Activities & Tips

Learning from the Process of Art

Gone are the days when every student in the art class had to produce an identical still life. But sometimes a kid will melt down when faced with a new artistic challenge because "mine doesn't look like yours". It doesn't need to look just like anyone else's, though. That’s not how kids learn! And it’s certainly not how they have fun.

group of kids working with art supplies group of kids working with art supplies

Many educators and caregivers encourage children in what we call “process art” – where the process of making something is more important than the end result. That’s a valuable perspective at any age – but especially with preschool ages because of its importance for a developing brain and body. For a young child, just choosing the colors he wants to use and deciding where on the page to start coloring requires planning and the ability to think ahead. Actually following through with the physical steps strengthens important skills, too. 

To parents and other caregivers of small children: take a deep breath and step back from the pursuit of perfection.  Let your kids explore art. Embrace the mess, at least sometimes. Relax about artistic mistakes – there’s nothing wrong with them! Your child does not learn by creating a Pinterest-perfect replica of the teacher’s example. Your child learns by experimenting with how much glue is needed and how hard she has to squeeze to get it out of the bottle. By playing with the paint and squishing it between his fingers. By using the scissors themself, even if it takes longer and produces ragged edges. If they’ll soon be in school, kids will need to be able to do this stuff for themselves. Make sure they have many opportunities to practice. Older kids might be proficient with the scissors, but they have to follow directions many times every day, so they might need a reminder that it's okay to let loose now and again, too. Your budding perfectionist can learn to shake off mistakes and keep going, given time and repetition and your encouragement.

Try process art at home – it can be as simple as a pile of paper to tear and some glue to put it together in interesting ways. Here are some ideas to get you started. Come to the library for art, too – whether led by MOCHA teachers or by library staff, it spares you some of the cleanup and exposes your child to new materials and methods. Pro tip: you don’t have to find a place for every project on the fridge. Take a picture and share it to social media… then recycle without guilt.

So let your little one peel Spongebob stickers off the sheet and put them all over old newspaper (not on the books, please!). It’s great for fine motor control! Refrain from coloring in the last bit of the picture for her. Let his monster have one arm and three tongues. Who knows what a monster is supposed to look like, anyway? Encourage them to try out some unusual options, and see where their creativity takes them.

Process art is messy sometimes. It takes longer. It won’t look perfect. That’s okay. You’re doing it right. And so are they.

"Polar bear goes here" by Maydela is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Here are some great books about embracing creativity, learning from mistakes, and loving the process of art!


The Art Lesson by Tomie DePaola

The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken

Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg

Niko Draws a Feeling by Bob Raczka

The Art of Miss Chew by Patricia Polacco

OPL Responds: Know Your Rights with I.C.E.

OPL Responds Logo

It is important to know your rights with recent reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) may be coming to the Bay Area soon. 

The library can help you get the information you need to protect yourself, your family, and your neighbors. Ask us! If we don’t know the answer, we’ll connect you to someone who does.

Creative Commons photo by Joe Bruskins via Flickr.

We’re lucky to have several local organizations working to help people with immigration questions and challenges. There are too many to list here! For a comprehensive resource guide, check out our Know Your Rights page.

And remember, knowledge is power. Here are 5 Ways to Fight ICE Raids With Power, Not Panic.

If you want to volunteer to support your neighbors and friends in the event of an ICE raid, check out or click here

If you're concerned about immigration coming to your workplace, review this very useful Employer Guide created by the National Employment Law Project and National Immigration Law Center.

For questions and reports about immigration enforcement, call the 24-hour hotline supported by the Alameda County Immigrant Legal and Education Partnership.

Poster for Alameda County Immigration Legal and Education Partnership     Spanish Poster for Alameda County Immigration Legal and Education Partnership                   

Early Learning Backpacks

In September 2018,  OPL’s West and Eastmont branches began a pilot program offering an exciting and fun way for kids ages 3-5 to boost their language skills and school readiness.  The First 5 Alameda County funded early learning backpacks available during family storytime and play café are a huge hit. Early literacy specialists understand parents are a child’s first and best teacher.These backpacks are designed to provide opportunities for rich interactions, fun, and learning by providing materials and books for families to use together. 

The backpacks are not part of our traditional collection. Families can simply choose a backpack, sign it out on a clipboard, and enjoy the rich contents inside to explore math, science, literacy and/or social skills at home. The following week families can exchange the backpack for one of the other 30 themed backpacks. The backpacks are see-through and full of educational activities, toys and books in English, Spanish, Chinese and/or Arabic. A child doesn’t need to know that each backpack’s contents were painstakingly put together by experts at First 5 Alameda and are meticulously connected to California kindergarten readiness standards. Children are drawn to the joy of engineering a bridge, examining bugs, taking care of a baby doll, or reading a book about a garden. Many families come back week after week because their child is excited to choose their next backpack. It has become an important part of their weekly routine and something special they do with each other.

Some caregivers ask for advice such as “Which Science backpack will teach my child the life cycle of a butterfly?” or “Which Social Skills backpack will help my child learn how to resolve conflicts with their friends?” Working in partnership with First 5 Alameda children’s librarians meet quarterly to engage with the materials and how they relate to aspects of the California Preschool Curriculum Framework to help make better recommendations. It is a joy to see the pride and excitement in a child’s step as they leave the library with their choice for the week snugly on their back and knowing that it is a tool to help them build the skills they need to be successful in kindergarten and beyond.

~ Celia, West Oakland Children's Librarian

Five Key Areas of School Readiness for Children include:

  • Promoting physical well-being and gross and fine motor development
  • Promoting social, emotional and self-regulation skills
  • Developing approaches to learning (awareness of how one learns best)
  • Fostering literacy and language development
  • Instilling cognitive development and general problem solving skills

It's Time to Talk Summer Camps!

It’s mid-January, the winter holidays are over and school is back in session...which means it is the perfect time to start researching summer learning options and making plans for your child’s summer experiences.

Surprised? It may feel like it’s too early to plan out attendance at camps and classes that are still five to six months away, but enrollment for many local camps begins this month. In addition, many camps that offer scholarships, financial aid, and/or sliding scale tuition based on a family’s finances have early spring application deadlines for awarding aid.

As a children's librarian, I often get families asking about these resources in May and early June; parents and caregivers are surprised and disappointed when I inform them that the camps they are interested in are fully enrolled and all available financial aid has already been awarded.

By getting an early start on planning for the summer, you can increase your chances at landing a spot at the camp of your choice!

Clifford the Big Red Dog and OPL Children's Librarian

Here are some tips for maximizing your summer planning:

Affording camp:

  • If you find a camp that you like but it seems unattainable because of the stated cost, ask about scholarship and financial aid opportunities. These opportunities are often available for those who ask, even if they aren’t listed on the camp’s website.

  • Don’t assume that your family won’t qualify for scholarships or financial aid.

  • Camps often expect payment at the time of registration but may offer a payment plan if needed and requested.

Finding a camp:

  • The ideal time frame for finding and applying for summer camps are mid-January to early April.

  • There’s a camp for almost every topic you can think of: art, coding, cooking, making, music, science and sports, just to name a few. If your child has an interest, there is probably a camp for it.

  • If you are looking for a camp for children with special needs or who need accommodations, the Easterseals Bay Area’s (EBA) camping resources page offers a great first step to finding a camp.

  • Think outside the box when looking for summer opportunities! Some local community colleges and universities have offerings for school-aged children. For example, Laney College offers a well-regarded music program for young musicians, and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) offers a popular engineering camp for elementary school students in Oakland.

  • Popular local attractions such as Fairyland, Oakland Zoo, and the Chabot and Science Center offer youth camps (and financial aid!).

  • The City of Oakland’s Department of Parks, Recreation & Youth Development offers a host of summer options, including an inclusion camp, as well as scholarship opportunities. Other local parks and recreation departments may do the same.

  • Visit the Oakland Unified School District’s (OUSD) Summer Learning page to find out more about its summer learning sites.

  • Many local independent schools offer summer programs for students who attend school elsewhere. (Don’t forget to ask about funding options.)

  • Check out the Oakland Activity Guide at for information on quality summer learning opportunities.

  • The 510 Families site publishes a useful East Bay Summer Camp guide each February.

  • Local nonprofit and parent-to-parent network Berkeley Parents Network contains years of parent reviews of many of the Bay area’s camps, including many in Oakland. Visit for more information.

Do you have tips to share about finding a great camp? Let us know below in the comments.

Winter Craft : Snow Globes

It may not snow in Oakland but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying a little winter wonder. Mix a little glitter, glycerin, and water, pour into a jar and you have a Snow Globe.

We will have all the supplies necessary but if you have an extra or special jar and lid bring it in to use for your own Snow Globe.

Join us!

Where Does OPL Stand on Screen Time for Kids?

child and parent using computerIn the last few weeks, articles have been swirling online about Silicon Valley parents banning all screen time for their children, including this New York Times article from October 26. (Blocked by the paywall? Click here.) Some parents who work in the tech industry have decided that the products they create are not safe for children, even in small doses--even if the child is simply observing, not actually using the device.

So, where does the Oakland Public Library stand on screens for kids?

First and foremost, we believe all parents want the best outcomes for their children, and we support families choosing for their own children whether--and how much--they use smartphones, tablets, and computers, or watch TV. We are happy to help patrons seeking to develop a healthy media plan for their children, and can help you find research or write a Family Media Plan. We also offer these sample rules for online safety for parents and children to use together.

OPL offers free and open access to the internet for all patrons, and our Internet Policy applies to patrons of any age. OPL offers unfiltered internet access, and each cardholder may use a computer in one of our sites for up to one hour per day. OPL staff do not monitor children's use of electronic devices in the library, including the internet. 

If you're looking for more research about safe and healthy screen use for kids, we recommend the Media and Communication Toolkit  from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP's current recommendations do include setting limits for children around screen use; however, they also recommend using educational apps as a family, co-viewing age-appropriate videos, video chatting with loved ones, and other types of media use for families who choose to do so. See their full report and recommendations here.

Educator Resources for Native American History Month

Have you noticed Michael Wertz's ABC Oakland honors Natives with 'O is for Ohlone' ? Oakland is Ohlone land.  As we approach November and Native American Indians come to the forefront, we invite you to explore the culture, connect with the community and grow your understanding of Native Americans.  

Explore three oral histories shared by the California Museum.

Connect with educators at the Oakland Museum Teacher's Lounge 4-7pm Friday, November 2, where with the topic will be Reflections of Native California for Teachers.

Grow your Native Kidlit collection with recommendations from Alia Jones who will speak to educators and librarians at San Francisco Public library,  9-11:30am, Friday, November 16. RSVP by November 12

At OPL we strive for diversity every day and recommend the following online resources year-round. 

Día de los Muertos: A Top 5

While Halloween is celebrated October 31, Día de los Muertos is celebrated right after, on November 2. Many communities that celebrate Día de los Muertos also celebrate Halloween.

FIVE Facts About Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead)

  1. It’s not the same as Halloween
  2. It originated in Mexico and Central America
  3. It’s a celebration of life, not death
  4. The ofrenda is a central component
  5. Flowers, butterflies and skulls are typically used as symbols

FIVE BOOKS TO READ for Día de los Muertos

  1. The Day of the Dead /El Día de los Muertos by Bob Barner;translated by Teresa Mlawer
  2. The remembering day /El día de los muertos by Pat Mora;illustrations by Robert Casilla;Spanish translation by Gabriela Baeza and Pat Mora
  3. Festival of bones: the little-bitty book for the day of the dead / El festival de las calaveras by Luis San Vicente ; translation by John William Byrd & Bobby Byrd
  4. Mi familia calaca / My skeleton family by Cynthia Weill;paper-mâché by Jesús Canseco Zárate
  5. La Catrina : emotions /emociones : a bilingual book of emotions  by Patty Rodriguez & Ariana Stein ; illustrations by Citlali Reyes


  1. Sunday, 21 October, 12:00pm - 4:30pm Oakland Museum of CA
    24th Annual Days of the Dead Community Celebration
  2. Friday, 26 October, 2:30pm - 4:00pm Melrose Branch Library
    Build An Altar
  3. Monday, 29, October,  3:00pm Main Library Children's Room
    Decorate Non-Sugar Skulls
  4. Saturday, 3 November, 1:00pm Dimond Branch
    Coco & Calaveras
  5. Sunday, 4 November, 10:00am-5:00pm Fruitvale Village
    23rd Annual Dia de los Muertos Festival


Read to a Dog!

Girl reading to a dog

Dogs in the Library? Well, sure, when they're working!

Young readers can read aloud to a certified therapy dog who loves listening to stories! Reading to dogs can help increase children's reading confidence, skill, and enjoyment. 

Read to a Dog events are hosted at the following locations/times.  Please call in advance of your planned day to make sure the dog is expected.  Dogs take vacations too sometimes.  

Scout the Dog is ready for a story at:

Elmhurst Library, Every Saturday at 11am

Natasha the Dog is ready for a story at:

81st Avenue Library, First Wednesday of the month at 2pm

Rockridge Library, Second Wednesday of the month at 2pm

Montclair Library, Third Wednesday of the month at 1:30pm