Jul 19, 2023

Baby Sensory Time

Hello everyone! I'm Melissa, a Children's Librarian at GMPL. I've been a librarian since 2015, but I've only worked at GMPL since November. I wanted to share a program I hosted recently: Baby Sensory Time!

This program was designed for our youngest patrons: babies aged 0-18 months. Babies and parents explored several stations throughout the room with different sensory activities. All of them would be very simple to do at home. 

Here is the layout of the room:

Everyone was able to move freely between the stations. Most of the babies and parents seemed to have a favorite station that they wanted to return to multiple times. Let me give you more information about each station:

Pouring Station
This was a plastic container of water with various cups, spoons and measuring cups. Babies enjoyed scooping up water and watching it pour back into the container. If you wanted, you could add some food coloring to make the water brighter and easier to see. If I were going to repeat this activity, I would have used a shallower container. Some babies had trouble reaching the cups in the water. This didn't seem to deter them from trying! I would also recommend putting down towels or a tarp, and having extra towels handy. 

Jello Play Dough
I made Jello play dough using the recipe found here a few days before the program. I stored it wrapped in parchment paper in an airtight container in the fridge until the morning of the program. This play dough is completely edible (the flour is even cooked to make it safe to eat), but it includes a lot of salt. I tried it myself; it tastes like very salty Jello. Not very pleasant to eat, but completely safe. It has a wonderful, soft texture and smells heavenly, too! Unfortunately I didn't managed to take a photo of the babies playing with it, but some of the parents asked for the recipe so they could make it themselves at home.

Rubber Band Toy Grab
This one is super simple: a bin with small toys inside, with rubber bands stretched around it. This made getting at the toys difficult, so babies really had to think to figure out how to get to the fun toys inside. Putting the toys back inside was also a fun challenge. 

Water Exploration
Another incredibly simple setup: baking sheets with water, placed on top of some towels to absorb any splashes. This is especially great for babies doing tummy time and working on developing back muscles. Babies had fun splashing the water and observing how the water moved around the pans. You will definitely want to have an extra towel handy for this activity.

Whisk Activity
I gathered some pompoms of various sizes together in trays with silicone whisks. The babies explored putting the pompoms between the wires and pulling them out again. This is a great activity for working on fine motor skills. You could use a metal whisk if that's what you have at home. I happened to have silicone whisks. Any small container would work for containing the pompoms. You could even do this while your baby is sitting in their high chair.

Sponge & Water Play
Another great water activity. I cut up new sponges into strips for easy gripping and put them in a shallow container of water. Babies loved feeling the textures of the wet sponges and squeezing out the water. Several babies wanted to put the sponges in their mouths, so definitely don't use dirty sponges for this activity. If you can, I would recommend using multiple colors of sponges. I was limited by what was available at the store that day. Also make sure to have towels nearby!

This last activity was definitely the favorite with both babies and parents:

Rainbow Spaghetti
I followed the instructions I found in the book Exciting Sensory Bins for Curious Kids by Mandisa Watts to make the rainbow spaghetti. The basic instructions are: 

1. Boil the spaghetti as if you were preparing it to eat, but drain it a few minutes early. You want the spaghetti to be soft and pliable, but not mushy. 

2. Rinse the spaghetti with cold water. This stops the cooking and removes the starch so the spaghetti won't stick together so much.

3. Place the spaghetti in a gallon sized plastic bag with several drops of food coloring. I used gel food coloring, but regular will also work. Close the bag well and shake/massage the bag to help distribute the color. I had to reopen the bag to add more color a few times. Take it slow so you don't add too much. 

4. Once the spaghetti is the desired color, spread it out on a tray or baking sheet to dry for at least an hour. This helps the color adhere to the spaghetti, so it won't end up on your hands later. 

5. Once your spaghetti has dried, you can store it in a plastic bag in the fridge for 3-5 days. I made mine 3 days in advance and added it to a shallow bin the morning of the program.

Babies really liked grabbing the noodles out of the bin and feeling the texture in their hands. Parents loved putting the noodles on the babies' heads like hair! The spaghetti was surprisingly easy to clean up (it did end up all over the room!) and would be even easier once it dried, but I would definitely recommend having a tarp or hard floor underneath.

I hope this inspires you to try some fun sensory activities with your own little ones at home!

Jun 23, 2023

Our Favorite Youth Reads of 2022!

 Our Favorite Reads of 2022!


Hi, friends! I know it has been a while since we published. We have undergone staffing changes, return to in-person programming and much more fun since the last time we posted! However, we thought that now that we are back to capacity and some sense of normalcy, it was the perfect time to start blogging again! And what better way to start off then by telling you all about our favorite Youth reads of 2022! From graphic novels and picture books to chapter books and YA, there is sure to be something on this list for everyone to enjoy, no matter your age :) 

We're so happy to see you again!

xoxo, Youth Services 

Maggie, Youth Services Librarian

Knight Owl by Christopher Denise

This was the first book of Summer 2022 that really caught my attention; I have recommended it to every person who comes into the library and wants a recommendation. Owl wants to become a real knight, but he is also told that he cannot because of his size and strength (or lack thereof). However when the kingdom is under nightly attacks, Owl learns that what makes him different is actually what makes him the best knight! Recommended for ages 3-5. 

The Cat I Never Named by Amra Sabic-El-Reyess

The year is 1992 and Amra is a teen living in Bosnia with her family during the Muslim genocide that was taking place in her hometown of Bihac. However, in the midst of overwhelming darkness in her everyday life, there is a glimmer of light: Maci (pronounced Maht-zee), a stray cat that wanders home with Amra. Learning that tragedy and injustice can fall to Amra at school, home, or even walking the streets strikes less of a blow with the unconditional love of her family, neighbors, and her beloved Maci.  Recommended minimum age for readers: 13-17. 

*I read The Cat I Never Named as an audiobook.

Pirates love underpants by Claire Freedman

For my first outreach theme in October, I decided to do a theme of pirates as a subtle nod to costumes, Halloween, trick or treating, etc. Since then, I ask the children that I visit what stories they think we’ll read, and every single month, I usually have at least one child per classroom guess the “Pirates and the underpants book.” I don’t know if it’s because it is a silly story featuring golden underpants and sharks with silly boxers, but the children loved reading this story! For our final session, I plan on bringing in some of their favorites of the year, including Pirates Love Underpants! Recommended for readers aged 2-6. 

Bathe the Cat by Alice McGinty

This has become yet another favorite of the outreach classroom group! The story is of an orange tabby cat who is not too happy with the list of chores that his family has, so he decides to give the chore list a little… revamping! This hilarious and wild story features a blended family, LGBTQ+ parents and flags, and BIPOC characters that are sure to delight families and readers of all ages! Recommended for readers aged 2-6 years old. 

Swim Team by Johnnie Christmas

Swim Team was such an impactful read for me! I haven’t read too many other graphic novels that pulled me in and genuinely made me feel something/learn something about myself, society, etc. Bree is anxious for her first day at a new middle school which is heightened when she is forced to take the only remaining elective -- Swim 101. Never mind that swimming is one of Bree’s greatest fears! With the help of her elderly neighbor, Etta, Bree begins to learn not only about swimming but the family and racial history that has fed into that skill being lost within her community. I always love when I learn something from a fictional story, and that is exactly what happened here! Recommended for readers aged 8-12 years old. 

Melissa, Youth Services Librarian

John’s Turn by Mac Barnett

Every Friday at school, there is an Assembly with a special performance by students; some tell jokes, some do magic, and some play instruments! But when it is John’s turn, he feels very nervous about what his friends will think; will he be brave enough to show off his special gift? Recommended for ages 4-8. 

Knight Owl by Christopher Denise 

(P.S. If this is not your sign that this was a great read that it was recommended by TWO Youth Services employees, I don’t know what is)

Don’t Eat Bees (Life Lessons from Chip the Dog) by Dav Petty, illustrated by Mike Boldt

Chip is seven years old so he knows a lot about a lot of things, especially what to eat (important papers, Grandpa’s teeth, etc.) and what not to eat (bees). Any reader with a fur-friend will be able to relate with this silly and fun picture book! Recommended for readers ages 4-7. 

Jessica, Youth Services Associate

Potato Pants by Laurie Keller

A potato and his eggplant nemesis struggle to find the perfect pair of pants in this hilarious, heartwarming tale of forgiveness by Geise-award winning creator, Laurie Keller. Recommended for readers aged 3-7 years. 

Who wet my pants? By Bob Shea, illustrated by Zachariah Ohora

Reuben the bear expected a certain kind of reaction when he showed up to give his friends free donuts. However, it wasn’t them staring at the wet spot in a specific area. “WHO WET MY PANTS?!” he shouts, and the blame game starts. A hilarious tale of blame, forgiveness, and compassion, a very embarrassed bear is reminded that accidents can happen-- but with good friends by your side, life goes on! Recommended for readers aged 4-8 years old. 

The World of Emily Windsnap series by Liz Kessler, illustrated by Joanie Stone

Emily Windsnap doesn’t know how to swim; her mother has always cautioned her to stay out of the water. But when swim class starts at school, Emily thinks that she will finally have a chance to learn until she jumps and her legs start feeling strange-- like they’re stuck together. When she tries it again in the sea, she discovers that she grows a beautiful mermaid tail! With her new tail and an entire ocean to explore, Emily finds her way to new friends and new adventures in this illustrated series. Recommended for readers age 6-9. 

Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao by Kat Zhang, illustrated by Charlene Chua

The first in the Amy Wu series where we are introduced to the brave, tenacious, and funny Amy Wu. It is bao bun day at her house with her mother, father, and grandma, and Amy is determined to make the perfect bao! She watches her family carefully but cannot seem to make the perfect bao. But then, Amy has an idea that might finally result in the perfect bao-- will she succeed? Recommended for readers age 2-5. 

Itty Bitty Princess Kitty by Melody Mews, illustrated by Ellen Stubbings

Something exciting is happening in Lollyland! Itty Bitty Kitty’s eighth shooting star is about to arrive and that means she is going to become a princess! This new change brings excitement, but also some nervousness about how she will do as a princess. The first in a series of chapter books, this book will be sure to entertain the reading royal in your life! Recommended for ages 5-9 years.

Nov 19, 2021

Book Spotlight: The Whole World Inside Nan's Soup


There's something special and delicious inside Nanni's big metal pot. When her granddaughter asks what's bubbling on the stove, she gets an unexpected answer: Seeds. And soil. The farmers that lovingly and gently tend to their plants and harvest them. The trucks that drive the food to different corners of the world... and the roads that carry them. Even the sun, moon, and stars are found inside the pot. But what's the best soup ingredient of all? The one that really makes the soup special? That ingredient would be love; Nanni's soup recipe has been passed down through the generations and is meant to be shared. When Nanni asks her granddaughter if she'll remember all the ingredients she responds with, "The whole world!" 

Young readers can flip through this book over and over and still walk away with something new. The illustrations are incredibly detailed. With every ingredient listed, Nanni's granddaughter imagines the people, places, and things it took to make it possible to be inside Nanni's pot on the stove. Spreads are divided between a blue palette, similar to a vintage plate, and full color with an emphasis on beautiful peaches, oranges, pinks, and tans. While the picture book is wordy, it's the dialogue that gives momentum to the story and drives it forward, and the humor and sweetness shared between Nanni and her granddaughter can't be missed. This is a touching celebration of interconnectedness and journeys. So often now, children are disconnected from the work that goes into harvesting the food on their plates. This picture book, granted in a romanticized way, prompts young readers to think of how food goes from the farm to the table. Great for fans of Fry Bread, Thank You, Omu, and One Little Bag.

Nov 1, 2021

Book Spotlight: It Fell from the Sky

It fell from the sky on a Thursday, the beautiful, wonderful, mysterious thing. Despite their marveling, none of the insects in the garden know what it is or where it came from. Some say it's a gumdrop. Others say it's an egg. Is it a magical chrysalis? A fallen star or planet? Whatever it is, it fell near Spider's house. And Spider sees it as an opportunity. He invites insects far and wide to see the object on display for just a leaf, and it becomes an instant sensation. Spider grows greedy, however, building an expensive amusement park in the style of P.T. Barnum with other wonders from the sky. When interest wanes and a five-fingered creature from the sky snatches away the wonderous object that started it all, Spider is left alone and must decide what to do. 

Fans of The Night Gardener and The Barnabus Project will be happy to see another magical, luminous picture book from the Fan brothers. The illustrations and story are not only whimsical, but funny too. The personalities of the insects are clear through their expressions and their hypotheses about the wonder from the sky. The soft monochrome art makes the flowers and insects look like they could come alive and float off the pages, and it makes the colored object from the sky even more wonderous and illuminated. Enjoy this picture book for the fun story, or use it as a way to dive deeper into the themes of generosity, community, and wonder.  

Oct 26, 2021

Fall Crafts

What's better than a morning of crafting and eating cookies? Struggling to think of an answer? Same here! On Saturday, October 16th we offered a Crafts & Cookies program where families could enjoy a cookie or two (or three or four, we don't count when it comes to cookies) and a variety of fall-themed crafts. If you weren't able to join us, never fear! We're featuring some of the crafts below. We always have activities and crafts available in the Children's Department so make sure to visit and see what you can make with us. 

Thankful Turkeys
Brown paper bag
Colorful feathers
Construction paper in black, white, orange, and red

On the smooth side of a paper bag, glue a variety of feathers at the top. Flip the bag over.

Draw and cut out two white colored circles. Draw and cut out two smaller black circles. Glue the black circles onto the white circles to create eyes for your turkey. Glue them on the top rectangle of the paper bag. 

Draw and cut out an orange colored triangle for your turkey's beak. Draw and cut out a red colored wiggly line for your turkey's wattle. Glue the beak and wattle under the eyes.

Write what you're thankful for under the turkey's face.

Mini Monsters
Play-Doh (We purchased small jars of Play-Doh from Walmart, but feel free to use a DIY recipe to add to the fun)
Pom poms
Pipe cleaners
Googly eyes

Sculpt a monster out of Play-Doh and complete your friend by adding pom poms, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, and any other crafty accessories you want. Disassemble and reassemble for maximum monster creating. If you'd like your monster friend to be permanent, consider using an airdry clay instead of Play-Doh. 

Pasta Pumpkins
Pasta noodles in whatever fun shapes you'd like. We used shells for the pumpkin bodies and rigatoni for the stems and leaves. Wheels and fusilli would work nicely too.
Rubbing alcohol
Gel food coloring in green and orange
Ziploc bag
Construction paper and scissors (optional)

To get your pasta a pumpkin's signature orange color, you'll need to dye it. Mix together 1/4 cup of rubbing alcohol and 5 to 6 drops of orange gel food coloring in a Ziploc bag. Add a box of pasta noodles to the bag. Toss the bag to coat all the noodles with the mixture. Let the pasta sit for at least 30 minutes. The longer your pasta sits, the brighter the color will be. Remove the pasta from the bag and let it dry on foil.

Repeat the process for the pasta you want to be green. You can use regular food coloring if you don't have the gel version around the house; you'll just need to add more to get the vibrancy that gel food coloring creates. 

To make pumpkins, glue orange noodles in pumpkin shapes on a piece of construction paper. Use green noodles for leaves and stems. You can also draw and cut out additional shapes from construction paper to complete your masterpiece.      

Beaded Pumpkins & Maize
Pipe cleaners in orange, brown, and green
Pony beads in orange, yellow, red, and brown

To make a pumpkin, twist 6 orange pipe cleaners into a star or snowflake shape. String orange beads onto each leg of the star (each pipe cleaner end). Leave at least 1 inch from each end without beads (about 15 beads total). 

Bring all of the ends together and twist them to form the pumpkin's stem. Trim the stem to the size you'd like. Bend the beaded pipe cleaners into a pumpkin shape. Wrap a green pipe cleaner around the stem to make it thicker and green. Wrap another green pipe cleaner around the base of the stem to make vines. Curl the ends with a pencil. 

To make maize, follow a similar process. Twist 8 brown pipe cleaners into a star or snowflake shape. String yellow, orange, red, and brown beads in a random pattern onto each leg of the star (each pipe cleaner end). Leave at least 1 inch from the end without beads (about 15 beads total). 

Bring all of the ends together. Take 1 pipe cleaner end and wrap it around the others. If it's not secure enough, wrap a new pipe cleaner around the ends. Bend your beaded pipe cleaners up into a narrow corn shape. 

Pumpkin Weaving
Construction paper in orange and black
Cardstock in fall patterns, cut into 1 inch wide strips 

Draw and cut out a large pumpkin shape from orange construction paper or cardstock. Fold the pumpkin in half and cut slits across the paper. Start at the fold and stop at least 1 inch before the edge of the paper. 

Unfold the paper. Weave paper strips over and under the slits. Alternate the start of each strip: First one starts under, the next one starts over, etc. 

When you are done weaving, arrange the strips to your liking, then glue down all the loose ends with a tiny drop of glue. Trim off any extra paper around the pumpkin. 

If you want to make your pumpkin a Jack-O-Lantern, draw, cut out, and glue black paper face shapes onto your pumpkin.