Storytime Picks from Monday, April 23

Brrrrr! What happened to Springtime? Seems to have blown away in the cold, cold wind. Luckily, it seems like this area missed most of the freak late-April snowstorm, but what we got in its place was not much better: Steady, bone-chilling rain.

Thanks to those who chose to warm up with us at the Toy Lending Library, particularly those who joined in on the wing-flapping fun with today’s storytime pick:

Wings on Things
by Marc Brown

No mystery to Wings on Things, just vibrant illustrations and funny, tongue-twisting lines about the many fantastic and fantastical things wings can do. From bird and butterfly wings to airplane wings, wings on a chair, and even robot wings, Brown uses his characteristic illustrative style to perfectly encapsulate the fun and funny prose.

Wings on Things is just one in the great Bright and Early Books line, recognizable by its visual connection to Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat. Many of the B&E titles are not Dr. Seuss, but use his trademark style and wit to continue his legacy of great, educational books for young readers. Additionally, many of the non-Seuss titles in the B&E series are shorter than the average Seuss book, making them especially accessible for very young children or storytime-reluctant kids. With their simple words and repetition, they also make great books for kids just learning to read on their own.

Want some more Bright and Early books? Add these titles to your children’s collection (click here for a more comprehensive list):

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


Art Group – Wednesday, April 18

Shaving cream – not just for Dad’s face anymore! At least not at Toddlers, Twos and Threes Art Group, where we put the foamy stuff to work in easily erasable, sadly irreplaceable temporary table art. One minute you’ve got a masterpiece, the next minute you’ve got a cleared, clean tabletop. Not everything was so easily erased – The work may have been temporary, but the scent of shaving cream hung in the air for the full hour.

So you might be asking, if the work is so quickly wiped away, why bother with shaving cream art? Well, as it is in most of the Art Group activities, the tactile input is the key player in this process. You’d be amazed by what very young children can learn by simply experiencing new sensations with their hands. We begin cognitively processing things like shape, size, color, and volume at a very young age (without need to specifically quantify), so using our hands to mess about with different substances is a great way to shape our senses’ understanding. This is one of fundamentals of fingerpainting, and it applies to shaving cream art as well. By using our fingers to spread, draw in, and wipe away the substance, we learn about its basic properties – its weight, density, and opacity.

Plus, it’s so fun! The shaving cream is light and easy to spread, so even very young children will have no issues manipulating it on the table. Try to use a surface that will work with the height of your children. It’s easier for very small children to fully experience the hands-on nature of the activity if they are able to access more of the table.

A word on clean up: You can choose to cover your tabletop with clear plastic wrap or even thin craft tarp, but because the cream is so easy to wipe away (and leaves no sticky residue or paint stains) we chose to go without any table coverings. If you do so, be sure to have two cloths readily available – one damp and one dry.

Want to increase the fun? Add tools into the mix. Simple stamping tools can encourage detailed drawings in the shaving cream. Tools with forked edges or other forms of ridges can add an interesting texture or pattern, and spongey paint rollers make it easy to wipe away portions of the shaving cream. Almost anything can be used, so use your imagination and whatever you may have handy.

Don’t feel like this is an activity only meant for very young children. Children older than three can still have fun with shaving cream art. If they’re not interested in drawing pictures on the tabletop, try playing games like Tic Tac Toe or writing exercises, like having them write all the letters of the alphabet or all the numbers up to 20.

One more tip: Have a camera handy to take pictures of any artwork your little one may have become attached to. Its virtually impossible to preserve any shaving cream pictures, but sometimes photographic mementos are enough.

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 Pick from April 16th

When the temperature is climbing toward 70 degrees before it even hits ten am, it’s a difficult choice between the playground, the park, and the Pittsburgh Toy Lending Library. So we’re thankful for everyone who opted to get out of the sun and into the shade and join us for storytime this beautiful Monday morning.

For their sacrifice, we read a terrific new classic about an over-dramatic little llama who just wants his mama:

Llama Llama Red Pajama
by Anna Dewdney

Llama Llama makes a terrific read aloud for several reasons, namely because its expressive brightly illustrated style perfectly accompanies to the affectionate, humorous storytelling, but it’s especially appealing for nighttime reading, just so long as your kids won’t be giggling too hard to go to sleep.

Want to do a whole bedtime line-up? Try adding these to your nighttime story routine:

Want some more bedtime-themed fun? How about this fun activity we tried after our story was complete:

Simply print out and have your children decorate. Do your kids love paper dolls? Print out the pajamas onto cardstock or heavy duty white paper, then once they’re finished coloring and embellishing the picture, cut out the pajamas and add them to the paper doll rotation.

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

Art Group – Wednesday, April 11

There’s a special kind of fun to be had when constructing wearable art, the kind of fun we had during this week’s Toddlers, Twos and Threes. What to do with a blank paper crown? Why, decorate it, of course! Our little artists embellished their crowns with stickers and crayons, allowing this activity to have a low amount of mess, but a very high amount of fun.

We used pre-made, pre-cut paper crowns for our activity, but for crown- and hat-making at home, simple blank construction or other durable paper will work fine. Pre-measure the length to be sure it will fit your child’s head, then cut into whatever width, design, etc. that you want. Even a simple thick paper band can be a good start to a fantastic crown. It just takes some fun materials, a creative atmosphere, and a willingness to come back to the project if it’s not finished in one sitting. That’s one of the best things about making wearable art – it’s easy for a child to leave a project and come back to it. Unlike a painting or a drawing or even a collage, crown making and decorating is a process that can easily be extended over a period of days.

You and your children can incorporate all kinds of skills in the construction and decoration of wearable art. If you have tried print-making, painting, or collage work with your children, it will be easy to translate those activities onto a new type of “canvas.” The techniques are the same, they’re just being applied to an alternative surface.

We stuck to stickers and crayons not simply because they’re easy to use or low on mess-making, but also because the amount of table space really does restrict the number of things we can put out at one time for the group. But a limit to the supplies doesn’t have to mean limitations on the art itself – quite the contrary. Providing a small set of options is a great way to introduce an activity to young children. A lot of options at once may be intimidating, so try starting projects off with only one or two options for embellishment, and then add options at your children’s request. (Needless to say, additional options are endless: Markers, colored pencils, paints, pastels, colored or patterned tape, feathers, buttons, tissue paper, foil, and on and on and on…)

The process is still the key to fun and educational wearable art projects, so don’t forget to use the activity to reinforce lessons on colors, shapes, and textures. Crowns offer a great linear plane to practice pattern recognition too, so for slightly older children, try encourage pattern making on their crowns using similar sized stickers or a coordinated series of colors.

Once the crown is finished, adjust according to size, then tape or staple the crown’s flaps together. Voila! Every child becomes instant royalty!

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.

Book Swap!

Building a good personal library of children’s books can be tricky and expensive. For every book that a child wants to read over and over again, there are at least two or three that never get looked at. Why not free yourself of some clutter and also discover some new-old books that might just get added to the favorites pile?

Right at the front entrance of thePTLLplayspace is a big blue bookshelf, filled with books that you and your children can peruse, read, and even take home! Bring the borrowed book back, or if you’ve found a new family favorite, bring in a substitute. Have a pile of children’s books in decent condition? Donate them to the library’s swap shelf and watch them take on new life in the hands of other children.

Not sure if the book your child wants to take home is a swap book or from the playspace collection? Check for the white donation sticker, usually located on the back cover. Anytime you want to add a book to the swap shelf, just make sure to mark it with one of these stickers.

Art Group – Wednesday, April 4

Clap your hands! Stamp your… paper? Toddlers, Twos and Threes did just that this past Wednesday, creating vibrant prints made from our foam and rubber stamp collection and tempera paint. What a stamp collection we have too! Stamps of different shapes, sizes, and textures. Stamps for small hands, stamps for bigger hands. Stamps with handles. Intricate textures, basic shapes, really something for every child’s creative impulse.

Most of the time, stamping will be done with a flat ink pad, but using a thin layer of tempera paint can be a fun way to brighten things up. Simply apply a thin layer of paint to a flat tray or palette, smoothing it out to get a nice even layer. The thinner, the better. Have your children carefully dip the stamp into the paint. From there, they can either brush off or wipe off the excess paint with their fingertips or they can apply as is. Be aware that too much paint cause the stamp’s image to distort on the page, so I recommend wiping off the extra for a clearer picture.

Want more variety to your children’s stamping fun? Change up the surface they apply the stamps to. Construction paper is a nice starter, but also try newsprint, wax paper, old stationary and envelopes (great for a homemade touch to “Thank You” cards), paper doilies, even fabrics. For slightly older children, upgrade the paint to acrylics and try stamp printing onto cotton t-shirts, tote bags, and other materials.

Stamps really are for all-ages – it just depends on how they’re being used. Younger children can have the same free-form fun that they have with finger painting and other forms of printing, but for older children, a more structured activity may engage them more. So consider using stamp prints in making different kinds of cards or mementos. The above pictured card was made by an older child visitor to the art space. Her and her sister both used the stamps to make “Thank You” cards for their parents. How creative and sweet!

When younger children are using the stamps, the images may not come out as clear. No worries! The process is the important factor. Children learn a lot through basic printmaking. They learn colors, textures, and different ways to apply paint. Through stamps, they even learn about mirror-images and basic symmetry. Plus, identifying the stamp images is a fun way for very young children to learn different objects and shapes. Before pouring the paint, have your children pick out the different pictures on each shape. After each have been identified, the printing can begin.

Want to add even more fun to your stamping party? Try making your own! There a dozens of methods to try, from ones appropriate for children to some that you may want to do during your own craft time. Here’s a few videos to get you started:

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, April 2

Who can explain today’s extra craziness? Nice weather? Burn off from March Madness? Spring Fever?

Whatever the cause, the Pittsburgh Toy Lending Library was buzzing with noise and activity. A slim early crowd quickly grew into dozens of visitors, with kids in the craft area, in the castle, on the trampoline, riding bikes, and of course, at storytime. It was a great time to be at storytime too, because we were reading an absolute favorite (especially among fans of dinosaurs):

The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct
by Mo Willems

Edwina is the friendliest dinosaur a town could ask for. She plays with the children, fixes streetlights, and bakes cookies for all. Everyone loves Edwina! Except for Reginald Von Hoobie Doobie, who can’t understand why Edwina is hanging around if she is extinct. Can Reginald Von Hoobie Doobie get the town’s citizens to recognize this fact? Will they care? And what will happen to Edwina?

Mo Willems is a consistent favorite at storytime and Edwina is no different – Brightly illustrated, humorously told, and with just the right amount of wit for adult readers, the book works fantastically for a variety of age-levels. Even kids normally disinterested in dinosaur stories love Edwina.  With her winning personality and gung-ho sense of self, it would be hard to resist her (very alive) charms.

If you’re interested in activities to go along with the story, there are some great options via Mo Willems himself. Visit to find a coloring page, a dinosaur word search, and even a cookie recipe from Edwina herself! You and your kids can even find out a few fun facts about the dinosaur, including her favorite color, her favorite cookie, and her hobbies.

At our storytime, we followed up the book by making our very own finger puppet dinosaurs to carry with us. Want to try it at home? It’s easy! Just print out the following template:

Have your kids color in the dinosaur, then either cut or help them cut out the dinosaur and finger holes. Regular paper works fine, but for a more durable puppet, use cardstock or other thicker, more durable paper. You could also trace the dinosaur onto construction paper. Add embellishments (stickers, googly eyes, etc.) as desired.

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