Suggested Family Activities

Check back each day for fun and creative ideas for things for your family to do at home.

As with our Summer Reading Program activities, we would love to see pictures of your completed artwork, craft projects, or how your family has completed each activity. And with the parent’s permission, we will post your pictures on our Northeast Regional Library website and social media.

If you have any suggestions or comments on the types of activities you would like to see, please let us know!

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April 2021 Suggested Family Activities

Suggested Family Activities • Celebrate Look Up at The Sky Day

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Celebrate Look Up at The Sky Day today and explore the splendor that rests just over our heads. Start out by checking out the sky during the day. If you have young children, ask them questions about what they can observe. What colors do they see up there? Blue and white? If it is overcast or even stormy today, you might see a lot of shades of gray or even black, green or orange colors. If you can catch a sunrise or sunset, you might even see pinks and purples. Can they see anything moving across the sky, such as a plane, a bird or maybe a kite? If they see a plane, you can talk about the white vapor trial that is sometimes visible, even when the plane is too small to see. If you see a bird flying by, can you tell what kind it is?

If the weather is nice, take a blanket outside and lie back and watch the clouds. It is always fun to see what kind of shapes clouds can make. This is a great activity for young children to express their creativity and use their imagination. You can also ask them if the clouds are staying still or are they moving? If they are moving, is it very fast or a slow, drifting sensation? If you have older children, and need help explaining the different types of clouds, check out a book from your local library branch such as The Cloud Book: How to Understand the Skies by Richard Hamblyn.

Go back outside and look at the sky again tonight. How is it different than during the day? What colors do you see now? Can you still see the clouds? Hopefully, you will be able to see stars and even the moon. If you want help identifying what patterns the stars make, check out a book about constellations from your local library.

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Suggested Family Activities • Tornado Season

April is tornado season in the South so now is a good time to go over with your family what to do in case of a weather emergency.  Does your family know the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning?  Does everyone know where the safest place to be during a tornado?  Do you have flashlights, candles and battery-operated lanterns ready in case the power goes out or a radio to take with you to listen to weather reports?  Do you have a plan for where to meet outside your home should a tornado or other emergency force you to leave it unexpectedly?

The federal website,, contains a wealth of information on how to prepare for disasters of all kinds, including tornados.  This website includes information for not only securing your home but also your vehicles and your pets.  For a full listing of everything they suggest you include in a tornado emergency preparedness kit, check out the following link:

Since it is tornado season, talk to your children about the different types of storms they might experience.  Your local library branch has titles to help you – the DK Eyewitness series title Hurricane & Tornado by Jack Challoner contains a lot of basic information, along with full color illustrations and graphics.  Picture books to introduce the concept of tornados to young children include The Bravest of Us All by Marsha Diane Arnold, One Lucky Girl by George Ella Lyon, and The Storm by March Harshaman.  Chapter book readers might want to check out Twister on Tuesday in the “Magic Tree House” series by Mary Pope Osborne, I Survived the Joplin Tornado, 2011 by Lauren Tarshis, or Hank the Cowdog: The Case of the Swirling Killer Tornado by John R. Erickson.

Cole in his tornado safe place with an electric lantern.

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Suggested Family Activities • Encourage a Young Writer

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Tomorrow, April 10, is Encourage a Young Writer Day so encourage your child’s creativity and imagination today by having them write a book or story of their own. Maybe we’ll see their names in our library’s collection one day! All you need is paper and a pencil to get them started. Young children can even use crayons or markers to draw their story if they cannot write yet. If they want to make it several pages long, an adult can write down what is happening in the story, either on the back of the piece of paper or on a separate piece of paper. (It will probably help to number the pages, so they do not get out of order.)

Try some of our writing prompts to get their creative juices flowing: Have them write the silliest version they can come up about “Why My Library Book is Overdue”. Other ideas for children include writing a story about someone (animal or human) who has slept through the winter but is waking up in time for spring, writing a fairy tale about a person who can talk to animals in a forest, imagining what it would be like to live somewhere totally opposite of where you do such as a tropical island, a high mountain peak or a snowy winter wonderland or writing about what it would be like to spend the night locked in a library.

Another great writing idea is to start or work on a journal. Children can use their journals as a place to write down their ideas for poems or stories, record what happens to them as a daily diary or to write down things they just want to remember, such as their favorite story their grandfather tells. The wonderful thing about journaling is that it is great for all ages.

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Suggested Family Activities • Book Spine Poetry

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Have fun today with a little Book Spine Poetry!  How do you play, you ask?  Just gather up book titles that, when put together, form a funny sentence or story.  For example, stack up the books Basketball, Wizards of the Game, Game Plan, Athletic Shorts, The Moves Make the Man for a sports themed poem.  Or use the books Aargh, It’s an Alien, Abracadabra, Yikes, It’s a Yeti, Hit It for a funny creature themed poem.

A fun book themed idea today is to pick out your favorite book and find something to make that is based on that story.  Kids are great at coming up with things to make for this activity!  Maybe you will make your own representations of a dinosaur habitat for a dinosaur book or maybe you will create a paper hat to go along with a pirate, princess, or firefighter book.  The sky’s the limit!  Another fun idea is to throw on some costumes and act out your favorite book.

The fun can even be extended into the kitchen if you make a dish that reminds you of your favorite book.  You could make Green Eggs & Ham or apple pie from The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.  If you like sweet things to eat (and who doesn’t?), use Laura Joffe Numeroff’s books If You Give a Moose a Muffin, If You Give a Dog a Donut or If You Give a Mouse a Cookie for inspiration for what to bake.

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Suggested Family Activity • Reading to Children

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One of the main goals of your public library is to help you instill in your children a love of books and reading.  As librarians, we feel that starts with adults reading out loud to children, even from a very young age.  Reading to a child brings with it a long list of positive benefits.  Not only is it essential for their continuing brain development because it stimulates their brain to grow, it is also crucial to children’s language development.  Hearing stories supports their growing language skills as they hear new vocabulary words that will build and shape the language that they will use to communicate for themselves as they mature from year to year.  Reading out loud to a child also increases their comprehension skills and helps to improve their mental, social, and emotional skills.  It also encourages children’s creativity and introduces them to the power of their own imagination.

Studies have shown that reading aloud to infants and toddlers can help prevent behavior problems such as aggression, hyperactivity, and difficulty with attention spans.  As children get older, an array of long-term consequences including obesity, academic failure and juvenile delinquency have been linked to a deficient literacy level, which can then be directly linked back to inadequate exposure to books as a child.

The two most important things that you can do for your child is to talk to them and to read to them.  And the best thing about this is – those are two of the easiest things to do!  If you are still unsure how to get started reading to your child, we have collected some tips to help you:  Ask your local librarian for help finding books.  That’s what we are here to do!  Keep books scattered everywhere you and your family spend time. Put them in your car, have some in every room of the house and carry some in your bags and purses.  Children imitate the adults in their life so let them see you reading for pleasure.  NERL Director Dee Hare has compiled her Top 10 Tips for Reading to a Child; a copy is included in the NLW packets being handed out at NERL branches.  You can also download a copy here.

Some great picture book titles to read out loud to your family include the Mother Bruce series by Ryan T. Higgins, I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More by Karen Beaumont, the Llama Llama series by Anna Dewdney, If I Had a Triceratops by George O’Connor, the LaRue books by Mark Teague, Room on the Broom and The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson, Children Make Terrible Pets and You WILL be My Friend by Peter Brown, the Skippyjon Jones books by Judy Schacher, Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel,  Click, Clack Moo and others by Doreen Cronin, The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach, and the Pigeon books by Mo Willems.

Top 10 Tips for Reading to a Child

  1. Get everyone in your family involved – parents, baby-sitters, grand-parents, aunts & uncles, brothers & sisters – anybody!
  2. Don’t be self-conscious and worry about how you sound. Each person has a different reading style so read however you feel most comfortable. All your child cares about is that YOU are reading to THEM.
  3. Feel free to change the text by adding words or phrases to make it more relevant to your child. Make them the main character, add their pet’s name, etc.
  4. Pause for dramatic effect while reading, make funny voices for the characters and make sure to emphasize all the “CRASH” and “BOOM” sound effects from the text. Your child will LOVE it!
  5. Be enthusiastic about reading together – if you act like you’re having fun, your child will too.
  6. Pick out books that relate to your child’s interests – animals, pirates, firetrucks, ballerinas, construction equipment, dogs and cats, etc. Children will listen better if the story is about things that already interest them.  Don’t be afraid to read books about their favorite TV characters.  Many TV shows are based on well-loved books to begin with – think Curious George, Max and Ruby, the Cat in the Hat, etc.
  7. Don’t worry about reading the same story over and over. Hearing the same words and phrases reinforces the flow of language and helps them stick in your child’s brain. This repetition also helps children to memorize the text so that they can “read” it back to you eventually, which is all part of their learning process.
  8. Let your child interact with you and the story. Have them make animal sounds or repeat their favorite lines. Look for opportunities in stories to physically engage them in the stories by acting out parts.  And always let them help turn the pages.
  9. Try not to rush through the book. Let your child look at the illustrations as long as they want and ask you questions if they have any. And make sure to ask them questions such as – what color is that?  What kind of animal is that?
  10. Read books to your child whenever they want. Bedtime stories are a wonderful way to end the day but that doesn’t have to be the only time.  Have plenty of books scattered throughout your house so your child can stumble across one and think, “Hey! I want somebody to read this to me!”

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Suggested Family Activity • National Library Workers Day

Gifts the Iuka librarians have received, today and throughout the year! Library Appreciation Day!

Today is National Library Workers Day!  According to the American Library Association (ALA), this day recognizes “library staff members for their public service contributions in transforming lives and communities through education and lifelong learning.  Library staff play an invaluable role in supporting their communities both in person and virtually as the world continues to fight COVID-19. In times of crisis, libraries of all types and their workers serve millions of library users in need of free access to WiFi, eBooks, accurate information, and digital social services.” ALA invites you to show your support and share stories of how librarians have helped you by posting messages to Messages can also be sent to #NLWD21 or through the National Library Workers Day Facebook page.

Did you know the branches of the Northeast Regional Library were recently recognized with a trio of awards for their services to the public?  The Suggested Family Activities that you are reading right now were awarded both the 2021 Jane Smith Literacy Award by the Mississippi Library Commission and the Mississippi Center for the Book, as well as a 2021 State Literacy Award by the Library of Congress (one of only six awarded this year).  NERL was also named a Mississippi Library Star for their work during the 2019 fiscal year.  For more information about these prestigious awards, check out the official press releases here.

Get your children involved in showing their love for libraries and library staff today by getting out paper, pencils, crayons and markers and having them make their favorite library worker a ‘Thank You’ card.  Or maybe they would like to draw a picture of what the library means to them to bring by the library.  Library workers LOVE to hear how they have helped people of all ages, but especially their communities’ youngest members so let your favorite librarian know how they have impacted your life today.

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Suggested Family Activities • Beverly Cleary and National Library Week

This week is National Library Week, a time set aside each year to celebrate our libraries and the many contributions that library workers make to their communities each day. NLW is also a great time to promote the use of your local libraries and to show your support for what they do. Special NLW events this year include a special NLW children’s activity packet filled with library and book related coloring sheets, word searches, a cut and paste “What Belongs in the Library” sheet, a Find the Differences sheet, drawing activities and other activity sheets. Also included in the NLW packets is a list of popular beginning to read titles for children just venturing into books on their own, as well as titles for beginning chapter book readers.

We will also be posting daily Suggested Family Activities about books and reading on our website each day this week and having Facebook Live Story Times every day.

As we begin National Library Week, we mourn the loss of possibly the greatest librarian turned writer – Beverly Cleary. Cleary died on March 26 at the age of 104, leaving behind a legacy of children’s books that remain classics today. First published in the 1950s and 60s, Cleary’s books provided children with stories about everyday people and the funny, unexpected daily events of their lives. Her first books featured Henry Huggins, his dog Ribsy and their friends. After the success of several books featuring

Henry, his friend Beezus’s little sister Ramona broke out in a series of her own that was an instant hit with children everywhere. Other popular Beverly Cleary books include Ellen Tebbits, Emily’s Runaway Imagination, Otis Spofford, The Mouse and the Motorcycle and Dear Mr. Henshaw, which won a Newbery award.

Cleary’s books are still as funny today as when they were first published. NERL Director Dee Hare’s husband Mike has been reading a chapter each night of the Henry Huggins books to their son Cole. They have just started the fourth title in that series; Cole loves laughing at all the things Henry and Ribsy get up to! Cleary’s books are a great choice for reading out loud to children of all ages, as well as for older readers to read on their own, so check out a copy at your local library branch today.

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To learn more about the life and works of Beverly Cleary, check out this article from The New York Times: You can also visit her website here for fun activities and information about all her famous characters, games, a teacher’s guide to her books and more.

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Suggested Family Activity • Spring Activity Packets!

Have you picked up your spring themed children’s activity packets from one of the branches of the Northeast Regional Library? The packets are filled with new seasonal coloring sheets, activity sheets, craft and game ideas, a suggested reading list and supplies to make several craft projects. The craft project supplies will make three craft projects: a Signature Art project (that is also a fun way to practice writing in cursive), a Paper Bunny craft, and your choice between a Spring Plate Chick and Birds in a Nest. Full written instructions, templates and a photo of the completed project are included for each project.

If you have already picked up a packet and liked the bunny craft included this month, try this other fun art activity using your child’s handprint: To turn your child’s hand into a spring lily, trace their hand on white paper and cut it out. Next, cut a stamen shape out of yellow paper. Make a slit in the palm part of the hand to stick the stamen through. Then, curl each finger around a pencil or marker to give it a little definition and shape. Next, cut out a stem and leaves out of green paper. Finally, glue everything together onto another piece of paper. (Your hand might look better as a flower if you trim the palm part into a V shape.)

If you have some cheap, white paper plates, your kids can turn them into a carrot patch in time for spring! Cut one plate in half and tape or glue it to another plate so that it forms a pocket. Kids can color the half portion plate either green or brown. Next, cut out carrot shapes from orange paper (or use white paper and children can color the carrots themselves). Cut out the carrots and add tiny green strips of paper to the top of each one to represent the green tops. Kids can ‘plant’ their carrots by sticking them into the pocket.

Vincent working on the NLW packet.

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March 2021 Suggested Family Activities

Suggested Family Activity • National Crayon Day!

Today is National Crayon Day, so celebrate by opening up a box of crayons and getting ready to have hours of fun! Coloring together is a great family activity for all ages. Coloring lets you express your creativity and explore the worlds in your imagination. It is a very relaxing pastime – some people find it so relaxing that they say it is like meditating. You and your family can color on pre-printed coloring pages or just grab a blank piece of paper and let your imagination run wild.

If you are looking for fun pages to color that are free, do not forget the branches of Northeast Regional Library are handing out coloring sheets each month. In addition to standard children’s themed coloring sheets, branches have a selection of sheets with more intricate and detailed designs for teens and adults who enjoy the new adult coloring craze. Send us a photo of your crayon creations today – we would love to see them!

To get your children inspired to use their crayons, check out Drew Daywalt’s hilarious picture book titles The Day the Crayons Quit and The Day the Crayons Came Home. Do you have a favorite crayon color? Let us know your favorite color today on social media or share your own special crayon memory. We would love to hear from you!

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We have a laminated book bag from children’s book company Bound to Stay Bound that we are giving away to the first family who sends us a photo of their crayon creations to  The book bag has illustrations from Daywalt’s crayon books and is the perfect size to hold all your library books!

Suggested Family Activity • Brave Women

Even though March is drawing to a close, there is still time to celebrate, honor and learn more about the brave women from our past as part of National Women’s History month.  Northeast Regional Library system branch libraries have recently received several new additions to their collection that highlight women’s contributions to World War II.  A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell is a look into the life of Virginia Hall, a young American woman who became the first woman to deploy to occupied France.  There, she helped gather a network of spies to blow up bridges, report on German troop movements, arrange supply drops for other Resistance agents, and recruit and train guerilla fighters.  999: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune Macadam tells the almost forgotten story of a thousand young, unmarried Jewish women who left their homes thinking they were being sent to work in a factory for the war effort but were sent to Auschwitz instead.

A Game of Birds and Wolves: The Ingenious Young Women whose Secret Board Game Helped Win World War II by Simon Parkin examines the true story of a group of young British women who helped come up with a strategy to outmaneuver Nazi U-boats. Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy is written for a young adult audience.  It describes a group of 10,000 American women who moved to Washington to learn the tedious job of breaking enemy military codes.  Because they were ordered never to reveal the details of their work, these women had almost been forgotten until now.

Fans of the book and movie Hidden Figures will want to check out Counting on Katherine by Helaine Becker.  Written for a juvenile audience, this biography tells the life story of Katherine Johnson, a mathematical genius who worked for NASA and was entrusted with making sure the Apollo 13 mission returned safely.

Suggested Family Activity • Egg and Spoon Race

Have you ever competed in an Egg and Spoon race?  This classic outdoors game dates back to the late 1800s.  To introduce this fun activity to your family, all you need are eggs and wooden or metal spoons.  The traditional game used raw eggs but for less mess when they fall (and they will fall!), you can substitute hard-boiled eggs instead or even plastic eggs.  Kids can do this activity by themselves to see how fast they can go without dropping the egg or you can have a family race to see who wins.  If you have enough participants, you can even increase the difficulty by having the race relay-style, where you team up with a partner and try to hand off the egg to the other person part-way through the race.

With Easter just around the corner, plastic Easter eggs are everywhere.  You may have plenty left over from year to year or they can be purchased very cheaply at dollar stores.  In addition to hiding them, there are lots more you can do with them:  You can fill them with jellybeans or other small candies and have an Easter Egg Toss.  Kids can toss them back and forth, trying not to break them open until it is time to enjoy the treats inside.  For young children learning the letters of the alphabet, you can print an upper-case letter on one piece of an egg and a lower-case on the other piece.  Mix all the pieces up and then help children find the matching letters.  Another fun idea is to put a letter on one piece of an egg and a sticker with a picture of something that starts with that letter on the other piece, such as “B” for bunny.  Yet another fun learning idea is to write several letters on one piece of an egg, such as “b”, “c” and “m”.  On the other piece of the egg, write other letter sound combinations such as “at”, “an”, etc.  Then rotate the pieces of the egg to show children how to make words, such as “bat”, “cat”, “man”, etc., using the letter and sound combinations.

Suggested Family Activity • Tolkien Reading Day

Do you like “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy”?  What about The Hobbit?  Then celebrate Tolkien Reading Day tomorrow!  This day was created in 2003 by the Tolkien Society to encourage people to explore the many writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, who was not only a writer but a poet and a university professor.  March 25 was chosen because it is the day Frodo destroyed the Ring and began the fall of Sauron.  Although Tolkien is best known for the titles above, along with The Silmarrillion, he published more than 30 books in all.  Several of them were not published until after his death.   After the success of Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy from 2001-2003, sales of those titles continue to grow from year to year.  If you loved the movies but have not read the books yet, start one today in honor of Tolkien Reading Day.  Your local library branch can let you borrow a copy!  Or if you would like to learn more about Tolkien’s most famous creations, check out The Complete Guide to Middle-Earth by Robert Foster, The Complete Tolkien Companion by J. E. A. Tyler, or The Worlds of J. R. R. Tolkien: The Places That Inspired Middle-Earth by John Garth.

Tolkien liked to doodle and draw while he was thinking so you can also celebrate today by getting out your pencils and creating a drawing of your own magical story.  Or maybe you will create a map of Middle Earth. Tolkien also had a great love for languages and created his own versions for his tales.  Junior readers can learn more about this aspect of his life in the book J.R.R. Tolkien: Creator of Languages and Legends by Doris Lynch.  He enjoyed doing crossword and other types of word puzzles so you could also try your hand at one today in his honor.  Tolkien’s friendship with other great minds of his era has been the topic of many books such as The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams by Philip Zaleski.

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Suggested Family Activity • Peep Houses

Do you and your family like to make gingerbread houses during the Christmas holidays? You can make a spring version by using the same type of icing and graham crackers for the gingerbread. You can build a house for marshmallow Peeps or let your favorite small chocolate bunny candies move inside. Decorate it with other chocolate bunnies and even make a nest for jellybeans or candy eggs. To make your creation completely edible, you can find edible grass in many craft stores. Tishomingo librarian Beverly Parker made a beautiful spring display to show off this fun activity so check out her pictures below.

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Another fun family activity is to have a contest to see who can guess how many jellybeans are in a container. Fill a large plastic bowl or container with jellybeans and have everyone take turns guessing how many are in it. The person who guesses closest to the actual number gets to keep all the jellybeans. But they get bonus points if they share with everyone else!

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Suggested Family Activity • National Quilting Day

Tomorrow is National Quilting Day.  Quilting is type of sewing where a layer of batting or stuffing is sewn in between pieces of fabric.  Traditionally, women have saved scraps of fabric left over from where they made their family’s clothes or recycled worn-out garments by cutting them up to sew into quilts to help keep their families warm at night.  As people began to have more money to spend, women began to buy special fabric just to make beautiful quilts, often for special occasions such as the birth of a child or a marriage. Family quilts are often treasured pieces of a family’s history and passed down from generation to generation because of the skill involved in making a completed piece.   If you would like to learn how to quilt, check out these titles from our libraries’ collection: Any Body Can Learn to Quilt by Bonnie K. Browning, The Art of Classic Quiltmaking by Harriet Hargrave, or Quilting Step by Step by Maggi McCormick Gordon. 

Did you know that quilts were used as part of the Underground Railroad to show the path to take as well as to indicate which houses would offer food and shelter to those seeking freedom?  To learn more, check out Hidden in Plain View: The Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad by Jacqueline Tobin.  Titles in our collection that show the history of quilts in our state include Martha Skelton: Master Quilter of Mississippi and Mississippi Quilts, both by Mary Elizabeth Johnson.

Picture book titles to read to young children include The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco, The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson, Papa and the Pioneer Quilt by Jean Van Leeuwen, The Patchwork Quilt by Valerie Flournoy, and The Quiltmaker’s Gift by Jeff Brumbeau.

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Suggested Family Activity • Puppets

Vincent made an awesome Bunny Puppet!

Encourage your children’s creativity today by making puppets out of mis-matched socks or those with holes in them.  Children can add interesting features such as hair, eyes, a mouth, etc. using things you have around the house – yarn, string, pipe cleaners, pom poms, etc.  Or they can draw on features with markers or a Sharpie.  Another way to make puppets is to use brown or white paper lunch bags as the body of the puppet.  If you use a paper bag, the flap that unfolds to be the bottom is where your hand goes to become the mouth of your puppet. Yet another method is to make stick puppets.  Children draw animals, people or whatever they want to be a puppet onto a piece of paper and cut it out.  Then, they tape or glue it to a stick.  One tried and true librarian and teacher trick to make a puppet is to take stuffed animals and cut a hole in the bottom.  Remove some of the stuffing to make room for your hand and you have a quick and easy puppet! 

After your children have made their puppets, let them put on a puppet show for the members of the family.  You can even record it to send to grandparents or family members who live far away! Drape a curtain between two chairs to make a puppet stage or children can just get behind a piece of furniture like the couch.  They can act out a story they already know, such as “The Thee Little Pigs”, act out a scene from their favorite movie, such as Frozen or make up their own story.  

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Suggested Family Activity • Spring Activity Packets & Spring Cleaning

The branches of the Northeast Regional Library will begin handing out spring themed children’s activity packets starting today so do not forget to stop by! The packets are filled with new seasonal coloring sheets, activity sheets, craft and game ideas, a suggested reading list and supplies to make several craft projects. The craft project supplies will make three craft projects: a Signature Art project (that is also a fun way to practice writing in cursive), a Paper Bunny craft, and your choice between a Spring Plate Chick and Birds in a Nest. Full written instructions, templates and a photo of the completed project are included for each project. A new set of spring coloring sheets with more intricate designs and details that are great for teens and adults who like to color are also available.

The approaching arrival of spring also means it is time for Spring Cleaning! Did you know it can be fun? Get the whole family involved by turning it into a game. Set timers to see who can clean an area the fastest or create a chart that lists all the areas in your house that need cleaning. Create a prize or family activity that will reward everyone when all the cleaning is finished, such as a Pizza Night, a special dessert or Family Movie Night. Children often respond well to positive reinforcement so give them a special reward for helping clean the house, such as more screen time, a special purchase or a day they can do whatever they want. You can also sit down with children ahead of time and discuss with them something that they have been wanting to do to determine what their reward might be. It might be a few days of sleeping in on the weekend, having a friend over for a sleep over or a slightly later bedtime on the weekend. You can decide ahead of time how many spring-cleaning chores they must do to get their reward. This is a great idea for older children who have been putting off cleaning their room or emptying their closets and drawers of outgrown clothing.

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Suggested Family Activity • National Plant a Flower Day

Spring is just around the corner! If you have been enjoying the beautiful sunshine and warmer temperatures outside recently, celebrate National Plant a Flower Day today. Planting flowers together is a great activity for all ages, even small children. They will love helping to dig in the ground to prepare the soil. You can even get their help to decide what flowers you want to plant. Some flowers like to soak in the bright sun, while others like to keep it cool in the shade (and some like a combination), so keep that in mind when you are picking out flowers. If you need help deciding which flowers will do well in the space you have, the Mississippi State Extension office can give you all the help you need. Visit their website here for a description of flowers that grow well in our state: As your flowers start growing, children can also be great helpers by helping keep them watered.

To turn this family activity into a fun STEM project for older children, plant flowers from seeds and have them track the number of days of sunlight, rainfall and water amounts the seeds receive in a notebook. As the flowers emerge, they can also begin taking measurements each day of how much they grow. It will be a long-term project but may prove to be so much fun that they will be running outside each day to check the flower’s progress.

If you do not have space in your yard to plant flowers, you can also plant them in pots on your porch, driveway, front steps or other outdoor area. People in apartments can even grow things inside on their windowsills.

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Suggested Family Activity • National Women’s History Month

March is National Women’s History month, a time to celebrate, honor and learn more about the brave women from our past who fought for gender and racial equality, as well as those who have excelled in their chosen fields despite the limitations historically imposed on women. Recent additions to the library’s collection on the subject include The Woman’s Hour: Our Fight for the Right to Vote by Elaine F.Weiss. This title tells the story of women’s suffrage and early voting rights activists in a format adapted for junior readers. Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math by Jeannine Atkins is another junior level book that introduces readers to women scientists and mathematicians who made exciting discoveries, such as Caroline Herschel. She was the first woman to discover a comet and to earn a salary for scientific research. The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman tells the story of the woman who discovered how butterflies go through metamorphosis in a visual biography format that features many original paintings by Maria herself. Titles in the popular “Who Was?” series for young readers includes ones about autism advocate Temple Grandin, Anne Frank, Helen Keller, Ida B. Wells and Mother Teresa.

For adult readers, new titles include The American Women’s Almanac: 500 Years of Making History by Deborah G. Felder. Described as “the most complete and affordable single-volume reference on women’s history available today”, this title contains almost 600 pages of biographical information, as well as little-known or often misrepresented facts about women’s history. Other new titles for adults include She Came to Slay: The Life and Times of Harriet Tubman by Erica Armstrong Dunbar, The Genius of Women: From Overlooked to Changing the World by Janice Kaplan, A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot & Virginia Woolf by Emily Midorikawa and A Girl Stands at the Door: The Generation of Young Women who Desegregated America’s Schools by Rachel Devlin, which discusses how girls and women led the fight for interracial education.

National Women’s History month, Patron Virginia Breon enjoys a nice, sunny, spring day with a good book.

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Suggested Family Activity • More Spying

If your kids enjoyed becoming a spy last week, try these activities to continue the fun:

To improve their observation and memory skills, put several small objects in a box or tray. For preschoolers, you can start out with just 4 or 5 objects, while older children can view 8-10 at once. Give them a certain amount of time to look at the box, then cover it and have them see how many objects they can name from memory. If they can name all the objects the first time, keep adding more objects or reducing the amount of time they have available to look at the objects so that they can really test their brain powers. For a slightly different twist, you can also question them about the colors of the objects. For preschoolers, you can make sure to include objects of basic shapes such as circles, triangles and squares and question them about the numbers of items in each shape. And for another version, remove just one object from the box after they have had time to look at it and see if they can name the missing item.

You can also set up a cool obstacle course for kids that mimics scenes in movies where the person must cross a space without hitting a laser beam or a trip wire. Use string, yarn or tape in a room or hallway and make crisscrossing patterns across walls and furniture that children must step over, slide under or otherwise maneuver around. You can also set up fake pressure points that they have to avoid in order to increase the difficulty of the course. Another fun obstacle course idea is to tape balloons or hang streamers at various lengths under a table and have children crawl under it from one end to the other without touching any of the balloons or streamers with their heads.

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Suggested Family Activity • Spies & Detectives

Let your kids have fun this weekend pretending to be super-secret spies or private detectives! One fun spy activity is to send secret codes. Simple codes spell out messages by substituting a symbol for each letter of the alphabet. Children can make their own code by writing out a master list that contains a symbol and its corresponding letter. For example, A could be a circle, B a square and so on. After they have their master list, they can have fun spelling out words with their code and leaving secret messages to their friends and family. Another way to make a code is to have each word of the message correspond to words in a printed book. Here how it works: Have children pick one of their favorite books that contains a decent number of words, such as one of the Harry Potter titles. They then write out their message and look through the book to find those words in the book. When they do, the code will be the page number and word number. So, 3-24 would mean the 3rd page and the 24th word on that page.

Kids can also have fun learning about fingerprints: Give them 3-inch x 6-inch pieces of paper and let them take their own fingerprints. Using an ink pad can be super messy so try this trick instead – have them scribble a large, very dark patch of pencil (the lead is made of graphite) on a separate piece of scratch aper. Then they rub their fingers, one at a time, in the graphite until it is coated. Have them mimic actors on TV crime shows and roll their fingertips around to make sure they get the sides of their fingers too! Next, they will stick a piece of tape to their finger, press on it hard, and put the tape down on the 3×6 pieces of paper. Do not forget to label each print so they know which finger it came from. The tape will pick up the print and transfer it to the paper. Then, have fun looking at all the swirls, whorls, and patterns on their fingerprints. They might have so much fun that they start finger-printing the whole family!

Check back next week for more fun spy activities to chase away the winter blues!

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Suggested Family Activity • Fly a Kite

March is often prime kite flying weather. Go outside this month and let your children decide if it is windy enough to fly a kite. Have them tell you why they think it is or is not a good day to fly a kite. Some questions to help move the conversation along for little ones include: Do they feel anything on their face? Are their clothes moving around? What about any tress or bushes they can see – what are they doing? Are they still or are they moving around? In movies, people lick one of their fingers and stick it up in the air to see if it feels colder, which is an indication the wind is blowing.

If you do not have a kite at home, no need to worry! It is a fun idea to make your own. The PBS website at has simple directions for how to make a kite using just string, sticks and paper. You can go on a walk today and look for sticks that would fit together to make the cross-shaped body and let go back home to make your kit. The PBS contributor used newspaper for their kite, but you could use other large pieces of paper instead such as tissue paper, drawing paper or brown packing paper . You could also experiment with making different sized kites, depending on what size of paper you have on hand. Whichever way you choose, let the kids have fun decorating their kite by coloring designs on the paper, painting on the newsprint and tying ribbons or streamers on the ends.

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Suggested Family Activity

Tomorrow is National Read Across America Day aka Dr. Seuss Day

Suggested Family Activity • Dr. Seuss Day

Tomorrow, March 2nd, is National Read Across America Day, otherwise known as Dr. Seuss Day. Read Across America, a project created by the National Education Association, is celebrated each year on March 2nd, the birthday of Dr. Seuss. This project hopes to inspire a love of reading in children by celebrating all things Dr. Seuss. In school systems nationwide, teachers and students often dress up like Dr. Seuss characters and read Dr. Seuss books all throughout the day. Often, special visitors such as community leaders, essential workers and local celebrities stop by to read a Dr. Seuss book to children in their classrooms.

Because of the current pandemic, here are some ways you can celebrate this day at home: Pick up some Dr. Seuss books at your local NERL library branch. Everyone knows The Cat and the Hat and even The Lorax, but what other Dr. Seuss books are your favorites? And to Think That They Saw it on Mulberry Street? Fox in Socks? Oh, the Thinks You Can Think? The list goes on and on … Let us know what your favorite Dr. Seuss book is on our Facebook page!

For some fun at supper tonight, try out some of the recipes in The Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook by Georgeanne Brennan. It includes simple things to make in the kitchen such as Cat in the Hat Pudding, Moose Juice and of course, Green Eggs and Ham! To learn more about the life of Dr. Seuss, children can check out several biographies, including Who Was Dr. Seuss? by Janet B. Pascal, part of the popular “Who Was” series. Adults interested in knowing more about this creative genius might enjoy The Seuss, the Whole Seuss, and Nothing but the Seuss: A Visual Biography of Theodor Seuss Geisel by Charles D. Cohen or Dr. Seuss Goes to War: The World War II Editorial Cartoons of Theodor Seuss Geisel by Richard H. Minear.

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February 2021 Suggested Family Activities

Suggested Family Activity • It’s National Tell a Fairy Tale Day

Today is National Tell a Fairy Tale day so celebrate by telling someone a fairy tale.  People of all ages love to hear classic fairy tales, whether it is the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Rumpelstiltskin or The Princess and the Pea.  You can tell a story from memory, after all, that is how fairy tales have been passed down through the ages.  Or you can read one of the many versions written up in a printed version.  It is entirely up to you!   Whichever way you choose, get your audience involved – have them make the animal noises every time one is mentioned, such as “baaing” like the Billy Goats Gruff or quacking every time the Ugly Duckling is mentioned.  Or have them make the motions talked about in the story, such as climbing Jack’s beanstalk or swimming like the Little Mermaid.  Little children will especially love this extra part of the story!

Another idea is to pick your favorite fairy tale today and rewrite it as if you were the main character (little ones can tell their stories to an adult to be written down). What would you do differently if you were in the story? Would it still take place in the same setting such as a castle or would you move your story to your own house or apartment? Would you make up an entirely new setting? Will you keep your ending the same or can you think of ways to make it better?  Children can also draw pictures to illustrate their story. 

You could also read several different versions of the same fairy tale and talk with your child about how each version is the same and how it is different.  Did the individual author keep the story traditional or did they change the story line to make it end a different way than you were expecting?  Fairy tales were often told to have a moral that can be learned from them.  Talk to your children about the moral of the stories you read, whether it is the benefit of hard work, being kind to all, having good manners, being well behaved, not being vain or not being a bully.

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Suggested Family Activity • Ball Games

Today, we have a fun game for all ages and all you need is a ball. You play it by grabbing a large (but lightweight) ball and tossing it in the air. Before you catch it on its way down, clap your hands one time. Then the next time you throw it up in the air, clap your hands two times. Keep playing, adding one clap each time you toss the ball in the air. How many claps can you get in before dropping the ball? This game is great because it can be played by one person or with several people by taking turns. It can be modified for very young children by having someone throw the ball to them instead of them having to throw it up into the air themselves. You can even have a family competition to see who can get to the highest number without dropping the ball. After they have mastered the large, lightweight ball, try doing the game with smaller sized balls. Is it easier? Harder? What about a heavier ball such as a soccer ball, football or basketball? Having children guess what they think will happen and then testing whether they are right or wrong is a great way to turn this game into a STEM activity.

Very young children will benefit in several ways from this simple game. Doing a clapping motion with their hands improves the flexibility in their hands and wrists, which helps get them ready for the manual dexterity needed to hold a pencil or crayon to learn to write. Catching the ball will also help develop their hand-eye coordination, another very important life skill.

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Suggested Family Activity • Stickers

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Stickers are a great, inexpensive craft supply to keep on hand to help unleash a child’s creativity, as well as something that will keep them occupied quietly for a little while!  They can be picked up for around a dollar at many dollar stores.  Just pair a variety of stickers with plain sheets of paper and crayons or markers.  Children can make their own versions of scenes from their favorite story or create their very own imaginary tale by using a combination of the stickers and drawing other things to go with them.  Another idea is to challenge your children to create a specific story to go along with a set of stickers, for example a set that shows things found on a farm or in barnyard.  Or you can challenge them further by giving them a bunch of random stickers that do not seem to be related and seeing what kind of story they can make from them.

Another useful craft supply to keep on hand is old magazines.  Children can use images cut out of these to make up their own stories and collages as well.  If you do not have any old magazines at home, many of your local library branches have ones that have been donated to the library that they can give you at no cost.  A funny picture book in the library’s collection about the benefits of children cutting apart magazines and newspapers is Max’s Words by Kate Banks.  It shows how children’s vocabulary, sentence making ability and storytelling skills can be improved with these basic supplies.

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Suggested Family Activity • Indoor Bowling & More

If you need more ideas to get your family up and moving while they are stuck inside during this cold, yucky weather, try some of these ideas: 

Play a little indoor bowling.  Challenge your children to help you come up with creative things around the house to use for the bowling pins and balls. If they need help thinking of things, lightweight blocks, plastic cups or plastic bowls are easy things to use.  If you have enough space inside, you could set up a small hopscotch pattern on hard flooring using masking tape or painter’s tape.  This fun activity will get everyone up and moving around while also reinforcing number sequences to little ones.  You can also set up obstacle courses in your home with cushions, pillows or empty cardboard boxes.  Children can race to see how fast they can complete the course or race each other to see who is the fastest.  Another fun idea is to create a “move jar”.  Fill it with slips of paper that you have written phrases (or drawings for little ones who can not read) of movements such as hopping on one foot, walking like an elephant or doing a mummy walk.  Children can take turns picking a slip for the whole family to do.

After everyone gets worn out from all this activity, why not reward the family with a Pajama Day this weekend?  With the cold weather outside, it is the perfect time to take a day to stay snuggled up in your pajamas all day.  You could have breakfast in bed as a treat.  Or breakfast for supper is always a fun change of pace.   Watch family movies together, read your favorite books (either together, individually or both), put puzzles together, play board or card games – all great activities to do while wearing your pajamas.  And don’t forget to take time today to have some yummy hot chocolate and marshmallows!

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Suggested Family Activity • Random Acts of Kindness

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Today is National Random Acts of Kindness Day so celebrate by doing something totally unexpected to be nice to someone today.  Maybe you can make a special care package for someone who needs cheering up.  The current pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of people of all ages.  Do you know a senior citizen or someone else who has had to be separated from their friends and family?  Even just a simple card or small bouquet of flowers could cheer them up.  Another idea is if you pick up fast food today, maybe you could offer to pay for the order for the people behind you.  Or you could mail a “Thinking of You” card to someone you have not seen in a while.  Another idea is to drop off donations of food and other items to local food banks, homeless shelters or animal shelters.

Random acts of kindness do not require money though.  Just saying “Hello” to someone you do not normally take the time to speak to could brighten their day.  Smiling is also a fun and easy way to spread kindness but that is difficult when everyone is currently wearing masks.  Another simple, free way to show kindness is to leave a kind note to someone, maybe with a compliment or just a few positive words to help them through the winter blues. 

You could also give someone the benefit of your time today.  Maybe you could help someone work on their resume or job application, offer to babysit for someone who needs to run errands without dragging their children in and out of stores or even offer to do some minor housekeeping for someone who is not able to do it for themselves. 

This day is sponsored by the Random Acts of Kinds Foundation, a non-profit organization.  Visit their website at more great ideas for how to celebrate this day.  They also have lots of free pintables, including free coloring sheets for kids.  If you do not have a printer at home, ask your local librarian to print you out one of the coloring sheets.  They also have printable calendars full of daily suggestions for adults for how to incorporate acts of kindness into both their home and work lives all throughout the year.

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Suggested Family Activity

Cole had fun coloring a snow globe!

The branches of the Northeast Regional Library are closed today for President’s Day but they will be open again starting tomorrow.  Have you picked up your children’s winter activity packet yet?  They are filled with lots of fun stuff for little ones to do, especially if they are stuck inside during this cold weather!  In addition to coloring sheets and activity sheets, supplies are included for children to make a fluffy penguin out of cotton balls and to cut out a snowflake.  Another activity sheet has the outline of a snow globe that they can draw their own scene inside using crayons, markers or even stickers.

Use the wintry weather outside as inspiration and make your own snow globes today.  Grab an empty jar, such as a baby food jar, a mason jar or even an empty peanut butter jar, and have children fill it with anything sparkly they can find around the house.  Tiny beads, small plastic spangles or glitter are all great ideas to use.  Add water to the jar, tighten the lid securely and let them have fun shaking the jar to watch all the glitzy stuff swirl around.  To add something extra to your snow globe, glue small toys to the underside of the lid to make a creative scene.  If you have some glycerin or clear liquid glue at home, you can add a small bit to the water to slow the movement of the glittery things through the water, but kids will have fun with this either way!

If you want to make a snow globe but worry about the mess if the kids accidentally open the top, another version can be made with clear plastic glasses.  Cut a circle out of cardboard (such as an empty cracker or cereal box) and cover the circle with paper.  Skip the water and just let the kids decorate the paper bottom by gluing on bits and baubles you have around the house to make a fun scene.  These versions are also often light weight enough that you can glue a hanger to the top to hang them from a window. 

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#SuggestedFamilyActivity • Competition

When it is cold outside, it is sometimes hard to get everyone up and moving around! Some ideas to get your family up and moving this weekend include:
Have stacking contests – see who can stack the most blocks, plastic cups or other non-breakable items. To turn it into a competition, set a timer to see who can build the biggest tower the fastest. (And to turn it into a teaching opportunity, talk about what makes one person’s stack more stable than another’s.) You can also hold a Guinness Book of World Records style competition by seeing who in your family can balance a book on their head the longest. Who can do the most jumping jacks? Who can touch their toes the most times? You can even get your kids to help you come up with some fun records to set!

You can also get younger kids who have been cooped up inside moving by giving them things to find and bring back to you, such as something in a particular color (“Bring me something red”) or a particular shape (“Bring me something that is round”). For children just learning their alphabet, you can have them bring you something that starts with certain letters of the alphabet. And if they are learning how to count, you could ask them to bring you 1 of something, then 2 and so on. Don’t forget when you’re finished, though, to get them to return the items where they belong!

If your family likes to dance, put on some music and have an indoor dance party to burn off some energy in fun way. You can also play a fun game of outdoor bowling by filling water balloons with water (make it fancy by tinting it with a little food coloring or leave it plain) and letting the balloons freeze overnight. The next day, break the balloons off and use the frozen water balloons outside for a fun sidewalk or driveway bowling game.

See previous #FamilyActivities on our website at

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Suggested Family Activity • African-American History

February is African-American history month, a time to celebrate the achievements of African-Americans. Mississippi has been the home of many great African-Americans throughout time – from civil rights activists such as James Meredith, Medgar Evers and Fannie Lou Hammer, television stars such as James Earl Jones, Oprah Winfrey and Robin Roberts, sports stars such as Jerry Rice and Walter Payton to writers such as Margaret Walker and Richard Wright, just to name a few. Most recently, Miss Mississippi Asa Branch from Booneville made history when she became the first African-American (and the first Miss Mississippi) to win the title of Miss USA 2020!

Recently, the branches of the Northeast Regional Library System were awarded an Anti-Racism Reading Shelf Grant to purchase books about diversity and by diverse populations. This program is financially assisted by the National Endowment for the Humanities through the Mississippi Humanities Council. Some of the great new titles purchased with this grant about African-American historical figures include the junior biography Who Were the Tuskegee Airmen? by Sherri L. Smith and Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir by Natasha Trethewey from Gulf Port, a two-time United States Poet Laureate and a former Poet Laureate of Mississippi.

Ida B. Wells from Holly Springs, MS was a prominent activist who fought both for the rights of African-Americans and for the rights of women. She was an influential writer and journalist who published books, co-owned a newspaper and helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). New books about her life and contributions include Who Was Ida B. Wells? by Sarah Fabiny for young children and Ida: A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching by Paul Giddings, for adult readers.

Explore more books about today’s racial landscape on our card catalog at this link.

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Suggested Family Activity • Winter Activity Packet

It’s not too late to pick up your free children’s activity packet from your local library branch.  This Winter packet will be available all month and includes a lot of fun things to do, including a Winter Scavenger Hunt, coloring and activity sheets and everything you need to make a Cotton Ball Penguin, a Snowman Name Craft, a Heart Valentine card, paper Snowflakes and color your own snow globe.  We also have a new set of winter adult coloring sheets for teens and adults who enjoy this creative and relaxing pastime. 

The website Housing A Forest has come up with ways to make lots of different animals out of heart shapes.  Visit their website here to see how they do it for a cute Valentine’s Day craft:  Visit

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Suggested Family Activity • Birdfeeder

During the winter months, our feathered friends sometimes have to search for a long time to find food. Help them out by making simple bird feeders to hang outside. The bonus part is that, if you put the birdfeeder where you can see it through a window, you can watch the birds enjoying the tasty treats you have left for them. One simple way to make a birdfeeder is to take a pinecone (or even an empty cardboard roll from toilet paper or paper towels) and tie a yarn or string hanger to the top. Next, cover it with peanut butter and roll it in a pan or bowl of birdseed. You can pick up a bag of birdseed for just a few dollars at grocery stores and stores that sell home improvement items.
If you want to get more fancy with your birdfeeders, you can make hanging bird feeders using a gelatin and bird seed mixture pressed into cookie cutter shapes. There are lots of simple recipes for this on the internet. The project is easy enough that even toddlers can help prepare it and the really cute shapes are fun to hang from the trees and bushes in your yard.
Kelly Leigh Creates has come up with a great idea to make a simple birdfeeder out of Cheerios and pipe cleaners. To learn how to make this craft, check out

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Suggested Family Activity • Organization!

February is here!  Are you still working on your new year’s goals?  Your public libraries have lots of materials to help you.  Dads who are looking for ideas for fun things to make for their family to enjoy outdoors can check out Handy Dad: 25 Awesome Projects for Dads and Kids.  It contains 25 awesome projects to make for your backyard enjoyment, such as skate ramps, zip lines, go-carts, and more!  If you need to brush up on your woodworking skills, check out American Woodworker’s Hand Tool Fundamentals: Advice, Techniques & Projects to Build Your Skills.

If one of your family goals was to organize your home in a way that works better for everyone, check out Organizing Magic: 40 Days to a Well-Ordered Home and Life by Sandra Felton or 500 Terrific Ideas for Organizing Everything by Sheree Bykofsky.

One great idea to get the whole family involved in organizing is to hold one-hour long organizing sessions (or a whole day if you really want to get everyone working!).  You can pick a room to work on, such as the kitchen, and have all your family members work on ways to get it organized within the hour.  Even little ones can get involved by being in charge of throwing things away (they love dumping items in the trash can!).  Or if you are worried about everyone getting in each other’s way, you can all pick a separate room to work on.  Kids can look for better ways to store their things in their rooms, clean out their closets and drawers of clothes they cannot wear anymore and look for unused toys and games to give away.  An extra bonus is that any items still in good shape can be donated to someone in need.  Having one-hour sessions keeps everyone from getting overwhelmed but you may find that your family is getting so much done that they want to continue to work on organizing for even longer!

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Suggested Family Activity • ACTIVITY PACKETS

Don’t forget to pick up your free children’s activity packet from your local library branch.  This Winter packet will be available all month and includes a lot of fun things to do, including a Winter Scavenger Hunt, coloring and activity sheets and everything you need to make a Cotton Ball Penguin, a Snowman Name Craft, a Heart Valentine card, paper Snowflakes and color your own snow globe.  We also have a new set of winter adult coloring sheets for teens and adults who enjoy this creative and relaxing pastime. 

Valentine’s Day is this month!  Our packets have instructions and paper to help your child fold a piece of paper and draw a perfect heart to make their own Valentine card.  Or you can turn your child’s handprint into a Valentine card by folding a piece of paper in half and tracing the child’s hand along the fold.  Next, cut it out, except for the part that is on the fold line.  When you open the hand up, it becomes a heart made of two hands!  They can practice their best handwriting by writing a personalized message on their palms or you can glue the hand to a larger piece of paper to give them more room for extra decorations and Valentine’s wishes.

You can also turn your child’s hand into a flowering Valentine tree by tracing their hand and wrist onto brown construction paper (or use white paper and let your child color it brown).  Help them cut out simple heart and leaf shapes in a variety of colors to glue onto their fingers (the branches of the tree) for a cute Valentine picture or card for someone special.

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January 2021 Suggested Family Activities

Suggested Family Activity • Puzzles

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If one of your new year’s goals is to pick up a new hobby, try out the world of puzzles today on National Puzzle Day.  Working on a jigsaw puzzle together as a family is a fun and relaxing experience that everyone will love.  Plus, it has health benefits too!  Did you know working on puzzles exercises your brain power and helps you to improve not only your memory skills but also your ability to recognize shapes and how they fit together (called visual and spatial reasoning).  It can also lower your stress level as it can be a very meditative process.  

Family members of all ages can get involved with puzzles as there are a wide variety of puzzles for all mental stages.  Sometimes adults think of working on a puzzle as a solo activity only, but children learn to work on puzzles with help from adults.  Because of this experience when they are young, they often view it as a shared, social experience.  So have some fun social time with your family and work on a puzzle today! 

It’s not all about jigsaw puzzles either, don’t forget brain teasers and other word puzzles such as crossword puzzles, word searches (there’s some great seasonal ones in our library’s children’s packets each month!), Sudoku and more.  These types of puzzles improve your brain power by helping with your ability to recognize letters of the alphabet and numbers, they help you increase your vocabulary as they often introduce new words to you and they help you with problem solving skills.  Great skills to work on for all ages!

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Suggested Family Activity • Today is  Library Shelfie Day

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Today is Library Shelfie Day!  What is Library Shelfie Day, you ask?  It is a day set aside in January each year to give book lovers and book collectors a chance to share their personal libraries at home.

Do you throw your books in a bookcase or shelf willy nilly?  Or do you organize them alphabetically?  By subject or genre?  Are they arranged by size?  By their cover art?  Do you keep paperbacks and hardbacks separate or mix them all together?  Do you have cute bookends to keep your titles in a line?  Some people even like to arrange their bookshelves by color.  Whether you collect first editions or equally love and treasure every dog-eared book you have ever owned, we would love to see pictures of your libraries at home!  You can order certain books to spell out a message or just show off your favorites.  Arrange them artistically or jumble them up any old way.  We don’t care – we just love books!

Do your children have bookshelves filled with just books for them?  Make sure to take a picture of them with their books and share it with us!  It does not matter if you have two books or two hundred, we would love to see your Library Shelfies today! Share them to our Facebook page or email them to  You can also share your photos with the event’s national organizers at #LibraryShelfieDay on social media.

To get children interested in collecting books, read the fun picture book Alfred Zector, Book Collector by Kelly S. DiPucchio.  If you like to see how others decorate and live with books, check out Novel Living: Collecting, Decorating, and Crafting with Books by Lisa Occhipinti.  Or to read about books that have inspired others, check out The Books That Changed my Life: Reflections by 100 Authors, Actors, Musicians, and Other Remarkable People by Jacques Bonnet.

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Suggested Family Activity • Free Children’s Activity Packets

Have you picked up your free children’s activity packet from your local library branch yet?  It includes a lot of fun things to do, including a Winter Scavenger Hunt, coloring and activity sheets and everything you need to make a Cotton Ball Penguin, a Snowman Name Craft, a Heart Valentine card, paper Snowflakes and color your own snow globe. 

There are lots of ways to make your own snowflakes if we are not getting any of the real ones!  Our packets have instructions and a piece of paper to cut one out using just a white piece of paper and scissors.  The website Crafts On Sea also has free ideas for making snowflake mosaics, using either small pieces of white and blue colored paper or blue tissue paper torn into small pieces.  To see their versions, check out the following link:, which also includes a free snowflake template.  There is also a snowflake coloring sheet in our packets that you could use as a template to decorate your own snowflake.

If you find a pinecone outside, you can turn it into a beautiful snowy owl by packing all the nooks and crevices of the pinecone with cotton you get by pulling apart a few cotton balls.  After you have made your owl as plump as you wish, simply glue on wings, eyes and a beak cut out from paper.

Northeast Regional Library Director Dee Hare and her son Cole work on their journals together. We’d love to see pictures of your family doing a Suggested Family Activity together! #SuggestedFamilyActivity

Tomorrow is National Handwriting Day.  One way to celebrate this day is to get out any blank paper you have and write down your thoughts today.  It doesn’t matter if all you have is plain copy paper or notebook paper, get out your pencils, pens or even colored markers and practice the dying art of writing things by hand.  If you have ever wanted to start keeping a journal, today would be a great day to get that going, especially if it fits into one of your new year’s goals for 2021.  Writing in a journal is great for all ages.  Pre-school aged children can use their journals to practice writing out the letters of the alphabet and even their names before working up to writing out short words like ‘cat’ and ‘dog’.  If you give them their own journal book or notebook (lined pages will work best for those getting ready to start school so that they get used to writing on the line), they will have something to flip through to see how much they have progressed over time.  Older children can use their journals for practicing the writing skills they are learning in school.  Blank journals can be picked up very inexpensively at stores such as Dollar Tree.  You can even catch them for pennies at local Dirt Cheap stores if you shop there often. 

Another great way to work on your handwriting is to write a letter or note to someone special in your life.  If you do not have any stationary or notecards at home, don’t worry!  You can make your own by decorating blank paper with stickers or hand-drawn designs.  This would be another fun activity for kids as they can first make their own stationary (or card by folding a piece of paper in half) and then write someone a letter. 

All of the technology that is available for people to type on today has meant that handwriting is starting to suffer.  While you can write out things faster on a computer, writing some things out by hand gives your mind (and body) a chance to slow down. Writing things out by hand also requires patience, which everyone could benefit from sometimes, whether you are young or old. 

If one of your new year’s goals was to learn a new hobby, you could try out the decorative handwriting style of calligraphy.  Your library can help you get started with titles such as Learn Calligraphy: The Complete Book of Lettering and Design by Margaret Shepherd or Calligraphy for Kids by Eleanor Winters.

Sunday is National Compliment Day so why not pair the two days together to write someone a note that contains a nice compliment?  Maybe you want to praise one of your children for how hard they work at their schoolwork or for doing something unselfish.  Or maybe you have someone who lives near you who always has great seasonal decorations to look at in their yard or pretty flowers planted.  Your family could write them a short note to let them know how much their neighbors enjoy the hard work they put into such things.  Take the time to talk with children about how to best give a compliment.  Encourage them to look for things to compliment about other people that are not necessarily based on their appearance or things they own but instead speak to parts of their character (like kindness or generosity) or something that illustrates their work ethic. 

Branches of the Northeast Regional Library will begin handing out Winter themed children’s activity packets this week so stop by and get yours soon! These packets will be handed out through February and include suggested reading lists of Winter and Valentine’s Day themed books from NERL’s card catalog, a variety of coloring and activity sheets, as well as everything you need to make a Cotton Ball Penguin, a Snowman Name Craft, a Heart Valentine card, paper Snowflakes and color your own snow globe.

If you have marshmallows in your kitchen, you have the makings of a snowman! The website Projects for Preschoolers offers this fun way for kids to make a snowman using large marshmallows. The materials needed: large marshmallows, toothpicks or pretzel sticks, cupcake sprinkles, a paintbrush, and a cup of water.

1. Carefully push a toothpick or pretzel stick into one marshmallow not pushing through the bottom of the marshmallow. This is the bottom piece of the snowman.
2. Stack your additional marshmallows on top the toothpick.
3. Using the paintbrush, apply a small amount of water to the marshmallows to add eyes, mouth, and other accents.
4. Add the arms by breaking a toothpick or pretzel sticks and push through the marshmallows.
5. Leave the snowman overnight to harden. You can add more color with color markers or glue on additional accents.

For additional pictures of this project, visit their website at

Today is Martin Luther King Jr Day, a day we honor and celebrate the American clergyman, activist and Civil Rights Movement leader best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience.  Dr. King is also well known for his passionate public speeches – his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, given at a pivotal Civil Rights march in Washington, D.C., has served as inspiration for generations.  To find out more about this particular speech, check out The Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Speech That Inspired a Nation by Drew W Hansen.  To listen to the speech, visit the NPR site here.  In addition to the recording, this site also features a transcript of the speech.  If you are interested in reading more of Dr. King’s writing, check out A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Did you know Dr. King was the youngest man to win the Nobel Peace Prize at age 35?  He then donated the over $54,000 worth of prize money to further the work of the civil rights movement.  For a short biography of his life, visit the Nobel Prize site at here.  Your public libraries also have many more books on the life and work of Dr. King, including several for children, such as Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King by Jean Marzollo and Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport.  Titles for adult readers include Going Down Jericho Road: the Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King’s Last Campaign by Michael K. Honey and A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today is National Hat Day so celebrate by wearing your favorite baseball cap, winter hat, fedora, or any other style of hat all day today!

Hats during the winter months keep your head warm so why not go out on a winter walk today or even a long hike this weekend at a nearby park such as Tishomingo State Park.  If you walk in an area, like your own neighborhood, where it is OK to do so, children can pick up nuts, pinecones, leaves, bark and other interesting bits of nature to take home to make a beautiful winter nature collage.  But remember, it is illegal to remove any part (including pieces of nature) of National Park service sites and some other public parks so make sure you know the rules before you do so!  While you are walking, take pictures of how your surroundings look (or better yet, let your children take pictures of things that interest them) to compare against pictures from other seasons.  Children can also have a lot of fun keeping an eye out for any animal tracks they can spot.  The recent round of wet weather means that prints may be easy to see in dirt or muddy spots on the ground.  They might be able to spot tracks from deer, raccoon, rabbits or other animals.  Let us know what you find!  

If you need a book to help you figure out which animals tracks belong to which animal, check out titles such as Animal Tracks & Signs by Jinny Johnson.

If one of your new year’s goals was to find a new crafting hobby, let your local library branch find titles to help you get started.  If you are not sure what you want to do yet, check out The Michaels Book of Arts & Crafts to browse hundreds of different projects to try.  Those who have an Instant Pot might want to check out DIY Crafts & Projects for Your Instant Pot: Lip Balm, Tie-Dye, Candles, and Dozens of other Amazing Ideas.

Many people enjoy hobbies that help them save money.  If you would like to try out making your own candles, check out Candle Making Made Easy or The Candlemaker’s Companion: A Complete Guide to Rolling, Pouring, Dipping, and Decorating Your Own Candles by Betty Oppenheimer.  Or if you are interested in learning how to make your own soap, try Pure Soapmaking: How to Create Nourishing, Natural Skin-Care Soaps by Anne-Marie Faiola or The Everything Soapmaking Book by Alicia Grosso.

If you have always wanted to learn how to sew, let this year be the year to do it!  Your libraries can get you started with titles such as 101 Ways to Use Your First Sewing Machine by Elizabeth Dubicki.  They also have lots of fun titles, including Bend-the-Rules Sewing: The Essential Guide to a Whole New Way to Sew by Amy Karol and Sew Retro: 25 Vintage-Inspired Projects for the Modern Girl: A Stylish History of the Sewing Revolution by Judi Ketteler.  Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts has a little bit of everything in it, including basic techniques for sewing, applique, embroidery, quilting, dyeing, and printing on fabric.

Don’t forget about the kiddos!  Your branch libraries also have crafting books for them, including The Big Book of Kids’ Crafts: 301 Projects for Kids 4 to 12, Fun Family Crafts by Kelly Doust, Low-Mess Crafts for Kids: 72 Projects to Create Your Own Magical Worlds by Debbie Chapman, Make Stuff Together: 24 Simple Projects to Create as a Family by Bernadette Noll and See and Sew: An Introduction to Sewing for Children by Tina Davis.

The cold days of January are perfect weather for hot chocolate! Warm up today by enjoying a big cup of the cold weather treat. Drink it plain or add fun extras like marshmallows, whipped cream and sprinkles. Leftover peppermint sticks from the holidays can also be a yummy addition to your drink. Some people even like to add fun syrups typically used in coffee drinks, such as caramel, hazelnut or vanilla flavorings. For a cute snack for the kids to go along with your hot chocolate, try powdered donuts (the mini version) and turn them into snowman faces with mini chocolate chips for the eyes, nose and mouth.
If you have some popsicle sticks on hand, you can turn them into a crafty cup of hot chocolate. First, glue about eight craft sticks together into a square shape. You can use the colored variety or the kids can color plain popsicle sticks any color they like. Next, cut an oval out of brown construction paper (your children can also use plain white paper and color it brown) and glue the oval to the top of the square to represent the hot chocolate. You can even decorate the brown oval if you wish with small white circles to mimic marshmallows. Next, cut out a fat ‘C’ shape out of any color paper you have and glue it to the side of the square to be the cup’s handle. Let your kids finish off their craft by decorating the front of the cup with stickers or they can draw on their own creative designs with crayons or markers.
Have you ever tried to make your own modeling clay or dough? The family behind the website 123Homeschool4Me have come up with two different fun chocolate scented modeling dough recipes (one even uses hot chocolate mix) that will be fun for the whole family to make and play with. Both recipes require only a few simple ingredients. Check out their link here for the directions:

If one of your new year’s goal is to spend more time relaxing, celebrate National Bubble Bath Day and take a nice relaxing bath today.  Bubble bath has long been used with young children to make them associate bath time as being fun.  In addition to playing in bubbles, today’s children can also enjoy washable bath crayons, bath toys and other play time accessories that help make bath time so entertaining, it is hard to get them out sometimes!  Even letting children play with simple plastic cups and bowls will give them a fun bath experience without buying anything extra.  Playing in the bath can be educational for children as well.  Moving water between different sized cups helps them to begin to understand how careful they need to be when it is time to learn to pour their own drinks.  Having small plastic toys available for bath time, when used together with a cup or bowl, also introduces the concept that liquids are displaced when another object is placed in the container.  And finally, letting them draw and write on the tub with washable paint or crayons lets them explore their creativity and help fuel their imagination.  You can even sneak in a little learning time too by asking children to draw letters of the alphabet or numbers.  Bubble bath is fun for all ages – you can never be too old to enjoy taking a bath! 

Bubble baths can offer health benefits too, for both children and adults.  Parents have used the relaxing benefits of bath time to wind down for bedtime for centuries.   Soaking in a bath can ease the ache of sore muscles and relax muscles that have been made tight by stress for everyone.  The steam from a warm bath can help sooth a cough or loosen congestion, which is always helpful during the winter months when illnesses linger.  All these things combined should even ultimately lead to a better night’s sleep for everyone!

Some fun children’s book titles available at your local libraries about bath time include Bubble Bath Pirates by Jarrett Krosoczka, Max’s Bath by Rosemary Wells, The Pigeon Needs a Bath! by Mo Willems, Pirates Don’t Take Baths by John Segal and Bad Kitty Gets a Bath by Nick Bruel.  Older children who are always asking “How” or “Why” might be interested in I Wonder Why Soap Makes Bubbles and Other Questions about Science by Barbara Taylor.

Check back Sunday for tips on saving money around your house!

If one of your goals for this new year is for your family to spend more quality time together, celebrate National Cuddle Up Day today by snuggling up on your couch or bed.  Young children would also enjoy making a pillow fort to snuggle up in.  Or for more cuddly fun, camp out on your living room floor on a bed of blankets, pillows and maybe even a camping mattress brought in for a special indoor treat!  January is the perfect month to cuddle as it is usually very cold outside.  As you cuddle, you can make up stories and tall tales to tell each other, talk about your favorite family memories, read books together or even watch a family friendly movie. And while you’re cuddling, don’t forget your pets!  Let your cats and dogs, or your rabbits or hamsters or other family pet, enjoy some cuddle time today too.

In addition to being fun, there are lots of health benefits to families cuddling together.  A physical touch, where it’s your family’s arms around you or your pet curled up in your lap, makes you feel happy and loved, which in turn can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.  Physical touch can also let others know, particularly children, that they are safe and in a trusted environment and helps to reassure them that they will be protected and taken care of.  Just think – you can express all that with just a simple hug!

For people of all ages, cuddling with their pets can also do the same things.  It has even been medically proven that petting a cat or dog reduces blood pressure and regulates your breathing, resulting in a much calmer feeling.

If a New Year’s goal for your family is to spend time outside to get more exercise, an easy way to do this is by taking short daily walks around your neighborhood or streets.  Many people do not think of walking outside when the weather is colder but if you bundle up, it can be a refreshing experience.  Younger children can benefit from seeing how differently the world around them looks when it is a different season.  Ask them questions such as, “What looks differently now than in the summer?” or “How does the air feel on your face?”  You can also ask them to describe to you how the trees look now and have them think back to how trees look in the summer to compare the two versions.      

Another family goal this year might be to become more organized.  You might want to work on certain areas of your home, such as organizing your pantry or kitchen shelves to make mealtime preparation go faster.  Or each family member might work on organizing their closets or places where they store their clothes so that getting dressed in the morning and getting ready for bed at night go more smoothly.  As this new year starts, sit down with your family to brainstorm ideas for things each person can do to get your family better organized in 2021.

Check back Wednesday for another new idea!

Happy New Year’s Day!  Welcome to 2021!  The act of making resolutions for a new year, once a popular pastime, has started to fall out of favor as people have the tendency to set unrealistic expectations. Instead of making resolutions this year, why not set goals for 2021?  Each person in your family can set individual (and realistic) goals and you can even set goals together as a family. 

Maybe one of your goals will be to have less screen time and read more books.  If so, take time today to pick out and start a great new book.  Seeing the adults in their life read for pleasure shows children how much you value the activity and sets a great example for them.  You could also set a family goal of reading together for at least twenty to thirty minutes each day.  Everyone can read their own books or you can take turns reading a book out loud.  Reading out loud to younger children is essential to their development.  It has a wide range of benefits, including improving their attention span and increasing their vocabularies, just to name two.  As children grow out of hearing picture books, you can continue reading together books as a family by moving to chapter books.  Some families even continue reading out loud to each other until their children are grown!  Mississippi author Ellen Gilchrist has related in the past that at Sunday dinner parties at her house, dinner guests read out loud portions of Shakespeare plays to end the evening.

Check back next week for more ideas on goals for the new year! 

December 2020 Suggested Family Activities

If your children want to celebrate the arrival of the new year tomorrow but midnight is too late for them to stay up, why not stage it earlier in the night before they go to bed?  You can find videos of the ball drop in New York City from previous years online so watch one of these old videos and have the whole family count down the minutes.  You can just pick a random time (for example, 8:00 p.m.) to count down towards.  Everyone can scream “Happy New Year” and make noise, regardless of what time you celebrate the new year’s arrival.  You can even let your little ones dress up in fancy clothes from their dress-up box and pile on fun, glittery accessories like tiaras, crowns, necklaces and funny hats. 

If you want to make your own New Year’s ball to drop in your home, you can make a paper mâché one using a balloon, glue and newspaper strips.  Or just use a regular balloon and let it fall to the floor.  If you do not have any noisemakers at home, you can let your children bang on pots and pans to celebrate the arrival of the new year.

Older children can celebrate the night by having a pajama party in the living room.  They can pile lots of pillows, sleeping bags and blankets on the floor to make it comfy, put on their pjs and have a ball!  You might even want to help them build a pillow fort for even more fun. 

Today is National Card Playing Day so celebrate by playing some fun family card games.  Families with very young children can play one of the many matching games that help children learn colors, numbers and the alphabet.  Older children will enjoy a great beginning game such as Go Fish, Crazy Eights, War, Concentration or Uno.  Children can even be taught to play Solitaire on their own!  Playing card games is a great way for children to learn social skills such as taking turns, being fair to others and being patient while waiting for everyone else to have a turn.  It also helps children practice other necessary skills such as adding and subtracting and matching numbers, colors and shapes – but all while having fun!  

Today is also National Chocolate Candy Day so take time throughout today to snack on your favorite chocolate candy treat.  Do you like having a little bit of chocolate at a time such as M&Ms or do you prefer to take big bites of a Hershey’s bar?  You may have even gotten some special chocolate candy treats during the holidays that you can eat today.  Many people like to eat chocolates slowly to make them last longer so why not try that technique?  For a funny picture book about chocolate candies, check out Curious George Goes to a Chocolate Factory.  Or if you would like to learn how chocolate is made, check out Beans to Chocolate by Inez Snyder for young readers or Chocolate: Sweet Science and Dark Secrets of the World’s Favorite Treat by Kay Frydenborg for older readers.  Adult readers might also enjoy the novel Chocolat by Joanne Harris or the chocolate shop mysteries by JoAnna Carl. 

Today starts Kwanzaa.  To learn more about this holiday, check out The Complete Kwanzaa: Celebrating Our Cultural Harvest by D. Winbush Riley.  Children’s titles include Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story by Angela Shelf Medearis, Kwanzaa by A. P. Porter and Seven Candles for Kwanzaa by Andrea Davis Pinkney.

One of the bases of Kwanzaa is the celebration of the harvest.  The cold winter months are a great time to plan out your own garden for this spring, whether you use seed catalogs, gardening magazines, the internet, or your own past gardening experience for inspiration.  Get the whole family involved in picking out what things to plant.  Having children involved in the process of picking out which vegetables to plant, preparing the soil, planting the seeds and tending the plants as they grow will make them more interested in eating the produce when it is ready to pick.  (Having them help with the food preparation when the things from your garden are ready to cook is also another way to get them interested in vegetables!)

Today’s the last day this week to pick up a children’s activity and craft packet and FREE book at your local library branch before they close for the holidays!  In the packets, you will find lots of fun things to keep children entertained this week, including coloring sheets featuring Santa, snowmen, reindeer and more!  There are also supplies to make five craft projects, including a Rocking Santa, a Candy Cane, a Reindeer, a Circle Ornament and a Hot Coca mug craft.  We have provided white squares of heavy paper to make the Circle Ornament in the packet but you can continue to use the template for years to come.  This project is a great way to recycle your Christmas cards – just cut circles out of the cards and glue them together using our instructions.  Ornaments made from your old Christmas cards will be a lasting reminder of the beautiful cards you receive from year to year.

Paper plates (the cheapest you can find!) make great craft supplies.  In addition to the Rocking Snowman found in this month’s free December packet at your library, children can also turn a paper plate into:

  • A holiday wreath by cutting out the middle of the plate in a circle so that the plate becomes a wreath. If you are not comfortable free hand drawing a circle, you can use a smaller plate to draw around to create the opening. Kids can color the wreath a solid color and then decorate on top of that with small artificial flowers (easily found at places like the Dollar Tree), stickers, designs they have drawn on paper and cut out or any other craft supplies. 
  • You can also turn a paper plate into a Christmas tree by cutting it apart into 3 wedges (imagine a watermelon slice). Glue the wedge pieces on top of each other with the fluted part of the plate pointing down and the pointy piece on the top. Then color the tree green and decorate it with stickers, sequins, beads or any other craft supplies.   Children could also draw ornaments on a piece of paper and cut them out to glue on their tree.

Today is the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere– the longest night of the year. It’s the day when the Earth’s Northern pole has tilted as far as possible from the sun, which means that the day light hours are the shortest and the nighttime hours are the longest. Celebrate this longest night by having a fire outside and roasting hot dogs and toasting marshmallows. Having a cup of hot cider or hot chocolate will also be a great treat tonight!

Your local NERL branches will only be open Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week so hurry by to check out last minute books before the holidays.

Selections vary by branch so call your local library today to see what they have available.

Some great picture book titles by your favorite children’s book authors include A Bad Kitty Christmas by Nick Bruel, Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson, Click, Clack, Ho! Ho! Ho! by Doreen Cronin, How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas? by Jane Yolen and Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney. Chapter book readers might enjoy Young Scrooge: A Very Scary Christmas Story by R.L. Stine, Nate the Great and the Crunchy Christmas by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat or Judy Moody & Stink: The Jolly Joliday by Megan McDonald.

Adult readers might enjoy some of the many holiday titles by fiction writers such as Debbie Macomber, Robin Carr, and Wanda Brunstetter. Western author William W. Johnstone even has several holiday titles.

Mystery writers love to set their titles during this time of year too! Some titles in our libraries’ collection include A Cajun Christmas Killing by Ellen Byron, Christmas Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke and Here Comes Santa Paws by Laurien Berenson. 

Reading Clement Clarke Moore’s holiday classic The Night Before Christmas (sometimes listed as ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas) is a great family tradition in many families.  Your local libraries have lots of versions available to be checked out so make sure to pick up a copy before the big day!  Illustrators over the years, such as Hilary Knight, Arthur Rackham, Jan Brett and Richard Scarry, just to name a few, have put their own spin on the story.  There are even specialized versions such as A Cat’s Night Before Christmas and A Dog’s Night Before Christmas by Henry Beard and The Night Before Christmas, Deep Under the Sea by Kathie Kelleher.  If you prefer an e-book, don’t forget your library card gives you access to e-books through Hoopla and the Libby app through OverDrive.  Accessing these titles is quick and easy.  For more information, check the Digital Resources page on the NERL website or call your local library branch.

Cardboard paper rolls from paper towels or toilet paper make a great craft supply after they have been sanitized.  This month, you can cover one with white paper to become a snowman and then draw on buttons, a scarf, a carrot nose and eyes.  Or you could turn one into a reindeer with brown paper and some pipe cleaner antlers sticking out each side.  The people behind the website have even turned one into a Santa.  Check out the link below to learn how they did it:

The people at have created this cute and easy foam Christmas tree ornament craft:  You can visit their website for a template to print out or draw your own tree shape.  If you do not have any craft foam, green paper is a quick and easy substitute.  They decorated their tree with glitter glue but you can decorate yours with markers, crayons, beads, buttons, pom poms or any other craft supplies you have on hand.

A wonderful nighttime family activity, that is also perfect for keeping your social distance this year, is to ride around with your family and look at lights and decorations on everyone’s houses.  Sometimes homeowners even have their lights programmed to radio stations playing festive music.  (Singing holiday songs as you drive from one location to another is also a great way to pass the time!)  Another fun idea is to take along hot chocolate and holiday cookies to snack on as you drive around.  Families of young children might even want to let their children get into their pajamas before taking their ride around town, so that the children are ready to go to bed as soon as they get back home.

Check back tomorrow for more fun holiday ideas!

In our library’s craft and activity packets this month is a cute candy cane to make using white and red circles.  All supplies needed for the craft are in the packet, including a yarn hanger so that it can hang on your tree or in your house as a decoration.  There is also an activity sheet for children to find the quickest way through a candy cane maze.

Beaded candy canes are fun and easy to make, even for the smallest fingers.  All you need are white and red pony beads and a pipe cleaner, both of which can be purchased inexpensively at stores such as the Dollar Tree and Dollar World if you do not have the supplies at home.  All children must do to make this quick project is to slide each bead onto the pipe cleaner, alternating each color as they go.  When they have reached the top of the pipe cleaner, the top is bent over into the familiar hook shape.  This craft would make a great decoration in your home, on your tree or to give out as presents to friends and loved ones.  Did you know learning how to pick and grasp small objects, such as beads, is an important step in children learning how to write?  This is a great activity for little fingers to do because it sets them up for success in knowing how to hold and grasp a pencil when they enter pre-school or kindergarten. 

Another great way to make a candy cane ornament is to use a skein each of red and white embroidery floss and a pipe cleaner.  (You could also use yarn or cord in those colors – the thicker materials would also be easier for little fingers to grasp.)  Take the paper wrapping off the skeins of floss and snip each looped end to make two bunches (but you’ll only be using one of each color).  Tie one bunch of red and one bunch of white in a single knot at the top of the pipe cleaner.  Twist the top colors around the pipe cleaner to make the stripes.  When you get to the end, make another knot and trim either the floss or the pipe cleaner as necessary.  Now all that is left is to bend the top into a hook shape and add a ribbon or yarn hanger.

Family Activitiy: Don’t forget to pick up your FREE children’s craft packets and FREE book at your local library!  One of the activity sheets in this month’s packet is a fun Candy Cane Experiment.  It is a great way to sneak in a little STEM activity into your holiday celebrations!  Small, thin candy canes will work best for quick results but to turn it into a longer activity, children can experiment with different sizes and flavors.  The sheets have space for children to write their predictions for what will happen when a candy cane is placed in cool water, warm water and vinegar.  There is also space on the sheet for children to write in their observations and the results of their experiments. 

If your family loves to watch holiday moves this time of year, you can put a little extra excitement into the activity by wrapping up your holiday DVDs in gift wrapping paper and putting them in a box or basket.  Each night that you want to watch a movie, family members can take turns randomly picking a movie to watch together.  You can also use this same technique with your children’s holiday picture books for a fun surprise each night before bed.

Check back tomorrow for some candy cane craft ideas!

Have you picked up a children’s craft packet and free book at your local library yet? They have lots of good things to keep little ones (and not so little ones) occupied this month – holiday themed coloring sheets, activity sheets, suggested reading lists and supplies to make FIVE different arts and crafts projects. In addition to a crossword puzzle for older kids, there are several sheets of themed word searches. Children can work on them alone – it is a great way for school-age children to learn how words are spelled and become more familiar with the alphabet. Or to turn it into a fun family activity, you can do this variation: Give the same word search (your local library can provide you with extra copies) to everyone in your family. Place them face down on the table. Then set a timer, say GO and have everyone try and find all the words as fast as possible in a set amount of time. Whoever finds the most wins! Another variation is to have everyone in your family work on the word searches over several days. This way would be especially great in families with young children as it will give them more time to complete the sheet. When they have finished, you could even give them a small treat such as a piece of candy or extra screen time.

Another fun family game is to pick a word (such as December) or a phrase (such as Happy Holidays or Season’s Greetings) and have everyone see how many words they can make out of the letters in the word or phrase.

Tomorrow is the first day of Hanukkah.  To learn more about the holiday, check out the following books from your library: Beautiful Yetta’s Hanukkah Kitten by Daniel Manus Pinkwater, The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate by Janice Cohn and Hanukkah Bear by Eric A. Kimmel.

Decorating a gingerbread house is a fun family activity.  To make it faster and easier, you can purchase pre-made kits with pieces cut to size, pre-mixed cake icing and decorations.  If you don’t want to go to the expense, though, or put up with the mess, children can decorate paper gingerbread people and a paper gingerbread house found on activity sheets in our December children’s packets.  Children can use crayons and markers or other types of craft supplies, such as buttons, sequins and beads, if you have them available. 

To make a beautiful natural ornament for your tree, just pick up a pinecone on your next walk!  To begin, tie a piece of string or yarn to the top to be the hanger.  Next, paint the tips of the pinecone with craft glue and sprinkle glitter on the glue while it is wet.  After the glue is dried, the ornament is ready to hang!  For a more colorful ornament, you could substitute acrylic paint (thinned out with a little water) for the glue before you add the glitter.  You could also add other small decorations that might fit into the crevices of the pinecones such as silver balls (like the ones used for cake decorating), sequins or small beads.

Today is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

On this day, we honor the survivors and veterans of the December 7, 1941 surprise arial attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor on Oahu Island in Hawaii.  This attack led to the U.S.’s entry into World War II.  The site of the attack is now a National Park Service site and serves as the host for a yearly commemorative event.  In order to protect the World War II veterans and Pearl Harbor survivors attending this year’s event, the event will be held privately.  However, you can watch it from home through their Facebook page or at  To find out more about this day and the events at Pearl Harbor, visit  This website contains links to other information about Pearl Harbor, including videos of previous year’s events. 

Your public libraries also have materials about Pearl Harbor, including the DVD The Attack on Pearl Harbor: A Day of Infamy and the book Long Day’s Journey into War: December 7, 1941 by Stanley Weintraub.  To help children understand the events, check out Attack on Pearl Harbor: The True Story of the Day America Entered World War II by Shelley Tanaka, Franklin and Winston: A Christmas That Changed the World by Douglas Wood and I Survived the Bombing of Pearl Harbor, 1941 by Lauren Tarshis.

Our librarian at the Tishomingo Public Library, Beverly Parker, has created a Snowman Greeting Card for children to use.  There is a color copy available in the children’s packets being handed out at NERL branches or you can print out your own here (insert link).  For snowman related holiday stories to enjoy after you’ve written a letter to a special person in your life, check out some of these titles from our branches: Christmas Magic by Michael Garland, Elfis: A Christmas Tale by Alan Katz and Frosty’s New Friends.

Snowman card template

Family Activity: Countdown Calendar

Paper chains are a great craft project for all ages!  You can make one to be a countdown calendar to your favorite winter holiday and pull off a loop for each day until it arrives.  Or you can make one to use as a decoration in your home or on a tree.  All you need is different scraps of paper cut to the same size (about 1-inch x 5 inches is a good size) and some glue.  Before the time of mass-produced ornaments, people decorated their homes with paper chains, strings of dried fruit such as cranberries and orange slices and strings of popcorn.  For children old enough to hold a large, blunt needle themselves, stringing popcorn would also make a great decoration for trees and shrubs outside – plus a great holiday treat for visiting birds and squirrels!

In our libraries’ children’s packets this month is another cute countdown calendar made up of star shapes.  Children can color in a star on each day until they get to December 25!

To find out more about how the holidays were celebrated in the past, check out the holiday titles in the American Girl series, including Addy’s Surprise: A Christmas Story by Connie Rose Porter.  Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol and A Charles Dickens Christmas are also available at several branches, as is Norman Rockwell’s Christmas Book.  Other holiday titles featuring classic characters include Christmas with Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and A Little House Christmas Treasury: Festive Holiday Stories by Laura Ingalls Wilder.   An Old-Fashioned Country Christmas: A Celebration of the Holiday Season gives tips on how to make the tree decorations mentioned above while The Old-Fashioned Santa Claus Picture Book gives a look at images of Santa throughout time, as well as children’s poems about Santa Claus.

Family Activity: December Packets!

December packets are being given out now through the end of the month at your local library branches!  This month’s packets have wonderful holiday themed coloring sheets, activity sheets, suggested reading lists and supplies to make FIVE different arts and crafts projects.  The craft projects include a Rocking Snowman, a Candy Cane, a Reindeer, a Circle Ornament and a Hot Coca mug craft.  Also included in each packet is a wonderful holiday gift – a free book!  So stop by one of the branches of NERL TODAY to get your free packet!  Our branches also have book selections for Teen and Young Adult readers and a new set of more detailed coloring sheets for teens and adults who enjoy the relaxing pastime.

One of the more popular activities in our packets have been the monthly Scavenger Hunt sheets.  The December Scavenger Hunt includes things to look out for as you spend time outside or drive around town – poinsettias, strings of lights and silver bells, just to name a few.  You can view and print a copy of our Scavenger Hunt here: ScavengerHunt or pick up a copy from your local NERL public library branch.

Another sheet in our packets this month is a Reindeer Race that involves rolling a die to move up a number line.  You can even make reindeer markers out of clothes pins to use in the race.  All you need are clothes pins, googly eyes (or draw on eyes with a marker), a pom pom nose (or draw your own), and pipe cleaners to make the antlers.