American Girl: Luciana (February 2018)

Overview To kick off our 2018 American Girl program, we did Luciana Vega. I found a TON of space activities and crafts that I could do with my patrons. There were the ones I ultimately picked.
Introduction First order of business was to give a quick background on Luciana and why we were going into her world this month.
Group Activity Waning Moon with Oreos
Who doesn’t love Oreos? This was my first thought when I was researching activities for this session. I quickly found the moon phase project.I had a powerpoint that discussed the different phases of the moon. With each phase, the kids either licked or scraped off the filling of the cookie.28783431_1521245074591201_5423077596225902188_nThis activity was on several different websites. The worksheet came from Teachers Pay Teachers.
Group Activity Star Constellations
Our next activity was making a constellation out marshmallows. I guided the kids into making the big dipper.IMG_4079
Galaxy Jars Galaxy Jars
Our last activity, and by far the favorite was the galaxy jars. I set out a ton of paint for the kids to choose from. Pink and purple were the favorite of all colors. I would probably recommend skipping black paint. During the sample process, the black overtook the other colors.28783650_1521244634591245_641658170233454629_n.jpg

I would recommend writing out the rules, so the adults know the exact order on how to do the jars. I spent a good amount of time reiterating the sequence.

The second advice is not the SHAKE the jar, but rather, swirl it enough to mix the colors.
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The pink and purple jar was a jar that was fully shaken during the process. It eventually settled and did have some differences between the colors. The jar on the right was swirled.

Passive Activity Moon Walk
Our last activity was a moon walk replication. I bought some car sponges and had the kids attach it to their feet. I strongly recommend buying the thickest sponges for this activity. I unfortunately bought thinner ones, so the kids had to stack multiple sponges for their walk.IMG_3874 28783184_1521245584591150_3754129997395500038_n
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American Girl: Voting (March 2016)

March was Women’s History Month and I thought it was only right to celebrate with having our own mock election. This was a double whammy as the United States is also in the midst of gearing up for the presidential election in November. I thought it would be neat to give my participants a tiny taste of what goes into voting. I definitely steered clear of using any of the potential candidates. Instead I picked Rebecca and Samantha as our candidates. I thought it was appropriate to use these two American Girls, as they were both alive when women received the right to vote.

For my set-up, I changed it up from the normal pods. I instead made two long tables and assigned participants to a specific party. Rebecca was the purple party, and Samantha was the pink party. I did this because I did not want a specific party to have way more people than the other party.

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Once everyone was assigned to a table, I did a mini lesson about why women didn’t have the right to vote and how they eventually gained the right to vote. I then explained that the two parties were going to campaign for their doll. I explained that while they would campaign for one doll they could always vote for the other doll. My chosen activities were Campaign placards and buttons. They could also make mini buttons!

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While they were making their buttons and signs, I placed Samantha and Rebecca books on their respective campaign tables. I said once they were done to start researching their girls a little bit. I did have a power point that listed what each girl stood for, what they had accomplished, and their goals in life. We then had all the kids line up and they could say why people should vote for their doll. Some of the promotions were:

She is pretty.
She is nice.
She likes to help others.
She taught her friends to read.
She helped the laborers.

Afterwards, we had everyone vote.

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While we counted the ballots, we fed them cucumber sandwiches and pink lemonade. Very reminiscent of the time.

Our winner……

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American Girl: Maryellen Larkin (December 2015)

Sigh, our last American Girl for 2015 was Maryellen Larkin. I thought it would be appropriate to include her for one of our 2015 sessions, as she is the newest Beforever Doll. I immediately decided to do a 1950s Christmas. I knew that poodle skirts were essential and since Ms. Larkin wanted snow, we would give her snow.

After our traditional powerpoint, we started on the poodle skirt and scarves. I knew this would take longer and wanted the kids to start immediately. I thankfully saved time by having all the felt already cut. The instructions called for a felt poodles, but I didn’t have the time to really cut out 30 plus poodles and went with snowflakes, flowers, and hearts. Thank you die-cut machine!

The girls were each were handed a skirt and scarf. Then each girl got to pick up to five felt pieces to go with their skirt and scarf. The longest portion of this session was the glue gun. I really do not allow the girls to handle the glue guns (I don’t want to explain to a parent how their child got a burn blister), so I rely quite a bit on the adults to assist. I also only had a limited amount of glue guns. I did fix this for future dates.

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Once their felt pieces were glued down, the girls then got to wrap their skirts and scarves for Christmas! I had three different Christmas wrapping paper out. I wasn’t sure if they would like this portion, but they loved it.

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I was told by several parents/guardians that their girls were very excited to put their presents under the tree and were just as excited to open them on Christmas Day.

The second activity was snowflakes. Never doubt how much fun kids have making snowflakes out of paper. To throw in some extra excitement, I also did glitter! You either hate glitter or you embrace it! I embrace it and the more the merrier.

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The final portion of this session was cookies! I ordered Christmas cookies from a local bakery and made lemonade. It was a great way to end 2015.

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American Girl: Grace Thomas (November 2015)

I decided to change up my program for the month of November to incorporate a session for the girl of the year, Grace Thomas. I knew the kids would get a kick out of cooking, so I searched online for easy recipes for this specific program. Here is what we did:

No cooking program should ever be complete without a chef’s hat! I gave the kids the option of making the chef hat for themselves or their dolls. Most of the kids picked making the chef’s hat for the doll. This is where I got the instructions for our hats.

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My hat turned out ok.

After we made our hats we moved on to our apple pie crescent rolls. Everyone became super excited for our first recipe. I do recommend going heavier on the sugar and doing a test at home to figure out what works.

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Our last activity was ice cream in a bag. This one was a bit trickier. I did a test run at home and everything went well. However, once at the library, the bags we were using kept leaking! I literally have no pictures from this segment because I was running around getting new bags to put the leaking bags into.

This month’s activity was super fun but exhausting.

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American Girl: Josefina Montoya (October 2015)

I resumed my American Girl series after our summer reading program and boy, was I excited for what I planned for October. Día de los Muertos! My brain exploded with ideas. I knew Josefina would perfect for this with her storyline.

I started off with my traditional powerpoint. I briefly touched on Josefina losing her mother and how she most likely celebrated Día de los Muertos. I also discussed the customs and traditions celebrated today.

Our first craft was to make a calaveras mask for the participants and their dolls. I found this template. I printed off both the flower and heart mask and downsized the original mask to fit the dolls. I put out markers, sequins, and glue for decoration tools. I saw some pretty cool masks.

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Our second craft was nesting dolls. I wanted a craft that would be slightly more modern. I also liked that it correlated with the decorating of the graves on Día de los Muertos.

nesting dolls

To add an extra bit of flair to the program, I also incorporated face painting. I choose a simple design and had my two helpers keep to this one choice. At first no one was getting up to get their faces painted, but soon there was a line with ready participants. Here is an image of my helper’s makeup.

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I wrapped up the event with some hot chocolate. My research showed that hot chocolate or champurrado are popular drinks during this holiday.

This might have be my favorite session yet. The girls had a blast and it went very smoothly.

American Girl: Kit Kittredge (March 2015)

Our March American Girl was Kit Kittredge, and I immediately wanted to focus on the Great Depression aspect of Kit’s life. I made sure to get some music for the entire program.

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I once again did a Margaret Mildred Kittredge powerpoint. I gave a brief description about how the Great Depression started, how children “helped” during this time period, recycling, and past time amusements.

Our first activity was a Great Depression Store. I set-up a table with seven bowls (two of them not pictured) of broken crayons. I explained to the girls that people could not afford to buy new things during Kit’s period and had to reuse many items. If they did have money, people would have to weigh what was most essential to their families. I applied this idea to our own store. We were going to make new crayons out of old crayons.

I priced the blue, green, red, orange, and yellow bowls at one penny per crayon piece. My purple/pink and black/brown bowls were two pennies for one crayon piece. Each girl received 10 pennies and had to figure out how they wanted to spend their money. I also only allowed the girls to line up first. I explained that many parents would forgo necessities to allow their children to survive. The girls LOVED this activity.

After all the girls received their pieces, I had the parents/guardians line up. Many of these adults gave their pieces to their children in the spirit of the Great Depression.

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We then had all the girls arrange their crayon pieces in a tin foil cup and placed it in our oven. There was definitely some cool color mixtures happening. My helper then placed all these tin foil cups in the freezer to speed up the process. Our final result was some neat crayons:

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Our next project was kites! I explained how kites were a simple and very inexpensive amusement when no one has money. We had newspapers, straws, tape, yarn, crepe paper, and glue to create our own newspaper kites for the dolls. Some of the girls scoured for images they could incorporate in their design while others simple drew their own designs.

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By the end of the program, I had girls running around with their kites. They actually do fly!

Overall, this might have been one of my favorite American Girl programs. The girls and adults seemed to really enjoy it.

American Girl: Addy Walker (February 2015)

I had a hard time picking a girl for February until one of my favorite patrons requested that I do Addy Walker for February. I knew immediately that I wanted the kids to make their own play-dough cherry pie as Addy had cherry pie for her birthday. I woke up at 6am on Saturday and made several batches of homemade play-dough. I found this super easy recipe. I do recommend that you add the salt directly to the hot water. It made the play-dough less grainy. I made several batches for the “dough” and a smaller batch for the “cherries.” 10997511_774953422553707_5027035777628351599_n Once the girls arrived for the actual program, I did my Addy Walker powerpoint. I talked briefly about what plantation Addy’s lived on (the author created Addy’s character based on the Stagville Plantation, how she picked her birthday, her chores, and where she escaped to with her mother. I then talked about how Addy had cherry pie for birthday and how she might have played with a Thaumatrope. Our first task was for the girls to make their own cherry pie out of the play-dough. I bought a several muffin tins. I specifically choose the tins that came six to one tin. I wanted a size that the girls could easily manage and that would be size appropriate for their dolls. These are super easy to cut. You just have to make sure to fold the down tin so there are no sharp edges. We lined out tins with the dough, rolled the cherries, and then made the topping. Plastic knives work great to make the strips.

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Some of the girls made designs. Unfortunately, I was running around and was unable to get pictures. After our cherry pies, we went on to make our own thaumatropes. I found my instructions in Martha’s Stewart’s Favorite Crafts for Kids. I had a few examples of thaumatropes on my powerpoint. I showed two youtube videos. One of them was of vintage thaumatropes and the other was of new thaumatropes.  Beware that many kids will copy the examples. However many of them of turned out great. Here is one example:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKmTmGRN7EA

American Girl Doll Lending Program

I am very excited to announce that it has been almost two months since my American Girl Doll program went live! This has been a dream program of mine since I started in the library world, and my current boss made it a reality when she gave me the thumbs up to purchase all the dolls. We were able to buy 7 of the 8 Beforever Historical Dolls. Addy was backordered in December and I had to use 2014’s budget to get the dolls. We  made a mental note to purchase her in 2015. I was like a kid on Christmas Day when all the dolls arrived.

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On December 20, 2014, at my Samantha’s Victorian Christmas Tea Party, we officially announced that all the dolls will be available for checkout. I was immediately bombarded by little girls asking when and how they could get the dolls. Unfortunately, it took me a good three weeks before they were ready.

10462863_745489288833454_5794966194288602524_nIt took me 2 1/5 full work days to get these dolls ready for circulation. I created a detailed binder with LOTS of pictures. I itemized everything that came each doll, pictures of each doll, and pictures of what came in their carrying cases. This has come in very handy.
Here is a picture of Kit with everything she comes with when she is checked out.

10961810_574998867147_680062504_nI made sure to include a journal with each doll. The inside of every journal includes how to take care of their dolls and the policies for taking them home.

My last step was to create a place where children and adults could find the dolls. I made this handy dandy bucket. Every doll comes with her own paddle. A patron simply takes the paddle to our circulation desk and they receive their doll.

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I can officially say this service is a HUGE SUCCESS! The dolls are NEVER in and we have constant phone calls from adults inquiring if the dolls are available. I even had one woman run into the library without a coat in 17 degree weather. She saw that two dolls were available and she didn’t want to miss her chance to get one.

I do have a few quick suggestions for libraries interested in starting their own American Girl Doll Lending Program:

  • Ease in slowly with dolls. I felt a bit overwhelmed trying to handle and check all 7 dolls. I almost wish that I would have started with 2 and then introduced another 2 this month and so forth. However, I then wouldn’t have all my rocking stats!
  • Realize that dolls with curls are going to be the bane of your existence. I spend at least 30 minutes to an hour redoing Caroline’s curls.
  • Really examine the dolls. I thought that a patron had cut one of the doll’s hair until we realized that the shorter hair (it was in between the longer strands) was too perfectly cut to be done by a child. My assistant director called her sister-in-law who confirmed that her doll also had the same thing.

Feel free to contact me if you would like more information!

American Girl: Samantha’s Victorian Christmas Tea Party

I am very excited too announce that I am starting an American Girl series at my library. I have done an American Girl Program at my previous library, so this program is not unknown territory for me. However, my new library is starting an American Girl Doll circulating collection. We are only missing Addy, as she was backordered when we purchased all the dolls. We are hoping to add her with the new year.

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I started prepping for this program back in September. We officially announced the program with an American Doll display. Staff members generously loaned us their dolls and accessories to jazz up the cases.

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I also placed a sign in the case advertising the program.

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My age limit for this program is Kindergarten through 5th grade. I figure that most children in Kindergarten have some experience with sitting nicely. I also encouraged everyone to register. A child did not have to have an American Girl doll to come.

I originally began with 25 spots, but I quickly expanded to 38 when we hit max registration by September. I do allow, even encourage, parents and guardians to attend with their children. I see this program as a bonding opportunity.

The Big Day: Saturday, December 20

Food

I was very fortunate that my coworker and I were frugal with our budget this year. This allowed me to purchase bakery cookies instead of store-bought cookies. I would recommend that you talk with your baker and ask how large the cookies will be. I planned for about 5 cookies per person not realizing that the cookies were HUGE. Library staff enjoyed several platters after the program.

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Drinks

Since our library does not own real tea cups, yet, I settled for Chinet Crystal Plastic Cups. It adds a tiny bit more fanciness to the event instead of red solo cups. However, I was not comfortable with serving hot beverages in plastic cups. I opted for:

  • Country Time Pink Lemonade
  • Arizona Half & Half
  • Arizona Sweet Tea
  • Decaf Coffee (we had coffee cups)

To compensate for the lack of real hot tea, I made little party favor bags for all my guests. I placed one celestial peppermint tea bag and a candy cane into a party bag.

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Table Settings

I went with blue and silver table cloths alternating every other table. I had a volunteer die-cut me three big snowflakes for each table and four tiny blue snowflakes to surround the big snowflakes. I then sprinkled shimmery confetti on top of the snowflakes to add a glittery element.

For each place setting I had a plate, cup, napkin, goody bag and name card. I only did name cards for the girls, as I did not have all the adult names.

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Background Music

I love to play music in the background of my American Girl events. I feel that people start feeling more relaxed and enjoy the event even more. I was fortunate enough to locate the cd, The American Girls Christmas–Music of Christmas Past.

Crafts

I chose three crafts for this event. The first one was calling cards. I explained to the crowd how calling cards were used during Samantha’s time. I then had everyone make their own calling card. I gave about 10 minutes for this craft. After everyone was done I walked around and collected the cards on a platter.

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The second craft was silhouettes. I set this station up in the hallway to keep the flow moving. We started this craft while everyone was eating.

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I strongly recommend that you have larger pieces of black paper to do this craft. This allows for the kids to do the whole head instead of just their faces. I have done larger pieces of paper before. Regardless, both adults and kids had fun with this one.

Our final craft was making our own fans. You can find this craft in Samantha’s Craft Book: A Peek at Crafts from the Past with Projects You Can Make Today.

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The fans can be a headache the first time you make them. Here are tidbits to make them go easier:

  • Buy wrapping paper with grid-lines. This makes the folding ten times easier. Target’s wrapping paper normally has grid-lines.
  • Four grid boxes high and the whole width of the wrapping makes the perfect fan. It’s not too long or too short.
  • Use glue when attaching the paper to the tongue depressors and provide rubber bands to keep the paper down.

The Final Surprise

We gave away a Samantha! I was SUPER excited for this part. I crossed every single toe and finger that the child who won did not have a doll. My wish was granted! The girl who won did not have an American Girl Doll and she was very gracious with her winning. Her mom might have been more shocked about the doll than the girl.

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Overall Thoughts

This program went really really well. I had seven volunteers to help me with everything. I really could not have done without them. They made the program run smoothly. When the guests were arriving, I would have my volunteers escort them to their assigned tables and take their coats. After everyone was comfortable, my volunteers had specific tables where they would refill drinks, clean away trash, and bring out craft materials.

Overall, everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves. I actually had several parents and little girls who came up and thanked me for the program. I am glad to report that my registration for my January-March programs are already starting to fill up!