Christmas Reads for the Middle Grades

When my kiddos were little, we would always raid the library around the end of November, gathering all of our favorite Christmas picture books.  It was something we all looked forward too.  We would read each night just before bedtime in front of the Christmas tree.  It was magical for them and for me.

As they have grown older, moving onto chapter books and their own reading tastes, part of this tradition has backed off.  My middle schoolers and upper elementary kiddo no longer think hanging out with mom around the Christmas tree is cool *sigh*.  At least I can say, they still love a good holiday book!  Luckily, there are a lot of great Christmas middle grade reads.  It sometimes takes a little digging to find the right one for your reader, but there are more choices than you may realize.  Here are a few of our favorites!   Just stop by the children’s desk and we will be happy to find the right one for your reader!

 

When Santa Fell to Earth by Cornelia Funke

On Christmas Eve by Ann M. Martin

Nancy and Plum by Betty MacDonald

A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol by Brett Helquist

The Holly Joliday by Megan McDonald

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

The Angel Tree by Daphne Benedis-Grab

WinterFrost by Michelle Houts

The Christmas Genie by Dan Gutman

The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig

Kringle by Tony Abbott

Young Scrooge: A Very Scary Christmas Story by R.L. Stine

Jingle by Dan Gutman

Top Elf by Caleb Zane Huett

Miss Marta

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Learning is Everywhere

December brings a lot of craziness. However, the next time you stop by the library to pick up holiday books or Playaways and Launch Pads for the car rides to relatives, make certain you take a moment to stop by the children’s desk to pick up a free copy of United Way’s new 2018 calendar.

This calendar has a daily activities for you to do with your child, plus tips and suggestions of things you can do to boost you child’s language development to help prepare them for Kindergarten. There is also an animal connect the dot activity for each month to help children develop writing skills. The animals are so cute, my first thought was they would make a great puppet by cutting them out and taping it to a craft stick after each month was over.

What I really like about the calendar is that even though it is meant for the preschoolers, the activities work well for the entire family to do together. Activities like play Hide and Seek, take silly selfies, and go on a scavenger hunt. (If you have troubles with ideas for that last one, ask us for the scavenger hunt kit you can check out from the library.) There are practical things like practice fire safety and washing hands and there are more quiet activities like share a favorite book or practice being quiet for a minute. (No giggling!)

Just like sharing a book, sharing this calendar can be a fun way to help your child mentally and physically develop while bringing your whole family together. Plus, it is a great reminder that learning is everywhere. It doesn’t have to be costly, or time consuming and it can be a lot of fun for everyone. Enjoy!

Miss Christina

Spy School

We had a LOT of fun at Spy School! We did this as part of our new program Spotlight.  Spotlight focuses on a different topic each month.  It follows the interests of what we see in our department.  Since Stuart Gibbs’ latest book Spy School Secret Service is now out, we decided to have some fun with it sending our school-aged kiddos through different tasks and missions in order to officially be spies.

Here is a quick look at what we did!

 

The overall set-up was stations that they could go to as they pleased.  There were no progressive steps (with one exception which I’ll tell you about in a minute).  We do the majority of our programs this way for a couple reasons.  First, kids don’t all go at the same pace.  This set up gives kids the freedom to explore stations where they need more time without feeling self-conscious and likewise allows them to move on from stations that go quickly for them.  Though it may sound chaotic,  it actually helps keep everybody on task.  Second, we serve kiddos with special needs and this format gives them the ability to participate at a level that is comfortable for them and adjust as they need.

These were our stations:

Hand Scanner for Entry

This was quick and easy.  Just use a name-brand Ziploc bag (the generic I have tried to use leaked terribly), clear hair gel and water color paint or food coloring.  I sealed the edges of the bag with duct tape just to reinforce.  Be sure to squeeze all the air from the bag before sealing it up!

Agent ID

We found some fun Secret Agent Badge printables online.  The kids grabbed a color out of bucket A and an animal out of Bucket B and this became their Code Name for all missions.

Book Cipher

We created a book cipher using copies of Fox in Socks.  The kids (and some parents) had a lot of fun figuring out our messages!

Secret Messages

We set up a wax resist station for kids to right secret messages to each other.  White crayons on white construction to write the messages and water color paint to reveal the messages made it a fun little project.  The kids loved leaving messages for others to find.

Pom Pom Target Practice

We found this really cool blog that had a great tutorial for pom pom target practice, so we tried it out.  The kids did a great job with this simple activity and LOOOOVED creating their own shooter.  Pool noodles, duct tape, balloons, and pom-poms are all you need for this and it is a huge hit!  We set up a target on our wall.  Their objective was to stand at varying distances and shoot into the caution tape.

 

Dodge the Lasers!

We used a strong, thing book tape to create a laser field for kids to dodge in and out of, trying to avoid getting stuck.

Minefield

This is the one station that I wasn’t thrilled with.  Sadly in programs, sometimes ideas that seem great on paper just aren’t as great in real life.  The objective is to stomp and walk through the pool (or minefield) and not pop a balloon.  Unfortunately, this really wasn’t a challenge.  The balloons would fly out of the pool before they could even attempt to pop, or not pop, them.  Were I to do this again, I would not confine it to the pool and I would use a lot more balloons.

 

All in all, everyone loved this program, including me!  In fact, we liked it so much we are putting it on again (minus the minefield) at our Exploratorium on November November 29th!

 

Exploratorium: Magic

It’s that time of year when things start to appear magical, so what better time to get the kids involved in creating a bit of magic of their own.

Our next Exploratorium on Wednesday, Nov 15 at 2:00pm-3:30pm features Magician, Mark Yeager who will do a magic workshop for children in K-5th grades. This is a great opportunity for children to learn some slight of hand and other magical tricks they can do on their own. If they get hooked, let the magic grow by taking a look at our many magic books we have available to be checked out.

Miss Christina

Coding

Coding. That’s something with computers, right? But what’s this about young children doing coding? It turns out, coding is just a way of thinking that we start doing at an early age. I’ve just let the term “code” freak me out. There are many ways for a child to develop those coding skills without looking at a computer for those parents wishing to limit screen time. Being surrounded by technology, learning how to code becomes more and more necessary in life and just like a foreign language, it is easier to learn at an early age. That’s because creating a code is like a language –  a special language that tells a computer or robot what to do. Turn left, go straight. clap three times. Coding helps children with problem solving and logic. The ability to direct technology instead of just using it, builds confidence and skills that will help children later on in school and in careers where there is more and more demand for technology.

At our November 1st Exploratorium we started with very basic coding concepts using a variety of coding kits that will be available to try out in the Children’s Dept the week of Thanksgiving and then will be available to check out at a later date. This is a great way for your child to get started with the concept of coding before purchasing items that are more complicated. Some of the new items we have available include:

 

Fisher-Price Think & Learn Code-a-pillar, Cubetto Educational Coding Robot, Learning Resources Learning Essentials Code and Go Robot Mouse Activity Set and an Ozobot.

A basic game to play with your child that demonstrates coding basics at no cost is a form of Simon Says. Simon says, if I clap my hands, then you stomp your feet. Or, if I nod my head, then you nod your head. Simon is the programmer, everyone else in the group becomes the computer.

Ready for something more complex? Place a black checker somewhere towards the far side of a checkerboard. Place a few red checkers on the board to act as obstacles. Place another black checker in the lower left corner of the board. Now direct the lower left black checker to the other black checker using only these simple directions: Go Forward, Turn Right, Turn Left, Repeat. The checker can move only 1 square at a time. It does not matter if the square is black or red.

An example:

Go Forward

Repeat

Repeat

Turn Right

Go Forward

Turn Left

Go Forward

Repeat

 

Continue until you reach the black checker. Write down the instructions, step by step.

Now place the black checker back to the lower left corner and follow your written instructions. Did it work? If it didn’t, go back and figure out where you went wrong and try again. If it did work, then you just wrote your first piece of successful code!

 

In January we will have another coding program for Exploratorium that will be a bit more advanced than last weeks program. In the meantime stop by the children’s desk to try out the basic coding program kits we have.

Miss Christina