Category Archives: At the library

Homeschool Hub–Iron Chef, Jr.


This month’s Homeschool Hub activity was Iron Chef, Jr.  The kids chose their own ingredients from three categories: one item from the base category, two items from the sauces category, and two items from the garnishes category, plus the secret ingredient and unlimited sprinkles (obvi).

Bases:  graham crackers, sugar wafers, pretzel sticks (I realized too late that I should have offered a gluten free option, so for the second session I had chocolate pudding cups on hand, just in case it came up again).

Sauces:  Frosting (I got the kind that comes in different colors–I got chocolate, green, and red–and has sprinkles in the top because the answer is always more sprinkles) chocolate syrup, strawberry syrup (a popular option!), and marshmallow fluff

Garnishes:  candy eyes, chocolate chips, marshmallows, Nerds

Secret ingredient: For the first session it was candy corn, for the second session it was gummy spiders

I portioned out the ingredients using Dixie cups.  Each participant had two plates and a plastic knife.  They were to make two iterations of their dish–one to eat and one to share.  I gave them score sheets so that they could evaluate each other on presentation, taste, and originality.  I loved seeing the combinations that they came up with!


Stories in the Shadows Indoor Campout Storytelling Series


stories-in-the-shadows-posterWe just finished an indoor campout storytelling series that I’m really excited about sharing with y’all.  I had been wanting to do a family fort night event ever since I started seeing posts like the one from Jbrary detailing what a fun and simple program it is.  It just never seemed to come together, but there it sat on my Pinterest board, ready for the perfect moment.  That moment came when we started talking about writing for the Georgia Council for the Arts Vibrant Communities Grant.  After much discussion, we decided to do a storytelling series after-hours with an indoor campout theme.  We had a few setbacks and changes with our storytellers, but I was so, so pleased with the end result.






stories-in-shadows-tablecloth-tents stories-in-shadows-smores-mix stories-in-shadows-campfire-craftBoth programs were an indoor campout; the only difference was the location and the storyteller.  We had both programs after hours and put up plastic tablecloths over the bookshelves for “tents.”  We made s’mores mix with Golden Grahams cereal, mini marshmallows, and chocolate chips, and each family received a craft kit to make their own campfire (I made a PDF of the instructions that I’d be happy to share if anyone is interested).






stories-in-shadows-fiddlin-dan stories-in-shadows-readingThe first storyteller was Fiddlin’ Dan the Mountain Man.  He used his musical instruments to tell stories, and the kids even got to try out some of the instruments at the end of the show.








stories-in-shadows-lsb stories-in-shadows-puppetThe second storyteller was shadow puppeteer Hobey Ford.  I am so fascinated by the art of shadow puppetry.  In fact, this is what inspired the whole program concept, and why we called it “Stories in the Shadows.”








I really loved this program series.  My favorite part was seeing the families interact with the library after hours.  Something about seeing everyone snuggled up under our makeshift tents, with play campfires and flashlights glowing, reading to each other and being entertained by talented artists–that’s why I do what I do.  I’m so appreciative of the librarians who shared the campout/family fort night idea, and of the support from the Georgia Council for the Arts Vibrant Communities grant for making it possible.

Minecraft Dance Party!


photo(10) photo(8)Masks–we found these at Oriental Trading–a really great find!








photo(6) photo(7)Minecraft Bingo–I found this amazing free printable on Life with Squeaker.  I printed out these free bookmarks on cardstock and gave them out as prizes.








photo(9)Finally, we used our trusty bluetooth speaker/party lights to play Minecraft parody songs, plus we used the screen and projector to show Minecraft parody videos.  We did the songs from iTunes so that we didn’t hear the commercials on Youtube.

Lego Ninjago Training Camp


Thanks to Angie and Sara for the inspiration for this program!

photo(3)The first station of the training camp was an obstacle course.  Our ninjas were supposed to avoid the lava (red squares) and fire-breathing dragons, walk across the bridge (masking tape), then pass through the tunnel to complete the course.  As you can see, my goofy dragons kept falling over, but it was still fun.





photo(2)For the next station, Banish the Bad Guys, I did some quick research on Ninjago bad guys, printed them out and taped them to plastic cups.  Originally, I was going to make ninja stars to throw at the targets, but I must sheepishly admit that my origami skills are not that strong.  In the end, I decided that beanbags would work just fine.  I think the kids agreed, because this was a pretty popular station.





photo(5)The Dexterity Check station consisted of my beloved Lakeshore Learning trays, some linking cubes, and “chopsticks” (easy grip tweezers).  The object was to move the cubes from one tray to the other using the tweezers as quickly as possible.  I saw some pretty heated contests on this activity.






photoYour Ninja Identity–For this station, I printed out a ninja name worksheet and printed a Ninjago head on yellow cardstock.  The ninjas were to use the code on the sheet to translate their name into a cool new ninja name.  Then, they decorated a mask, cut it out, and affixed it to construction paper strips for the headband.








photo(1) photo(4)Finally, we had to have a Lego gadget building station.  No surprise, this was the most popular station.  There’s just something about building with Legos that never gets old.

Ready, Set, Read!–All About You



Opening Song: Hands are clapping

Opening Game: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes (3 times, faster each time)

photo(1) Book: My Nose, Your Nose, by Melanie Walsh (available through PINES)








photo(2)Book: I Love You, Nose! I Love You, Toes! by Linda Davick. (E HUMAN BODY DAVI)








Rhyme: Open them, shut them

Rhyme: Eye Winker, Tom Tinker

Song: Hokey Pokey

photo(5)Book: From Head to Toe, by Eric Carle (E CARLE).








photo(13)Closing Game: Animal Action cube








Closing rhyme: My Hands Say Thank You


photo(3) photo(4)Activity: body tracing–parents/caregivers traced their child on a large sheet of paper, then the kids colored them in.  This was a great activity!  It was fun to see the kids and their adults talking about what they needed to add to their drawings.

Puppet Show–Little Blue Riding Hood


photoAlmost every summer we take the week before the 4th of July and do a puppet show at all of our branches.  I love puppet shows, but sometimes they can be sort of stressful–managing multiple puppets and props, making the puppets I have fit the story, and sometimes even adapting the story to a puppet show script myself.  This year I was a lucky duck because we happened upon the script for “Little Blue Riding Hood” by Nancy Whetstone.   Y’all, it is SO GOOD.  Really funny stuff and so simple to stage.  We adapted it a bit so that we could use two guy puppets (we made them brothers named Ben and Jerry).  The kids enjoyed the show so much.  I highly recommend trying it out!




We also did the classic paper bag puppet craft.  When space permitted, we left the stage up so that the kids could try out their new puppets onstage.  It was a hit!  It always amazes me how creative kids can be with just simple materials and activities.  The kids had a great time creating their puppets, and I loved hearing the stories they told.

Ready, Set, Read!–1, 2, 3!


Bubble machine (sing Hello Bubbles and One Little Two Little Three Little Bubbles)

Opening song: Hands are Clapping (to the tune of Skip to My Lou) Hands are clapping, clap clap clap, hands are clapping, clap clap clap, hands are clapping, clap clap clap, clap your hands my darlings.  (feet are stomping, bodies are wiggling)–I think this one was in this year’s early literacy summer reading manual

Opening game: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes (sing 3 times–first time slow, second time a little faster, third time “super sonic speed”)

photo(11)Book: Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin and James Dean (E CATS LITW)








photo(15)Flannelboard Activity: My groovy (red) buttons.  I printed these buttons onto different colored paper, laminated them, and put a bit of velcro on the back.  I handed these out to the kids and instructed them to come up with their button when I called that color.  Then I said “My buttons, my buttons, my groovy (red) buttons.”  The kids with red buttons came up and put them on the flannelboard.  Then we counted how many red buttons we had.  We did this for each color.  Then we went back and counted the total number of buttons.







photo(6)Song: Bubble Bubble Pop.  I made these cards and we sang the song demonstrated adorably (as always) by the Jbrary girls here.








photo(12)Book: One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Jane Cabrera (E COUNTING CABR)








photo(10)Book: Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma Dodd (E COLORS DODD)









Parachute activity: 3 little monkeys jumping on the bed

Parachute activity: Zoom! Zoom! Zoom! We’re Going to the Moon!

For both of these we put my three monkey puppets on the parachute and sang/recited the rhymes.  Three Little Monkeys got a little out of hand (they all fell off and some bumped their heads prematurely) so we had to put some of them back on.  It wasn’t perfect, but boy, did we have fun!  This is something I definitely want to incorporate more in my future storytimes.



photo(14)Closing game: animal action cube–we toss this at the end of storytime and imitate an animal.  This has really been fun!








Bubble machine and playtime

Craft and activity: bingo markers and teddy bear counter sorting

photo(9) photo(7)




Craft Carnival de Rio


Whew!  I can’t believe we are already several weeks into summer reading!  Things are going really great–lots of trackers being turned in (great job, keep it up!!!!)  This week at Leesburg and Smithville we had a taste of Rio in honor of this year’s host of the Olympic games.

We decorated masks with feathers, stick on jewels, and fruit stickers, and we also decorated wooden maracas.

photo(3) photo(2) photo(5)








I hooked up our Block Party speaker/light show and played some Brazilian music for the kids to dance to.







Finally, we offered Brigadeiros, a traditional Brazilian dessert made with sweetened condensed milk, butter, cocoa powder, and vanilla.  I followed this recipe and rolled the mixture into balls ahead of time.  Then we put sprinkles in a plate and the kids finished by rolling the ball into the sprinkles.  These were a huge hit!


Kitchen Explorers–Baked Mozzarella Bites


photo(3)Once a month we have a program called Kitchen Explorers, where kids make simple recipes and–best of all–taste them!  This month we made baked mozzarella bites.





photo(1)We purchased mozzarella snack cheese (individually packaged “string” cheese) and cut each stick into thirds.  We also melted some butter and put it into a cup and placed Italian seasoned breadcrumbs onto a plate.  The kids used a fork to dip each piece of cheese into the butter, then dredge it in the breadcrumbs.







photo photo(2)Then we placed the cheese sticks on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil.  (We used a Sharpie to line off sections with their name/initial to keep straight whose was whose.)  We placed them into a preheated 350 degree oven and baked them for five minutes.  When they were done baking, we removed them from the oven and placed them into a cup with the child’s name/initial.  The sticks were served with marinara sauce (from a jar) briefly heated in the microwave.