Betsy Diamant-Cohen invited me to the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore in spring 2007 to observe her leading Mother Goose on the Loose and trained me to bring her program to the Kent Island Branch of the Queen Anne’s County Library in Stevensville, MD. For over 6 years, Mother Goose on the Loose has been a regular event here for young children and their families.
Earlier this month, I debuted the new Felt Board – Mother Goose on the Loose app. I offer two sessions each Friday morning, and 9 children attended each of those first two sessions. I began each session by mirroring the Mother Goose image over the cloud and making her fly for the opening rhyme. The next to last rhyme of the session was a mirrored, interactive Little Bo Peep.
The children responded to Little Bo Peep with curiosity, interest, pride, and plenty of smiles. They came forward alone or with a parent and were able to find a sheep and then allow another child to take a turn.
After the first session, three or four adults wanted to know what the MGOL icon looked like and where to download it, how much it cost (free!), etc. Several came up after the program to view additional rhymes.
Prior to the second session, one mother asked how different MGOL 2.0 would be from the traditional routine; she had chosen not to expose her son, who is under 2 years old, to any screen time. She was relieved to find that the app was used for only 2 out of about 30 rhymes and songs. She did say that she noticed, even when the screen went dark, that her son kept looking at the wall to see whether more images would appear.
That same mother and many more returned for our second week using the app. The last of the “opening rhymes and reads” featured a mirrored Five Fat Sausages. Instead of participating in the rhyme as they usually would (counting on fingers, clapping for “bam!”), children at both sessions kept their eyes fixed on the projection screen, their bodies and hands still.
Our final rhyme was Humpty Dumpty, which I set up on both the traditional felt board and with the mirrored app. Unfortunately, a connection came loose and the mirroring failed during the first session. With 18 children in attendance, Humpty Dumpty turned into a scrum of toddlers reaching for the iPad. A few went to the felt board, but many clustered by my knee at the iPad and did not take turns as they customarily do with the felt board but tried to repeatedly touch the iPad screen. With one exception, parents did not intervene or come up to use the iPad with their children. The mirroring worked at the second session. All 4 children who came forward to participate chose the flannel board and ignored the iPad.
MGOL is based on repetition and routine. The children who are so accustomed to touching my flannel Humpty Dumpty did not transition well to the iPad. Some children seem distracted by the presence of a screen and less likely to speak or clap while watching the screen.
The projection certainly holds the children’s attention, and I am interested to see whether repeated use of the iPad in our 2014 sessions will increase children’s familiarity and comfort and allow them to verbalize and interact more. I will also continue to emphasize the collaborative nature of the app and the importance of parents interacting with children during this and other apps.
I count the response to Little Bo Peep as my MGOL app success story thus far and look forward to integrating more of the Felt Board scenes into our routine.Julie Ranelli is Children’s/Young Adult Library at Queen Anne’s County Free Library.