Preschool Storytime: Fall & Moose

Autumn Books

Fall tends to come quickly in Alaska, so the beginning of September was the perfect time for a storytime celebrating my favorite Autumn signs. Moose, leaves changing colors, and apples are just some of the annual highlights that lie ahead.

After a few songs with the song cube, this week we read two stories and explored a third.

Looking for a Moose by Phyllis Root and Randy Cecil (Candlewick Press, 2006) is the story about a gaggle of children looking through forests, bogs, and mountain tops for the elusive moose who are so well camouflaged on each page, only the readers can see them. The storytime kids loved looking for the hidden moose on each double page spread and acting out the sounds of boots tromping through the forest and feet squishing in the bog, among others. The book offers many opportunities for talking about the natural history of moose and, of course, teaching families the ASL sign for moose.

For the feltboard rhyme, I used a couple of felt pieces from my weather storytime and added a caterpillar to my collection. The leaves are similar to those of an alder, a tree found all around this part of Alaska.

Feltboard: Five Autumn Leaves 
Autumn Felt
Five autumn leaves, five and no more,
[Hold up 5 fingers.]
The caterpillar ate one, now there are four.
[Thumb down.]
Four autumn leaves, that’s easy to see.
Along came a rainstorm, now there are three.
[Index finger down.]
Three autumn leaves, nothing much to do,
A big wind blew, now there are two!
[Middle finger down.]
Two autumn leaves, that’s not much fun,
I glued one on my paper
[Ring finger down.]
Now there is one.
[Hold up pinky.]
Hang on, pretty autumn leaf!
Your branches won’t break,
You’re one less leaf for me to rake!

Credit: SurLaLune Storytime

The second story we read was Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert (Harcourt, 2005). This story, a collage of Fall leaves, follows leaf man as he adventures from page to page discovering animals formed from the clever placement of leaves. Like Looking for a Moose, this is a great book to tie with nonfiction nature titles. Endpapers feature information about the variety of leaves.

Before our craft, we looked over the amazing artwork by Nikki McClure found in Apple. In the book there are individual pages with a single word followed by an accompanying page with McClure’s cut paper illustrations in black, white and red. I read the word aloud and the kids and I then told the story found in the associated picture. We didn’t read every page, but the idea was to introduce McClure’s work, encourage kids to use their narrative skills, and model for parents how books can be shared even with minimal or no text.

Apple Story

Before we moved on to the craft activity, I told what I call the Apple Star Story, but is actually known as The Little Red House with no Doors and no Windows and a Star Inside. It tells a fun tale about the star revealed when you cut a red apple in half horizontally.  You’ll need a red apple and a knife for the end of the story. I also use this amazing tree puppet I found at a local toy store. The kids love the moveable eyes.

Telling this story captivates the kids attention because there isn’t a book in my hands, just a puppet and a bag with something inside.  They are very curious! it also makes a great segue between the stories and today’s art activity- Apple Painting!

Apple Painting

Apple Art Prep

This activity is all about process! We used cut apples to paint on paper. Kids discovered how different apple halves made different patterns, as did how much paint was on the apple when pressed on to the paper. They also made patterns with the different colors and experimented using the different colors on different colors of paper.


  • 12 apples, precut and placed them on trays in the middle of several tables covered with plastic
  • plastic, reusable plates for washable paint (yellow, red, and orange),
  • white, red, and black card stock
  • a pencil for writing names on artwork at each table
  • old adult size t-shirts for kids to wear over their clothes (donated by families)

Below is just one of the many final products from today’s activity! Each child experimented several times. Some families carried their wet projects home after storytime and some left the artwork to dry until next week. I always offer that option with projects like this, so parents and caregivers feel good about the extension activities. Science and art can be messy, but by including this option and having kids help clean up after storytime, it is all manageable.

Apple Painting

STEAM-y Storytime 3: Dinosaurs

Dinosaur-Roar-1024  More than sixty people showed up today. We had a lot of fun! Dinosaur storytime is such a crowd-pleaser with the preschool set.

This storytime is similar to one I posted earlier this year.  The Dig Into Reading theme and my STEAM-y storytime summer schedule both called for more dinos, so I reused the storytime plan with some additions.

We read three great dinosaur books this week:Goldilocks and the 3 dinos

Dinosaur Roar! written by Paul Stickland and illustrated by Henrietta Stickland (Dutton Children’s Books, 1994)

Dinosaur Bones by Bob Barner (Chronicle Books, 2001)

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems (Balzer & Bray, 2012)

In between books, we talked about dinosaur skeletons, paleontologists, what dinosaurs ate, how we know Photo Jun 11, 1 59 00 PMabout dinosaurs, their size, and their habitat. I brought out a couple of dinosaur skeleton figures from this year’s cool summer program prizes as we talked. (I created digital images of dinosaur skeletons using these same figures and turned them into flashcards for the dinosaur dig activity station so kids could identify the dinosaurs they dug up by matching it with the card that had the same image and the dinosaur’s name.)

T-rex and Nancy PearlAt the last minute, my Nancy Pearl action figure came to the rescue! Along with my T-rex puppet, I used her to compare the sizes of people and some dinosaurs. T-rex broke one of her arms off at one point during a fierce storytime battle, but a brave preschooler attached her limbs back on and she is back at work championing all things library. Phew!

We also sang a couple of songs!

Feltboard: Dinosaur Song
(I change the color order based on how I place the dinosaurs on the board. We talk about the different dinosaur names and match the sets of three before we sing.)

1 red, 1 blue, 1 orange dinosaur,
1 green, 1 yellow, 1 white dinosaur,
1 pink, brown, 1 purple dinosaur,
9 little dinosaurs roar!dino felt board
Credit: SurLaLune

Action Song: Dino-Pokey
(Tune: “The Hokey Pokey”)

You put your claws in,
You take your claws out,
You put your claws in,
And you scratch ’em all about.
You do the dino pokey,
And you turn yourself around.
That’s what it’s all about!
Credit: SurLaLune

Dinosaur Activity Stations:

Photo Feb 21, 11 44 55 PMDino fossil dough

We made dinosaur fossils out of salt dough. I quickly made the recipe before work at home and brought in the large bowl of dough to storytime. I gave each little one a ball of dough to flatten and use to make impressions of toy dinosaur feet and anything else they could find that would make an interesting pattern. Many kids played at this station for quite awhile. Each child then took their shaped fossil home in a small baggie with easy baking instructions.

Dinosaur DigDinosaur Dig

I filled four dish tubs with local beach sand and then the teen storytime volunteer and I buried dinosaurs in each tub. Kids used brushes and spoons to gently move the sand and small rocks around to uncover the dinosaurs. The flashcards I created (mentioned above) were used to match the figures with a labeled card so the explorers could learn the name of the dinosaur they discovered in the sand. The distinct shapes of each skeleton made for great conversation during the matching.

Dinosaur Noodle Skeleton

Dino Noodle Skeleton imageThe younger kids in particular liked this activity. I provided a T-Rex skeleton template (from Busy Bee Kids Crafts) which kids glued onto a piece of black cardstock. The kids and parents then glued noodles (penne) along the lines of the template to create a skeleton. The little ones worked diligently to get all of the noodles lined up. I provided both small and regular size penne.

Photo credit: Busy Bee Kid Crafts

Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day!

To celebrate the many moms who join me for storytime, this week we read books about mothers, mom-love, and families. I tried 20130512-223018.jpgto steer away from the sappy books that seem to pop up for Mother’s Day and instead focused on books that work well as read-alouds for storytime and feature all kinds of moms.

As families trickled in, I told everyone about the upcoming weekend event and about registration for this year’s summer reading program. Phillip Hoose, conservationist and author of several acclaimed books including Hey, Little Ant (Tricycle Press, 1998), is coming to the library during the annual shorebird festival. Hey, Little Ant is a book about tolerance that was originally written as a song by Hoose and his young daughter. The story, and song, are a conversation between a boy who is about to squish an innocent ant, and the ant. the watercolor illustrations portray the two perspectives nicely. We’re looking forward to his visit!

After we were all settled, we talked about everyone’s morning, including things like what everyone had for breakfast and what animals they saw on the way to the library (often moose are included on the list this time of year). This first conversation helps all of the kids, especially the shy ones, feel more comfortable and makes participation in the storytime conversation more likely. After catching up, We got warmed up for storytime with the song Open, Shut Them.

Before starting the first book, I gave them a clue about the books and why I chose them. We talked about the upcoming holiday, 20130512-222951.jpgMother’s Day, the letter ‘m’, mom, and other words with the letter ‘m.’ We spent a little time talking about how moms (and dads) have two names. One boy proudly proclaimed, “My mom’s name has the letter ‘m’ in it…. and an ‘o’…. and another ‘m’! We then spelled ‘mom’ all together.

Everyone insisted I begin with Froggy Gets Dressed (Viking, 1992) written by Jonathan London and illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz. It’s a funny, little story about a frog who wakes up early (too early, according to the mom frog) from hibernation and wants to play in the snow. With each item of clothing he puts on, a different sound effect is included making this a great read-aloud. Unfortunately for Froggy, he is forgetful and each time he heads outside his mom calls him back to remind about an item of clothing he has missed. He dutifully starts over with the forgotten piece added to the sequence. The end gets a great laugh because Froggy forgets to put on his underwear and returns to the house for it, only to become too tired for play. Instead of going outside this time, Froggy heads back to bed much to his mom’s delight.

20130512-222944.jpg Then it was now time for a feltboard song! Kids and adults can use fingers and hands to act out the song.

Song: Five Little Ducks
Five little ducks
Went out one day
Over the hill and far away
Mother duck said
“Quack, quack, quack, quack.”
But only four little ducks came back.

Repeat: 4, 3, 2, 1 little ducks…

Sad mother duck
Went out one day
Over the hill and far away
The sad mother duck said
“Quack, quack, quack.”
And all of the five little ducks came back.
Credit: NIH Kids’ Pages

Some amazing math was happening during this song!  We counted up all of the ducklings and then added mama duck to get a grand total.  These preschoolers are excellent counters, but kids were adding 5 + 1, then expanding to add 2 + 2 and 2 + 1. One boy probably could have played with those felt ducks using addition for much longer! Lots of proud smiles on the kiddos’ faces when I described what they were doing as math.

We next read Are You my Mother? a beginning reader by P.D. Eastman (Beginner Books, 1960). This book was a little longer thanAre you my mother most we read at storytime, but it was well-received. Kids were enthralled!  I had them get comfortable before I started reading so they knew it would a story to get lost in. Its’a story about a baby bird who goes in search of his missing mother. It’s a mystery for the preschool set. Baby bird has no idea what his mother should look like, so he innocently asks everything and anything he meets “Are you my mother?” The story ends well, of course, as mother and baby are reunited.  The kids loved it, asking lots of questions, commenting on the illustrations, and predicting what would happen next.

kiss kiss bookWe squeezed in one last story, by demand! Kiss, Kiss! by Margaret Wild and Bridget Strevens-Marzo (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2004) was a quick book to end storytime. It’s a sweet book featuring a young hippo (can you say hippopotamus?) who wonders off from his mama without giving her a kiss.  On his adventures, he discovers lots of other animals and each baby is giving the mom or dad a kiss. Baby hippo remembers what he forgot and rushes back past each of the animals pairs to find his own mom. After the story I told the kids in a whisper to find their mom or adult and give them a kiss before we made Mother’s Day presents.

I didn’t end up reading the book Insomniacs by Karina Wolf and the Brothers Hilts (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012). I often have an extra book or two so the kids can help pick what I read or if one doesn’t seem quite right for the group. This book got passed up this time around, but will be on the list for future reading.


This week’s craft is a Mother’s Day gift based on one I received from my own daughter last year. She used craft leaves to decorate a jar turned lantern, but Rebecca at Sturdy for Common Things gave me the idea to use tissue paper to create vases. The kids gladly painted the miscellaneous jars I pulled from my20130512-222957.jpg garage with glue and then pasted on the tissue paper squares I cut before storytime. Very simple project and the vases all ended up very uniquely decorated. I only wish we could have done the project without moms so they could be surprised. Instead moms were happily working hand in hand with their little ones! I gave each child a tulip for their new vase as they left the library.

Cut tissue paper squares in lots of colors

Glass jars in miscellaneous sizes

small paintbrushes

paper plates to fill with glue

Note: Each week I print out theme-related coloring sheets for younger storytime kids or those who opt out of the craft.  They are handy to have around for kids who are visiting the library later in the week and need a coloring activity while their parents are busy with other tasks.

Summer Reading Program 2013: part 2

Phew! Planning season seems to have come and gone while I wasn’t looking. School is finished in just two weeks and the summer reading program begins right after Memorial Day. I have the STEAM-y Storytime line-up ready to go and posted for all to see. While some of the multiple stations that I am cooking up for each week are still in the works, I thought I’d share the themes. Maybe you even have a suggestion or two! I’ll post the details as we do the programs.

Our library offers two storytimes each week, year round. I plan and lead both of them most of the time (we have two community members who visit for the preschool storytime also).  One is a preschool storytime and the other is a mostly toddler group. For the summer, we’ll be focusing on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) in the preschool program. Since we are using the Dig Into Reading theme, many of the storytime themes fit nicely. I even have a teen volunteer this year excited to help with the storytime activities. The preschoolers will love him!

This summer’s storytime themes:

Things That Go! I have used a vehicle related theme for storytime before, but not for awhile. It is a hit with everyone! There are lots of great books to read on vehicles, bikes, and anything that moves. We’ll make cars for a race track, have a car matching station, and make paper airplanes.

This one will go nicely with the Heavy Equipment Show and Tell we have planned for the beginning of the summer program. We’ll be closing off the side street near the library so four construction vehicles can park where families can get a closer look. A new excavator owned by the city a nd a dump truck will be among the vehicles on display. We’ll hand out cards with stats for each vehicle to provide a kind of self-guided tour since we’ll only have a couple of staff and volunteers on hand. It will also be a great time to sign up families who haven’t had a chance to get involved.

Under the Sea, Matey! We are a coastal community so an ocean theme, with a few pirates thrown in, is a perfect fit. We’ll include a sink or float experiment station among other fun activities. This is a great time to share Mango Languages, a digital language learning tool, with families since our library provides free access to the site and app. Mango offers pirate in their list of languages to learn and it is a kid favorite.

We All Dig Dinosaurs! What schedule of storytimes would be complete without dinosaurs? I purchased some small plastic dinosaur skeletons for reading prizes this year as well as a handful to use in an excavation station. We also took the opportunity to dig up some new-to-us dino books for the collection. What do you have planned?

Plants: How Does Your Garden Grow? In June, we’ll still be planting here and the greening of Alaska will be just getting underway.  Gardens are a big part of many families’ summertime  activities, so we’ll celebrate at storytime with matching games and fruit and vegetable crafts.

Let’s Mix It Up With Colors! I’ve been looking forward to using some of the great suggestions from Amy Koester’s Color Science for Preschoolers ALSC blog post. I thought I would add it to the schedule and get kids mixing, painting, and experimenting!

Independence Day! Preschool storytime will happen on July 3rd this year, so we’ll be celebrating the national holiday a day early. Last Fall, I heard about a great picture book ideal for sharing at storytime, and I’ll use it this year. The title? Betsy Ross by Becky White and Megan Lloyd (Holiday House, 2011). Activities for this one are still being cultured in the petri dish of storytime planning….

Digging Up Trouble With Trickster Tales Trickster tales are some of my favorite books to read aloud. When done respectfully, the stories shared from other cultures can be a great teaching opportunity. Alaska has many such tales and we’ll be including some of them in this storytime. Activities still in the works, so stay tuned!

Creepy Crawly Bugs! Local naturalists will be bringing local downed Spruce logs for scientific exploration during this storytime.  We’ll investigate, deconstruct, and identify the creepy crawlies inside. Bringing the outdoors in will be a blast!

Under Construction! We sponsor a LEGO® contest every summer, and this year will be no different. We’ll even bring LEGO®s to storytime to let kids build towers, castles, bridges, and more while they also build their literacy skills! It is amazing what narrative skills and vocabulary can be developed while playing with these building blocks.

What’s Under Our Feet? Rocks and Caves Several years ago, I stumbled on a great layers earthearth activity in a Montessori book. (I’m still looking for that book….) It is a play doh model of the Earth and all of its layers wrapped inside. Once the ball is made with the layers inside, the ball is cut down the middle and each layer is visible. My kids loved it and I know my young friends at the library will too!

Fiber Arts in Story

This week I decided to share The Cloud Spinner and Extra Yarn with the preschool storytime kids. See reviews in my previous post. We turned it into a fiber arts storytime!

green sheepI also added a third book to the mix, Where is the Green Sheep?  written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Judy Horacek (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004) so we could talk about where the wool comes from that is used to make all of the hats and mittens we wear for much of the year. It’s a silly book that includes lots of opposites and great opportunities for color recognition and vocabulary practice.  It’s a fun book to improvise with or read the text as is.

Before I read Where is the Green Sheep? I taught the group the old song, Baa, Baa Black Sheep, using the felt board. Most kids had never heard the song before and sat intently as I sang.  After the story, I brought out my colored sheep so the kids could really learn the song and continue practicing their colors.  The visual of the felt sheep and three bags of wool helped the kids learn this song. By the fifth time around, those little ones were singing their hearts out.  At the end of storytime, when everyone was getting their boots and coats on, a two year old started singing “Baa, baa, baa, baa, baa, baa, baa.” Her mom was amazed, telling me that her daughter had never heard the song before. The mom then started singing the rest of the song to her. It put a smile on my face!

Baa Baa Black SheepBaa, baa Black Sheep felt
Baa, baa, black sheep, have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.
One for the master, one for the dame,
And one for the little boy, who lives down the lane.
Baa, baa, black sheep, have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.

Credit: King County Library System

Cloud AnimalsWe worked on a couple of projects during craft time today. Some kids made cloud animals similar to some of the cloud creatures we identified in The Cloud Spinner.  Feel free to download the templates for the cloud fish and the cloud bunny.  The cloud sheep craft and template I found at All Kids Network. I had a teen volunteer help me cut out the templates for each so the kids could focus on gluing the cotton balls in place.

STEAM moment: While this storytime focused on fiber arts, we also spent time talking about the clouds in the story. It offered me an opportunity to introduce the water cycle and the story’s message of conservation.

The other project we tried is paper weaving. I found a great example at Art Projects Paper Weavingfor Kids. This was popular with the older kids who sat and really focused on weaving the paper strips over and under. Some kids alternated the weft (or warp?) and some only did one pattern. You could see the mental wheels spinning! It was a great project for adults and kids to do together and the parents were very patient.  One parent even commented that it would make a great project to do at home (it requires very little in the way of materials).

Paper cut for weavingI used one sheet of cardstock for each child and cut eight lines from one end to within an inch of the other end. Having one end free helped the kids maneuver the strips more easily. I found colorful scrapbook paper for the strips the kids wove into the cardstock. The contrasts were beautiful and easy for the kids to see their progress.  Paper strips for weavingWhen the weavers were all done, we taped the back of the cardstock where needed so the strips wouldn’t move around.

A note for next time- I’ll make the strips a little longer than the 8″ strips I used this time and have parents trim the hanging edges. The paper fit well, but it would have been easier for kids to handle if it was a bit longer.

With a little more lead time, I’d also have a weaver come to storytime and demonstrate on a loom so kids could see weaving in action.