Art Group – Wednesday, March 28

A rainy day is a perfect complement to a morning of watercolors. Toddlers, Twos and Threes made the best of the wet outdoors by bringing the water inside, to colorful results! What’s more, this is the type of easy painting that can have every child producing beautiful works of art. All it takes is water, paint, brushes, paper (the heavier, the better), and some form of table covering.

At PTLL, we use liquid watercolors, which are not only easier to use for young children, but also produce brighter results. With watercolors, the color is key. The more water on the page, the less vibrant the color will be, but it will also be more fluid and blend with other colors easier. Consider these factors when mixing the paints for your children to use. With liquid watercolors, you can also change the process completely by letting your children use the paint without water, then adding water either via brush or by spray bottle. There are hundreds of application variations, so feel free to explore and experiment!

More fun with applications: You don’t have the kind of printing freedom you might with more solid paints, but there are still lots of options. Brushes are a good go-to for starting your children on watercolor painting, but don’t forget about spray bottles, eye droppers, and even thin cloths like nylon, cheesecloth, and silk scraps. The liquid watercolors even work on light colored thin cloths, so if your kids are tired of paper, experiment with surfaces that could also be used as decorative hangings, present wrapping, or ribbons.

Very small children and cups of water-based paint might not mix problem-free, so lay plenty of newspaper or other absorbent materials on work surfaces and have paper or cloth towels handy for potential spills. Need a creative (and eco-friendly) solution? Scrap paper soaked in spilled watercolors makes an excellent addition to collage materials. Same thing goes for watercolor-stained newsprint.

As we have done with fingerpainting, we also decided to set out a larger canvas for collaboration. It’s super fun to start with a large blank piece of paper and watch as several hands transform it. The simplest blotches and lines gradually turn into layer upon layer of creative work. From the beginning of the paper, pictured above, to its end form:

What a fantastic result! Can’t find room for all those large canvases? Cut up old ones into smaller panels or use them as scraps for the collage materials  bins. Reusing old work in a creative way can be as fun as producing the work in the first place.

Need some additional watercoloring ideas for your children? Check out this great video below from The Artistic Mom:

Toddlers, Twos and Threes Art Group meets every Wednesday at 10 am and is open to all members and visitors (with paid admission to PTLL’s playspace). The group is run by Megan Spak and Elisabeth Moyer, with assistance by Emily Fear.


Storytime Picks from Monday, March 26

Sometimes the classic picture books do not hold up in a storytime setting. For every successful telling of The Snowy Day there are as many failed attempts at Make Way for Ducklings. Every crowd has their own particular demands when it comes to the kinds of stories they want to hear, and although parents might sigh with nostalgic happiness at the thought of their kids getting to experience one of their old favorites, their kids might feel very differently about the book, at least when it comes to listening to it being read amongst a group of children.

A lot of classic children’s picture books work better in one-on-one settings, parent to child, which is why I tend to stick to more contemporary works for storytime. But some (like The Snowy Day) are too good to resist, and this week’s tale was no different:

by Don Freeman

Corduroy is a teddy bear living with the other stuffed animals and dolls in a large department store. When a little girl named Lisa is not allowed to take him home, Corduroy sets out on an in-store adventure to find his missing button. First published in 1968, Corduroy has become even more popular that it was more than forty years ago, with sequel novels (including the Freeman penned and illustrated A Pocket for Corduroy) and a television series.

Why isCorduroy so endearing… and enduring? It could be the illustrations, colorful and vibrant sketches with plenty of white space around the edges (which is very attractive to young eyes). And Corduroy has never looked quite as cute when it’s not Freeman drawing him.

It could also be the story at the center of the book, of finding a home and a friend when you desperately want one. Children can feel incredibly lonely at times, even with siblings, which is why so many of them have distinct bonds with their stuffed animals or dolls. A child can relate to Corduroy’s situation, but also to Lisa’s – finding the perfect teddy bear, not being allowed to buy him, and then finally coming back to give him the perfect home. In a simple and effective manner, Freeman illustrates the bonds between children and their imaginative playthings.

Need additions to your teddy bear storytime? Check out these titles:


Storytime is every Monday at 10 am and is intended for all ages.

Art Group – Wednesday, March 21

All the colors of the rainbow were well represented this past Wednesday at Toddlers, Twos and Threes Art Group. The beautiful weather kept attendance to a minimum, but the kids who did join us enjoyed round two of a fun activity we tried last Fall: Stickers!

How much fun can kids have with stickers in basic colors and shapes? A LOT. The fun begins with the selection of stickers and surfaces to apply the stickers to. The combinations are endless – basic colors and shapes take on a new vividness against a stark black background. Try a blend of matte and shimmery stickers on various colored construction paper, or mix and match your textures by using matte stickers on shiny wrapping paper or even tin foil. Try using a blend of stickers and tissue paper with sheer contact paper to get contrasting opacity in your sun-catchers or decorate a glossy card with extra sticker flare.

If you and your kids are limited to what you have in the house, you might have more than you think.

After selecting the materials to be used, the second step is to apply the stickers. Very young children may need extra help peeling the stickers off of the backing, but make sure to let them pull once it’s easier to remove. Pulling is half the fun!

If they are having trouble applying the stickers to the surface, help guide them by pointing or carefully placing a hand on theirs to steady their placements. The skill builds with a little practice. After a few times, they’ll have mastered it for themselves.

Once they have basic applications mastered, you can encourage development of creative skills by helping them build various images with the stickers. The fun of basic shapes is that they can turn into just about anything, so go wild with what you and your kids produce. Start small and work your way into larger and more elaborate pictures.

For slightly older children, one fun game you might try is giving them a limited selection of variously shaped stickers, then having them see how many pictures they can come up with just using those stickers. Can the same stickers used to make a house and a tree also make a rocket ship? How many animals can you make in one picture using one set of stickers? Not only does this encourage a creative thought process, it’s also a nifty way of teaching your kids to get less with more.

Curious at how stickers are produced? Check out this great video from Discovery Channel’s How It’s Made:

Toddlers, Twos and Threes Art Group meets every Wednesday at 10 am and is open to all members and visitors (with paid admission to PTLL’s playspace). The group is run by Megan Spak and Elisabeth Moyer, with assistance by Emily Fear.

March 2012 News

I thought we were long overdue in blogging about the goings on at our monthly board meetings, so I volunteered to do just that.  Surprisingly enough, no one else was fighting me for the honor!  All PTLL members are welcome to attend the board meetings and see for themselves what is discussed.  Our topics often range from mundane to philosophical, and the March 2012 meeting was no exception.

The Board continues with the process of overhauling the lending toy collection one binder at a time.  As our toys are borrowed, wear and tear happens, and although it is tempting to place all of the responsibility for the lending toy collection on the capable shoulders of Lending Toy Coordinator Katy Perrin, that is simply not fair as we have more than 300 toys with thousands of constituent pieces.  So, if you would like to pitch in and help with the overhaul, please contact Katy at for the next evening session.  They have been meeting on Mondays at 7 pm at the PTLL, but that does change based on our calendar and the church’s calendar of events.

The PTLL has been the grateful recipient of a Masters of Library Science Pitt Partner for the past few years, and we were saddened to find out that the program lost funding from the PA budget cuts.  Interns will be available next year, but at a significant cost to the PTLL.  We are writing a proposal for some temporary additional funding to cover the cost of the intern we hope to get next year.  Our current MLIS intern is Emily Fear, and if you are not familiar with her work, she is responsible for making our blog happen and our story time sparkle,  among many other things.

May is Volunteer Appreciation Month at the PTLL, and we have lots of fun activities to celebrate the wonderful volunteers that help manage the play space and our lending toy collection.  Raffle items are coming in, and it looks like we will have an even wider variety to choose from then in previous years, including Pilates classes, restaurants, and gift cards.  Save the date for the Volunteer Appreciation Party, which will be on May 2 at 7pm.

The PTLL has been growing steadily for the past few years and we are so excited by the families who have joined us as members.  Every month we are excited by the record number of people who visit the PTLL, either for the first time or as old friends.  In April, the Board will turn its focus towards the future for a strategic planning session to figure out how we should proceed for the next 37 years, and counting.  If you have ideas, please don’t hesitate to contact anyone on the board to talk about them further.  We love to hear from you!

– Olivia Wells

Storytime Picks from Monday, March 19

Sunshine and stories: A truly great way to start the week. We had a nice-sized group of eight kids join in for the fun, with stretches, songs, our featured title, and, to top it all off, a craft that was truly a hoot!

Little Owl’s Night
by Divya Srinivasan

Little Owl’s nights are as eventful as most humans’ days: Exploring, visiting friends, and eagerly experiencing the nighttime as a landscape of endless possibility. Some of the forest creatures miss out on the wonder of the stars or the lovely specter of the dandelions in the moonlight, but not Little Owl. Only when the moon goes down and the sun starts to rise does he finally begin to close his eyes… but not before one more bedtime story from his Mama.

After our story, we set to work on making our very own owl masks. So simple!

Start by printing out the following template:

Then have your kids color the owl face. They can use crayons, markers, colored pencils, just about anything! If you’re feeling fancy, have them glue on layers of colorful features.

Once they’re satisfied with their work, carefully cut out the mask, then glue or tape a Popsicle stick to the back. If they would prefer to wear the mask without hands, poke small holes on either side of the mask and add a short band of elastic. Make sure the eye holes are cut out and clean of any ragged paper shreds (which can be abrasive to the eyes).

Voila! Owl mask! Great for costumes or general night frolicking.

Of course, if you really want to get fancy, you can try making full owl costumes, such as the ones made by PTLL member Elizabeth Moyer.

Do your kids want an excuse to continue wearing their owl masks? Why not try out a few more owl-friendly reads?

Storytime is every Monday at 10 am and is intended for all ages.


Art Group – Wednesday, March 14

What’s that peaking out of the tupperware container? Must be a fresh batch of playdough, just in time for the weekly meeting of the Toddlers, Twos and Threes Art Group! How perfect to get a brand new, sky blue mound of playdough on a picture perfect, ridiculously warm March day?

Because of the beautiful weather, we anticipated a fairly quiet morning at the Toy Lending Library, which is exactly what we got… until about 10:30, when the late-morning crowd showed up. Turns out not even unseasonably warm and sunny March days can deter parents and children from the allure of our playspace.

Given the low number of kids at the library this morning, and because we had such a great response to the activity last month, we decided to break out the brand new batch of playdough for some relaxing, crafty sculpting fun.

It happened for the first playdough activity in February, and it happened again today: There is always one kid who can’t get enough of the fun, squishy stuff. Who can blame him or her? Playdough is a great introductory crafting activity. It’s an accessible, easy way to experiment with sculpting different shapes, plus it feels so darn neat in your hands. If you mess something up, no worries! Just squish it all in a big ball and start again. Half the fun of building something with playdough is destroying it all with a squash of the hands.

If your kids are used to only playing with small batches of the store-bought stuff, they may be missing out on one fantastic aspect of homemade playdough: Sinking their hands into a large, warm pile of the squishy stuff. On your next visit to the craft space at the Toy Library, have your kids experience the thrill of digging their fingers into a truly large amount of playdough. It’s a new layer to the expected textural sensations.

Relaxing, easy to clean, and fun to share, playdough is a guaranteed hit for the Art Group, even on a day when most of the kids are still outside.

The last entry on playdough featured a recipe, but if you’re still not sure if you can handle making your own, check out this handy instructional video from Nicko’s Kitchen:

Toddlers, Twos and Threes Art Group meets every Wednesday at 10 am and is open to all members and visitors (with paid admission to PTLL’s playspace). The group is run by Megan Spak and Elisabeth Moyer, with assistance by Emily Fear.

Art Group – Wednesday, March 7

We didn’t expect a whole lot of kids for Toddlers, Twos and Threes Art Group this Wednesday, mostly due to the absolutely gorgeous weather outside. Why play indoors when you can play outdoors, right? In preparation for the small attendance, we set out an activity perfect for relaxing mornings such as these: Collages!

Collages are great for a slower paced activity. Put out various fun shapes, sizes, and textures of paper and help your kids methodically choose each piece to add to their works. They can add a little or a lot, they can walk away from it for a while, or they can stay and work on the same project for hours. There’s a kind of time-flexibility with collages that other activities – painting, especially – don’t seem to embody.

When assembling your collage materials, experiment with the kinds of items your kids can use. Different kinds of paper, small scraps of fabric, string, aluminum foil, even beads. With a variety of working materials, the learning doesn’t stop at colors and shapes. Encourage your kids to talk about what they choose to add to their collages by asking questions: Why did they choose a particular piece of paper? Do they like the shape? The color? The texture? How do the shapes, sizes, and textures differ among the collage items?

Once the collage is finished and dried, don’t just display it on the fridge – use it to reinforce lessons on color and texture. Have them pick out the colors in the work and feel the various textures with their fingers. A collage is easy to add onto, so keep the original around for a while, in case they would like to make additions.

Another word on collage materials – Being inventive often means reusing with care. Have a lot of your kids’ old artworks that have long been ignored? You can save them, or you can reuse them fornew art! Cut up old paintings and drawings in fun and interesting shapes and use these for collage pieces. You could even make a puzzle and have them reconstruct their old work onto a new piece of paper. The collage process is so simple and so easy to add a unique twist to, there’s no end to the fun you and your kids can have.

Toddlers, Twos and Threes Art Group meets every Wednesday at 10 am and is open to all members and visitors (with paid admission to PTLL’s playspace). The group is run by Megan Spak and Elisabeth Moyer, with assistance by Emily Fear.