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This post was written by the staff of the Children's Room. Contact Nicole Giroux, Head of Children's for more information.

PlaySpace at Home: Grab It!

Image of itemThis was our first week with I Went Walking, by Sue Williams. The book uses a call and response refrain, “I went walking. What did you see?” to follow a child’s encounter with six colorful farm animals. Before he knows it, he’s being followed by the entire menagerie!

What we did: One of our activities had a bin full of small objects that matched the six colors named in the book. We used pompoms, craft sticks, plastic bottle caps, Duplo bricks, and small foam shapes, but you could use anything you have on hand. We also had six color-coded boxes that matched the six colors represented in the story. The children used small plastic tongs to pick up objects and sort them into the different boxes according to color.

Picture2Why it matters: We’ve already touched on the importance of matching and sorting games for young children. But another key element in this activity was the use of tongs to pick up and transfer the objects. Tongs, along with similar tools like tweezers and chopsticks, are a great way for children to develop fine motor skills and hand strength. They force the two sides of the hand (the thumb/index finger side and the middle/ring/pinky side) to function separately, which in turn allows the pinky side to stabilize the hand while the thumb and forefinger work on a fine motor task. This separation becomes essential when learning to write with a pencil. Hand strength and dexterity also play a role in an enormous variety of everyday tasks including fastening a button, opening a lunchbox, and cutting with scissors.

tissuemonster How to do it at home: If you have a pair of tongs, you’re all set! If you don’t, you can make a pair of kid-friendly chopsticks (click here for instructions) and use those instead. Children can practice using the tongs to transfer small objects from one container to another. To make it more fun, you can decorate an empty tissue box like an animal or monster, and ask your child to use tongs to “feed” the monster. We found that the children at PlaySpace had an easier time using lightweight plastic tongs. We also had a few pairs of metal tongs, but the metal had greater resistance and required more hand strength. They also found it easier to pick up soft objects that would squish a little bit when grasped by the tongs. Smoother items were more likely to slip out when the children picked them up.

Taking it to the next level: Once your child has mastered picking up soft objects with lightweight tongs, you can make things a bit more difficult by using smaller or smoother items. You can also instead of your hands to do things you would normally do anyway, like put clothes in a laundry basket or move the pieces while playing a board game. Create a miniature treasure hunt by embedding small objects in a lump of playdough, then asking your child to use tweezers to pull them out. To get the entire family involved, try eating dinner together using chopsticks instead of western-style silverware.

Additional reading: Another thing we do in storytime to aid fine motor development is fingerplays. You’re probably familiar with fingerplays even if you’ve never heard the term; fingerplays are children’s songs or rhymes that involve small hand movements. “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” is a popular example. Our library network has dozens of books of fingerplays that you can check out, with diagrams to show you the finger movements that go with each rhyme. Two of my favorites are Marc Brown’s Finger Rhymes and Hand Rhymes.

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Books for Preschoolers on Wednesday, March 2

We celebrated Dr. Seuss’s birthday in our storytimes this morning!

Image of itemWe began with an interactive book that is always a storytime hit: Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? The book invites readers to moo, hoot, thunder, and crash along with the clever Mr. Brown, who can mimic any sound he hears.

Many of Dr. Seuss’s books are too long to read in storytime, so we honored his memory with three books by other authors who share his spirit of silliness and whimsy.

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Books for 4-6 year olds on Tuesday, March 1

March is here!  This month may come in like a lion, but with longer days and (somewhat) warmer temperatures, we know spring is on the way.  Tomorrow is the birthday of Theodore Geisel, otherwise known as Dr. Seuss.  His contributions to children’s literature and literacy are extensive and amazingly imaginative.  Most of us are familiar with several of his stories— what’s your favorite?  Today we read one that’s a real tongue-twister:

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Then we read another story that is a bit Seuss-like in its use of rhyme and silliness:

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To celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday tomorrow (March 2), at the main library there will be Seuss- themed storytimes  (10 AM for preschoolers, 11 AM for toddlers) with cake afterwards.  Then at 4:30 PM, at the MacKay branch in North Chelmsford, join us for an extra-special storytime with Bonnie Rankin.  We’ll read stories, maybe act some out, and end with….birthday cake!

Happy Birthday

Today we celebrated birthdays at the preschool storytime.

Image result for birthday cakeThe main library reopened to the public on February 29, 2000, after a major renovation and addition.  We love to celebrate the library’s birthday on Leap Day, but it only appears on the calendar 1 out of 4 years.  That’s why I have a picture of a cake with only 4 candles.  We’ve only celebrated 4 times even though we opened 16 years ago.

We started our storytime today with Happy Birthday, Moon.  The bear in the story is excited Image of itemabout his birthday and begins to wonder about the moon’s birthday.  He would like to get something for the moon.  He travels to some mountains to talk to the moon and finds a place where his own voice returns to him.  The resulting dialogue convinces the bear that the moon is talking to him and shares his birthday.  The way the bear gives the moon a present, and receives one from the moon, is very clever.  The children did a great job being my echo.

March 2nd is Dr. Seuss’ birthday, so I wanted to read some of his books.  I brought in many Image of itemof the books I own rather than use a library book at this time of year.  There is a huge demand on these books right now.  I chose Green Eggs and Ham. I think it’s a wonderfully silly story that I never tire of reading.  We had a young group of children with even younger siblings, so I didn’t think I would make it all the way through, but I did.
Try it.  Try it.  You may see that you can make it through as well.

Next I read The Foot Book which is much simpler.  Then I talked a bit about books that are beginner books and have The Cat in the Hat on the spine or the cover, but are not written by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel).

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The Foot Book is written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss.  The author of The Eye Book is Theo. LeSieg – that’s what Theodor Seuss Geisel calls himself when he writes a book but doesn’t do the pictures. (LeSieg is Geisel spelled backward.) Go, Dog. Go! was not written by Theodor Geisel.  It was written by P.D. Eastman.  Stan and Jan Berenstain wrote the Berenstain Bears books.

Having the Cat in the Hat on all these books creates a bit of confusion.  If you thought Dr. Seuss wrote the books, you would look where the Seuss books are shelved and miss those books.  What follows is a more thorough explanation….

Image of itemDr. Seuss wrote long picture books first.  His first children’s book was written in 1937: And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.  It would be 20 more years before he began writing books with simple words that a 1st grader could read.  Random House published The Cat in the Hat in 1957.  It was so successful that a new imprint was formed by Random House called Beginner Books.  Geisel was the president and editor.  Many of our classic children’s books were published by Beginner Books and carry a picture of The Cat in the Hat.

I’m mentioning all of this so you can understand why they are not all together on the shelf.  Each one can be found by searching alphabetically for the author’s last name.

This has nothing to do with books you may choose to read on March 2nd.  To celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday with a child, simply read a story.  It can be any story – perhaps a book you or your child wrote.



Happy Birthday, Chelmsford Public Library!

It’s Leap Day!  February 29th only comes once every four years.

This is a strange concept for adults, so I can’t imagine little children understanding what we’re talking about.  When the main library had a major addition built 16 years ago, it reopened on February 29, 2000, so we celebrate the birthday every 4 years.

Image of itemI chose to read I Love Birthdays in the toddler storytime, because it has very simple pictures on a stark, white background.  A large number of children can see the pictures from a distance.  The text is very simple as well.

We added the birthday song to our list of songs and rhymes.  And I told the parents that we were serving C-A-K-E after the storytime if they wished to have some.

Thank you all for your tremendous support of this library over the past 16 years!


Family Day Care Traveling Storytime – February

Various stories were read this past month as I traveled to different family day cares in Chelmsford.

Image of item Swimmy by Leo Lioni has always been a favorite of mine.  In the story Swimmy the fish, uses creativity and teamwork to help all the little fish in the sea stay safe from some of the dangers of the larger fish.  Each time I read the story, the children were in awe when I got to the page of the big tuna fish and the long eel.

Image of itemAnother story that really captured the children’s attention was the story called Where to Sleep? by Randy Kadzinski.  This is a cute story that kept the children guessing where the kitty would finally find a place to sleep.  It has a lovely ending and the story led to lots of discussions about everyone’s own pets or desires to own a pet!

In addition to many story books, this month the children continued to ask for the song “Two Little Blackbirds.”  I often carry with me two stick puppets of blackbirds but the great thing about this song is that all you really need are your fingers. We sang several verses of the song, with the birds sitting on a hill, sitting on a cloud, and playing in the snow.  This is also a great song to personalize, using each child’s name in the song.  It is always fun for the children to hear their own names in a song!

“Two Little Blackbirds”
Two little blackbirds sitting on a hill.
(hold up pointer fingers in front of you)                  
One named Jack and one named Jill.
(move one finger, then move the other finger)
Fly away Jack and fly away Jill.
(fly one finger behind your back, then fly the other finger behind your back)
Come back Jack and come back Jill.
(fly one finger back in front, fly the other finger back in front)

Toddler Storytime, Friday, February 26

It is always wonderful for me to get to see the development of the young children.  Today in story time there were lots of children joining in on the hand motions and body movements of many of the songs and rhymes.  As your children are exposed to the rhymes and songs and get to see the movements that go along with them, they are growing and developing and incorporating this information into their development.  One day, as you start to sing, you will see your child join in on the movements.  It is always a great moment for you (and me!)

In addition to lots of songs and movement, we also read a favorite book of mine.

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Baby Storytime, Friday, February 26

Lots of babies and caregivers came to story time today!  We talked a bit about the importance of reading daily to your babies, finding a good time during the day and reading a book or two.  For some families, reading works well before nap and bedtime, but for others, that is not always the ideal time for the baby.  The library offers various board books to borrow.  Board books are durable and bulky, making them great for babies to hold and explore.

We read a favorite book today and enjoyed the ending very much.

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PlaySpace at Home: Rhyme Matching

We explore each book for two weeks in a row at PlaySpace. This morning was our second week with the bedtime classic Goodnight Moon.

What we did: On one of the library’s large felt boards, we had a set of cards that each featured a picture of an object that appears in Goodnight Moon. The pictures could all be matched into rhyming pairs: kitten and mitten, clock and sock, house and mouse, moon and balloon, bear and chair. Children could arrange the pictures however they wanted. Some chose to tell the story themselves by putting the pictures in the order in which they appear in the book. Others matched the objects into pairs according to their rhyming names.

Why it’s important: You’ve probably noticed that rhymes figure prominently in children’s books. Recognizing rhyme is a major component of phonological awareness, or a child’s understanding of the way words are made up of individual sounds. Phonological awareness is an important early literacy skill, and studies have linked early phonological awareness to a child’s eventual reading success. As children begin to notice the printed words on a page, familiarity with rhymes helps them recognize the links between printed and spoken language. By seeing words like “big” and “pig” in print, they realize that “ig” makes a specific sound, and that words ending in “-ig” will always rhyme. Conversely, rhyming pairs like “bear and chair” demonstrate that different letter combinations can sometimes make the same sound.

How to do it at home: Make or purchase a set of cards with pictures of familiar things. Each card should have another card that rhymes with it. You can use the words from a favorite rhyming book, like we did with Goodnight Moon, or choose any pair of rhyming words that you like. Then play with the cards! Ask your child to match each picture with the card that rhymes with it. You can walk them through it if they need extra help: “This card has a cat. Should it go with the card that has a truck, or the card that has a hat? Oh, the hat, of course! This truck must go with that duck over there.”

Taking it to the next level: To add an extra challenge, you can lay the cards out upside down and use them for a memory game. Each player takes turns flipping cards over to reveal their pictures. Once you have turned over a card, select another card to flip and try to find a card that rhymes with the first one. If you find a match, keep both cards. If the words don’t rhyme, turn them face-down again and let the other player take a turn. Eventually, both players begin to remember which cards are in which places, and finding matching pairs becomes easier.

Image of itemAdditional reading: There are so many rhyming books for children, it’s hard to know where to start! The library has several illustrated collections of classic nursery rhymes. These rhymes have withstood the test of time and are an important element of our shared cultural literacy.

Image of itemWe’ve explored a number traditional folk and fairy tales this year in PlaySpace, and Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg a fun rhyming book that combines elements from many of these familiar stories.