Stroller Parking

stroller parking Today, I will address an issue that affects anyone who coordinates programs with children – be it in a library, children’s museum, or activity room. Like silent pack animals they wait, blocking doors, tracking mud, and leaving behind a smatterings of Cheerios. The issue of which I speak, of course, is strollers.

Strollers are an essential item in parenting life, especially when siblings are at different stages of crawling, walking, and dodging up mall escalators. Strollers are a one-stop shops for snacks, naps, diapering necessities, and sanitation rituals.

The problem, however, begins when strollers start wandering into areas that need to be kept clear. Our gallery is small, so we mounted a sign asking people to leave their strollers by the front door (strollers carrying sleeping occupants being the exception of course). The sign sort of worked. But when bad weather set in and muddy slush was being tracked to the back of the gallery where babies were crawling, we realized we needed to strengthen our front door message.

That’s when I hit on the idea of stroller parking.

First, I purchased a 3′ x 22′ non-skid rug runner (it’s rubber backed for those inevitable wet stroller wheels). With shipping, it cost $256. Then, Marissa and I made parking lines with yellow masking tape. It was that simple.

stroller parking rugWell, it worked like magic. Immediately, strollers started parking in tidy little lines at the front of our gallery. And it’s still going strong! Since stroller parking started over a year ago, we haven’t had any strollers wandering into the gallery. Here’s a shot on a busy Monday morning, all parked and proper.

monday morning stroller parkingEvery once in a while a masking tape line gets ripped and we have to replace it. Otherwise, this little parking lot takes care of itself! Mind you, we still have a sign up. I think you need both the rug and the sign to get this to work. Recently, we re-purposed an old gallery element as a new sign post:

lamp post signBest of all, the lamp’s sign holder is open on both sides. So as you’re exiting the gallery, you can read the final sentences from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:

lamp post back

Houston, We Have a Squeaker

houston we have a squeakerBoldly go where no mouse has gone before. We created a rad rodent rocket, then flew it across the library on a mission to the moon! If you are ever looking for an excuse to bust out a pair of walkie-talkies at story time, this project is for you.

We read Mousetronaut, written by real-life astronaut Mark Kelly, and illustrated by C.F. Payne (Simon & Schuster, 2012). Meteor is smaller than the rest of the mice training at NASA. Imagine his surprise when he is selected for the next mission! From floating in zero gravity to gazing at Earth in the distance, Meteor loves everything about his journey. But when the key to the control panel is stuck between the monitors, the mission is in peril. Luckily, undersized Meteor can squeeze in and save the day. When the crew returns to earth, Meteor is given a hero’s welcome and a new title…Mousetronaut! Aspiring astronauts should definitely check out Mark’s essay in the back of the book. I especially enjoyed the bit about space bathrooms (including space showers, air toilets, foamless soap, and dry shampoo!).

You’ll need:

  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • Grey construction paper
  • 1 mouse spacesuit template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ paper
  • 3 piece of string for whiskers (mine were 1.75″ long)
  • 1 mini pom-pom
  • 1 box (I used a 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9” box, a large tissue box works too!)
  • A box cutter
  • 1 cone water cup
  • A 5oz cup
  • A 9oz plastic cocktail cup
  • 1 rocket wings template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • A selection of color masking tape
  • Red and yellow squares of cellophane (approximately 5″ x 5″)
  • A selection of metallic dot stickers
  • 1 Moon Mission game (more on this below!)
  • A selection of foil star stickers
  • Scissors, and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

First, the mouse! Wrap a toilet paper tube with grey construction paper. Use extra bits of the paper to fashion some ears. The uniform from the template gets colored in, then wrapped around the tube as well. Draw the eyes and mouth with markers. If you’d like whiskers, tape 3 pieces of 1.75″ string to the tube. Then hot glue a pom-pom nose on top (you can also just draw the nose and whiskers with markers).

finished space mouseSet the mouse aside for a moment. It’s time for the rocket!

finished mouse rocketThe trickiest part of constructing this rocket? Finding the right plastic cups for the “seat” and “cockpit.” The seat cup needs to hold mouse snugly, while still allowing it plenty of head room. I found some 5oz plastic cups that were just perfect.

mouse in cupUse a box cutter to cut a square hole in the lid of your box (if you’re using a tissue box, flip the box over and cut the square in the bottom). You want the hole to be big enough to slide the cup into, but not so big that the cup is in danger of dropping through (mine was 2.5″ x 2.5″). Slide the cup into the hole, then secure it to the box with tape. Place your mouse in the cup.

hole for seat cupThe cockpit cup needs to be wide enough to cover the hole, yet tall enough for your mouse’s ears. This 9oz clear plastic cocktail cup did the job very nicely.

mouse in cockpitIn the image above, you’ll notice that the cockpit cup is attached to the box with a single piece of tape. This is so you can open and close the hatch of the rocket. If you’d prefer your mouse to be sealed in, add more tape. Next, print and cut the wings template, fold along the dotted lines to create a tab, and attach the tab to the side of the box with tape or hot glue.

tabbed wing for mouse rocketTo make the rocket’s boosters, twist squares of yellow and red cellophane together, then tape the twists inside a pair of plastic cups (I used white, 3oz plastic cups). Hot glue the cups to the back of the ship.

boosters of mouse rocketThe nose of the rocket is a cone water cup. We hot glued our cones to unused, 3.5″ paper lids (the kind you get when you buy hot soup). But you can just go with the cone if you’d like.

nose of mouse rocketDecorate the ship with metallic dot stickers, color masking tape, and whatever else strikes your fancy (we flashed things up with silver holographic tape). Also, did you notice the awesome bubble tea straw pipes down the side of the rocket?

finished mouse rocketBut wait, what about those red foil star stickers along the top of the rocket? Ahhhh! The star stickers were the prize for playing our Moon Mission game! Here’s how the game worked. Marissa made a big moon (22″ in diameter) out of poster board and a silver metallic marker (to make sure it stayed upright, I taped it to a plastic display stand – a book end might work too).

poster board moonMarissa also crafted this awesome Moon Base out of a tissue box, poster board, a sparkle stem, and a mini tin foil pie plate. Stashed inside the moon base were strips of foil star stickers, waiting to be claimed.

moon baseMarissa and I equipped ourselves with a couple of walkie-talkies. Marissa was Mission Control, stationed in the story time area…

marissa at ground controlAnd I was at Moon Base, waaaaay across the library’s cavernous lobby. Marissa and I couldn’t see each other and definitely couldn’t hear each other without using walkie-talkies. This was intentional. We wanted the kids to feel like they were traveling far away.

dr. dana at moon base

The astronauts (and mousetronauts) lined up at Mission Control.

ready for take offOne-by-one, they were treated to some “walkie-talkie space banter:”

Moon Base, do you read? This is Mission Control. Over.

Moon Base here, roger that Mission Control. Over.

Astronaut (kid’s name) is ready for take-off. Over.

Roger that. Good luck (kid’s name). See you on the moon! Over.

There would be a countdown and then the rocket would blast off out of the gallery, exit our library’s front door and enter the vast regions of outer space (i.e. the main library’s lobby)…

mouse in flightThe rocket would navigate the long journey across space…

the vastness of spaceAnd successfully touchdown at Moon Base! The pilot could then could select some star stickers to further decorate his/her rocket. I radioed back that the mission had been a success, and requested that the next astronaut prepare for launch.

touch down at moon baseOf course, while waiting for my next rocket to arrive, I couldn’t help treating Marissa to a few songs through the walkie-talkie: This is Ground Control to Major Tom…You’ve really made the graaade!

Because you know the folks at NASA sing in their headsets like that. And are Bowie fans.

A Hidden Gem

index cIf you happen to be on Greene Street, on New York University’s campus, on just the right day, you might notice a parade of strollers and eager children piling into an inconspicuous brown brick building. There, on the 5th floor, is a beautiful little gem of a children’s library – the Constantine Georgiou Library and Resource Center for Children and Literature.

index 2dThe library honors author, scholar, and late NYU Steinhardt professor Constantine Georgiou (you might recognize one of his books, The Clock, from this story time post). It houses, and continues to grow, Georgiou’s children’s literature collection, and is the home to NYU’s Clinical Literacy Practicum, which offers intensive tutoring for grade 1 through high school.

The library also offers community story times, programs, learning initiatives, innovative collaborations, and panel discussion (check out this one with Kwame Alexander!), which are developed, coordinated, and oft delivered by, super librarian Kendra Tyson.

image 2 copy aKendra offers three weekly infant and toddler morning story times. Twice weekly, she heads offsite to local schools to lead emergent literacy programs. Additionally, she hosts student field observations for the Office of Clinical Studies, facilitates events with the Office of Community Affairs, leads professional development workshops, and guest lectures in Teaching & Learning courses at NYU. She’s a busy, busy woman.

On a side note (but I have to mention it because it is so awesome) Kendra is launching a collaborative read-aloud program with historic homes, beginning with Sagamore Hill, Teddy Roosevelt’s family home in Long Island. She’s hoping that the pilot program, which merges picture book biographies with objects in the historic home setting, will be the ultimate primary source experience. As I said, awesome.

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The last time I was in New York City, I stopped by the Constantine Georgiou Library to snap a few pictures of this beautiful, charming space.

a hidden gemThough it has no windows to the exterior of the building, the room’s high ceilings, ample overhead lighting, and fresh natural and green colors give the little library a feeling of space and light. And check out those big, green, belly-flopping ottomans. Don’t they look like speech bubbles?

Running the length of two walls are rows and rows of book shelves. On some, the book are divided into sections of special interest.

shapes and math sectionsOn others, there stacked next to cute little flourishes and kid-friendly props. I especially like this little Egyptian statue with a sepia-tinted world map.

shelf decorThere’s also a section of flat shelves that allow you to display the books by cover. I would love some of these in my library! Nothing says “pick me up!” more than a colorful book cover!

display shelvesThe lower shelves of the library hold the board books, which are stored in clear bins for easy browsing.

board book binsAnd not too far away from the books are Kendra’s puppets, resting up for their next story time performance.

library puppetsAround the library, kid-size tables (and a few adult ones) are scattered, each holding toys to grab, or books to read!

library table 1library table 2

OK, this next photo’s not exactly glamorous, but the practical part of me loved it. The underside of a counter being used for extra chair storage. No ugly stacks of chairs threatening to topple on toddlers here!

under counter storageI’m a sucker for cute mobiles (as documented in this post). This airy geometric mobile offered the perfect pop of color in the corner.

library mobileJust outside the main door to the library is an open space for stroller parking, and wooden risers for larger performances or group visitors.

lobby of libraryHere’s a closer shot of the front entryway…

windowDon’t you love the built-in window that doubles as an exhibit space?

window exhibitI know New Yorkers have to do clever things with limited space, and this little one-room library is the perfect example of how to be big, spacious, fun, and fresh in a small space. They don’t mind getting messy either! Here’s a shot of a Jackson Pollock-style drip painting program complete with acrylic paints, canvases, paintbrushes, and ping pong balls (as well as read alouds of The Dot (Candlewick, 2003), and Action Jackson (Square Fish, 2007)).

IMG_9261 dThe Constantine Georgiou Library and Resource Center for Children and Literature is open Monday-Thursdays, 9:00-4:00, and Fridays, 9:00-2:00. If you’re in the area, definitely go for a visit!

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Program images courtesy of the Constantine Georgiou Library and Resource Center for Children and Literature.