Kidz Stuff Swap & Shop 2012

Got items you’d like to donate?  Drop them off at the JCC in Squirrel Hill or the PTLL from October 30 – November 1 from 9:30 am to 12pm.

Need to find your little one a new outfit or two?  Then, visit the Swap and Shop on November 4th from 10am-12pm at the JCC in Squirrel Hill!

$5 to drop, stop, or swap!



Storytime Picks from Monday, July 16

After a quiet storytime last week, we had a wonderfully scattered program today, mostly due to one avid reader who could not wait for her story. So we did a warm up story (the greatDinosaur Roar!) before starting on our stretches. Then the group enjoyed a short, but fun rendition of a classic folk tale.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears
by James Marshall

Marshall’s vivid style and signature humor enliven this classic tale about a mischievous little girl running afoul of three bears. When Goldilocks ignores her mother’s advice and takes a shortcut in the forest, she comes across the home of three bears. Being curious and a little naughty, she helps herself to some porridge, breaks a chair, and falls asleep in one of the beds. But what will become of Goldilocks when the bears come home? While some “Goldilocks” stories contain endings that may frighten very young children, Marshall caps off his rendition in a style that is, as the narrator might put it, just right.

One of the best aspects of reading folk and fairy tales to your children is the variety of tellings waiting to be explored. Try versions with contrasting artwork, contradicting plots and endings, and different languages. Most library children’s sections have a separate shelf for folk and fairy tales, so finding a new variation of a beloved story is quick and easy.

If your kids loved Marshall’s Goldilocks and the Three Bears, experiment with other versions of the story:


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

Storytime Picks from Monday, July 2

Happy July! It was a hot week and it’s shaping up to be a hot week, but the inside of the Toy Lending Library is always cool, cool, cool. Perhaps the heat explains the extra large crowd of children in the library this morning, many of whom sat down for a quick, funny story and a quick, fun craft to go along with it:

by Oliver Jeffers

Floyd has a problem. His kite is stuck in a tree. To get it out, he throws his favorite shoe, but then IT gets stuck in the tree. So, of course, he throws his other shoe to knock out his favorite one, but then BOTH SHOES are stuck in the tree. Your kids will love the funny, quirky ways in which Floyd attempts to get his stuff (and everything else he throws up in there) out of the tree.  Jeffers is an expert storyteller – his stories are humorous, well-paced, and perfect for call-and-response between reader and audience – and his simple, scrawly style is a perfect visual match for the tone.

After we finished the story, we decided to get a few things stuck in some trees of our own. You can do this at home for an easy post-storytime craft. Simply print out the following picture (or any coloring page of a tree):

First, let your kids color the trees with crayons, markers, or colored pencils. Then, using stickers of various shapes, colors, and sizes, have them place stickers all around the tree, noting when a particular sticker is similar to an object from the book. If you don’t have stickers, you can use cut out objects from magazines and newspapers to build a collage. Have your kids look through magazines with you and find objects similar to the ones Floyd throws into the tree. Cut them out, get a glue stick, and let them start sticking.

Want to try another Oliver Jeffers book with your kids? Check out these additional titles from the author:



Want even more Stuck? Check out this great video of Oliver Jeffers reading his book:

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

Art Group – Wednesday, June 27

Just in case you were wondering, that is not a plate of salad, but rather the starting elements of our Toddlers, Twos and Threes Art Group natural collages.  Before time for art group, we harvested what natural items we could from the topiary around the Toy Lending Library, including leaves, flowers, mulch, acorn tops, and woody weeds. Once everything was laid out, it was time to get gluing and sticking items to our recycled paper pages.

We watered down our glue to make it easier to spread on the page, then the kids had at it. It can take a little extra glue to make some of the larger pieces stick and many of the items need to fully dry before they are stabilized on the paper, but the visual and textural results are worth the patience.

Some of our advanced artists decided that the collages needed a bit more color, so we added some of the feathers from the art area to provide a little extra pizzazz. The feathers – even in unnatural colors – were a nice visual and textural complement to the natural collage elements.

The addition of unnatural elements can even be instructional. After the collages are finished, have your kids point out the items on the page that can be found in nature and those that are strictly art supplies. Differentiating between something natural and something manufactured is a great step in building their appreciation for the environment.

Half the fun of creating natural collages at home is the opportunity to collect items from outside and incorporate them into art time. When your kids are playing outside, have them pick items they might like to use. They can build artwork based off the grass and flowers in their yard, the leaves and bark on close-by trees, and anything else within proximity to the house.

If you and your family take a lot of nature walks, bring a plastic bag to collect items of interest from the ground. (When collecting in a public park or nature reserve, teach your kids to be considerate of the natural world and to only pick things up from the ground.)

As your children make the natural collages, ask them where each item might have come from. Did this big, dark green leaf come from the tree in the front yard? Did that flower come from the park down the street? Associate them not just with the texture, colors, and shapes of the items they use, but their origins as well. Their memories and sense of placement for the items they use will increase exponentially as they routinely create natural collages.

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, June 25

Good morning! Maybe it’s the nice, slightly cooler weather or maybe the kids are just a little worn out from playing in the heat this weekend, but in any case, this may have been the most attentive storytime yet. After some stretches, shouts, AND yawns, we sat down to read one story and instead got two.

Once again, we were joined by Mo Willems and his pal, the Pigeon:

Pigeon is a kid favorite. Even Duckling has his own book too! If your kids love Pigeon, Duckling, and all the rest of the Willems’ universe of characters, why not consider throwing a Pigeon-themed Birthday Party? Here are some great ideas to get you started:

  • Check out Mo Willems’s Pigeon Presents website for coloring pages, activities, and online interactive games involving all of his characters. Check out the “Grown Up Stuff” for event kits and activity guides.
  • Use Pinterest? Check out Laura Polak’s awesome “Party with the Pigeon” board, complete with plushes,  paper crafts, activities, and more!
  • We did this simple and fun Pigeon craft last time we read his books for storytime (from This and That at the Library):
  • Mel’s Desk has a great entry about throwing a Mo Willems Party for her after-school group. Great ideas for simple activities!

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

Art Group – Wednesday, June 20

Boy, it’s hot out there! We thought we’d cool off in Toddlers, Twos and Threes Art Group with a special painting project – Spray Watercolor Painting!

The process is easy – Using our liquid watercolors, we filled spray bottles with a diluted water-paint mixture that was then used on stencils and paper (as well as free form, without stencils). The results, while a little drippy, were fantastic, as our little artists were able to create instant pictures with a single spray.

For a project like this, any stencils will do, but the general preference was to use larger, half- to full-page stencils. The smaller and more intricate a picture, the less likely the watercolor spray would allow it to come out clearly. Bigger pictures with less detail work better with the drippy paint. Mixing and matching stencils in a single work is definitely recommended – just wait between paint applications to use a new stencil, otherwise the previous stencil picture will smear.

Also, the spray technique works best if the child stands a little farther away from the work. For very young children, help them direct the bottle toward the paper and assist with working the nozzle. Once they get the hang of it, they may be a little spray-happy. Table coverings are a must. (This is also a great activity for outside!)

Of course, not every kid wants to use the stencils. As sprayed freely on the paper, the paint leaves a beautiful pattern. Mixing various colors in little spray “clouds” is a beautiful and simple way to color a blank piece of paper. Wait for the paint to dry and use the work as a background for a drawing or a painting with tempera paints, or reuse as wrapping paper, place mats, or pieces for future collages.

Again, the closer the spray bottle is to the paper, the more concentrated the paint will be. Encourage your kids to experiment with standing farther from the work and spraying, then standing closer and spraying. Ask them if they notice the difference in the painting between distances.

For surfaces, you can start them on paper, but once they’ve mastered spray-painting the page, try out different options. Remember that denser papers soak up the watercolor faster than regular, printer-type paper. Larger spans of paper work especially well here, but you can also use the spray-watercolors on denser papers, diffusion tissue (like coffee filters), or lightly colored textiles. Use the stencil and spray-watercolors on a white piece of cotton and transform a scrap of fabric into a patch or tiny flag. The variations are endless and allow this activity to be fun for a wide range of ages.

The tactile experience of the paint application is doubled up here. First, kids get to use spray bottles, an action that, apparently, many take to very quickly! The second element of tactile input are the watercolor paints themselves. Getting to feel the paint in both spray form and on the page is a great way for kids to experience different levels of dampness.

And don’t forget – this process works great in reverse too! Have your kids flick tiny drops of concentrated watercolor on the paper, then spray with clear water from the spray bottle. The little bits of color become page-wide streaks.

(On really hot days, feel free to turn that clean water spray bottle on yourself and your kids!)

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, June 13

It was a relatively quiet morning at the Toy Lending Library on Wednesday, so we spent our Toddlers, Twos and Threes Art Group hour once again sculpting, molding, smashing, scrunching, and otherwise handling playdough. With a fresh batch of green playdough for our activities, we used every tool in our arsenal to get the most fun out of this delightful squishy substance.

Because we have covered playdough in two other posts (most recently in March) instead of focusing this post on the basics of why and how to use playdough with kids, we’d like to use this post to reinforce a couple of positive actions when it comes to having your kids use the arts space at PTLL.

First off, it’s really important, even when volunteering, that you keep an eye on what your child (or children) are doing in all areas of the playspace, including the art area. Not only does this insure safe and reasonable behavior on the behalf of all children playing, it furthers the bond between parent and child by showing your kids that you are remaining actively engaged in what they are doing, even when you have other tasks to complete.

Another benefit of keeping an eye on your kids in the art space is that your presence can mean the difference between your child playing well, sharing, and even collaborating with other kids and not interacting or interacting poorly. You don’t have to mediate all your child’s interactions, but simply having that active engagement in the background is sometimes enough encouragement for more positive, agreeable (less aggressive) interactions with other children.

Don’t be afraid to create alongside of your children, especially when there’s few other children creating in the art space and supplies are plentiful. Grab a chunk of playdough and craft objects and modelswith your kids. Help them build upon their work and help them take it apart. You aren’t co-opting their creative process simply by including yourself. Rather, you’re increasing the chances that your kids will see arts and crafts as valuable activities actively endorsed by their parent or parents. If they see that you enjoy an activity, they’re more likely to engage in that activity as well.

Finally, make sure to help your children clean up after they are done in the space. This reinforces ownership over the activity itself and reminds them of the responsibilities attached to any activity. Try to use positive language in regards to cleaning up as it builds a better association with the act than nagging or otherwise negative tones.

Remember: The art area in the playspace are meant to be enjoyed by all visitors to the Toy Lending Library. Leaving supplies and the area dirty makes it harder for everyone to get the most out of the space, and, in some cases, can even waste or ruin supplies (like leaving paintbrushes in paint overnight). Being observant of your children in the space will also remind you of the items that need to be picked up, recycled, thrown out, or cleaned and stored away.

If you have any questions, concerns, or requests for the arts space, get in contact with the Art and Crafts Coordinator.

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.