Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Total Activity Room Makeover

As a manager, one of my jobs is to make sure that everything in the children's area is in good condition and looks good for the public.  Our Activity Room was one of the first areas that I wanted to tackle this year.  It is a highly used room with toys and puzzles geared towards young children.  Families come to the library and will spend all day in there playing, especially with how cold it has been this year. 

I think of the picture above as my "before" picture.  Toys sometimes got picked up, although staff were in there more times than not.  Things ended up looking messy and didn't make the best use of the space.  In addition, some of the puzzles were worn out or missing pieces.  

Here's "before" picture number 2.  I don't know if you can see it, but there are giant black scuff marks along the side of the Market.  Kids had also put stickers on the Market shelves.

Here's what we did:
Step one was to ask our Friends of the Library for money to replace items.  While I didn't know everything that we would need, I asked for $500.  At my library, toys don't come out of our general budget unless they are for a specific program.  We have to ask the Friends. 

Step two was a deep clean.  While the room is cleaned nightly by the janitorial service and all of the toys are sanitized weekly, there were things getting missed.  I hit the room with my Mr. Clean sponge and bottle of Goo Gone (both are a librarian's best friend!).  If stuff is dirty or marked, it looks older and in disrepair.  

Step three involved sorting and tossing.  If things were broken, they were thrown away.  This included some of the plastic containers.  Broken things tend to have sharp edges that can cut children.  Plus, it makes us look shabby.  Good stuff was kept and washed.

Step four was the fun one-shopping!  This took a month as I love to look for deals and use coupons.  For example, I was at Lakeshore Learning 4 separate times because I had four different coupons.  I asked staff and other librarians (gotta love Twitter) for their suggestions.  In the end, we ended up purchasing:
Step five was repackaging and signage.  Our old bins weren't labeled, so of course stuff ended up everywhere.  Plus, I like labels from an early literacy perspective.  Our new bin labels included both words and pictures.  They also were put on multiple sides of each bin.

Our puzzles tend to lose pieces or get mixed up.  To help cut down on this, each of the pieces was labeled with our library abbreviation and a number.  These numbers coincided to a puzzle.
This way if I have to sort pieces, I can do it easily by looking at the backs of the puzzles.

The puzzle number is also next to the name of the puzzle on the label.

A picture of the finished puzzle was also added to the puzzle lid (more for my benefit than the kids').

Here is what the finished product looked like:

Because this is an Activity Room in a public library, I also wanted to be obvious about promoting early literacy.  This isn.  t just a giant toy room.  I started with a sign promoting the five ECRR2 practices.

I also added 2 sign holders to our giant magnet wall.  One is going to rotate and emphasize different kinds of play.  Right now it is about magnet play.  Parents always love when I talk to them about skill building and different ideas.  This way, it is accessible all the time.

Our second sign is asking kids to clean up.  Cleaning up is a skill, both for parents and for kids.  To help with the efforts, we are bribing the kids with stickers that I purchased from Smilemakers.  

The Results
Both the parents and the kids are excited about the new toys.  The Bristle Blocks have been very popular, along with the new magnets.  When I have the chance, I stop in to play with the kids and talk to the parents.  This gives me a chance to promote our Friends of the Library group and talk about what they do.  I also can touch base with parents, ask about programs, and other stuff about the library.

Yes, staff still have to clean up the room, but it doesn't take as long or need to happen as often now.  It tends to be just at the end of the workday.  I go in and do a deep sort of toys about once a week  Toys do end up in the wrong bins, but at least they aren't scattered all over the floor.  I am a little surprised we haven't gone through more stickers.  It seems that kids and parents are naturally cleaning up now.

Monday, February 24, 2014

App Chat on Little eLit

Today I am over on Little eLit for the first time!  I am recapping the App breakout from MiKidLib last Friday.  Stop on by to check it out!

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Unconference Experience

Attending KidLibCamp at the Darien Library has been a goal of mine.  Unfortunately if you know geography, Connecticut and Michigan are not so close.  We are talking about a 12 hour drive each way.  After watching the posts on Twitter from last year's KidLibCamp, Andrea, Anne, and I all decided that this was something that we wanted to do.  The best part-we all lived in the same state!

We started off by brainstorming on Google Drive about everything that we could think of, including the location, dates to avoid, topics we would like to discuss, and whether or not to offer a key note speaker.  If we thought of it, it ended up in this document.  Since we all live in different parts of the state (Clinton Township, Kalamazoo, and Bay City), Google Drive was a great way to get started.  This process took us about a month.

In October we set the date.  Michigan is a great state to be in library-wise as there are a lot of professional development opportunities available.  We didn't want to detract from any of these or compete with them.  This pulled out October, March, and May.  Summer reading is a big deal for us all and we figured we couldn't handle any sort of conference in June-August.  This left September, December, January, February, and April.  Since our big children's conference through the Michigan Library Association is the last week of March, we crossed off April too.  We didn't want to wait a full year to have an unconference, which crossed off September.  Left with December-February, we picked the least likely for snow in an average year.  February 21 was our date!

Next up came the web site.  Anne is our techno-guru and set up our web site.  Word went out on our state library listservs, 2 local library school listservs, Pubyac, Twitter, and Facebook Groups (Flannel Friday and Storytime Underground).  People started registering and this became REAL.

One of our big goals for the day was to keep the cost as close to $0 as possible.  The only thing that we charged for was lunch ($3 for pizza or $6 for Jimmy John's).  For those on special diets or didn't want what we were offering, they were welcome to bring their own lunch.  By holding it in one of our libraries, we didn't have to pay for room rental.  As the library who hosted, it didn't cost us much either.  I used 2 boxes of pens, 4 legal pads, copies (less than 1 ream of paper), and 1 cup of coffee grounds.

Our discussions moved from Google Drive to email.  With the framework in place, we were able to email about once a month until January with different details.  As the day got closer, there were more emails.  We talked about things such as door prizes, how to run Guerrilla Storytime, sample feedback surveys and more.  Andrea coordinated carpools so those who lived farther away could share the mileage and the drive.  Have I mentioned that I had only met Anne 1 time and have never met Andrea?  Somehow we just gelled.

Then the day arrived.  Despite having some fluky weather the week of the unconference, the day was decent and people came!  When we asked Darien what type of turnout to expect, they had said that 50 people was a good amount.  We had also heard that unconferences have about a 60% no-show rate.  Obviously they have never met Michigan librarians.  With 90ish people registered, I was hoping that at least 40 people showed up, which would beat the 60%.  We had 72 attend!

We ran 3 breakouts during the day in 4 different rooms, allowing us to discuss 12 different topics.  Guerilla Storytime at lunch was a blast, although I think I need to videotape the whole thing next time.  Many of the attendees seemed really excited to be there and they TALKED.  (I will admit to a secret fear that nobody would talk in the breakout sessions and made up sample questions.)  There was sharing, new ideas, and many Tweets.  Plus, I got to meet some of my PLN.  Social media is great, but sometimes the personal touch is beneficial.  It was a great day all around.

Now comes the fun part.  Anne is currently coordinating the notes from the breakout sessions and they will appear on the MiKidLib web site.  I can't wait as I know there were some great Tweets coming out of sessions and I want to see what they were talking about.  There were pictures and videos taken during the day that will be put up online.  Blog posts such as this are being written and I know Anne is going to do at least one too.

If you attended today, a survey will be emailed out shortly.  We would love your thoughts and ideas.  This was our first time putting an unconference together and honestly there were times it was like throwing darts at a dartboard.  Your feedback would be great.

For those of you who had a super good time today or missed because of other commitments, we will be back next year.  Watch the web site for more information as it comes out, but it is looking like it will be in Kalamazoo.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Mad Scientists-Catapults

Let me start off by saying that I am a non-science person.  I have been following various blogs and presentations to psych myself up and made the plunge this winter.  This goes to show you that if I can do it, you can too.

Before the program
I started off by giving any science program for ages 7-12 a catchy name-Mad Scientists.  The topics may change, but it will always show up as Mad Scientists in our newsletter and on our online calendar.  I do this to create a following.  (Our ages 3-6 programs are called Little Scientists.)

The idea came about as a combo from two sources-The Show Me Librarian's Attack on the Fort blog post and a presentation about STEM programs at MLA's 2013 Annual Conference.  In Lisa-speak, I mushed them together and added a twist to create a catapult program.  I booked our auditorium for this program as it has a large open space that was perfect for flying projectiles.  We registered 25 kids for a program during their midwinter break and filled up almost immediately.

Cost is very important to me when deciding on a program.  This is was my list of supplies and the cost:
  • 1 box of craft sticks for $8.99
  • 1 bag of rubber bands that we had in the building to wrap holds.  Free
  • 1 box of plastic spoons from Meijer for $1.99
  • Bin of pom poms from our activity closet.  Free (already had)
  • 1 roll of masking tape from our supply closet.  Free (already had)

The total cost was $10.98 which makes my cheap heart very happy.

The program
As the kids came in, they picked up their nametag (our way to check registration) and sat at one of the tables.  At each space was a handout with directions, 9 craft sticks, 1 plastic spoon, and 4 rubber bands.  This way I wasn't running around passing out supplies.

Almost everyone was able to make their own catapult.  I did have to help a few kids in making an X out of the rubber bands.

Now for the fun part-target practice!  I set up a bunch of masking tape targets around the room and piles of ammunition (pom poms).
 My bullseye that makes me think of skee-ball

My castle

Gotta have some Xs to mark the spot

Every 7 year old boy's favorite target

The kids spent the next 45 minutes shooting their catapults.  As they started sending pom poms flying, they came up with good scientific questions, such as "What is the difference between a catapult and a trebuchet?" and "Which works better-the big pom pom or the little pom pom?"  Some of the kids took their original catapults apart and experimented with different designs-one was a v, one had a lot of pom poms under the rubber bands, and another added more sticks to make his middle taller.  It was fun to see this science stuff in action.

The kids also got a bit creative.  They asked if they could have more targets.  I said okay as long as they told me the designs.  We ended up with:

Tic Tac Toe

It started off as a smiley face.  Then, it got angry eyebrows and a tongue.  
To me it looks like a cover of a Bon Jovi album.

With five minutes left in the program, I yelled out "Clean up time!"  The kids picked up all of the pom poms that were now scattered throughout the room.  Out of 25 kids, at least 20 spent an hour flinging things at targets.  I was amazed at their attention span.

So I learned after I did it that my director is not fond of tape on oak paneling.  Luckily he didn't see it, but it is something to keep in mind for the future.  For now I am going with the philosophy of "don't ask, don't tell."

The size of the group worked really well with the size of my room.  The kids were able to spread out enough that they could each hit targets, but not so far that they would chase each other around the room with catapults.  You do need to keep an eye out in this type of program as they will begin to find other targets.  We ended up with pom poms hitting the clock, the garbage can, and people.  Two kids played catch with theirs where one kid would fling the pom pom and the other would catch it.  It was organized chaos so you have to know where your comfort level is and where you need to lay down the law (clock and garbage can were no's, but catch was okay).

Personally, I was surprised that it kept their interest for a full hour.  I was expecting kids to trickle out after 30 minutes, but that didn't happen.  It was definitely a program to do again in the future.

A Day in the Life

I get a lot of questions from family, friends, and strangers as to what I actually do all day.  People just don't realize all that goes into our jobs.  One of my favorite things to do is to have a job shadow, whether my godchild for Take Your Child to Work Day, a practicum student, an intern, or a teenager thinking about this as a career.  I like to tell people that it is a great career for anybody who wants to do a lot of different things!

Just for fun, here is what I did today: 

8:15 a.m.
Arrive at work.  My workday starts at 8:30 a.m. 3 days a week.  I work one night and one weekend day (Friday or Saturday).  I drop my lunch in the refrigerator in the break room, check my mailbox, and head upstairs to the children's department.
**For some great morning fun, we play 2 songs every morning over our loudspeaker.  It really gets you going and starts the day off right.  Requests are taken from staff so you get a great variety.

Once upstairs, the first person in turns on our AWE stations, our reference computers, and the lights in our Activity Room.  I head into my office in the staff workroom and check my email on my computer.  Being a manager means that I need to stay on top of any situations that may have popped up since I was last in.  This could be anything from the ceiling leaking to a problem with a patron.

9 a.m.
I had a Library Olympics program set for 10:30 a.m.  Many of our programs require prep work and set-up, but little work during the program.  While we have both a Story Time Room and an Activity Room in the children's department, I need to hold any programs with more than 20 people downstairs in our auditorium.  This means loading up a cart and transporting my supplies.

Set-up took about an hour.  Just as I made it back upstairs to my desk, our teen librarian asked if I wanted to use her Plinko board for a downhill skiing.  Of course I did.  This meant that I was printing out clip art skiers and taping them to Plinko chips, plus moving the board downstairs.

10:20 a.m.
By 10:20 I had a line outside of the auditorium of kids who were waiting to attend the program.  Since I was all set up and the program was mostly self-directed, I let them in early.  This began one of my favorite parts of my job-the program!  What is nice about stations is that the kids and parents can move at their own pace and do the ones that they want to do.  It also leaves me free to help, to play, and to talk with parents about what we do at the library and why we are important in a low key way.  

11:30 a.m.
Our programs last an hour so I began to wrap things up.  With the awesome car track and Plinko board, the kids would have stayed all day if their parents let them.  Now began the task of clean-up.  Everything had to be taken down, loaded up, and transported back upstairs.

12 p.m.
Lunchtime!  I had an hour to eat, regroup, and recaffeinate before heading upstairs for my desk shift.  This is also my chance to touch base with staff members throughout the building to see what is going on.

1 p.m.
At my location, all staff work the reference desk for part of their shift.  It is usually a 3-4 hour chunk of time.  Where programming is my favorite part of my job, I view the reference desk as my most important part.  I see it as if you don't have customers, you don't have a job.  Since we are a dedicated children's desk, we tend to do mostly reader's advisory, directions (Where are the chapter books?), program registration, and homework help.  That's not to say that is all that we do.  With 8 computer stations in our room and 8 in the teen room, we also help with basic computer work and printing.  We have an Activity Room with toys so when they aren't cleaned up, the reference desk person goes in for a quick pick up.

Today, it was midwinter break for our local schools, which meant that there were a lot of people in the children's room.  There were a lot of requests for Diary of a Wimpy Kid titles.  Also, kids were getting a jump start on their genre reading for "March is Reading" month, which meant that I got a lot of questions like "I need a science fiction title with a Lexile between 850 and 1000."

Normally when the reference desk isn't busy, I will work on ordering, writing blog posts, planning future programs, etc.  Today I was working on two big tasks.  The first was writing newsletter articles for our summer newsletter.  Our deadline is March 15 for our May-August newsletter, which means it needs to contain everything summer reading.  Being the Head of Youth Services means that it is my job to coordinate and book all outside programs at all three of our locations, then add them to the newsletter.  My brain needs to handle writing clever newsletter articles in small doses so I try to only do 1 or 2 a day or they all end up saying the same thing.  My second big thing I was working on are details for MiKidLib, which will be at my library on Friday.  This included things like alphabetizing the registration list for the registration table, working on a way to coordinate lunch orders from 2 vendors, and signage.

3:30 p.m.
Break time!  If we work for 7 1/2 hours, we get an hour lunch and 2 15 minute breaks.  I have a hard time sitting still so my break today consisted of me refilling my pop glass and booktaping new board books in the cataloging department.

3:45 p.m.
Back to the reference desk and more work on MiKidLib.  I also had a sub cancel a shift in March so I needed to find a replacement.

5 p.m.
The end of the work day. The new reference desk staff came out and I updated them on any issues we had during the shift.  I checked and cleared out my voicemail, then headed home.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Library Olympics

This morning we held our Library Olympics program.  This is something that I have done for the past three Olympics and it is always highly successful.  Plus, the newspapers love to take pictures and write up stories on something like this because it is current with the Winter Olympics going on.

Registration & Prep
We register 30 6-12 year olds for this program.  Luckily the Winter Olympics fell during midwinter break for the schools, making this an ideal time to schedule a program.  Normally I am pretty strict that you have to fit between the age limits in order to participate in the program, but with this mix of attendees we had a lot of little siblings.  Instead of having chaos where the little ones run around, I let them participate in the program.

With one staff member supervising, stations work best for me.  This way I am not directing the program and can fill in where needed.  What this also means is that you put in some time setting up and passing out supplies.

I didn't need decorations for this program, but we luckily had a staff member who recently had a child's birthday with an Olympic theme.  I ended up with swirly things that had different country flags attached.

We also had the Olympic rings on a piece of foam board.  While not intentional, the families used this as a pseudo photo booth and the kids took pictures with their finished creations.  It was sort of like a medal ceremony.

Station 1: Name Your Country
So I didn't end up with 30 United States teams competing against each other, a coworker (the same one who had the birthday party) suggested that we use street names and add a country suffix to the end.  This sounded great to me so I put out a sign with some suggestions:

I also put out small slips of paper where kids could write down their country name.  As you can see, since I live on Oak, my country name is Oakalia.

Station 2: Design Your Flag
If your country is participating in the Olympics, you definitely need a flag.  I bought cardstock flag shapes from Oriental Trading.  While they may not sell them all the time, they have had them available for the past three Olympics.  Sharpie permanent markers work really well on these flags.  I put out a sign about the station and explaining why flags are important:

I also added my sample to the table.

It was great to see what the kiddos came up with for their flags.  There were a lot of bright colors and designs.  I almost wish that I had gotten a picture of all of them in a row.  My favorite flag, though, was one for Earth (great country name!).

Station 3: Medals
If you are at the Olympics, you definitely need to win a medal.  At this station, I used magic scratch medals from Oriental Trading and let the kids design their own.  These have also been available for the past three Olympics.  Once again, I have a sign:

As you may be able to see, I like to sneak in stealth knowledge.  Here we talk about gold, silver, and bronze medals before we design our own.  You can also see my example on the sign.  I like having medals, because while we may talk about places in our competitions, I don't give out prizes.

Station 4: Marshmallow Stacking

This is our first event.  Since marshmallows sort of look like snow and there is snow in the winter, it sort of fits.  There are three rules to marshmallow stacking-no holding, no smushing, and no getting them wet.  On average we could get 4 marshmallows stacked, but we did have a few kids who did five.  So I didn't have to supervise, I put out a sheet with everybody's names and had them write in how many marshmallows they stacked when they finished.  As an added bonus, marshmallows are kind of like sensory blocks.  If you have a little kids who won't eat them, hand them a stack of marshmallows.

Station 5: Bobsled
We run an event every fall called Zucchini Races and had a track built by a Boy Scout working on a project.  Unfortunately, it sits in a closet for the other 11 months and 3 weeks.  I thought it would make a great bobsled track and we sent Matchbox cars down it.  While we have three lanes, we had extra Matchbox cars.  This was a good thing because the cars kept disappearing and reappearing.  I have been asked if we can pull out the track more often because it was such a huge hit.

Station 6: Indoor Hockey
I bought inflatable hockey sticks from Oriental Trading and we hit crumbled up paper (snowballs).  Now I don't know if you have ever tried to hit something with an inflatable, but because it isn't sturdy, it doesn't hit well.  Personally, I kept laughing as the kids would put lots of muscle into their hits.  We did end up with someone who got their snowball 9 feet (and I am still wondering how that happened).

I also use masking tape on the floor with feet marks to help the kids measure.

Station 7: Downhill Skiing
This station didn't come about until 30 minutes before our program when our teen librarian said, "Hey, do you want to use our Plinko board.  It kind of looks like skiing."  I taped some clip art skiers to each of the Plinko chips and added it to our line-up.  This was the other giant hit of the day.  It became highly competitive as four kids would line up their chips (skiers) and let them fly down the board.

The program was a huge hit.  With all of the siblings in the room, we did end up with 34 kids after we took off those who didn't show.  It was a good balance between action stations (bobsled, skiing, and hockey) and artistic stations (flag and medals).  While everybody did everything, they each had their favorite.  While I thought they were cool, I wasn't expecting the Plinko and the car track being used for a solid hour.  We almost had to force rotation as the kids loved repeating their runs.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Go Away, Big Green Monster! Play to Learn

This morning I got to try out our brand new theme for our popular Play to Learn program here at CMPL.  It was based on the popular children's book, Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley.  The theme is one that I have been wanting to try for awhile and it was very successful!

 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.  

The Wrap-Up
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!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Go Away, Big Green Monster

I have been working on all things Go Away, Big Green Monster this week for our early literacy program.  Obviously, I needed a flannelboard for Flannel Friday too!

Like many people before me, I used the pattern on Kidzclub to make my flannelboard.  I printed it out and copied it again at 129% to make a bigger pattern (and to fill the board).  Just like in the story, the pieces are removable.

For some extra flannel fun, this is going to remain in our Activity Room for the next couple of weeks for kids to play with.  In addition to the original pieces, I cut out some extra shapes so he can be in the style of Mr. Potato Head.

I don't know why, but this is my "cool" monster.

Here's another monster with all of the extra shapes.

This week's Flannel Friday round-up is being hosted by Meg at Miss Meg's Storytime.  As always, for more information about Flannel Friday, check out the official blog or our Pinterest page.

Color Wheels

I am preparing for a program tomorrow based on Go Away, Big Green Monster and made these neat color wheels that I would like to share.  

To Make Your Own:
I started with 6-inch cake circles.  I bought a pack of 10 at Michaels for under $5.

Each cake circle was divided into 6 sections.  I used a ruler and a black Sharpie to make my lines.

I wanted some bright color spots for each section so I visited my local Home Depot and picked up some paint samples.  I am a big fan of Behr paint samples for my crafts.  I used my 1-inch hole punch to punch circles out of the paint samples.

I glued the circles onto my cake circle.  I used rainbow order, rather than that of a traditional color wheel.

I bought clothespins and used a colored Sharpie to color the ends to match my circles and to write the color name on each clothespin.

This will go out for the kids to play with tomorrow at our program.  They will match the colored clothespin with the colored space on the cake circle.

Here's why I like this:
  • I used ordinary materials to make something fun for kids to play with.  It didn't cost a lot of money and is easy to recreate at home.  Whenever I pull something like this out, the light bulbs in the parents' heads start flashing.
  • Clothespins are good for practicing fine motor skills.  By exercising their hands, kids are getting strong enough to write.  It really comes back to early literacy.
  • Colors are great to work on word recognition.  The colored writing on the clothespins gives kids a really big clue as to what the word is.  The more they see it, the better they will recognize it.  It is instant reinforcement of what words mean.
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