Blog Archives

Spooky Story Dice: An App Review, by Naomi Smith

Spooky Story Dice from Thinkamingo is a simple app with lots of possibilities for story telling or dramatic play with a spooky twist. It is currently available for $0.99 from the Apple Store.

The app interface is incredibly simple, two black dice with spooky-themed pictures on a wood-looking background. Kids can tap or shake the screen to roll the dice and then create stories based on the pictures on the dice. In the settings, parents can change the number of dice and find helpful suggestions on how to play with the app. The dice feature pictures rather than words, so younger children and those who do not read English will be able to play. While many of the images, such as spiders or robots, will be familiar to kids, some–such as the radioactive symbol–might take some assistance from a grown up.

I tried the app with a group of fourth and fifth graders from the local Boys and Girls Club where we provided a weekly outreach program this summer.  Reading scary stories aloud with the kids has been one of the most popular themes each year. After listening to some scary stories, I told them we were going to make up our own.  I held the iPad and had kids take turns coming up. Each roll of the dice added a sentence to the story based on the picture shown.  In a few instances, we added in lines to help the story move along. The results are below:

Justin is rich, with a bag of gold, and Elijah likes bats. Elijah met a witch, she threw a bomb at him. But, by a stroke of luck, just as a bomb was coming his way, Elijah found a four leaf clover and was saved. He looked up and saw a dragon named Spiderman. Elijah made a stupid potion, Justin cannot read time. Elijah found a ninja, the ninja came with a gear. Then Justin found a skull and a frog. The frog was radioactive. Elijah and the dragon made a drama troupe. The frog was so radioactive he was bigger than the dragon. He pulled his skin off. Justin made a potion, but only had a little bit of time left. The dragon spun a web –Sherlock used his webs to make a knife and kill him. So Justin had put on a mask for Halloween. Then Elijah and Justin became pirates and flew away in a rocket. They became pen pals with a ghost. The End.

As you can see, using the app won’t make expert storytellers out of novices! In the future I might spend a little bit of time talking about the structure of a story first. Then the kids can take turns coming up with a line or two more based on each set of pictures before rolling again.  However, the kids did have a lot of fun and the app added something more to the typical everyone-adds-a-line story telling game. A bonus was that it was an app that I could use successfully in a group setting without needing to project the image to a larger screen.  I would recommend this for any one looking for a fun spooky story telling game for school aged kids.

Naomi Smith is a Youth Services Librarian for the Parkland/Spanaway branch of the Pierce County Library System in Tacoma, WA. She occasionally tweets at @Naomireads.
 
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Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

Using the Sesame Street Family Play App to Play Together On and Off the Screen, by Naomi Smith

Let’s talk transitions. Storytellers and librarians are no doubt familiar with trying to come up with the perfect transitions in story times. I have used fun apps like Animal Sounds or Endless Alphabet as transitional activities between books in my Toddler Times. Parents too, are faced with a series of transitions for their young children. Waking up, going potty, brushing teeth, getting dressed, eating breakfast, playing, cleaning up, potty again, putting on shoes, getting into the car. All of this and more before story time! Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to share apps with parents that could help assist with transitions and waiting and kept the parent and child engaged with each other?

My go-to app for this is Sesame Street Family Play. It suggests real life games to play with children. The package of games for home comes with the $.99 app, download games for both travel and away from home for $1.99 more. The app asks simple questions to start, like your location and whether you have certain materials handy. If you say no, no problem, it moves right along. It then suggests a quick game, endorsed by one of the Sesame Street characters, that a caregiver and child(ren) can play together right that minute.

IMG_8511My children, ages two and four, and I enjoy playing together on my iPad. But they often have a difficult time transitioning to another activity. Enter Family Play. One night, after we had played with two apps, one of each child’s choosing, I chose Family Play. I told the kids that we were going to look at the iPad and a Sesame Street friend would suggest a game. They were sold. First, we measured the living room in lengths of kid (8.5 if you were wondering), then we played a game where the first person to find an object to put on their head was the winner and the most creative was also a winner. The app even tells you which skills you are helping your child develop by playing. We’ve also used the app when transitioning between non screen activities. The time between clean up and bath time went from boredom and sibling squabbles to pretending to be frogs and hopping over lily pads made of throw pillows. Yes, I can think of games on my own, but it’s always nice to have an assist after a long day.

Family Play is a favorite of mine personally. However, there are many other apps that would fit the bill for all sorts of families. Why not do a couple of fun math problems with Bedtime Math, learn a few new rhymes with ACPL Family, dance with the Laurie Berkner Band, or create a story about your day together using Our Story for iPad? All free to download! What apps do you like best for helping parents and children have fun together, both on and off the screen?

Naomi Smith is a Youth Services Librarian for the Parkland/Spanaway branch of the Pierce County Library System in Tacoma, WA where gets to do the Baby and Toddler Story Times. She occasionally tweets at @Naomireads.
 
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Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

Tigers and Elephants and Underwear, Oh My! Mixing it up with the iPad in Story Time, by Naomi Smith

I started using the iPad in my toddler story times last fall. I usually project an interactive ebook or do a small app-tivity with the kids and it has been going really well. However, I sometimes struggle during the planning process to come up with fun new apps or ebooks to use. Then it hit me: I beg, borrow and steal ideas from colleagues (both virtual and in person) for other parts of my story times. Why not mix some of those ideas in with technology?

Last week I subbed for my co-worker’s preschool story time. We are both doing alphabet themes, and the letter of the week was T. While I was planning, I happened to read article in ALSC’s Children & Libraries called “Participation Palooza! Creating a Festive Storytime Atmosphere with Interactive Books” by Jessica Pyrek. She suggested David LaRochelle’s It’s a Tiger as a book where kids could participate with movement. I remembered that we have that book in our library’s Axis360 collection on the Blio app. I checked it out and downloaded to use with the kiddos.

Before the story, I gave clues and had the kids guess which “T” animal we were going to read about next. I told them we were going to put the book on the big screen so we could all see it, and that we all had to stand up so that we could get away from the tiger together. After a brief glitch with the Apple TV (while I rebooted, the kids all assured me that their TVs at home worked), we stood up for the story. The kids had a great time running, climbing ladders, doing the other actions and pointing out the tiger on every page. Since I just had the iPad Mini in my hand, I could do the actions a lot better than if I had been holding the book.

Digital Story Time April 2014 013_Tiger1

This week, I used the iPad for planning and promoted our Digital Kids page in story time in combination with a traditional flannel. I wanted an underwear activity to do with my toddlers and decided to check the Bedtime Math app for inspiration. I found a fun math problem about underwear for wee ones and made a flannel of three pairs of purple-elephant underwear and three pairs of striped underwear to do the problem with my toddlers.

Bedtime Underwear

During toddler story time, I did a short rhyme about underwear and then I put four pairs on the flannel board in a pattern and told them we were going to do a little problem. I asked them the question, “If you go back and forth between striped underwear and purple-elephant underwear, and you wore stripes yesterday and elephants today, which kind will you wear tomorrow?” They got it right the first time! I then took the opportunity to tell the caregivers why I was doing a math problem (because early math knowledge predicts not only later math success, but later reading success) and told them about the Bedtime Math app. One mom piped up and said that she loved the app and uses it at home with her 3- year-old. After story time, she handed another mom one of our cards that advertises our app lists and showed her how to download the app on her phone!

Thanks to Cen, Amy and Littleelit for letting me share. Now I don’t feel so guilty for all of the idea borrowing I have been doing!

Naomi Smith is a Youth Services Librarian for Parkland/Spanaway branch of the Pierce County Library System in Tacoma, WA, where she gets to do the Baby and Toddler Story Times. She is also mom to two young children. Her four-year-old son wonders aloud at why a grown-up has so many kids’ games and stories on her iPad.
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Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.