Flannel Friday: Come Under My Umbrella and Rain is Falling Down

It’s time for Flannel Friday’s Winter Extravaganza!  Amy at Catch the Possibilities is hosting this week’s wintery round-up so be sure to check out her blog for more winter ideas.

I’m sharing some super simple felt pieces I whipped up to go along with two songs I love to sing in the fall and winter.  I live in Vancouver, otherwise known as Raincouver, so these are very relevant to my storytime kiddos!

Come Under My Umbrella

Come under my umbrella, umbrella, umbrella
Come under my umbrella, it’s starting to rain
With thunder and lightning and thunder and lightning
Come under my umbrella, it’s starting to rain.

Before I sing this one, I ask the kids what the weather is like today.  Then I pull out the rain felt and we practice making the sign for rain.  Then I ask what we use to stay dry and pull out the umbrella piece and we practice making the sign for umbrella. Then we talk about how sometimes there is thunder and lightning and I put up the lightning pieces as we practice the sign. Then we sing the song together.  This really helps me slow down my pace, especially for toddlers.


Rain is Falling Down

Rain is falling down. Splash!
Rain is falling down. Splash!
Pitter patter, pitter patter,
Rain is falling down. Splash!
Sun is peeking out. Peek!
Sun is peeking out. Peek!
Peeking here, peeking there,
Sun is peeking out. Peek!
Snow is falling down, shhh!
Snow is falling down, shhh!
Falling here, falling there,
Snow is falling down, shhh!

I love using this one at the end of any storytime – babies, toddlers, preschoolers. It gives a nice calming vibe and can be done with scarves too. The sun is from my Zoom, Zoom, Zoom set and the rain is from the set above.  The snow verse is not in the video as I’ve only recently added it. All I had to make were some snowflakes to complete the song!

What are your favourite winter songs and rhymes? Let me know in the comments!

Guest Post: School-Age Filler Activities

Today I am excited to share another guest post!  We are accepting guest post submissions on an on-going basis so feel free to contact us if you’d like to share something related to youth services. We are open to ideas! This week our guest poster is all the way from Australia. Welcome Kristy Baker who is sharing ideas for filler activities for school-age kids.  For the past ten years Kristy has been working in a variety of learning environments in a variety of roles with young people. More recently, she worked as a Teacher Librarian before moving to the public library sector and is currently working in a public library in a rural part of north-west New South Wales, Australia. She can be found from time to time on Twitter at @kristybaker663.

I have been programming and facilitating two face-to-face Junior Book Clubs since the beginning of 2016. The programs are under development and include various activities aimed at promoting a love of reading, literature, and public libraries in young people and their families. The participants create and contribute in their public library by building displays or writing pieces for the eNewsletter. We used to facilitate a Maker Space and have run creative writing workshops in the school holidays – a lot of the ideas for book clubs crossover. One club is aimed at young people in kindergarten or prep – grade 2, and the other club is aimed at young people in grades 3-6. The younger club meets weekly, and the other meets fortnightly; both for one hour each. The need for a suitable activity spontaneously comes up during the meetings and I have found that planning meaningful activities for these instances can be just as useful as planning the main body of the meeting.

Fillers are activities that are implemented ‘on the spot’ in a moment when you have time to spare (such as waiting for a clip to load, everyone finishes the main activity with a lot of time remaining, waiting for everyone to arrive).

Hot Seat

Hot seat is a drama game that can be really effective and lots of fun. One participant takes on the role of a character that the audience is familiar with, and sits in the Hot Seat as questions are asked of them. The answers may not always be obvious and the aim is for the person in the Hot Seat to really consider the point of view of the character based on their knowledge of the story or character. Answers should be longer than ‘yes’ or ‘no’! Depending on when this filler comes up, you could use a character from a story shared in that session, or choose a well-known character.

Library Charades

This is a fun one that you can personalise to reflect your library space or activities. It is based on traditional charades with the element of mime, however all of the topics are about the library. For our Library Charades we take photos of the book club participants doing various library ‘things’ – activities or using particular equipment or within specific spaces – and the photos are used as prompts for the charade. Things like:

  • reading the blurb
  • browsing
  • using the OPAC
  • researching on a computer
  • walking up the stairs to the meeting room.

As we come across new topics or activities, or things change at the library, we can add new photos.

The game does take a bit of practice and demonstrating of clear actions! Participants take 3 guesses from the audience before volunteering clues. We have some really tricky ones that the participants wanted to include – such as book titles, and even verso page – for these ones we give some verbal clues up front! Participants, one at a time, select a piece of paper with a photo and act out the content. I play the game in this format with the younger club and I quietly double check with the person doing the actions if they understand what the topic is first. I’ve found it’s highly necessary for me to know what will be acted out too because sometimes the participants misunderstand or may not see the connection between a guess and the topic.

Activities for Early Finishers
Not every child will finish an activity, such as craft, at the same time. (If this is your goal, using timers – such as sand timers – can be really useful). There are some simple activities that can be employed for individual early finishers that won’t take your time away from the whole group. The first example, below (Story Tree) is specific to one of the Book Clubs I run and relates to a broader idea.

Story Tree

We have been ‘growing’ the Story Tree as a part of the younger Book Club since the club commenced. All of the leaves feature the title and author of the stories we read each session. (Participants can also add a pear to the tree. Pears feature a text a child has read outside of Book Club & has shared with the club). A child can colour a leaf for the Story Tree for a book read in that session (the leaf can have the title and author/illustrator details written by you, or the child) and stick it on the tree. If you don’t have wall space available to display something like this, you could possibly make a scrapbook. Older children could do something asking for more detail about the text, as well as choose their own display theme.


As a part of being in Book Club, participants are the first to preview new items from the Junior collections. Early Finishers can browse these items, with or without some targeted direction such as – who would you recommend the items for, how would you describe the style, what’s your favourite part – depending on the text type and length. Again, sand timers as a time management tool can be useful so kids know how long they’ve got with the activity.

Why plan fillers and early finisher activities when you may not need them?

  • You will end up needing them, at some point!
  • They can become regular, or routine, activities that participants get to know and can either run themselves or are just very seamless to employ – not taking much time or preparation.
  • They are activities that you can add to your repertoire!

What activities do you employ for early finishers or as time fillers?

We’ll Link to That: Fall 2017

Did you see my recent post about the Library Services for Children Journal Club?  If not, read that post first!  Then come back and read our Fall 2017 YAACING column which is all about where to find current child development research.  Research informs our practice and we are here to help you find it.  You can find all of our columns for the YAACING newsletter on our professional development page.


Today’s column is all about research! Being familiar with child development research makes us better able to speak to the why behind the what we do. So we’ve rounded up 10 of our favourite places to look for research articles and reports on child development and early literacy. Many of these resources focus on the early years, ages 0 to 5, as this time period is crucial for future brain development.

  1. HELP Reads and Literature Reviews: The Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) at UBC compiles bibliographies and citation lists of child development research articles published by their staff and affiliates each year. The lists are extensive and organized by topic for easy browsing. You could spend hours here, folks!
  2. Academic Journals: Reading peer-reviewed academic journals is a great way to stay on topic of current research. Check your library’s databases such as Academic Search Elite to see if you can get free access to Child Development, Journal of Early Childhood Research, or Early Childhood Research Quarterly for the newest findings.
  3. Science of Early Childhood Development: The British Columbia Office of the Early Years provides free access to this incredible resource for those of us in B.C. This initiative is “designed to make current research accessible to anyone interested in learning more about the impact of early experience on lifelong health and well-being.” Includes interactive activities such as videos, questions for reflection, and links to further information.
  4. Journal of Childhood Studies: This peer-reviewed journal comes from the The Canadian Association for Young People. All articles are published freely online and focus on issues  “pertaining to young children in the Canadian context as well as Canadian young children in relation to the global stage.”
  5. Center for Childhood Creativity: The CCC is the research and advisory division of the Bay Area Discovery Museum (BADM) and provides a link between academic research and adults’ work with children ages 0-10. Their white papers, literature reviews, and position papers give evidence-based expertise in children’s creativity development. A great resource for planning school-age programs!
  6. Saroj Ghoting’s Early Literacy Research Round-Up: The name says it all, Ghoting’s Round-Up covers a variety of topics organized by categories like demographics, child and brain development and literacy skills. She links to seminal works as well as collects wider ranging articles from diverse publications. An excellent place to start if you are new to the field or check back if you need some inspiration.
  7. Zero to Three: Where to begin?! This site it a wealth of resources- all with an emphasis on supporting parents and caregivers. Check out their baby brain map, stay up to date with early literacy research and policy and point families to the articles on common topics like sleep, nutrition, social skills and so much more.
  8. Handbook of Early Literacy Research, Volume 3: This is the third volume edited by Susan B. Neuman and David K. Dickinson. Building on Volume 1 (2003) and Volume 2 (2007) Neuman and Dickinson provide updates to core topics like Basic Developmental Processes and Supporting Code-Related Abilities while expanding on Development among Diverse Populations. They then support this research with findings on early literacy interventions, curriculum and social policy. Lindsey refers to this as her early literacy Bible- and she isn’t far off- a text to read slowly, mark up, digest and discuss!
  9. Reading Rockets: is an organization dedicated to “offering information and resources on how young kids learn to read, why so many struggle, and how caring adults can help.” They have an incredible section on early literacy research as well as printable materials for caregivers and teachers, videos and booklists. We like the focus on reading not just from the early years but well into school years and as a process with many parties- caregivers, librarians, teachers, book creators and beyond.
  10. Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs by Ellen Galinsky: There are many fabulous parenting books out there which cover early brain development but we particularly love Galinsky’s focus on the essential skills of “focus and self control, perspective taking, communicating, making connections, critical thinking, taking on challenges, and self-directed, engaged learning.” Recommend this one to caregivers or read it yourself; it is engaging and informative.

Where do you look for research on child development and early literacy? Send us an email at jbrary@gmail.com with your go-to resource.

LSC Journal Club: November 2017 Recap

Yesterday we had the inaugural meeting of our Vancouver Library Services for Children Journal Club! If you missed my post about the LSC Journal Club, go read it now and find out all about this free professional development resource aimed at anyone serving children in libraries.

The articles we read and discussed were about executive function skills in early childhood development. Our discussion leader started by recapping the articles and giving us a clear definition of executive function. It can be broken down into the following three dimensions:

  • Working Memory: The ability to hold and use information in our minds over a short period of time. For example, a child being able to follow three simple directions is using their working memory.
  • Inhibitory Control: The skill we use to think before we act and resist temptations. A child would use this skill to refrain from hitting another child who has taken their toy.
  • Cognitive/Mental Flexibility: The ability to switch gears or tasks and take on different perspectives.  A child uses cognitive flexibility, for example, when trying different ways to get a science experiment to work.

Executive function skills support the learning process and develop over time with the preschool years being a prime developmental window.  Stress in early childhood can affect the development of executive function, but interventions have been shown to help kids overcome this deficit.

We spent a large portion of our discussion talking about ways we can support the development of executive function at the library.  As a place, we are one of the key environments kids spend time in as they grow.  There are so many storytime examples in particular that we are already doing such as: having a mystery box or having kids practice taking turns or doing deep breathing and asking kids about their emotions.  The list goes on! For even more examples, I encourage you to watch the webinar Using Storytime to Grow Executive Function and Self-Regulation in ECE.

We noted though that as a library we often only have kids in our programs for 30 minutes to an hour. It can be hard to build relationships with the kids or between kids in such a short time span.  We felt that early childhood educators such as preschool and daycare teachers who see little ones all day long would benefit from learning about executive function too. We offer professional development programs for ECEs and brainstormed ways we could include this content in some of our workshops.  Finding ways to make the language around executive function accessible to all is another point we stressed.

Here are some questions we continue to ask ourselves:

  • How can we take the academic lingo in these research articles and translate it into layman terms that would be appropriate to use in storytime or other programs for adults?
  • What are some ways to incorporate executive function scaffolds into school-age programs, especially for the kids who would otherwise be deemed a “problem'” or “lazy”? How can we make adjustments, not punishments?
  • What types of play-based programs for the 0-5 crowd can be utilized to fill the gap for families who for whatever reason don’t come to storytime?

What I love about the LSC Journal Club is that even if I don’t come away with all the answers, I do come away with more knowledge of the why we do things and the confidence that it is rooted in research.  I’d love to hear your thoughts about executive function! Let me know what you think in the comments.