Like my Science Storytimes over the summer (Colors, Dinosaurs, and Water), this was limited to 18 children ages 3 to 5, and they were required to have an adult with them. It was 45 minutes (our usual storytimes are 30). I got ideas for this program from Amy Koester, Abby the Librarian, and Storytime Katie.
Opening Song: “I Am Here & You Are Here” by Peter & Ellen Allard (on Sing It! Say It! Stamp It! Sway It! Vol. 3)
I couldn’t really find any fun picture books about magnets (The Shivers in the Fridge, by Fran Manushkin, seems a little too long for 3-year-olds) so I decided to just do stories that we have magnet pieces for and let the kids bring things up to the magnet board.
Story: Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma Dodd. I was surprised that more kids didn’t know this one already. Even though it was a little bit young for many of them, they enjoyed the colors and the counting. And, of course, participating by bringing up their colored dots to stick onto our magnet board.
Story: “The House that Jack Built.” We have a lot of magnetic animals, and I thought the folktale “Too Much Noise!” would be a fun story to go with it. At the next-to-last minute, I decided that the plain wooden sticks from Activity #3 below would make a great house, so I made the pieces to go with “The House that Jack Built” instead. This worked out to be really fun; in addition to bringing up pieces, the kids participated by naming the items in the cumulative rhyme. It worked out to 9 magnetic pieces for Dog’s Colorful Day and 9 for “The House that Jack Built” – just perfect for 18 kids. I started with photos instead of drawings for the cheese and animals, but started to regret it when I came to the milkmaid. Just FYI, never do an unfiltered Google image search on “milkmaid” while working a public desk. My eyeballs are still scarred.
I introduced the activities by reading a few relevant pages from A Look At Magnets by Barbara Alpert. Then I let them have at it. There were about 25 minutes left at this point. Everyone stayed at least the full 45 minutes, with several staying longer; there were two families that stayed over an hour.
Activity #1 (table): Magnetic stacking rings. I’ve used these a few times before, for the Hands-On Science Magnet program for elementary aged kids and for the family Fun with Science preschool program. Learning from my past mistakes, I only put out one set of cards, even though there were six magnetic stackers on the table. Most families followed the pattern for the first card and then did a lot of free play with the materials.
Activity #2 (table): Magnetic or not magnetic? At each seat, I set out a magnet wand and half of an egg carton with a different material in each cup. The magnetic items were paper clips, washers, and bolts. The non-magnetic items were pennies, beads, and pom poms. I also had a recording sheet for the kids to make predictions and record their results. I gave more than one washer and paper clip per child because the bar magnets are super strong and I thought they’d have fun seeing how many things they could pick up. Many of the kids were fooled by the pennies, which they expected to be magnetic.
Activity #3 (table + whiteboard): Magnet sticks. I like including some sort of craft component. This was a pretty simple craft – I put some self-stick magnets on the back of large craft sticks and then let the kids decorate the front of the stick with markers and foam stickers. They could try them out on the whiteboard. This was the most popular station, which surprised me a little bit.
Activity #4 (back bench): Exploration bottles with magnet wands. I filled six empty bottles with a variety of objects – magnetic and non-magnetic – for the kids to explore. From left to right, there’s pipe cleaner bits with beads, pipe cleaner bits with pom poms, paper clips, bells and plastic beads, and then two bottles of metal rimmed bingo chips. This was less popular than I expected. I knew there would be some baby and toddler siblings, so I didn’t want to just put out buckets of bingo chips and pipe cleaner bits because I didn’t think it would be safe. The bottles seemed like a good compromise. At some point I did pull out the bucket of pipe cleaner bits for some of the 4- and 5-year-olds, and they were fascinated by how many they could pick up with the magnet wand. They also liked using the wands to clean up the spilled bits.
Activity #5 (carpet): Magformers. I brought in my kids’ bucket-o-Magformers again. The little guys liked them just as much as the K-5 kids did at their magnet program (The picture is from the bigger kids’ program). This was a last minute add; for some reason, as I was about to leave the house this morning, I decided there wasn’t enough to do. I think we could have done without this, but it was a nice add. I liked having a variety of different kinds of activities – experiment and explore, yes, but also build and create.