Kids at Home with MPPL

Kids at Home with MPPL Blog

Maker Monday: Build a Braced Tower

John Hancock Center

Photo of John Hancock Center by Drew Hays on Unsplash

February’s STEAM at Home program featured Awesome Architecture and fun building activities. We learned that x-bracing (seen here on the John Hancock Center in Chicago) is one way that helps keep buildings straight and tall when wind blows on them. X-braces and shear walls collect wind forces and carry them to the foundation. Build your own braced tower at home with a few simple materials! Idea and images from Building Structures and Towers by Tammy Enz.

  • Supplies:
  • spaghetti
  • mini marshmallows (the book shows gumdrops, but we used marshmallows)
  • ruler (optional)


Break 4 noodles in half and make sure they are roughly the same length. Put marshmallows in the corners to connect them into 2 squares.


Break off about 1 inch from 4 more noodles and use these to connect your 2 squares. What happens when you push on the tower?


Add 2 noodles to one side make an X. Repeat on all 4 sides of your tower. Try pushing again. Now what happens?


As the marshmallows harden, your structure will get even stronger. What other structures can you build?

For more books and projects that explore engineering, check out one of these STEAM Kits.

Winter Reading Badges

Look at all those badges! Monty the Mount Prospect Duck has been busy reading and doing activities for Winter Reading. You have until February 28 to try to earn as many (or more) badges than Monty!

Monty the MPPL duck with his winter reading badges

Which ones are your favorites?

attend a virtual event

Attend a virtual event

stack of books

Chill out & read

Listen to a story

Listen to a story

island with palm trees

Warm up with reading

people doing yoga

Let’s get moving


Get cozy

Reading takes you places

Reading takes you places




Find a good book

Maple Syrup Season

buckets collecting sap from maple trees in winter

Beginning in the middle of February and stretching into mid March, the Sugar Maple trees begin to prepare for spring by sending sap up to their branches to fuel the spring growth.  This is one of the first signs of spring in the forest and marks maple syrup season.  On days where the nights are freezing and the days are in the 40s the sap will flow up the tree. Once it is still above freezing overnight, the sap will turn cloudy and can no longer be used for syrup.  At this point the tree will begin spring growth.  

Maple syrup is made by collecting the sap from a maple tree, usually a sugar maple, and boiling it to allow the water to evaporate and concentrate the sugar.  Once enough water has evaporated, the sap becomes syrup.   

Sugar Maple trees are tapped because their sap has the highest concentration of sugar, but even so it takes 40 to 50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.  Straight from the tree, the sap looks like water and has a barely noticeable sweet taste.   

To see photos and videos of the maple syruping process, visit: 

To learn more making (and eating) maple syrup, check out these books!

Almost Time book cover
Bear Goes Sugaring book cover
Hey, Pancakes book cover
How is Maple Syrup Made book cover
Maple Syrup Season book cover
Maple Syrup from the Sugarhouse book cover
Pancakes in Pajamas book cover
From Maple Tree to Syrup book cover
Pancakes, Pancakes book cover


Happy Lunar New Year!

Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year, Seollal, Tết, or the Spring Festival, is a holiday celebrated in many east Asian countries, as well as in the United States. According to the lunar calendar, a year is the amount of time it takes the moon to go around the Earth 12 times. The Lantern Festival is the last day of celebrations.  

lunar new year decorations

Lanterns are a way to make wishes for good luck, happiness, and fortune in the coming year. You can also write a riddle on your lantern to see who will guess the right answer.  


  • 1 sheet of red paper 
  • 1 sheet of yellow paper 
  • 1 strip of red paper 
  • Scissors 
  • Glue, tape, or stapler 


  1. Take your red paper and fold it in half along the long side. 
  1. Cut from the fold to about one-half inch from the edge of the paper.  
cutting slits in paper
  1. Keep cutting along the fold to make strips. Remember to LEAVE ½ INCH AT THE EDGE OF THE PAPER. This way, your paper will still be attached on the top and bottom. 
  1. Open up the paper and bring the ends together to make a circle with the top and bottom. The middle will fold out into a lantern shape. You can glue, staple, or tape the edges. Double sided tape is easiest if using tape. 
folding paper into lantern
  1. Use the strip of paper to make the handle. Attach the handle with tape, glue, or staples.  
  1. If you would like, you can put a liner inside your lantern. Form the yellow paper into a tube, and then tape the red lantern over the top of it. It looks a little like there is a light glowing inside. 
  1. Since you want the outside part to bow out a little, you’ll tape the bottom a little higher on the tube. You can cut off the bottom of the tube if you want your lantern to sit on a surface. Or, you can cut it into fringes. 
final paper lantern

Idea from: 

To learn more about Lunar New Year, check out one of these books from the library: Celebrate the Lunar and Chinese New Year

Introducing Dial-a-Story

Looking for some new stories to listen to at bedtime? Need some quick entertainment for your child in the car or store?

Look no further than our new service, Dial-a-Story. Just call 847/232-8600. Available 24/7!

Dial-a-Story! Just call 847-232-8600

Listen to stories, jokes, songs, and more. Some items are read by your librarians, and some by other great narrators, but all have been carefully selected by library staff. Our menu selections vary and change monthly, so visit this Web page for a list of what is playing during a specific month.

a bookcase with headphones

This activity is worth 5 POINTS in the Winter Reading challenge, going on through February 28. Register and log your activity on Beanstack for your chance to earn prizes!

Visit our Winter Reading Web page for more information, or go straight to our Beanstack site and get started.