeti”.)

Draw a Yeti

This is my 4-year-old’s yeti. It’s very Chris Raschka, don’t you think?

If you would like to download a copy for use in your own library or classroom or home or any non-commercial use, click the link below for your own copy of this activity:

Draw a Yeti

Unleash the yetis!!