Kittens ‘n Mittens

Three little kittens, three pairs of bright colored mittens, and a mamma cat looking all sassy and felted.

Our new children’s librarian started last week, and boy am I happy!  I truly do love doing storytimes (it’s the theatrical ham in me), but with all of my other duties, they make my workload almost unbearable.

For my next-to-last final storytime for our youngest group, I put together a Kittens ‘n Mittens themed storytime (basically, I was looking for an excuse to sing Soft Kitty with the children).  As the main story, we read Jerry Pinkney’s Three Little Kittens.  Right after the story I pulled out my handy-dandy flannel board, the kittens, mamma cat, mittens, and pie that I made based on Stories with Ms. Jenna‘s flannel kitties. She had obviously used thread and needle for the details (something that I don’t have the materials or skills for), so I improvised.  My greatest discovery was that I could cut a teensy-tiny piece of flannel and roll it into a ball for the kitten’s foot pads (I did a similar trick with the whiskers).Super-cute kitten close-up! D'awww!

I am very aware that our youngest children aren’t very strong visually, but we’re a small library and can only handle a handful of children at our events – so everyone gets a front row seat.  However, I’m still hoping to build a larger flannel board for future storytimes.

I also didn’t do a traditional story with the flannel board.  Since we had just read the story, I had fun seeing what the children could remember from the story, or I did an extremely shortened version depending on the groups’ interest levels.  The most popular part was when I let the kittens eat their pie and made silly nomming noises while holding the pie up to their mouths.

If you’d like any other information about what I did for this storytime, then don’t hesitate to ask!  Everyone had a purrfectly fun time.

My Almost Insta-Flannel Board

Ever since I found a love of felt (see here), I’ve been wanting to invest in a flannel board.  However, we’ll hopefully be getting a new children’s librarian soon ::crosses fingers:: and I have no idea if s/he is even interested in using felt in storytimes.  So, to spend the library’s money on something that may or may not be used is just wrong.

Enter ingenuity!

I have no idea if other people have done this, but this idea came to me because I’ve used various frameworks (from bulletin boards to empty frames) for other random crafty things and I was like, “hey, we have these extra unused picture frames at the library that I could totally use! It’ll be on the small side, but it should be quick, easy, and cheap.”  It was indeed all of the above!

Basically, I took out the glass from one frame and carefully discarded it.

A picture of a very sad picture that no one wanted to look at. Also the cardboard I used for later on in the project.

I then glued two pieces of black felt to the backer board (and trimmed the excess).

Empty frame, and the cheap cardboard backer partially covered with one of two black felt pieces.

It was on the flimsy side (this needs to stand up to curious toddlers who I hope will interact with the board), so I took a cardboard box lid and cut it to fit the frame. I then folded down the little metal prongs – and BAM! I was done.

The back of the frame with the bonus thicker cardboard backer - showing off my lazy cardboard-cutting style.

I now have a pretty snazzy gold-framed felt board.

That's it! A completed flannel board for storytimes using things that we had lying around the library.

The gold paint had flecked off a little bit in the lower left-hand corner of the frame (you can see the black splotches in the above picture).  I had a gold leaf pen at home, so I brought it in and used it to cover the damage – and it looks great! (refer to the top image of this post)

This truly was a fantastic instant gratification project.  I’ll be sure to let you know how well it holds up.  And if it does hold up well, then I may even think of making a few more with different colored felt backgrounds for different stories.  It would also be fun to add a hanger to the frame and hang it up somewhere in the library where we could switch out what was in the frame(s) to go along with the decor each month.

I showed my boss this project and she was so excited about it that she’s offered to bring in a much larger picture frame of hers to be converted since the glass was cracked.  I’ll be sure to post about that board as well if we do indeed flannelize it.

Side Note: I made the turkey from the top image from using the template found here.  I plan to use this in a toddler storytime, so I wanted to make only the large feathers, and didn’t embroider the feathers since I wanted sticking power.

Quirky Turkeys

Showing off my waddle-less turkeys as I practice singing the song. And now I have "Fiiive turkey rings" in my head a la "five golden rings" from The 12 Days of Christmas.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been sorting/organizing the craft closet in preparation of hiring a new Chidren’s Librarian.  It’s also been a fascinating adventure since I didn’t know that we had half the things that are in our closet.  I came across a sad/worn felt board, and then an entire box of commercial felt characters from books (where images are printed on the felt).  I decided it was time to invest in a new board, and that I’d have the new librarian go through the box to see if s/he wanted to keep or use any of it.  The few that I looked at seemed rather flat, boring, and sad.

Honestly, the only flannel programming I’ve seen in libraries was when I was a child – it was Stone Soup and it was really cool.  I really don’t remember much from the flannel board story, but I remember having the sense that I’d just seen a really neat thing, and it’s the single storytime from my childhood that I remember.  I’d also seen plenty of felt components to other librarians’ storytimes that they’d shared online, but I didn’t fully get the appeal.

It wasn’t until I stumbled across this post by Abby Johnson on the ALSC Blog that something clicked in me.  I think it was that this particular song/felt combo spoke to me on a deep level, and the potential for using felt in our storytimes opened up to me (angels sang, trumpets blared, etc.). Maybe it was seeing a flannel mitt (which I’d never seen before) that made me realize how dynamic this medium could be.  And cute.  Never underestimate the power of cute.  Here’s the song that converted me to a flannel-lover (and like Abby, I couldn’t find the origin of this adorable song – so if you know, then please let me know and I’ll share):

Five Nervous Turkeys
(to the tune of My Bonnie)

Five (4, 3, 2, 1) turkeys were getting quite nervous – 
Thanksgiving Day soon would be back!
So one turkey put on a duck suit
(swap a turkey flannel out with a duck flannel)
And now he says “gobble, quack, quack!”

IS THAT NOT THE CUTEST THING EVER?!

Anywho, I double-checked to see if we had a mitt (we didn’t) and so I went and dug through our small plastic bin of felt to see if I could either make one or come up with another idea.  And another idea I had!  Why not make rings (or super-simple finger puppets)?  My only concern is that I could mix them up when doing the song, and the two rings that really won’t work on different fingers are the pinkie and thumb ones.  I most likely will subtly number them on their back sides.

I grabbed some felt pieces that we had on hand and made my felt critters.  We didn’t have orange felt, but Mary suggested using an orange Sharpie to color some white felt (and it worked – huzzah)!  I drew a few outlines, but I mainly just “winged it” (bad pun intended).  I would use my first cutout as a template for the rest. Et voila!  Turkeys and duckies!  Okay, turkeys minus their waddles (seriously I just now noticed that I didn’t make waddles – but I don’t think that I’m going to make them out of fear of destroying the cute Sandra Boynton feel. But now I’m waddling back and forth between adding them or not. Yes, bad pun intended).

UPDATE: They’ve been waddle-fied!

And now for the duckies:

My completed felt duck finger puppets.

The back side of the felt finger puppets - their mystery revealed.

Very randomly, I now have “five turkey/duckie rings” a la “five golden rings” from The 12 Days of Christmas in my head.  Now it’s likely in yours.  You’re welcome.

Well, this is for later in this month, and I’ll be sure to update here if I have any noteworthy notes to share with y’all.  Until then, I leave you with a gif I made to illustrate what goes on in my head when I sing this song:

Turkey on Make A Gif

Bulletin Board Makeover

At the Children’s Library, directly across from the circulation desk hangs our events bulletin board.  It was very dark and utilitarian, but it got the job done of sharing both community and library events.  But I think that when most people think “children’s library” they don’t imagine utilitarian and gray things.

For awhile I’d been letting the thought of what to do with it percolate in my mind, and I finally decided to share that thought with Mary, one of my wonderful teammates.  I told her my kernel of an idea to turn the board into a TV with a color test pattern on it, and with some sort of label saying something like “take a look at what’s happening in the community.”  She liked the idea and so we started brainstorming about how we could make this happen.  We were chatting away when all of a sudden our teenage library page chirped up from somewhere in the stacks “Felt! Use felt!”  Mary and I looked at each other and went tearing back to the craft closet (high fiving our page as we passed her) to look into our felt collection.  We were short a few colors, so I made a list of ones to pick up along with some spray adhesive on my next library shopping trip.  We were wrapping things up for the night when our amazing page chimed in again, “You should totally put an antenna on top.”  SHAZAM! And suddenly our “new” bulletin board went from cute to SUH-WEET.  Never underestimate the power of a creative library page.

Within a week I had the felt and adhesive.  Mary then went about measuring, cutting, and laying out the whole thing.  She truly did an amazing job that would’ve taken me days to do (she did it in a few hours).  I also picked up a cheap rabbit-ear antenna, some white thumb tacks, and some googly eyes.  Yes.  Thumb tacks + googly eyes + super glue = super-crazy fun (and cheap) thumb tacks. So far the thumb tacks have worked fine – we just have to be careful sticking them in/pulling them out since the googly eyed parts are pretty weak.  If they eventually fall apart, then I may just invest in some sturdier pre-made ones.

UPDATE: The googly eyed thumb tacks finally were retired this year (3 years later) because they discolored in the sun and looked jaundiced. So we’re using plain white thumb tacks. For now. Heh.

For the antenna, I used a small angled snipping pliers (usually used for jewelry stuff) to trim the plastic post on the base where the antennas come together.  Then I stuck some cheap adhesive putty in the resulting hole and hot glued that bad boy down, but at a bit of an angle so that it comes out from the board a bit more.

In terms of adding a title to the board, I had the realization that we should create an emergency crawl near the bottom of the “screen.”  So Mary ran with that idea and found the perfect computer graphicesque font, typed a good title, printed it out, arranged, and adhered it to the now bright and cheery board.

So there you have it – from idea to completion – one of my favorite things that I get to look at in the library every day!

And with flyers:

UPDATE: Three years later it’s still going strong! There’s a bit of wear on the felt and the paper “band” near the base, but that’s it! Yay!