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I am a new librarian! I recently started as the children’s librarian of a relatively small but relatively busy branch of a large public library system. I inherited a preschool story time on Wednesday mornings and a <24 months baby time/lapsit program on Thursday mornings (is this too old? I know 18 months is a usual standard. I have caregivers say about their crawler- “oh, I think maybe this isn’t the right program for him, since all the other kids are walking” and I also have a 2 year old who isn’t developmentally ready for story time and so wants to come to baby time as well). I have been slowly (and with some difficulty) adjusting some things to make them better for me and for the attendees. The story time is attended mostly by toddlers (and yes, I have considered changing it to toddler time in name as well as function but as it stands we don’t really have any other good options for preschool and we only have a few show up anyway). The old guard did a craft at the end of each story time and I tried that for a while since caregivers seemed to find it important (even though they were mostly just doing the craft themselves…). New year, new ideas. I tried today for the first time instituting a play time at the end of story time, instead of a craft. I used foam blocks and these big toy trucks we have- everyone had a good time, from the baby younger siblings to the 4 year olds. BUT. It was really difficult to put the toys away after 20 minutes, even with 3 rounds of Barney’s “Clean up” song. So I am wondering if there are any ideas for something that is in between play time and a craft. I am vaguely remembering some cool ideas inspired by the ECRR standards, like writing with gel in plastic bags. Do people switch up their ending activity each week? I don’t have a lot of prep time since I wear many hats at my library, but I am trying to be better about enlisting volunteer help. What are some good resources for activities like these?
I really have like a zillion questions so I’m sorry if this is too unwieldy. If you could answer one I would be grateful.
While I don’t really use the ECRR standards for my storytimes, nor am I very familiar with good activities involving such, I’ll just share what we do at the end of storytime. We have a toddler time at our library that roughly caters to 18 to 36 months (but can be baby to preschooler) where we actually have both a craft and play time. The kids can choose to do one or either or both. The reason I think a combination of the two works well for us is because we keep both really simple. For example, the craft might just be some stamps or stickers on paper while the playtime is one small basket of toys or one sensory table. Then, not only is it easy to plan and set up, but it makes for a quick clean up, too. The activities also match the theme of the storytime each week, so it’s not just the same thing week to week. Hopefully this helps a bit!
A few answers in response to cover the different questions:
*Baby storytimes are all over the map, age-wise; I have seen them for 0-12m, 3-18m, 0-24, and 0-3yrs, and all combinations in between. Babies go through so many critical developmental stages in the first few years that it’s probably impossible to choose the perfect sweet spot for an age range. More important I think is that you don’t have a gap between any of the storytimes you provide: e.g., if your baby storytime only goes to 18m, then your toddler or storytime should start at 18m and/or your family storytime should be all-ages.
*I’m sure it was hard to put away those toys for the first play time! I wouldn’t get discouraged, though, and give up on play time as an option. Kids (and adults) need time to learn a routine and after several weeks of putting away the toys at the clean-up song everyone will get better at it. Most of the families I see are really grateful for the chance for their kids to have another opportunity to practice their putting-away skills. I’ve seen libraries give out stickers or stamps when all the toys are put away as one way to ease the way.
*My Pinterest time has been really limited lately so I can’t point you right to some great process craft boards—hopefully someone will jump in the comments! However, you can take any art project “step” or materials and isolate it to create a quick and easy “play craft.” For instance, cut strips of construction paper on a paper cutter and set the strips out with kids’ scissors and let the kids practice cutting the strips into confetti. If you don’t want to do scissors, let them tear the strips—awesome fine motor practice. (If they want to take some confetti home, give out plastic zip bags.) Or save all those confetti squares, and put them out the next week with a large piece of paper and some glue sticks and let them make simple collages. Or give them a die cut shape, a piece of paper, and corral all the tape dispensers in the library for a half hour—let the kids practice taping the die cut to the larger piece of paper. Or set out pipe cleaners and let them bend them! Or stamps and ink. Instead of crayons and paper, you could set out chalk and black construction paper. Or markers and coffee filters (you don’t even have to do the traditional next step of getting the filters wet—the filters will be much more absorbent of the ink than regular paper for the kids to experiment with.) Or grab the newspapers from the reference department before they’re recycled and let the kids crumple the big pages up! How small can they make their page? Or use smaller pieces of newspaper and paper towel tubes—can you crumple the paper small enough to go down the tube? Have fun!