Physical activity, as well as auditory and visual stimulation of an appropriate nature is vital to early brain wiring. Parents and caregivers are ultimately responsible for the stimulation of infants, yet many do not understand the importance of this, or do not know how to bring it about.
Considering the research on brain development, programming for infants, toddlers and preschoolers could very well be the most important service your library provides. Parents desperately look for activities outside home to give them a chance to relax and meet other parents while entertaining and educating their child(ren). Libraries can assist children’s growth and encourage and support parents by presenting stimulating, developmentally appropriate activities, social opportunities, and guidance and instruction on how to recreate similar activities at home. Every element of a well-prepared program plays an important role in development. Designing programs that can be enjoyed in the library but reproduced to some extent at home is crucial to overall success. Examples of the many types of programs libraries can offer are:
A lapsit is an interactive program for infants, birth through 18 months, and their parent/caregiver (infant sits on the lap of/on the floor with adult). Programs run approximately 25-30 minutes. Lapsits incorporate very short stories (often board books) and rhymes, songs, fingerplays, poems, tactile activities plus the use of toys and puppets. Staff guides parents in one-on-one interactions with their baby that stimulate brain development, both cognitive and motor, while strengthening bonding. After the conclusion of the program, staff can encourage parents/caregivers to remain behind, use the materials and talk amongst themselves. Sample lapsit books include Hush Little Baby (Aliki), Goodnight Moon (Brown), Time for Bed (Fox), White on Black (Hoban), and My Very First Mother Goose (Opie).
Toddler storytime is designed for children 18 months to 3 years and runs approximately 20 minutes. This is an interactive program, employing simple stories (more involved than lapsit) including the use of big books, songs, nursery rhymes, poems, fingerplays, action rhymes, toys, puppets, and felt board activities. Toddler storytime plays to toddlers’ shorter attention span and desire for action. A typical program might be designed with the following:
Some classic books used in toddler storytime include Barnyard Banter (Fleming), The Wheels on the Bus (Kovalski), Have You Seen my Duckling (Tafuri) and Pretend You’re a Cat (Marzollo).
Designed for children 3-5 years old, preschool storytime runs approximately 30 minutes. This is a more traditional storytime, incorporating music, puppets, activities and projects among story reading. Preschool storytime introduces more complex stories, folklore and even easy non-fiction, playing to the inquisitive nature and cognitive developmental stage of preschoolers by allowing for a great deal of verbal and context introduction and interaction throughout the storytime. Three to four books can easily be shared with this age group along with various activities. You can even toss in a little storytelling, with or without props; cut and tell or string story methods; or selections from chapter books.
Preschool storytime is also an opportunity to incorporate realia. For example, show and use a rainstick (a long percussion instrument – tubular with thorns protruding all around the inside and loose pebbles and seeds that make the sound of heavy rain when the stick is turned upside down and they flow through the thorns; they are used in ceremony to bring on the rain in desert areas of Chile and other parts of the world) then read a story about rain or appropriate folktale. Books used in preschool storytime may include The Jacket I Wear in the Snow (Neitzel), Abuela (Dorros), Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse (Henkes), John Henry (Lester), The Hat (Brett), Yoko’s Paper Cranes (Wells), Sheep in a Jeep (Shaw), Two Ways to Count to Ten (Dee) and Bread, Bread, Bread (Morris).
Designed for all ages, family storytimes run approximately 30 minutes. These storytimes include materials and activities common to traditional storytimes but have elements that can be enjoyed by all. Components can include picture books, chapter books, poems, reader’s theatre, riddles, string or prop stories, fingerplays and movement activities, songs or music activities, videos and crafts. The programs are interactive, families laugh, sing and play together; older children and adults are encouraged to work with and assist younger children. Rob Reid, in his book Family Storytime: 24 creative programs for all ages (1999, American Library Association) lists 10 reasons to invite the family to storytime:
Music is calming, expressive and helps children develop cognitive areas such as math, language and listening skills and motor areas such as balance, coordination and movement. Research shows that using music and movement together or using language and movement together uses both sides of the brain. All children love music. Language cultural and developmental barriers come down when children listen to songs and sounds. Music is freeing, there is no right or wrong. According to Jackie Silberg in her I Can’t Sing Book, music reaches and teaches everyone:
Music and Movement is a parent involvement program that runs about 30 minutes and is carefully designed to aid in the development of certain skills appropriate for age levels 18-36 months and 3-5 years. While having separate programs for those two age levels is often not possible due to families with siblings in each age group, or lack of staff availability, one carefully designed and implemented program can be effective.
In music and movement, participants are lead though a series of activities that incorporate balance, rhythm and music, coordination, fine and gross motor skills, socialization, and dramatic play. Songs can be sung by the group, classic activities such as the “Hokey Pokey” can be done, a variety of musical selections outside traditional children’s songs can be introduced along with activities such as dancing with scarves to Mozart, blowing bubbles to John Coltrane, or walking on top of a two by four to “Straighten up and fly right” by Nat King Cole. Often special props are incorporated, some purchased specially, like a 6 foot parachute or musical instrument set, and some can be homemade such as paper plates to fan and beanbags to toss. Rhythm sticks can be purchased or cut and sanded from dowels.
Music and movement allows for a great deal of creativity in design and implementation. You just need to think about how the activity connects with skill development, but there are a great many resources available for you to use “straight out of the can.” CDs such as Multicultural Rhythm Stick Activities, Moving to Mozart, and videos such as Baby Songs-ABC, 123 and Colors and Shapes. If you offer music and movement weekly, it is a good idea to use a designed program for an entire month at a time. It gives the children a chance to learn and develop targeted skills and makes planning that much easier.
So what if you find yourself unable to offer a separate music and movement program? You can incorporate music into an infant and toddler program:
Many libraries offer a small story-related craft after storytime, which can be very effective with young children. If you are able to offer something special in the way of art, consider process art. Process art, a method of children’s art that focuses on skills development during the process rather than on a finished product is a developmentally appropriate program. In process art, children enter the art area without an adult, thus a requirement would be participants must be able to separate from adult, but should never be forced to participate. Without the presence of an adult, children are free to discover and create without judgment or “assistance.” They are, of course, assisted in the process by the instructor, but not assisted in what they create (as any caring adult can not resist doing). A picture book is read to the small group and the project is based upon a concept from or design element of the book. The project is not a craft, meaning, children do not leave with an object as with many storytime crafts or special craft programs. The sessions allow children to work (and play) with different mediums, be creative and innovative, and develop fine motor and cognitive skills.
Even if you find you are unable to offer more than one program on a weekly basis, offering special programming monthly or throughout the year can be effective especially when it includes booklists, extension activities, and tips for parents to recreate at home.
Walk-in crafts is a low impact but potentially high-volume program where a pre-designed project/product is presented to children and families as they arrive throughout a specific time period, either out in the children’s area or in a conference or story room. Generally walk-in crafts are created using recycled materials so it is also low budget. While school-aged children may benefit the most from this and be able to work on their own, it can be effective with preschoolers and parents/caregivers working together. Preschoolers take such pride in things they create, and the program allows you to model an easily replicable activity for parents while encouraging parents to interact positively with their child in a creative endeavor.
Puppets have been around for centuries; puppets enchant young and old. Types of puppets include: finger puppets, hand or glove puppets, marionettes, stick puppets, shadow puppets, magnetic puppets and mask or body puppets. Using any of these, you can put on a show. Your show may be short or long. You may write original material, turn a favorite book or story into a play, or use one of the many puppet play script books available. Preteens and teens love to work with puppets. You might train teen volunteers to be puppeteers and have them put on plays for preschoolers.
Puppets need not be reserved for puppet shows; they can be incorporated into any presentation. Caroline Feller Bauer, in Leading Kids to Books through Puppets (1997, American Library Association) lists 22 ways puppets can be used for introducing or promoting literature. They can:
|tell jokes||read aloud||discuss current affairs|
|ask questions||tell stories||play an instrument|
|recite poetry||present a commercial||write on the chalkboard|
|give a booktalk||give a speech||critique an essay|
|announce a study unit||be in a play||give rewards|
|ask a riddle||narrate a story||teach anything|
|explain library rules||introduce a friend||give directions|
and say “hello” or “good-bye” at a program
Include preschoolers in your annual summer reading planning. Create a program that stands out from your school-aged program, but it need not be elaborately constructed. Read-to-Me summer programs are very popular with parents and can be very effective in encouraging family literacy and reading readiness skills. Simply create an interesting way to record books read to preschooler (form with lines to write titles), or days where a preschooler was read to at least 20 minutes (calendar) and provide a simple prize for completion of whatever goal you set. If you are able, include a way to have preschoolers add stamps or stickers to their reading record, color or draw on parts. The children will greatly enjoy the interaction and it adds one more level of skill building. While your charge is to promote daily reading to infants through preschoolers every day of the year, summertime provides special visibility and allows for enhanced promotion in the community.
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