Work What You’ve Got: Underside of Tables


Remember that time I said I wanted to write a new series and then I never continued it? Those were good times…

So today I have something to share that’s so easy I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before.

Decorating the underside of tables.


The tables in my programming area are the perfect height for toddlers to walk under and my preschoolers were constantly taking puppets underneath them during playtime to play “wolf in the den” or “bear in the cave,” RAWRING at everyone that walks by. Hiding underneath tables is already a magical experience for kids, so why not dress it up with some sensory elements?

As you can see, I’ve done this with Christmas decorations like bulbs, tinsel, and string lights, and I’ve also done it with tissue paper, glittery stickers, leaves, flowers…all kinds of things. Some kids like to lay underneath them and take it in, and some parents even sit next to the tables with their toddlers to point and talk.

It’s a very Michelangelo experience, so give it a try and tell me how it goes.


Work What You’ve Got: Clunky Wooden Puzzles


I’m starting a series of posts on how to add value back to the toys, activities, and props that we’ve all come to take for granted. If you have children in your life, chances are that you have some old standbys lying around, and if you’re anything like the librarians, teachers, and parents I know, you’d rather use what you have than spend more money and take up more storage space with new items.

Allow me to demonstrate.

This Christmas, a well-meaning relative gifted some puzzles to my library, and being that our library system as a whole is not lacking in these chunky, wooden puzzles, I was a little underwhelmed.

farm puzzle

I have a very real lack of storage space at my library, so I decided that I needed to find a use for these puzzles. I swapped out older ones and placed others near the adult computers as boredom busters for little ones, but it wasn’t too long before I got an idea to use the farm set for an early literacy station.

I thought, “Lots of parents have these. Why don’t I extend this simple activity into a rich, early literacy experience?”

So a teammate and I got cracking on making it into a full-fledged station. Here’s what we came up with.

farm match

At the end of our picture books aisles, you’ll find this display. The photos are attached to a picture frame (the size of a poster board) by velcro and can be flipped over to reveal which puzzle piece goes with the photos.

This activity begs for conversation that will help children gain practical knowledge about where food comes from, where animals live, what baby animals are called, and more. Meaningful conversation between adults and little ones will almost always include new and diverse vocabulary. Can you imagine a dad explaining to his toddler how a horse’s hooves need to be cleaned? Or that some chickens lay white eggs and others lay brown?

So take those puzzle pieces out of their boxes or shapes and re-use them for play!

Have you beefed up any of your standbys in your library, center, or home?