Friday, October 30, 2009

A Safe and Happy Halloween

Halloween is a fun time for kids, but it is also an important time to be extra watchful for possible safety hazards so that your children will have a fun and safe Halloween. Here some tips to make your family's Halloween safe:

Costume Safety:
-costumes should be short enough so that your child won’t trip and fall.
-select ones made of flame retardant material.
-face paint should be nontoxic and hypoallergenic.
-masks should fit securely and allow your child to see well.
-knives, swords and other props should be made of a totally flexible material.
-if it is a cold night, make sure that costumes are large enough for warm clothes.
-add some reflective tape or bright colors to the costume or bag to make your child visible in the dark.

Trick-or-Treating Safety:
-adults should go with children under the age of twelve.
-carry a flashlight and walk on the sidewalks of well lit streets.
-choose well-lit houses in familiar neighborhoods only.
-older children should trick-or-treat in large groups in well known neighborhoods.
-avoid taking shortcuts across backyards or alleys.
-drivers: follow traffic signals, rules of the road; drive slowly, watching for trick-or-treaters.

Safety Tips for Homeowners:
-prepare for trick-or-treaters by: lighting the house well, removing obstacles from the front yard, and restraining dogs and other animals.
-provide candy treats that are individually wrapped by the store.
-offer kids nonfood treats, such as stickers and erasers.

Candy Safety:
-instruct your children to bring all candy home before eating it, so that you can carefully inspect it.
-children shouldn't snack while they're out trick-or-treating, before parents have a chance to inspect the goodies.
-to prevent children from munching, give them a snack or light meal before they go. Don't send them out on an empty stomach.
-tell children not to accept and, especially, not to eat anything that isn't commercially wrapped.
-throw out candy or treats that are homemade, unwrapped or that appear to have been tampered with (pinholes in wrappers, torn wrappers, etc.).
-remove any potential choking hazards for small children (gum, peanuts, hard candies or small toys).

For more information on how to have a safe Halloween, see :


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Holy BOB Books, Batman!

After a long hiatus, the BOB books are back, as well as a similar set of Dora the Explorer Phonics books.

For those of you who are not already familiar with the BOB books, and have not been asking for them all summer, BOB books are sets of 10 paperback books for emerging readers that focus on phonics skills.

Here is what their website says: Developed to guide your child gently through the earliest stages of reading, Bob Books were created to facilitate that ah-ha moment when letters first turn into words. By slowly introducing new letter sounds, using consistency, repetition and stories that fit short attention spans - your child will quickly find his or her own ah-ha moment. This is the magic of Bob Books.

If you have been waiting all summer for the return of the BOB books, wait no longer, they are here. Stop by the YS desk on the 2nd floor to ask for help locating them in our newly created Phonics Collection of Early Readers.

Friday, October 23, 2009

You Watched What!?!

You might be surprised to find out what your children watch on the television when you aren't around.

I remember being excited when my mother went back to school to get another degree because it left me alone with my dad on Wednesday nights, the very night that Beverly Hills 90210 was on.... a show I wasn't allowed to watch. I remember that I couldn't ever watch the previews for the next week's show because I needed to run up the stairs in order to be in my room by the time my mom got home from class.

Now, not all dads are as clueless as mine, however if no parent is home, what is to stop a child from watching unapproved television? Enter... the V-Chip, a government required chip on all televisions bigger than 13 inches made after 2001.

The V-chip allows parents or other caregivers to block programming on their televisions that they don’t want children to watch. If you have concerns about what your children are watching, take the time to look at the V-chip FCC web page, where it describes how to use it and how they determine ratings for the different shows.

As a parent, you are the first line of defense against things that you are not comfortable with... and we love to provide you with information about different tools available to help. Please share other resources with area parents by commenting on this post!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Halloween Helpers

Trick or Treat!
The annual countdown to "Candy Day" has begun. Officially, Halloween happens on October 31, but prior to that day, preparations and activities will be taking place non-stop!

Feeling SCARED? Do Not Fear!
If you are looking for scary or not so scary stories, spooky sounding recipes, movies, crafts, party games or costume ideas, the Des Plaines Public Library can help. Stop by to preview the books and materials on display on the 2nd floor that are available for you to check out.

With fun and safety in mind, Halloween Fun and Activities for Kids is a resource with some good ideas to view online.

Once you have finished the costumes for your family's Halloween events, the annual Des Plaines Costume Parade starts at 10:00 a.m. in the Metropolitan Square, downtown Des Plaines, on Saturday, October 24. Children who participate in the parade with Jewels the Clown and Kiwi the Clown will be given a Trick or Treat bag filled with a special prize.

Later on a 1 pm Magic Show by the great Dennis DeBondt and Spooktacular Craft making from 2 to 4 pm at the library are two events you won't want to miss!

Remember to have a safe and happy Halloween!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Kitchen Chemistry

On a school day off this week, 25 third through fifth graders participated in our 1st ever Hands-On Science program applying the scientific method to learn about science in the kitchen! But don't be fooled- having your kitchen as a laboratory is a lot of fun and a great way to enjoy exploring science! Here are two projects we did that you can try at home and consume the results!

How to make ice cream without a freezer?
1 gallon size zip-loc bag
1 quart size zip-log bag
1 T sugar
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk or cream
6 T rock salt (kosher salt)
2 cups of ice
Place sugar, vanilla and milk in the quart size bag. Tightly seal the bag. Place the bag into the gallon size bag and pack with ice until it is half full. Pour the salt onto the ice and tightly seal. Check for any leaks. Shake the bags for 5- 10 minutes until the ingredients in the small bag are softly frozen. Remove the small bag and empty into a bowl. Enjoy!
How Does it Work?:
Just like we use salt on the roads in winter, salt causes ice to melt. Water normally freezes at 32 degrees F, but when salt is added, the freezing point of water becomes lower. Because the freezing point of milk is lower than of ice, by lowering the temperature around the milk, we are able to create an environment in which the temperature is lower than 32 degress and in which the milk mixture can freeze into ice cream.

How to carbonate homemade root beer?
large plastic container, wooden spoon, plastic laddle, sacle, think rubber/latex gloves
2 gallons of cold water
2 lbs of sugar
2 lbs. of dry ice (HANDLE WITH CARE:dry ice is so cold it can cause burns-wear gloves if directly handling it)
2 oz. of root beer extract
Pour 2 gallons of water into container and add sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add root bear extract and stir again. Put on the gloves and add dry ice in chunks one at a time, stirring. Cover loosely and stir occasionally for 1/2 hour until all dry ice has turned into gas.
How Does it Work?:
Dry ice is solid carbon dioxide. The dry ice changes from a solid phase straight into a gas phase of carbon dioxide under standard pressure and temperature. This change from a solid to gas phase is called sublimation because it skips the liquid phase (just like boiling is the change from a liquid to gas phase). When dry ice is placed in water, sublimation accelerates and the dry ice vaporizes into a clear colorless gas more quickly than in air (you will see the cardon dioxide gas bubbles slow down as the temperature of the water cools). The white vapor/fog is carbon dioxide gas and water vapor which is the water in the air that is condensing (as it cools from the dry ice) into tiny droplets.

For additional ideas, try these activities from Scholastic's The Magic School Bus, each focusing on a different science concept and the PBS show, Zoom, that features a virtual kitchen (no mess to clean up).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Des Plaines Disturbance

Although we are in 'the haunting season', the Des Plaines Disturbance does not refer to a supernatural phenomenon, or your noisy next-door neighbors. The Des Plaines Disturbance is the name for the crater that exists 75 to 200 feet below the surface of our town.

The bedrock underneath Des Plaines was severely fractured by the impact of a meteor or other large projectile and it created the crater that exists beneath most of the town, spanning 5 miles. It was eventually filled by glacial activity, which is why the town looks the way it does today.

As a child, I remember heading out to Yellowstone National Park just after their big fire in 1988. I remember listening to the ranger talk about how fire actually helps the forest grow, and that the trees use the heat of a fire to spread their seeds. Then, all throughout middle school, high school, and even college, I was able to recall those facts for various environmental science classes. My experiences in the National Parks helped me to develop my life-long affinity for the sciences and nature.

You can instill that kind of love in your children, a love of learning - no matter what the subject, but a great way to start is by tying the knowledge into an experience. Here is an easy example: take a walk along the Des Plaines river, and talk with your kids about the crater, glacial movements, and how the river swells every year and how it changes the soil around the it.

If you were not the best science student and you need some help, stop in the library to pick up a children's book or two about glaciers, meteors, or different types of rock. I always find that when I don't know anything about a subject, the best place to start is a children's book; they explain everything, and you don't have to look up the words they use to explain it in the dictionary.

If you think you can handle it, or your children are a bit older, the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign has a geological society that studies the Des Plaines Disturbance, and their findings can be found here.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Next Big Thing to Arrive in Your Child's Vocabulary

Did you realize graphic novels have a higher level of vocabulary? It's true! Kids reading graphic novels might be too distracted by the artwork to realize they're reading a book with bigger words in it. Graphic novels tend to have vocabulary that is one grade level higher than a prose book would have that's aimed at the same age level.

In one of my last posts "Wait...There Are Comic Books in the Library!?!" I talked about how graphic novels are a great way to encourage reluctant readers to read. But graphic novels are terrific in other ways for helping kids learn.

Graphic novels work on building visual literacy. Kids have to look at the picture and decode what is happening in it, and how it relates to the text. Readers may also have to "read in the gutter". The gutter is the space between panels. For instance, if panel one has a person buying food at the store, and panel two has the same person eating the food at home, the reader has to infer that between the two panels the person went home and cooked the food. They have to be interactive-put themselves in the place of the character and figure out what happened to get the character from panel one to panel two.

Some graphic novels we're read recently and enjoyed have been:

Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute. Book one in the Lunch Lady series, where both lunch AND justice are served.

The Kickball Kids. A My First Graphic Novel title, which was a series recommended by a Kidding Around reader's comment. The kickball team is about to compete in the big game! Who will win?

Fashion Kitty Versus the Fashion Queen. 2nd in the Fashion Kitty series. Fashion Kitty returns to protect the fashion (and individuality) rights of her peers.

Do you have any graphic novel recommendations to share? What do you or your child think about them? We'd love to hear!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Visit to the Hospital

Whether they are meeting a new sibling, visiting a sick relative, or staying overnight for a procedure, hospitals can be a scary place for children. While we hope that our loved ones are safe from harm and won't need to visit or stay in the hospital any time soon, the best way to avoid a traumatic event for any child is to prepare them.

The article, Preparing Kids - and Yourself - for Their Hospital Visit, prepared by US News and Report helps parents understand how trips to the hospital affect kids and how to prepare them for the event. If you are looking for ways to help your children understand what goes on at the hospital, however, it might be a good idea to pick up some books about hospital visits right here in the library. The following are some great suggestions from our non-fiction and picture book collections.

Emma's Question: a young girl who goes to visit her grandma after she gets sick and is in the hospital.

A Visit to the Sesame Street Hospital: Grover hast to go into the hospital to have his tonsils taken out.

Harry Goes to the Hospital: a boy gets the stomach flu and needs to go to the hospital for tests.

Hospital: a non-fiction title that deals with fears associated with the hospital and contains practical advice about preparation for and stays at the hospital.

My Most Favorite Thing: Grandpa's dog Billy needs an operation and has to stay at the animal hospital, so his granddaughter helps him cope with his loneliness.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Is Your Child a Sweeper?

Is your child a sweeper, a keeper, or perhaps, a striker? If you know the answer to that question you are probably a soccer parent, and if you don't know the answer, you may become a soccer parent in the future. If you want to help your young child move beyond what is sometimes called "herd ball", there are many opportunities in the community to learn more about this popular sport.

One exciting and inexpensive way to learn is by watching the Maine West High School boys soccer team play. They are having a great year, so put on your Columbia blue and gold and cheer them on. The next match is during Homecoming Week on Tuesday, Oct. 6 against intradistrict rival Maine East.

Your child may not be the next Freddy Adu (a professional soccer player at age 14), but you can have fun developing your skills together. Instructional soccer programs are offered through the Des Plaines Park District, Mt. Prospect Park District, and the Latoff YMCA. Volunteer coaches are often needed, so you and your child could have fun at practice together.

The library offers great print and video resources, such as How to Improve at Soccer and Just Kickin' It.

In case you're still curious, a sweeper is a defender that plays close to the goal, the keeper is the goalkeeper, and a striker plays offense close to the opponent's goal.

Have fun and keep on dribbling!