Dec 15, 2016

WonderWorks on the Road: Ramps

A very portable, take-along project, perfect for preschoolers!

Today's Topic: Ramps
cove molding (See details here)
blocks (from the classroom's own collection)


cover art Two little chicks / Gorbachev, Valeri
(older version of this book are titled "Chicken Chickens")

Dec 14, 2016

Winter Wild Rumpus, Week 2

What changes and new adventures did we see in week 2 of the Winter Wild Rumpus?  Read on!

Almost immediately, as soon as we were done with the opening activities, the same child who put a pool on top of the carts last week to make a "house" went to try it again.  Unfortunately, we'd placed the carts a little wider than last time and the pool didn't span the gap. Instead, she propped the pool up on the side of the carts to make a "lean-to" kitchen, then she developed a new plan for the roof:

 Bedsheet + clamps!  Plus, check out the "hardwood floor" she laid this week, complete with a carefully crafted front edge that lines up despite offset planks!
A tour of the inside reveals curtains (with extra fancy tulle swoops at the top) that provide "privacy" for the "bedroom" (bottom shelf of the cart).
More play after the jump!

Dec 13, 2016

Winter Wild Rumpus, week 1

This was the very first week of a new program I'm rolling out at the library this winter.  This is the first of three pilot weeks as I test out elements for a new program I'll be rolling out in January.

We started by having kids make "nametags" by writing their name on a full sheet of paper, then hanging that paper on a clothesline (hooray for fine-motor pincer practice, a pre-writing skill!). (also, shout-out of thanks to Holly Storck-Post for this clothesline idea.  I love brainstorming with you!)

Then I started the program with a song that I changed the lyrics slightly to fit the program and a brief explanation of AnjiPlay and some photos from my trip to China.  We went over the "5 rules for adults" (Hands down, Mouth closed, eyes open, ears open, heart open) then I reminded everyone that at the end of play, they should draw a play story on the same sheet of paper that they clipped to the clothesline and then.... we started the play!

Dec 11, 2016

Special report: Podcasts for Kids!

I've been listening to podcasts in the van with my kids lately.  They are ages 2 & 6 and now whenever we get into the car, they both loudly request that we listen to their current favorite (whichever that is).  I learned about our favorites through the ZooGlobble blog (also an excellent resource for discovering great kids music), but I thought I'd share our favorites in case you, or your library patrons, are seeking something different to listen to on an upcoming road trip (or just across town to get some groceries).  All of these podcasts are free to download and listen to and you can subscribe to them so that you get notifications when new episodes are available.

These are ranked in order of preference of my 6 year old son:

#6 -- Story Pirates Podcast
"Kids write stories, we act 'em out and kids write more" says their theme song and that's pretty much what this podcast is all about.  Kids' original tales (complete with ridiculousness and non-sequiturs) read in their original form, then dramatically re-enacted by the Story Pirates cast, often with extra music and sound effects and sometimes story details added in.

#5 -- Gather 'Round Kids
An improv group tells kids stories around the microphone.  The recording quality on these is uneven (some voices are often louder than others), but my kids both enjoyed this whole series.

#4 -- Shabam!
Hilarious, fast-paced science drama adventure!  Learn interesting scientific information within a storyline about a zombie epidemic.  This is one of my favorites to listen to!

#3 -- The Radio Adventures of Eleanor Amplified
Retro-styled antics of a radio reporter named Eleanor Amplified.  Follow her adventures as she is aided by a motley crew of characters (including "Captain Conn Seannery") in their attempts to thwart and expose the evil plottings of Angela Brandt and her corporation MegaBlurg.

#2 -- The Imaginary Accomplishments Podcast
Silliness in the extreme! A variety show being broadcast from a rocketship exploring the galaxy, hosted by two large space bunnies, Marvy and Finch.  My favorite feature are the ads for things like "Holitos, the snack that's only holes." Tons and tons of puns, you might need to listen to this one more than once to catch all the jokes as they're often quite subtle and I'm guessing that many go over my son's head, but I still enjoy them.

#1 -- The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian
This is the podcast that my son asks about every day when I pick him up from school.  "Is there a new Finn Caspian yet, mom?" (New episodes come out each week!) An original space adventure written and hosted by Jonathan Messinger and his "editor" and son, Griffin.  We are huge fans of the robot character (I won't spoil the surprise of his name which we don't learn until a few episodes in).  My librarian self LOVES that this podcast includes tons of literary references, not only to classic kid lit but also to really great fresh, current books for kiddos.  Top marks!

Do you have favorite podcasts for kids?  Please share a link and description in the comments section below!  I hope you discover a new favorite here on this list!

Dec 10, 2016

The Supper Club presents: Apps about Emotions

When kids know more specific words for emotions (like "frustrated" or "furious" instead of just "mad") it's easier for us to help them find the right ways to handle their feelings.  Here are some great apps that both directly and indirectly offer opportunities to talk to kids about different emotions.

Silly Snouts by Three Little Witches (iOS, 99c)

Chomp by Fox & Sheep (iOS, $2.99)

Breathe Think Do by Sesame Street (iOS & Android, free)

Fiete Match by Ahoiii (iOS & Android, $2.99)

Gigglebug’s Face Race by Gigglebug Entertainment (iOS only, $2.99)

Peek-A-Zoo HD by Duck Duck Moose (free, iOS only)

Sago Mini Dress Up by Sago Mini (free, iOS only)
--This cute baby animals aren't afraid to show you how they feel about the clothes you choose for them!

Tinybop’s Me (iOS only, $2.99)
--I love how it asks users what color makes them think of certain emtions!

Take out box:
Toontastic by Launchpad Toys (iOS only, FREE (originally a $20 app, now it's free because Google bought it.  Hooray!))
--check out the moods the different music sliders can set!

Nov 18, 2016

Apps on the News: Bedtime Math, Fiete Sports

Just in time for holiday travel, I'm doing a little end-of-the-year catch-up and posting all of the news segments that I somehow missed posting earlier.  Maybe you'll discover a new favorite!

Here's my written review of Bedtime Math. 

And here it is on the news!

Here is my written review of Fiete Sports.

And here it is on the news:

Nov 16, 2016

Toddler Art Class: Just Paint

Sometimes simple is best.

Art Project: painting 
thin cardboard sheets


cover art The artist who painted a blue horse / Carle, Eric

Last summer, during the Wild Rumpus events, it became clear to me that kids, in general, LOVE to paint.  And that parents, in general (myself included), are reluctant to dig out the paints at home.  As I'm wrapping up this Toddler Art Class series that I've done for years, I'm circling back to the basics.  Yes, I can do fancy variations and paint on foil or do edible paint or paint with popsicles or branches or over tape resist, but the truth is.... kids just want to paint.  Especially toddlers.  So it's back to the basics for me and I'll carry that through next spring when Toddler Art Class will be replaced by AnjiPlayDate which incorporates art but also so much more.  I can't wait to see what this new program will produce and I'm excited to take you, dear reader, along on this journey with me.

 What Kids Did: 

Please note: "Anji Play,” refers to a specific philosophy and comprehensive approach to early education developed by Ms. Cheng Xueqin in Anji County, China. I use the term "Anji Play" to describe my programming and throughout this blog with the explicit permission of Ms. Cheng because our programming has been developed as part of a close collaborative relationship with her and her team of Anji Play educators. If you are interested in learning more about how you can bring Anji Play to your community, please visit

Nov 4, 2016

Toddler Art Class: Playing with Foil

Shiny, noisy, scrunchy, easy to tear, fun to sculpt with.... foil is so much fun!

Art Project: Playing with Foil
aluminum foil (I used less than 3 rolls for 25 kids, but if you had someone who wanted to mummify themselves in foil you might need more. It's cheap, buy lots!!)


cover art A squash and a squeeze / Donaldson, Julia

Nov 2, 2016

Toddler Art Class: Playing with Tape

Sticky (usually forbidden or at least rationed) tape is very exciting to play with!

Art Project: Playing with masking tape
masking tape
construction paper (optional)
crayons (optional)


cover art Hands off my honey! / Chapman, Jane
*note: I wasn't crazy about this book as the choice for this topic, but I was struggling to find a good related title for this topic....*

Oct 31, 2016

Special Blog Report: from China!

I still can't quite believe it myself, but I just got back from a week-long study tour in Anji County, China.  The AnjiPlay people invited me to come and tour the original AnjiPlay schools of Anji County and to share stories from my Wild Rumpuses this past summer.  What a trip!  I'm still processing the enormous amount of knowledge that I gained from being there and I can't wait to start developing my upcoming indoor AnjiPlay programs. For now, here are a few photos for you to enjoy:

Of course, the librarian in me loved seeing this little library with colorful, comfy chairs for the kids to sit on right inside the entryway of one of the schools we visited.
Here are some familiar titles in an unfamiliar language:
Also, Pierre, my storytime mascot puppet came along on the trip with me.  He loved looking at the books too!
 Loved seeing these two boys reading together!
 Although most of the block play took place outside, at one school where it was raining, one of the classes was taking blocks into an indoor classroom.

 These girls were have a very exciting experience with engineering balance, center of gravity, height and weight (despite the hands-on balancing, this tower fell immediately after the photo was taken, but they just re-built it with a different design!).  They were also learning about cooperation, creativity, design & symmetry!
 And check out these elaborate constructions!  With small blocks:
 and large blocks (two different types of tables and chair sets below):
(this one is a donut shop!)
 Every classroom had a plant area
 But I especially loved that this class had magnifying glasses nearby and that a student was using them as I walked by.
Many classrooms also had an area with some small animals.  My favorite were the crawdads, but Pierre's favorite were the turtles:

 And, of course, the outdoor play was absolutely astounding.  Just look at one small inner courtyard at one of the schools.  Don't you want to play here?:

Tree climbing with ladders,
 These kids waiting their turn to try out the sliding pad they'd added to this ladder slide that they built:
 When you supply an enormous amount of ladders...
 Children's imagination and ingenuity can soar to amazing heights!
 The sandboxes were incredible -- large, deep and usually near a source of running water to make the most amazing trenches and gulleys and bridges.  It was raining on the day we visited this playground, but in the sand and water areas the kids often wore their rain gear anyway just to stay clean and dry.  Brilliant!

 I super-love this little wood-stump labyrinth.  Dear Madison Parks Division.... can you build us one of these at our park?  Pretty please?
 Besides the sandboxes, many of the playgrounds also had beautiful water play areas. (It was a drizzly rainy day when we visited, so everyone was wearing their special rainsuits and awesome rain hats.)
 And this playground even included a wooden cook stove with incorporated wok. Yes, with real fire that the kids stoked themselves.  Apparently, the parents of these children had actually requested this element because, since their own houses largely have modern appliances, they were afraid that their children would lose this central element of their cultural heritage and so now it's incorporated into their play at school.
Painting areas often included defunct cars -- fun to paint and fun for pretend road trips!
The challenging art of transferring a 3D structure to a 2D drawing:

I saw lots of Play Stories being created:
But I also learned for the first time about Play Planning -- a pre-play activity that will definitely be incorporated into my upcoming programs!
One of the highlights of the trip for me was being invited to speak about my Wild Rumpus summer events to a room full of school principals from all over China (as well as my fellow study tour group participants).  What an absolute honor! (this photo is during the Q&A session at the end.  The person speaking is a school principal from Mongolia and her translator. Note the camera crew -- I think from a local news station? Eep!)

Now that I'm home, I am just starting to organize all of the information that I took in over the last week.  I'm looking forward to weaving this new learning into my library work and I'm looking forward to going back to China again someday.  There is so much more to learn from these amazing educators!  I am so incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity.

Please note: "Anji Play,” refers to a specific philosophy and comprehensive approach to early education developed by Ms. Cheng Xueqin in Anji County, China. I use the term "Anji Play" to describe my programming and throughout this blog with the explicit permission of Ms. Cheng because our programming has been developed as part of a close collaborative relationship with her and her team of Anji Play educators. If you are interested in learning more about how you can bring Anji Play to your community, please visit

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