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by: 
Jill Hinn, Kids and Families Outreach Librarian

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: 

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.

by: 
Jenny, Golden Library

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. 

WHERE: Apex Center Clubhouse Adventure Playground

       13150 W 72nd Ave, Arvada, CO 80005

       (303) 424-2739 

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

  

by: 
Karen, Kids and Families Outreach Librarian

As a bilingual English/Spanish librarian, I often hear from adults that they studied Spanish in high school, but they remember very little from those days. It makes perfect sense when you look at brain development.  When babies are born, about 15% of their brains have developed.  By the time a child is 3, 85% of the brain has developed.

Researchers have found that by 6 months old, babies are already showing a preference for a certain language.  Baby brains are wiring to the rhythms and sounds they hear from their families, caregivers and community.  More studies go on to say that the best window of opportunity to learn a second (or third, or fourth...) language is between 0-7 years old.    

Learning another language by the time we reach middle or high school can be too late!

Our corpus collosums (the part of the brain that connects the left and right side of the brain) grow harder as we age.  Connections from one side to the other are no longer as quick as they are in young children when the corpus collosum is soft and malleable.  Learning new things becomes more difficult. And, as we get older, we learn more and more information.  Our brain starts pruning away at unused information.  Ever hear the phrase 'Use it or lose it'?  That's what our brain is constantly doing; trimming away at what it doesn't see as useful to us any more. 

So why teach a child another language?  For one, it has amazing affects on learning new concepts and problem solving!  People who know more than one language can quite literally think 'outside the box' more readily than a monolingual or one language speaker.  That's because they already think in different languages or in more than one way!

Also, younger learners can learn how to produce the native sounds of another language much easier than older learners.  Think of the early wiring to language sounds as babies and the pruning the brain does as we age.  When we are young, the brain is activated to learn as much as it can, including how to form sounds with our mouths and tongues.  For example, as children, if we don't have an experience rolling an 'rrrr' (I used to mimic my cat's purring), we will have a difficult time later in life trying to learn how to do it. The brain is more open to learning how to produce sounds during the early years or this critical period in its development.  Wow! As a former preschool teacher, this stuff facinates me!  

Here's an easy book in English and Spanish with bright pictures of familiar foods to check out:

Over the next few months, I will be exploring more about second language learning and sharing ideas on teaching your child another language---even if you don't know another language yourself!  

If you're looking for ideas or want to get started right away, come to Bilingual (English/Spanish) story times or ASL (American Sign Language) story times at Belmar Library!

 

Carrot photo credit: www.alternativa-verde.com

 

 

by: 
Jenny, Golden Library

You know, even when the weather is delightful, it can be challenging to come up with new and fun things to do with kids. There are naps to contend with and snacks to pack and diapers and toys and it can seem like it's probably just easier to stay at home and have a pretend adventure.  

Follow Me! is a new series in which we'll explore fun places for kids in or near Jefferson County. The places we'll highlight will be free or extremely affordable or just so totally worth the price of admission that I can't resist sharing them with you.

I have 2 kids and I'll be absolutely straight with you: I'll tell you who had a good time, who needed to be older or younger and/or if anyone cried the whole time (even if it was me). I'll let you know if the staff and other patrons were actually welcoming or if anyone cringed and fled when they saw us coming. I'm a mom who happens to be an information professional: just like you, I want to know if getting everyone out the door is really going to be worth it.

But first - there are some fun holiday happenings this weekend that I don't want you to miss:

Friday, December 5 beginning at 4:00pm - There will be dancing, caroling and free photos with Santa before the annual Olde Golden Candlelight Walk. You may bring your own candles, or purchase them at the Golden Chamber of Commerce. Consider visiting the Golden Library beforehand for cider and to explore our collection of holiday books to enjoy following the festivities!

Friday, December 5 at approximately 5:30pm - Santa and Mrs. Claus are going to light the community tree at the Evergreen Lake House, followed by the annual Holiday Walk from the Lake House through Downtown Evergreen! Visit the Evergreen Library before visiting Santa to get holiday books to share after the festivtities! 

Saturday, December 6 noon-3pm - Bring a camera! Santa will be in Arvada's Olde Town Square every Saturday afternoon until Christmas! Guess what else is near Olde Town Square! (Do you see where I'm going with this? Wait for it...) Visit the Arvada Library before or after seeing Santa, choose some holiday books and films and keep the spirit of your super-fun adventure going well into the season. 

Watch this space for more kid-friendly fun!

Photo credit: Vicky Brock on flickr

 

by: 
Barbara, Evergreen Library

HEY...LEGO my EGGO!

I'm starving and if you think you can just waltz in here and grab my Eggo when I have been waiting so patiently for the toaster to pop...you've got another thing coming buddy!

What? This isn't about my Eggo?

You said LEGO? As in the building blocks?

Oh, well that makes more sense...

So, no Eggo's at the library? Just LEGO's at the library? That could be fun!

LEGO Club has made a huge splash at your local Jefferson County Library, offering monthly programs for both kids and teens. All you need is a little imagination and some elbow grease, and we'll provide the rest.

Now back to my Eggo...where'd I put the syrup?

 

by: 
Barbara, Evergreen Library

PRINT MOTIVATION: Being interested in and enjoying books.

I LOVE BOOKS!!!

I know, you're saying "Well duh, you're a librarian". But, even if I was a rocket scientist or a zoo vet I would still love books!

Even before my children were sleeping through the night (and believe me I don't miss those days) I would sit in my rocking chair and read to them. It would be just us, gently rocking, and listening to "a quiet old lady who was whispering 'hush'". You can inspire the same love of reading in your children, whether it's the wee hours of the morning or the middle of the afternoon, showing interest and enjoying reading with your children is where their love of reading begins.

According to The Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy (CLeL), that's why ECRR (Every Child Ready to Read) highlights PRINT MOTIVATION as one of their 6 early literacy skills designed to promote early literacy in young children.

Why Is It Important?

Kids who enjoy books and reading will be curious about reading and motivated to learn to read for themselves. Motivation is important because learning to read is HARD WORK!

It's important that we make sure our children start reading and listening to books from day one and that they have a good time with books.

What Can You Do to Help Build This Skill?

  • Have fun!

  • Read books you both like

  • Stop (or shift gears) when it is no longer fun. Length of time is not important; enjoyment is!

If you're looking for a tried and true classic...you're never too old or too young to enjoy, Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise-Brown. I promise!

So, find a comfy spot, curl up with a fun book and your little one, and let the magic begin!

by: 
Barbara, Evergreen Library

Have you ever read a goosebumps book? Not the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine. I mean a book that no matter how many times you read or re-read it, it gives you goosebumps. WONDER by R.J. Palacio is one of those books!!

August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face.

WONDER, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance. 

The magic of Wonder continues in these beautifully written companion books.

365 Days of Wonder by R.J. Palacio

This companion book features conversations between Mr. Browne and Auggie, Julian, Summer, Jack Will, and others, giving readers a special peek at their lives after Wonder ends. Mr. Browne's essays and correspondence are rounded out by a precept for each day of the year—drawn from popular songs to children’s books to inscriptions on Egyptian tombstones to fortune cookies. His selections celebrate the goodness of human beings, the strength of people’s hearts, and the power of people’s wills.
 
There’s something for everyone here, with words of wisdom from such noteworthy people as Anne Frank, Martin Luther King Jr., Confucius, Goethe, Sappho—and over 100 readers of Wonder who sent R. J. Palacio their own precepts.

The Julian Chapter: A Wonder Story by R.J. Palacio

Now readers will have a chance to hear from the book's most controversial character—Julian.

From the very first day Auggie and Julian met in the pages of the Wonder, it was clear they were never going to be friends, with Julian treating Auggie like he had the plague. And while Wonder told Auggie's story through six different viewpoints, Julian's perspective was never shared. Readers could only guess what he was thinking. Until now. The Julian Chapter will finally reveal the bully's side of the story. Why is Julian so unkind to Auggie? And does he have a chance for redemption?

CHOOSE KIND! It'll give you goosebumps!

 

 

by: 
Jennifer, Lakewood Library

Halloween is just hours away. Do you need some last minute decorations? Try these easy upcycle crafts that are great for kids.

Gather up your old jars and some paints to make this colorful Halloween luminaries.

 These cute egg carton spiders are great for toddlers and older kids to make. If you don't have pipe cleaners or wiggle eyes on hand, try using black paper strips for the legs and paste on your own paper eyes.

Wondering what to do with the empty toilet paper rolls from your mummy costume? Your little one will have lots of fun making these toilet paper roll pumpkins.

by: 
Jennifer, Lakewood Library

You daydream about catching your child reading Huck Finn or War and Peace but are rudely awakened to find them in front of the TV again. It seems like every conversation with your child ends with, "but books aren't as good as TV."

Why not capture your child's attention by introducing them to books based on their favorite TV shows or movies? The library owns several titles at many different reading levels based on popular TV shows and movies such as Scooby Doo and Star Wars. They may not be classic masterpieces but they just might get your child to read! Here are just a few of the popular TV shows or movies that you can find in books at your library:

 Barbie

 

Lego Ninjago

My Little Pony

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

 

Start your kids off on the path to reading with their TV and movie pals. Once the door to reading has been opened the possibilities are endless!

 

Photo credit: Lubs Mary. on Flickr

by: 
Barbara, Evergreen Library

Can we talk?

So far in Ready to Read Reminder, I have reminded you to WRITE, PLAY, READ, and SING and now we get to TALK. Just talk. What could be easier than talking?

I love to talk. Ask anyone who knows me and they'll tell you. I can turn a simple Yes or No answer into a 20 minute monologue on what I saw driving to work this morning. I actually blame Dr. Seuss', And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street, for my keen powers of observation while driving to and from home. You never know when you'll spot a blue elephant pulling a sleigh, with a Rajah, with rubies, perched high on his throne on your daily commute. I live in Evergreen, you know.

 I've had this love of talking since I was little. My report cards always came home with this curious addendum, "Barbara likes to visit with neighbors." They were right, I do! The gift of gab can be a wonderful thing!

That's why ECRR (Every Child Ready to Read) highlights TALK as one of their 5 practices designed to promote early literacy in young children.

How does talking with children help them get ready to read? According to  The Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy (CLeL), talking with children helps them practice (and eventually master) the following skills:

Vocabulary

The more words children hear in conversations during their early childhoods, the larger their vocabulary when they go to school. That big vocabulary helps them recognize words when they see them for the first time in print. They will understand more of what they read and be less frustrated as beginning readers.

Print Motivation

The more books children read, and the more adults talk to children about the story, characters, and ideas in books, the more children can make connections between the books they read and their own lives. Children enjoy recognizing themselves in print and that pleasure motivates them to read more and discover more connections.

Narrative Skills

When adults tell stories to children, either familiar folktales, or family stories, it helps children learn that stories have a specific structure: they have a beginning, middle, and end, they have characters who take action and encounter conflict before resolving a problem. When children understand how stories work, they can carry that framework to their reading, where it can support them as they try to determine the meaning of the text.

Comprehension is such a critical part of successful reading. If you don’t understand what you read, you won’t be motivated to read more. The more children know about the world before they start to read, the more this background knowledge can inform their attempt to decipher what’s on the page. Parents who discuss new information about how and why and when things happen with their children are giving their children an excellent foundation they will build on every day as readers.

Phonological Awareness

We’re used to thinking about Singing as the main practice that books phonological awareness, due to the ways songs stretch out syllables, slow down language, and provide lots of practice with rhyming sounds. But studies show that kids who are immersed in a lot of verbal conversations and a rich oral language environment show gains in their phonological awareness skills, as well. There’s just so much to learn about the sounds of our language, that the more information the brain receives, the better it can start to sort, classify, and understand the way those sounds work.

Letter Knowledge

We know that children need to know three things about letters: the names of the letters, the shapes of the letters, and the sound or sounds that are associated with those letters. Although some children may seem like they absorb this information on their own, most children build what they know about the letters through conversations with their parents and caregivers. Naming letters on signs and billboards, pointing out letter shapes in sidewalk cracks or buildings, and voicing letter sounds while reading alphabet books or playing with blocks are all ways these conversations help make these connections.

Print Awareness

A recent study showed that early childhood teachers can make a measurable impact on their childrens’ reading readiness just by adding a few simple activities to their shared reading every week. Teachers were trained to draw their children’s attention to print by simple activities such as pointing to the words in the title of a book, or underlining the words with their fingers as they read, or noticing the difference between uppercase and lowercase letters on the page. Children who received this type of guided reading showed greater achievements than children who didn’t in phonological awareness and letter knowledge skills up to two years later. Simple conversations can make a big difference!

The spoken word is a powerful thing...why just this morning I saw a flock of geese dancing across the road, while the foxes kicked a soccer ball around the field...it was amazing! But wait, wait, wait...there's more....

 

 Photo credit: Ed Yourdon on Flickr

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