Skip to main content

Seeing a Playgroup as Tinkering

I had one of those eureka moments at a meeting a few weeks ago, when a fellow staff member was talking about her writing group and the importance of having open ended free writing components. I thought, "Hey that's tinkering too!" I think if we all look hard enough we can find lots of examples of tinkering that we do in our everyday lives or in already established library groups that doesn't have to involve electronics.

I've always been a "don't read directions first" kind of person, which was tough during my schooling years but that's the beginning of my tinkering. Can I figure it out without looking at the directions? We all develop educational and life strategies based in part by our personalities. For me, this tinkering led me to always jump head first into technology. I was never afraid of "breaking it." I'm the kind of person that purchases Adobe Photoshop and just begins by pressing all the buttons before I crack open a tutorial book (if I do at all). It's an unorthodox strategy but one that brings unique problem solving and unexpected confidence to the table. I learn different ways to do a variety of skills that works for me. It's the beginning of self-directed learning.

We recently started a playgroup for children under 5 in our children's department as an experiment to see if it would take off. When we talk to parents, they seem to always be looking for safe, appropriate places to play with their child and meet other parents especially in the winter. One of my friends always tells me that she goes to libraries during long car rides with her 1.5 year old as a break in between destinations when she gets fussy. Although they can always play with our puzzles and blocks that we provide in our children's room, the opportunity for interactions in the space could be limited.

Sometimes as librarians, we can really over think programming. For instance in our playgroup, we could have made flyers with instructions and explanations for each table with early literacy definitions but have you ever tried to read a paragraph with a 3 year old? It's hard! With that in mind, playgroups can foster that "no directions" tinkering as well. We set up stations with early literacy inspired tools that invited children and parents to explore and interact with each other but we don't tell them what to do at each station. This also helps keep parents engaged. One of our biggest stations was building. We had cardboard blocks, magnet blocks, and Duplo blocks with a Duplo table top. We also had these wonderful Duplo Read, Build kits that included a picture book story with building activities.   

Another hot station was the magnet and chalk boards. We purchased stove top covers from a thrift store and chalk board spray painted them (Thanks Pinterest!).  This became dual purpose because you could put letter magnets on it or practice your own letters or even learn to rhyme. Many parents began spelling the names of their children, the beginning of letter recognition. We never told them to do this, they just began prompting on their own or taking cues from other parents.

For our sensory bin we were recently shipped a box of Mango promotional material with orange and green shredded paper which we hid figures in to find. The kids enjoyed playing in the paper, especially putting it on parent's heads.  Caution: it DOES get messy.

As librarians, we are experimenters. We try different programs without a guarantee of how they will work but we jump in time and time again, mostly without instructions from other libraries on how a program is done. We find what works for us and we constantly try to improve and try new things. We also receive unexpected results. One mother had said how nice it was to not be distracted by all the other things in her house while playing at home which sounds a lot like why I can successfully go to the gym but the treadmill at home collects dust.

Our playgroups are on Fridays after Gather Round story time at 11:00am. Registration is required.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

3D Printing Tips

Here are some go to tools to have when 3D printing: box cutter, needle nose pliers, wire snips

The wire snips are handy when you build any kind of supports or rafts onto your project and you need to carefully cut them off. The needle nose pliers I usually use to remove gunk from the tip of the extruder and the boxcutter was for getting off those 3D printed jobs that have stuck themselves to the non heated plate.

My newest tool: painter's tape. Sometimes the simplest things can make life easier. As I was struggling with my box cutter to pry a 3D creation from our Cube 2 non heated plate, a man went by our table at the Cape Cod Mini Maker Faire and said, "Oh just cover the plate with painter's tape". EUREKA! I still have to cover the masking tape with our special glue before printing but now when I try to pull off the creation I just pull at a tape strip and it comes off easily. No more soaking the plate for 10 minutes in hot water or prying it off with a knife (or in th…

Makey Makey Floor Piano

If you are looking for a short, low cost project to do with your Makey Makeys, this one is sure to be a big hit. It's a great small group project as well as an eye catching interactive display in some noisy area of the library (as long as you can keep library staff sane). This was made as part of our Tinkering Tuesdays lab. We had low tech cardboard construction, 3D printing, and the Makey floor piano going on simultaneously. It took us about 1.5 hours with 3 teens helping.

Materials List:
Aluminum Tape $12
Duct Tape (any color) $2
Makey Makey $50
CAT cable (there's one lying around your library trust me) or just use regular wire
Wire strippers
12 x 12 x 1.5 in puzzle piece exercise mat $12
white 6 x 8 tarp (but could be smaller) $12
Computer with internet running Scratch

This video shows a demonstration with step by step picture instructions and a more detailed video explanation. I got the idea from two sites that I used for consult: Ed Tech Junkies & Make It At Your Li…

Podcast on Pokemon Go

Here is our podcast on the subject starring myself, Beth (circulation/tech services) and Suzanne (reference/YA) As we keep playing, we start to learn the finer details behind the Pokemon Go phenomenon and explain it for non-users or the curious. On a side note: I am now level 19 :)