If you are unfamiliar with our Play to Learn program, it is a station-based early literacy program where children and parents can interact together. It is not librarian-driven. While I create the stations and set everything up, I am not in front of the room reading the story or telling people what to do. They can spend as long or as little as they want at a particular station. Each station has a sign that explains the activity and why that activity is important to early literacy. By running this type of program, we hope to give parents the tools to take home and use with their children.
We register 20 kids, ages 2-4, for each session of Play to Learn and we open the room up for one hour. If it is a really popular program, we will register additional kids and start them 30 minutes into the program. We want each parent and child to be able to spend time at each station and you can't do that in a crowded room.
Station 1: Make a Nametag
I used an AccuCut die to cut various shapes in green to use as nametags. The kids then can choose their shape and write their name on it. To help those kids who are not quite ready to write their name, I type out all of the first names in list form so they can see the letters. At this station, as you may have guessed, we are working on the writing skill.
Station 2: Read the Book
Since we are a library, I feel that the book is the most important part of the program. I pull just about every copy from all of our locations that I can get and we put them out for parents to read to their child. At this station children are practicing reading, which encourages them to learn how to read on their own. By sharing reading with their child, parents are helping them to develop vocabulary and comprehension, nurturing a love of reading, and motivating their child to want to learn to read.
Station 3: Flannelboard & Puppet
Now that the kids (and parents!) have read the story, they can retell it in their own words at the flannelboard or with the puppet.
My flannelboard for Flannel Friday this week.
Storytelling puppet from Lakeshore Learning.
Station 4: Clothespin Color Wheels
This station was a giant hit! Directions about how I built it are located here. I like it for an early literacy activity because the words match the colors. For example, red is red. This provides instant reinforcement that letters have meaning. Also, by pinching the clothespins, kids are working on their fine motor skills. This gets them ready to write.
Station 5: Make a Book
I couldn't think of anything clever to come up with on my own so I went online. DLTK has a printable book called "My Body" which fits this story since it is all about body parts. I think it is important for the kids to make and take home some type of book in this program.
Station 6: M Monsters
I found this great idea on Pinterest and made my own patterns for it. It is based on the letter M, which is also for monster. As kids worked, they started making connections to other words that begin with "M", such as mom, Michael, and Micah. While I made an example, kids came up with some great ideas for their own monsters. One turned his "M" on its side so it would have a body. Another ended up with A LOT of teeth. There is no right way to make something like this. To make your own, you will need a letter M and body parts.
Personally, I was surprised with how many people were unfamiliar with this book. I loved being able to share it with them. The kids were enjoying it so much that I don't think there were any single readings-I heard the same families reading it 4 or 5 times. The cake circle color wheels were a giant hit. They were so much so that I had to tell parents where to buy them to make their own. The flannelboard and puppet followed by a close second in popularity. It was fun to see the kids take face parts off of the flannelboard, while saying "And don't come back!" As an added bonus, our associate director came to the program to take pictures (which was a surprise to me) and I got to show off why we do what we do. I think it gave her a whole new appreciation!