Messing Around!

Miss Marta and I had a blast at Messing Around last week and we hope you did too! If you weren’t able to make it or would like to try any of these stations yourself, here’s a breakdown of what we did.

Here’s what the room looked like before…

And here is after! Click on any of the pictures for a larger version.

Phew! What a mess! But everyone had so much fun that it was definitely worth the time we spent cleaning up afterwards.

Moon Sand: Also known as kinetic sand, we have used this in programs before. It can be molded like wet sand but never dries out, and you can buy it in lots of cool colors.

Pudding Fingerpainting: For this station we made vanilla instant pudding and added neon food coloring. If we did this program again I would use white chocolate pudding instead. I forgot vanilla pudding is yellow, not white, and so the colors came out a little wonky. Still lots of fun to finger paint with though (and pretty tasty!).

Crunch-up Bins: This station was the easiest to set up; all it takes was some different types of cereal (we used Froot Loops, Cheerios, Rice Chex, and Frosted Flakes) and saltines in a bin and a hammer to crunch them up with! This station seemed to appeal most to the youngest kiddos in the room.

Jello Dig: I made 3 family sized boxes of strawberry Jello and dropped some small toys in the containers before putting it in the fridge to set. Children could then dig through the Jello to pull out the cars, blocks, and dinosaurs or just squish it in their fingers.

Shaving Cream Color Mixing: Just a bin full of shaving cream with some Crayola paint. They could squirt a little paint onto the shaving cream and mix it up. This is a fun sensory experience, but because it needs to be dumped out and given fresh shaving cream after every use, it works best for using one-on-one. I would probably leave it out for a program like this again.

Puffy Painting: I LOVE puffy paint! It is super easy to make – just equal amounts white glue and shaving cream with food coloring – and dries really vibrant with the coolest texture. With this kind of paint, less is not more. To really get the best puffy texture to your finished painting, you’ll really want to load up the brush with paint. It does take a while to fully dry, but if you set them out overnight that should be plenty long enough.

Fizzy Cloud Dough: We got the recipe for fizzy cloud dough from Powerful Mothering. The original recipe calls for a cup of flour, a cup of baking soda, and a 1/4 cup vegetable oil, as well as some vinegar to squirt on it to make it fizz. It also needs either powder or oil-based (the kind usually used for candy) food coloring if you want different colors. We quadrupled the recipe for each color for a group setting like this (not all of what we made is in the picture). The cloud dough by itself is pretty fun to play with, a lot like the moon sand. But when squirted with the bottles of vinegar, it fizzes and foams! The kids enjoyed mixing it up into a big gloopy mess.

Shaving Cream Pool: Just what it looks like, a kiddie pool full of shaving cream! We also threw in some play food, bowls, plates, and utensils. This station was VERY popular. I think we used approximately 15 cans to fill it up as much as you see in the “before” picture.

Dinosaurs in Sand: also just what it looks like! The dinosaurs stomped around in a sandy environment that kids pretended was a desert or beach. I thought about adding some water to the bin or making “mud” out of instant hot cocoa mix and a little bit of water to make this a really messy station, but the kids enjoyed it regardless. Who doesn’t love dinosaurs?

Ocean Water Table: Multi-colored water beads, some water, and a set of sea animal toys for kids to play with and explore. A lot of the younger children seemed to enjoy squishing the water beads as much as anything else though. We also wanted to have a calmer, less messy station for those who might get overwhelmed by the other things we had available.

Chalkboard: Can’t go wrong with chalk on a chalkboard. I’ve found with programs like this it helps to write or draw something before the kids come in so they know it’s okay to use it.

And that’s what we did at Messing Around! I had so much fun with this program. If you’re ever feeling brave enough to tackle a messy program at your library or try one of these activities at home with your own kids, I think it is well worth the time cleaning up. We saw lots and lots of smiles and excited faces from little ones thrilled with the opportunity to dig in and get messy.

Miss Jessica



Gel Print Butterflies and Children’s Book Week

We made these beautiful butterflies in April’s Creativity Lab!  We used gel plates, acrylic paint, and different items to achieve these unique designs and textures.

The butterflies made a great display for Children’s Book Week, which we will celebrate for two weeks – April 29 through May 11.

Children's Book week

Over the weeks, we’ll have some great programs and fun activities.  There will be lots of Very Hungry Caterpillar inspired games and crafts out around the department, so drop in and enjoy!

Our next Creativity Lab will be on Thursday, May 9th where our friends from the Figge will teach us how to make Tiffany-inspired window art.  Be sure to register for that one!

Miss Tess


Cupcake Decorating Recap

We had a wild Valentine’s Day at MPL!  During Creativity Lab, we decorated cupcakes provided to us very generously by Brandy at the Java Lab.

We also made cupcake boxes and gift bags for those who wanted to give their cupcakes as Valentine’s gifts.  How sweet!

Check out the masterpieces-

So much creative energy!


This frosting unicorn would look great on a cake!

Some of the older kiddos took part in the PNG dissection class here at the library that evening and dissected a sheep heart.  Don’t worry – they washed their hands before decorating!

Join us for our next Creativity Lab on Thursday, March 14th at 6 pm for grades K-5.

Miss Tess

An Afternoon in Narnia

January 19th was one frosty afternoon, but that didn’t stop over 150 visitors from climbing through the wardrobe into our magical version of Narnia!

We had a great time making crafts and playing games inspired by CS Lewis’s classic fantasy novel, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.


entering the wardrobe

To get to Narnia, you first have to enter the wardrobe!

wardrobe before

The wardrobe before

wardrobe teresa

and after!

The wardrobe was quite a challenge, but thank goodness for Miss Teresa, who came in, worked her magic, and made it awesome!

Continue reading

Blank Park Zoo at the Library!

On Monday, July 2, we had Christina from the Blank Park Zoo visit the library for two very informative shows!

She brought 4 animals, explaining that they can never tell the librarians which animals they’ll be bringing, since it depends on which animals are in a good mood that day!

The mammal that traveled with Christina is a lesser tenrec named Indigo from Madagascar.  Tenrecs are related to moles, and Indigo looked  like a miniature hedgehog.


Next up was a Leopard gecko.  The kids were amazed that the gecko could drop it’s tail when threatened by a predator…the predator gets distracted by the wiggling tail and the gecko escapes!  After re-generating a new tail, a ring will be visible on the gecko.


When Christina opened up the next container, she said it would be okay if the audience had a “loud reaction”, but then to try to get quiet again.  When the Ball python came out, there certainly was a “loud reaction”!  Most kids like to see snakes up close!


The final animal that Christina showed was a Millipede.  She described how they walked by putting groups of legs together and apart, like an accordian! She reported that millipedes have between 200 and 300 legs!  If the millipede feels threatend, it will release a yellow “venom”, that is NOT be poisonous to humans, but it will turn your skin purple!



After the morning presentation by Blank Park Zoo, the audience was invited to come up and gently touch the millipede, followed by a quick squirt of hand sanitizer!  At the end of the afternoon session, the audience got to touch the snake. Animal handler Christina advised the audience to always wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after touching any animal, reptile, or insect!

Thanks to Christina of Blank Park Zoo for presenting an excellent program, and thanks to the Moline Municipal Credit Union for sponsoring the event!

Miss Teresa

Chemical Change Exploratorium Recap

On Wednesday, February 21, we had a great time learning and experimenting with chemical and physical changes.
First, we checked out how different substances react when mixed together.  Water gel and oobleck were favorites!
We also wrote secret messages in lemon juice.  When heated over the toaster, the lemon juice reacted with the air and turned brown, which revealed our messages.
Then it was on to making slime!  The detergent and glue made a very sticky, slimy concoction.
We also painted with frozen tempera paint.  The young scientists found that putting salt on the frozen paint helped it to melt faster and made painting easier!
To make a cloud in a bottle, we used a bicycle pump, a cork and a needle, a little bit of rubbing alcohol, and a 2-liter bottle.
We hope to see you at our next Exploratorium!  They are each Wednesday from 2 to 3:30!

Miss Tess

Wintry Watercolor Project

At last week’s Creativity Lab, the freezing temperatures matched our frosty art project! We created a lovely wintry scene, using watercolors and salt to create texture and movement within the painting. Even the littlest learners enjoyed this project, learned about color mixing and composition, and were able to create beautiful finished products.

All you need for this project are:

  • Watercolors (Crayola or similar is fine- nothing fancy!)
  • Painter’s Tape (1/4″, or if wider, cut into 1/4″ strips)
  • Salt
  • Black Crayon

Begin by laying thin strips of tape from top to bottom of the page, about 1 1/2″-2″ apart. These will be your birch tree trunks. Tear short pieces of tape and add these to create branches.


Next, paint the entire surface of the paper with plain water- you want your paper to be nice and wet in order for the paint to blend and work well with the salt. Then paint watercolors over top of the water, blending colors such as blue, purple, red or pink and even green to create a wintry color palette. After you’re done painting each section, sprinkle salt over the paint. It will give the painting a fun “frosty” look and texture, and your kids will be amazed as they watch the salt soak up the paint! If the painting is already too dry, the salt will not activate properly- so if this happens, just sprinkle a little more water over it until you get the effect you want.

Let your paint dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Gently peel up the painter’s tape. Using a black crayon, outline each trunk and the branches and make some short horizontal lines to show the texture of a birch tree.


Now for the final step: using a very diluted gray, paint the left-hand side of the trunks and branches to create the natural shadows and coloration of birch-tree trunks.



You’ve created a lovely winter birch-tree painting!

Here’s a beautiful example my student Joelle made:


Miss Janna