Yuck @ The Library: Summer Science Fun

Since our kids’ Summer Reading theme this year is “Fizz, Boom, Read,” we thought having a super messy version of “Yuck @ The Library” would be a perfect fit! Our focus this week was the five senses, so we tried to center our activities around this concept.

Step 1: Story Time To open our program, two of our teen volunteers read Five for a Little One by Chris Rashka. It’s a very lyrical, rhythmic picture book that describes the five senses in a fun and accessible way.

Step 2: Luscious Lollipops Activity To further incorporate the five senses, as well as a literacy component, we had the kids participate in our “Luscious Lollipops Activity.” We gave each child a pencil and a special card with a lollipop attached. We then asked the kids to examine their lollipops, using their senses, and use adjectives to describe their observations.

Step 3: Elephant Toothpaste Experiment

Next, we had the kids use their senses of touch, sight, and smell in our Elephant Toothpaste Experiment. The directions for this activity can be found on ScienceBob.com. I highly recommend using stations for this activity. Also make sure each child has gloves to protect their skin from the chemicals. We started by explaining two scientific terms: catalyst and exothermic reaction. Then we had the kids move to the stations and begin creating their mixtures.
Once our kids had created their chemical concoctions, we took them outside to enjoy the final reaction. Needless to say, they enjoyed the bubbly, foamy, mess we made. 🙂 We also made sure to have them touch the bottles while the exothermic reaction was occurring so they could feel the heat it generated.


Step 4: Oobleck Experiment Finally, we asked our kids to rely on their sense of touch during our Oobleck Experiment, which, of course, gets its name from Dr. Seuss’ Bartholomew and the Oobleck. The directions for creating an Oobleck can be found on the Scientific American website. Oobleck is particularly fascinating for kids because it’s a non-Newtonian fluid. In other words, it’s a fluid that can act both as a liquid and a solid. It all depends on how much force you apply at any given time.

We encouraged the kids to experiment by applying varying amounts of force. Ex: “What happens when you touch the Oobleck gently? What happens when you poke it as hard as you can?” Our kids had a wonderful, gloppy time playing with their slimy creations. At the end of the program, we gave them all ziplock baggies so they could take their Ooblecks home.


In total, we had 30 kids and 8 parents attend this program. 🙂 We’re all looking forward to having another messy science day again soon!

Star Wars Day

Our Summer Reading Program for both kids and teens this year is science-based, so what better way to encourage an interest in science than by tapping into one of the greatest sci-fi stories of all time: Star Wars!

Lord Vader did not approve of my "Rebel" T-shirt. ;)

Lord Vader did not approve of my “Rebel” T-shirt. 😉

We decided to make Star Wars Day a multi-age event, with programs for little ones in the morning and activities for tweens and teens in the afternoon. In essence, we hosted an all-day Star Wars book bash.

The Food & Decorations

I really wanted our patrons to to feel immersed in the Star Wars universe when they walked in the door, so we hung tie-fighters and x-wings from the ceiling. We created them by printing mirror images on cardstock; then we glued the images together, punched a hole in the top of them, and strung them up using thin, white, thread (which looks invisible to the naked eye). We also made a paper mache Death Star, but it ended up looking more like a Death Egg. We’ll have to blow the balloon smaller next time! 😉

Other decorations included blue and black star balloons and a homemade pennant banner. And, by some strange stroke of luck, my boyfriend’s mother stumbled across his childhood Star Wars action figures, which we used to help add character to each of our tables. And, of course, we had cardboard standees of R2D2, C3PO, and Yoda.

We wanted the food to be as “themed” as possible, but with a limited budget and time constraints we had to get creative. So I hunted through Pinterest, naturally, and found dozens of cute ideas. I used Microsoft Publisher to create custom labels for all our foods. We ended up going with Wookie Cookies (Star Crunches), Leia Buns (Honey Buns), Ewok Treats (Teddy Grahams), and Thermal Detonators (Whoppers). We also had popcorn and Yoda Soda (Mountain Dew) for the older kids.

IMG_0489 IMG_0494 IMG_0493 IMG_0492 Children’s Activities  

Station 1: Crafts

We had three basic craft options available for our kids. They could color/make a Yoda Mask or Princess Amidala crown, they could make a space-themed door hanger, or they could enjoy some of our Star Wars coloring sheets. IMG_0578 Station 2: Games

We had two posters drawn up by some of our lovely teen volunteers so that the kids could play “Pin the Bun on Leia” and “Pin the Lightsaber on Yoda.” We also had a Star Wars Ring Toss, in which we taped printed images of various characters on to 2 liter bottles and lined them up.

IMG_0572 IMG_0571

Station 3: Jedi Academy

I borrowed this idea from Kelly on Here Comes the Sun. Her DIY lightsaber idea has been shared numerous times on Pinterest. So easy. So brilliant. Grab a few pool noodles, cut them in half, wrap the ends in duct tape and voila! Instant, kid-safe lightsaber.

We decided to kick things up a notch by putting our padawans through their paces at the Jedi Academy. We blew up about twenty balloons (no helium) and gave one to each child. Then, after counting to three, we had the kids throw the balloons in the air! The kiddos then had to keep their balloons in the air for two minutes using only their lightsaber. When they finished, each child got a Jedi Knight Certificate and a piece of candy.


Station 4: Video Games

Simple, easy, and effective. We hooked our Wii system up to the projector and let the kiddos go to town on Lego Star Wars and Star Wars Angry Birds.


Teen Activities


Our teens had a choice between two crafts:

1) A Star Wars Marble Magnet

2) A Star Wars Bottle Cap Key Chain

These crafts and dozens more can be found in the Star Wars Craft Book, which proved to be an invaluable resource while planning this event!


Light Saber Dueling Lessons

I wanted the teen program to be “edgier” than the one we provided for the kids, so what better way to spice things up than with a professional sword fighting lesson?

Paul Stonebridge, a local librarian who happens to be skilled in swordsmanship and martial arts, graciously came to our branch to teach our tweens and teens. They learned the eight basic sword fighting moves and four basic blocks commonly used in the movies.


The teens had an absolute blast. We’re extremely grateful to Paul for making our event so special.

The 501st Legion: Vader’s Fist

Even Darth Vader enjoys the occasional selfie.

Even Darth Vader enjoys the occasional selfie.

Finally, this post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the 501st Legion. For those of you who are unfamiliar with them, the 501st is a nonprofit group dedicated to promoting an interest in Star Wars – namely through dressing up as some of its most famous villains. 🙂

The 501st came to our branch free of charge and posed for pictures, interacted with our patrons, and answered Star Wars questions. Our event would not have been the same without them! They were a simply phenomenal addition to our program.


In total, we had over 120 patrons attend this program – not bad for a small library! We had a fantastic time and we can’t wait to do it again.

Spiderella (aka “The Fractured Fairy Puppet Show”)

DSC01410One of my favorite programs at our library is our “Starlight Puppet Show & Story-time.” During this event, we invite all of our kids (ages 10 & under) to come to the library at night. Everyone dresses up in their pjs and brings their favorite stuffed animal or blanket. Then they all settle in for 30 minutes of puppets and story telling.


It truly is a special and dearly loved program. Despite the late hour, we still average 15-20 little ones in attendance.

It’s also exciting because it gives our teen volunteers an opportunity to lead. Our more charismatic teens help serve as puppeteers and interact with the kids.


Our most recent puppet show featured the story of Spiderella: a retelling of the Cinderella story. With bugs. 🙂 It was a tremendous hit with our kids. Afterwards, we read a few Miss Spider picture books.

I think we’ll continue to use fractured fairy tales as part of our puppet shows in the future. If you’re looking for ideas, I highly recommend 12 Fabulous Funny Fairy Tale Plays as a resource.



Yuck @ the Library: Salty Soda Balloons

???????????????????????????????For this month’s “Yuck @ the Library” science program, I wanted to teach the kids about atoms, molecules, and chemical reactions. Not an easy task for little minds! Molecules and atoms are very abstract subjects and can often be hard to grasp. So I decided to do the Salty Soda Balloon Experiment to illustrate what happens when two different chemical molecules interact (especially under pressure).


– a bottle of coke

– a water balloon

– salt

– measuring spoons

This activity requires some hand-eye coordination skills. Consequently, I’d recommend keeping your participants in the 6-12 year old range.

Step 1: The Lesson

With the help of some volunteers, I explained that molecules are made up of atoms and that molecules get “really excited” when they meet other molecules that are different from themselves. I used this information to explain the concept of nucleation sites, which is how the salt latches on to the CO2 in our soda to “ride” up out of the bottle in a fizzy, gaseous, gush!


Step 2: The Demonstration

I carefully had the kids pour salt into their water balloons. Then we went outside, attached our balloons to our Coke bottles, and watched the chemical reactions!


DSC01398All in all, our kids had a fantastic time with this activity! I’d highly recommend this one. Just make sure you do it outside!

Frozen Movie Party

frozen movie party

One of the biggest lures in children’s and teen programming is movies. Especially if that movie happens to feature not one but two Disney princesses. Since we knew the kiddos would be going stir-crazy during Spring Break, we decided to host a showing of Disney’s Frozen.  So I thought I’d be that librarian, brag, and share the photos here.


Front Display:DSC01655

Because we always want to include a literary component, even when we show movies, we pulled a few Frozen books (along with other princess stories). We arranged them at the front of the room with our cardboard Olaf standee. The kids then perused the books and took pictures with Olaf.

Station 1: Snowflake Cookies

I spent three, unholy hours baking snowflake sugar cookies. We provided vanilla frosting and blue sprinkles so the cookies would look “snowy.” Each child was allowed to have one cookie to decorate.


Station 2: Tiaras, Antlers, and Coloring Sheets

We pre-cut antler and tiara “hats” out of construction paper. We borrowed the templates for them from My Sister’s Suitcase. Each child decorated the hat of their choice, then we helped them fit it to their head. We also provided Frozen coloring sheets that we were able to download online. Those sheets were especially useful because they kept our fidgety little ones busy while their older siblings watched the movie.




Station 4: Movie Time

We arranged the chairs into rows with an aisle, leaving a big space in the front so little ones could sit on the floor if they chose. Then we fired up our old-timey popcorn maker, turned off the lights, and “let it go!”




In total, we had 175 children and parents attend! Not bad for a Spring Break program. 🙂

Yuck @ the Library: Homemade Lava Lamps

Summer 028One of the programs I run at our branch is “Yuck @ the Library”: an interactive, science-based event designed to get kids interested in STEM subjects. This program is especially valuable because it introduces kids to scientific concepts in a fun, non-threatening way. It teaches them that science can be FUN and it supports their learning in school.

This month, I decided to teach our kids about density by having them make their own homemade lava lamps. Directions on how to do this experiment can be found Science Kids.


– a clear, plastic bottle

– water

– vegetable oil

– food coloring

– Alka-Seltzer tablets

Tip: when adding the food coloring, have the kids gently swish their bottles around. This will help distribute the color so the reaction is easier to see.

The kids really enjoyed watching the chemical reaction between the Alka-Seltzer and the water. Not to mention it was relatively inexpensive – a win/win program!