Feb. 15 - All libraries will be closed for Presidents Day.
Now that all the craziness of the holidays is over, you might have the January blahs. It's cold and snowy, and some days gray, and there's not much going on. One way to beat the January blues is to help someone else out.
Ever notice how doing something kind for someone else can make you feel good? Show your kids how to do that and the rewards are endless: You get to spend quality time with your kids while teaching them the values that are important to you. Somebody gets helped. Depending on where you're helping, important conversations about how the world works and what their place in it is could come up.
There are many ways that you and your children can get involved in your community and I'll give you a few ideas to get you started:
- Now that everybody has new toys, how about cleaning out some of the old stuff and donating what is in good condition to an organization that will put it to good use? Both Arapahoe and Jefferson counties have Santa Shops that low income families can shop at for free in December. Contact them and see if they take donations all year round.
- It can be hard to find an organization that will accept children as volunteers due to liability/insurance issues. However, you are interested in doing something for a charitable or local institution:
- The Action Center (formerly known as The Jeffco Action Center) will accept kids to do certain tasks, such as sorting food. They also have ideas on their website if you're interested creating your own project.
- Feed My Starving Children is a "non-profit Christian organization committed to feeding God’s children hungry in body and spirit. The approach is simple: children and adults hand-pack meals specifically formulated for malnourished children, and we ship these meals to nearly 70 countries around the world." To join a packing session here in Colorado, you need to find a MobilePack event to join--or if you're really ambitious, set up your own! Our family did this and we felt we did something meaningful and useful and found it very rewarding.
- Why not call a nursing home near you and see if they have any need for visitors?
- Next time it snows, grab your shovels and help out a neighbor or two, especially if you know of someone who might have a hard time shoveling themselves. Make their day!
Want to start a bit smaller? Check out this book:
It's fun to read; read it with your kids and pick one or two--or all!--to do together.
Whatever you choose to do, big or small, the important thing is that you are showing your kids that they matter--to you, most importantly, and to the world at large. Show them that what they do can have an impact on the world they live in. And everybody wins.
Photo Credit: Jill Hinn
2001 Colorado Blvd
Denver CO 80205
Open (nearly) Every Day
Closed Christmas Day
Adult (19-64): $14.95
Junior (3-18): $9.95
Senior (65+): $11.95
Family Membership: $90/year*
I know, barely 2 posts in and I've already gone a little off-message.
No, the Museum isn't in Jeffco, and it's also not super budget-friendly, but I am so impressed by what they're doing for kids over there, I had to share it with you!
The Museum is a big part of my elementary-school memories (remember when it was the Natural History Museum? Me too). I went to a Denver Public elementary school and lived near City Park. In high school, my Biology 2 class went on the very best and most educational field trip ever to the zoo and Museum. I learned a TON and had more fun than I thought possible while doing such a challenging assignment. (Thanks, Mr. Fredell!) I love the Museum and was really excited to share it with my kids. Maybe over-excited.
We bought a membership and took the kids in 2012. Unfortunately, Big Brother (then 3) and Little Sister (then baby) didn't think the Museum was as awesome as I do. To be fair, Little Sister would've happily gone wherever we liked, as she was in a carrier and didn't have a choice. Big Brother was content to spend All Day Long in the Space Odyssey exhibit: putting on space suits, piloting the shuttle and playing with "moon rocks."
I was eventually able to coax him into the Prehistoric Journey, but he tore through it at break-neck pace and seemed a bit underwhelmed that the dinosaurs were mostly bones (we tried to prepare him, but 3 isn't a great age for listening - am I right?) We took him on a forced march of the Gems & Minerals (my favorite) before going back to Space Odyssey. On the way home, we reluctantly admitted that perhaps we'd tried to make the museum happen a bit too early for our intended audience.
Fear not, dear readers, the Museum had a master plan for families like mine and it is the Discovery Zone. This space is intended especially for 3 to 5 year-olds, but includes activities for younger and older siblings. On Level 2, it's set about as far away from the front entrance as it could be and still be in the same building. This seems like bad planning at first, then you realize that there are acres and acres of stroller parking just outside the exhibit. It's genius.
Oh, where to begin? There's a sand pit to dig for dinosaur bones and other fossils. They've even thoughtfully included a dino to climb on. There's a waterworks, where kids can get elbow-deep and splashy while learning about currents, surface-tension and density. The construction corner has blocks of varying shapes and materials, as well as a magnetic wall where kids manipulate tubes and bumpers to create a vertical ball-maze. The Science Kitchen features puzzles and art projects (and is home to the exhibit's Family Restroom).
We arrived about halfway through a well-attended production at the Explorer's Clubhouse, which we decided not to try to squeeze into, but it looked super fun. We also did not explore the Big Backyard, but it is perfectly charming and the parents and tots in the space seemed quite content.
Big Brother is 5 now. Like the boy in the photo above, he was compelled to climb on the dinosaur first thing, and couldn't resist the lure on the way out, either. He enjoyed digging for fossils, but had to be reprimanded for flinging "sand" too enthusiastically. Little Sister is almost 3 and she spent most of her time in the Construction Corner. We built a monster and we built a road with the blue foam blocks.
The Water Way was a big hit with Big Brother, but too crowded for Little Sister. They do provide these thick, dentist-x-ray-type smocks, but the kids will come away damp (and happy). Both kids made straw sculptures at the moon table in the Science Kitchen.
I say this in the most delighted way possible, but it's really almost too much for one visit. When we come back, I hope Little Sister will try the Water Way. I hope we can get to another of the art tables in the Kitchen. I hope we can build a vertical maze from scratch without impacting anyone else too much.
While the Discovery Zone alone is practically enough to fill a day, I also noticed other little things the Museum is doing for its smallest visitors. In the Wildlife Exhibits, there are more manipulatives than I remember. We found some 12x12 picture blocks to build and knock down, alpacas to arrange by size, a python to test your strength - and that was just while we tried to find a short-cut to Whales!
We didn't see everything we wanted to see this visit. We didn't do everything we wanted to do. But we were able to say, in all confidence, "Next time, we'll be back very soon!"
* We renewed our Family Membership in late November to take advantage of a 30% discount. Also, keep an eye out for Free Days.
Photo credit: Denver Museum of Nature and Science
Ever notice when you hear someone speak another language how different not only the words sound, but how different the rhythm is? Music is great for learning our native language rhythms and also for exposing your child to another language. Singing songs slows down the words. Each sound is more emphasized. Music also triggers our memory. I find it funny I can't find my keys half the time, but I can still remember all the words to "Frère Jacques" at any given moment!
A great website to check out is www.storyblocks.org. On it you'll find videos of songs and rhymes in 3 languages to try with your little ones: English, Vietnamese and Spanish. The songs and rhymes are taught by local parents and librarians! I love the video with our very own librarian, Cecilia, singing in Spanish 'Dos Manitas, Diez Deditos' or 'Two little hands, Ten Little Fingers'. The words are also transcribed just below and to the right of the video. I recently sang this song during a guest baby time appearance at the Evergreen library. I was impressed by the mamas who learned it along with their babies!
An easy song to learn body parts is 'Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes'. I have written it out in Spanish:
Cabeza (Ka bay za) Head
Hombros (Ohm bros) Shoulders
Rodillas (Row dee ahs) Knees
Pies (Peeyays) Feet
Cabeza, Hombros, Rodillas, Pies, Rodillas, Pies
Ojos (O hos) Eyes
Orejas (Or ay hahs) Ears
Boca (Bo Ka) Mouth
Y Nariz (EE Na Rees) Nose Y= 'and'
Cabeza, Hombros, Rodillas, Pies, Rodillas, Pies
Not ready to sing a song in another language? Never fear! There are CD's and You Tube videos out there to do the singing for you! For example, when I was teaching, I really liked playing Hap Palmer songs. On 'Learning in two Languages/Aprendiendo en dos idiomas', he sings each song in English and Spanish. He sings very clearly and you can find his lyrics written out online.
Here is a link to a lovely YouTube video by Natasha Morgan. It is simply animated and shows her hand drawing animals while she sings and writes out greetings as well as counts numbers up to 12 in French and English.
Adiós, Au Revoir and Goodbye for now!
Image credit: flickr
LETTER KNOWLEDGE: Knowing that letters are different from each other, knowing letter names and sounds, and recognizing letters everywhere.
What begins with A?
Oooh, oooh...I know, I know!!!
I can also tell you what begins with BIG B, little b, BIG C, and little c...
I have Dr. Seuss to thank for this pithy little saying sticking with me all these years, and that is how simple creating letter recognition is with your child. Repetition, rhyme and enjoyment go a very long way in developing your child's interest in letters.
According to The Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy (CLeL), that's why ECRR (Every Child Ready to Read) highlights LETTER KNOWLEDGE as one of their 6 early literacy skills designed to promote early literacy in young children.
Why Is It Important?
To read words, children have to understand that a word is made up of individual letters.
What Can You Do to Help Build This Skill?
Look at and talk about different shapes (letters are based on shapes).
Play “same and different” type games.
Look at “I Spy” type books.
Notice different types of letters (“a” or “A”) on signs and in books.
Read ABC books.
Talk about and draw the letters of a child's own name.
What begins with A?
Aunt Annie's alligator...A...a...A.
Oh, sweeter words have never been said!
Have you seen those T-shirts or posters floating around on social media that say, "Keep Calm and Eat Chocolate" or "Keep Calm and Call Batman"? The original poster dates back to 1939. The poster read, "Keep Calm and Carry On". It was made to encourage the people of Britain during World War II.
My poster says, "Keep Calm, It's Just Dyslexia". Does your child have dyslexia? I want to encourage you. Keep calm - it will be all right!
Hi. My name is Anna. I'm totally dyslexic and I work at the library surrounded by the things that intimidated me as a child….BOOKS! I'm passionate about helping kids who struggle with reading. As a child, I used to hate reading out loud in class. I stuttered my way through my assigned passage. Now, I read out loud to kids throughout Jefferson County and I don't even stutter!
Statistics show that 15-20% of the population has dyslexia. There are even some popular, dyslexic authors on our shelves here at the library. My personal favorite is children's author and illustrator Patricia Polacco. Poor Patricia Polacco couldn't even read until she was 14 years old! She wrote a book about the teacher who helped her discover her dyslexia. It's called "Thank you, Mr. Falker."
Does your child have dyslexia or another kind of learning disability? Well, I'm not an expert. However, I do have the magic power of seeing things backwards. In my next few blog posts, I want to offer some suggestions of things that helped me overcome my dyslexia.
One thing I'd like to mention in this post is the importance of discovering your child's learning style. For a dyslexic reader, our eyes may play tricks on us but our other senses compensate for our weakness. For example, I've got some pretty amazing ears! That's how I learn. I listen and I remember. What is your child's learning style? Is it: auditory, tactile, or visual? If you are not sure, here is a link that offers clues and characteristics about each learning style.
If your child is an auditory learner, the library has many books on CD. There are probably bunches ready for check out right now! To take it a step further, while your child listens to the CD, put that same book in your child's hands. Just like that, they are reading and listening! More importantly, they will actually better comprehend the text because they are using their super, amazing ears! In the Children's section at your library, there are several kits that have the CD and picture book paired and ready for check out. These would be great for younger children.
Another suggestion I have is reading to your child. I have a sweet memory of my mother reading to me as a child. We would dim the lights and eat popcorn while she read to me. I didn't have to read out loud like I did at school; the pressure was gone. I just had to listen. She would pass her finger under the words as she read so I could follow along if I wanted. That regular experience definetly made me more comfortable in front of a book.
What can you do to help raise the score on those spelling exams? Record yourself and your child spelling the word out loud. Repetitive listening will help spelling test scores significantly. Singing the spelling words is another great way to help an auditory learner memorize spelling words. Clapping your hands or changing the tone of your voice for each letter is also effective. Just like that old nursery rhyme about a dog named Bingo.
When helping your child with homework, read the instructions out loud to your child. I'm sure your child's teacher will be happy to read test instructions to your child before taking a test.
Lastly, swing by for one of our storytimes at your local library. We don't just read at these storytimes, we sing, and move around. That moving around is just what the tactile learner needs. I'll feature the tactile learner in my next blog post.
- Singing helps children learn new words.
- Singing slows down language so that children can hear the different sounds in words and learn about syllables.
- Singing together is a fun bonding experience with your child — whether you're a good singer or not!
- Singing develops listening and memory skills and makes repetition easier for young children — it's easier to remember a short song than a short story.
- Movement gets the oxygen to flowing to those young brain and allows for a nice break to “Shake your sillies out.”
Pete the Cat is always a big hit with kids but why not try some other books that feature a sing-a-long song and picture book all wrapped up in one?
Give these books a try:
Let's Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy by Jan Thomas
Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum by Lisa Wheeler
The Croaky Pokey by Ethan Long
Photo credit: dok1 on Flickr
As readers of this blog already know, sharing books with very young children is important. The simple act of reading aloud to them, consistently, builds their language and socio-emotional skills. Children who enter kindergarten with these skills in place are most likely to thrive.
Last summer, The American Academy of Pediatrics, partnering with Reach Out and Read, began encouraging parents to read, talk, and sing during early childhood checkups. The project was profiled in a New York Times article:
“With the increased recognition that an important part of brain development occurs within the first three years of a child’s life, and that reading to children enhances vocabulary and other important communication skills, the group, which represents 62,000 pediatricians across the country, is asking its members to become powerful advocates for reading aloud, every time a baby visits the doctor.”
This strong endorsement of reading backs up a lot of what we do at the library every day. It's precisely why we invite parents and caregivers to baby and toddler storytimes. Library staff carefully plan 15-20 minute sessions with a blend of books that are just right for the age group with songs, activities, and opportunities to move.
Not only do the kids soak up the experience, but adults also participate in the rhymes and bounces. Storytimes give them a chance to do some bonding and to learn fun things to try at home. Afterward is play time and a chance for babies--and grown-ups--to make new friends.
Check out the latest storytime schedule to find storytimes for babies and toddlers at all of our libraries.
Photo credit: "I'm Dr. Miu" by Aikawa Ke on Flickr
As a child, one of my favorite parts of Christmas was reading my Little Golden Book version of The Night Before Christmas. My mom tells me that I was read the book so many times that I ended up memorizing it, and as a 4-year-old, I could recite the entire thing start to finish! Is it any wonder I ended up a librarian? Haha!
When a new batch of Little Golden Books crossed my desk a few weeks back, the sight of a pristine library copy of The Night Before Christmas brought me back to the happy Christmases of my childhood:
Sweet strings of Christmas lights twinkling outside my bedroom window at night. Ice skating to Christmas carols on an outdoor rink under the stars. Decorating the tree with old fashioned ornaments and clouds of silver icicles. Imperfectly made gingerbread cookies with smeary icing.
Relatives talking and talking, bathed in the dim glow of Christmas tree lights. A golden Christmas turkey, bright colored bowls of candy as pink as Santa's cheeks. Milk and cookies for the jolly old elf and carrots for the reindeer. An orange in the toe of my stocking and a wrapping paper explosion on Christmas morning!
Whether you borrow a copy from the library or buy one of these little golden gems as a Christmas present for your child, it is sure to make fond Christmas memories!
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!
Last week I saw on the news that families were spending less time together over the holiday due to time spent shopping, among other things. This year, why not take some time out from the hustle and bustle to craft great gifts with your kids? The benefits are numerous. First, you're creating connections with your children. You are creating a special time when they can be the focus--who knows what kind of great conversations you might have! Second, you're making something to give to someone. What better way to tell someone you love them than with a gift you've made? Third, depending on the craft you pick, you might be saving yourself some money!
You're not crafty, you say? Never fear, help is here! There are many resources out there for you; you just have to be able to follow directions. And I know you can do that! Start at the library. There are a multitude of books about making crafts. Here are a few about making presents specifically:
- Making Presents by Penny King
- The Usborne book of making presents
- Disney's Christmas Crafts for Kids
You can always check out some library events too. You never know when we might have a program about a craft!
Pinterest is another excellent place to get ideas. Pins generally have links back to more detailed instructions. You'll be surprised at the variety and number of options there are when you search Pinterest for "christmas gift crafts for kids."
You can also go to one of the big craft stores and buy kits that are all ready to put together. Remember, the idea is for you to spend some quality time with your child(ren), not to stress out about how to make something.
These are some of my favorites:
- Slow Cooker Cinnamon Almonds - these are easy to do, even the smallest helper can pour sugar and stir and then when they're done, help put them into decorative bags or boxes to gift. The people we gave them out to last year loved them, so we'll be doing them again this year.
- Ceramic Tile Coasters are one of my favorite crafts to make with kids. They are cheap and there are so many ways to decorate them that you can really tailor your design to different people. Color them with sharpies, paint your kid's hand and immortalize their handprint on one, glue a picture or a favorite team sports logo on them, the choice is yours. Here is one quick and easy tutorial.
- Ornaments are always a go-to at this time of year, too, and there are so many fun ideas floating around the web, you should easily be able to find one that fits your time, ability, and budget. How about this cute Cupcake Liner Christmas Tree?
Here's wishing you a holiday season full of joy, good cheer, time spent with loved ones, and maybe, a little crafting.
A few years ago, I left my job as a full-time librarian to stay home with my then 2-year old and my soon-to-arrive newborn. "Self," I said to myself, "we are going to have so much free time! However shall we fill our endless days?"
I know. I mean, now I know. I'll give you a minute to compose yourself. Have a small sip of water. Breathe into a paper bag or something.
There, where were we? Ah, yes. That year, Santa brought me this wonderful book, Playdate with Denver & the Front Range. I was delighted, and since I was suffering delusions of grandeur, I had BIG PLANS. We were going to ATTACK Denver & the Front Range. We were going to MAKE MEMORIES!! And then the baby came.
Long story short, I recently found that book under a pile of other great ideas and good intentions and it is the inspiration for this series. I really don't go enough places with my kids. I still want to make those memories, and I think we're ready now. We're starting the series off with one of my very favorite places to bring my kids - and the one place we visited regularly even when I didn't really want to go anywhere.
13150 W 72nd Ave, Arvada, CO 80005
WHEN: Clubhouse Winter Hours (Nov. 1-Memorial Day)
Monday-Friday, 7:30 am-9 pm
Saturday, 7:30 am-6 pm
Sunday, 9 am-7 pm
HOW MUCH: Free!!!
This place is just great. It's fun for babies and for big kids. There are tube slides and a climbing maze. One side is designed for the toddler/preschool set, with a short set of stairs to the slide. The other side appeals to older/more adventurous kids with a longer slide that requires more climbing and scrambling to get to.
In the last year or so they've added a few features to the play area: a foam canoe that seats 2-4 kids (depending on how territorial they're feeling), as well as a ladybug and a turtle that the pre-/early walkers love to play on.
The floor is made from rubber so most kids can easily shake off a minor stumble. Kids can "pilot" a helicopter, "drive" a daisy-car in the sky, repeatedly slam themselves into foam bumpers. I mean, look how fun that is! It's pretty much your neighborhood playground - but inside and way up high!!!!
Aside from water bottles, no food or drink is allowed in the Clubhouse, but there are tables and chairs just outside if you'd like to bring a picnic. There is also a snack bar where you can find reasonably priced standard snack-food fare. Full disclosure: we've never eaten at the snack bar. We live close enough that hungry-enough-to-whine-about-food time is also going-home time.
There are cubbies for jackets and shoes - socks are required. A few plastic stacking-style patio chairs are provided for parents and caregivers, but be prepared to get comfy on a nice bit of rubber floor. There is a bathroom in the clubhouse - it has one of those adorable (but wildly impractical for normal-sized humans) preschool-sized toilets and a changing table.
As you might expect, the Clubhouse gets very busy during inclement weather. It's a fabulous place to go to play during a snowstorm or cold snap, but you won't be the only one with that idea. If lots of stir-crazy kids running around like mad isn't your cup of tea - you may want to wait for a nicer day to visit.
The Apex Center's Child Watch daycare is attached to the Clubhouse as well - during peak times you may find lots of kids and not a lot of parents. This usually isn't a problem, as the staff is supervising, but if it's really crazy-busy sometimes the older kids can get a little wild while the staff is occupied with other children.
I love this place as much as my kids do. That magazine I can't find two seconds to flip through? That knitting project I'd like to finish before Christmas? That next level of Candy Crush? Hey kids! Let's go play at the Apex! They run themselves ragged, I get at least an hour and all I really have to do is "Mom! Watch!" every few minutes. An Apex day is always a good day.
Follow me, let's go places!
Photo credit: Rob Anna, Apex Center