Preschool: Bears and Earth Day

It’s Earth Day!

Our opening activity was the beloved Song Cube this week. I asked one of the volunteers to give the cube a roll and the image on top when the cube stopped was of an open sign. The open sign, is a symbol for the song Open, Shut Them, so I asked the group of kids what song has open in it to see if they remembered. An older boy said “Open, Shut- Wheels on the School Bus!” I explained what the text said on the cube (under the image of the sign), but we would sing wheels on the school bus first. I let the kids pick the verses by asking “what does a bus have on it?” “Wheels!” Then we sang about the door that goes open and shut… We also sang about the driver, kids, monkeys and then one of the kids said ‘bears!’ How perfect! Here’s what we sang for each of riders on the bus

driver- move on back (point thumb backwards as you sing)
kids- go crazy (wave hands in the air)
monkeys- eat lots of bananas (pretend to peel a banana)
bears (grr grr) perfectly anticipating the theme.

Next we sang Open Shut Them and by that time most families were settled in for storytime. So, I quickly talked about our storytime rules and then moved on to this week’s theme. I started by asking questions about bears like how many kinds of bears live in Alaska? Which ones? (Brown, black and polar)

Fingerplay: Two Little Black Bears 
Two little black bears sitting on a hill,
One named Jack and one named Jill,
Run away Jack, run away Jill.
Come back Jack, come back Jill.
Two little black bears digging in the snow
One named Fast and one named Slow…
Two little black bears feeling very proud
One named Quiet and one named Loud..
Credit: Jbrary
Baby Bear by Kadir Nelson Photo Credit:

Baby Bear by Kadir Nelson Photo Credit:

Book: Baby Bear (Harper Collins, 2014)
Kadir Nelson’s newest book features his masterful illustrations, but instead of telling the story of an African-American leader, he tells the story of baby brown bear the family he discovers in the woods around him. It’s a touching tale that is made strong by the powerful images that accompany the text. The book provides a great opportunity to talk about illustrators with children and caregivers and what they bring to picture books. I particularly like this book because for kids here in Homer this books offers animals that they know from the environment around us (for the most part).

While reading this book, a little guy kept “asking questions” aka sharing comments during the story. He patiently and politely waited for a break, so we listened to what he had to say. It generally had to do with hugging a bear. I told him he was really going to like a song we were going to sing after this song! And then moved on to the next page…

Have you met the Jbrarians? Drum roll please…

Song: Grrr Grrr Went the Big Brown Bear


Over in the Arctic: Where the Cold Wind Blows by Marianne Berkes Photo credit:

Book: Over in the Arctic: Where the Cold Win Blows (Dawn Publications, 2008)

National Poetry Month is coming to a close, so I decided to read this one with the Tuesday storytime group. The rhyming text and the rhythm accomplished my goal:
kids could anticipate the next number because of the rhyming text, hearing the ending sounds of words. One of the other reasons I shared this beautifully illustrated book is that even kids who live in parts of Alaska need to know more about the Arctic. For example, on the page which features wolverines the ground is brown to represent the Spring/Summer tundra. When I showed kids this page, one said “That’s not the Arctic because it is brown.” I assured him it was and explained why. The snow melts off the tundra in summer. Wolverines live on land not on the ice that covers much of the ocean in winter, the source of white many associate with the tundra.


Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown Photo credit:


Book: Children Make Terrible Pets (Little, Brown, 2010)

Peter Brown’s books are perfect storytime humor. The mixed-media art, lovable Lucy the bear, and the idea of a bear keeping a child as a pet inspire lots of giggles.

After reading together, we brought Jim Gill to storytime for parachute play. We shook that parachute up and down and all around to the song Alabama, Mississippi. I got the idea from So Tomorrow. Check it out for more great parachute play ideas.


In honor of Earth Day, we brought out the shaving cream and made marble painted Earths.


cardstock (with circle drawn on it using a sharpie)
marker, pencil or crayon for kids to write their names on the back of their Earth
shaving cream
food coloring (I chose blue and green for the earth project)
aluminum baking trays or other trays to contain the shaving cream and food coloring
cut squares of tissue paper (again I chose blue and green for this project)
hole punch
yarn for Earth hanger
scraper for removing excess shaving cream
old t-shirts for aprons for kids to wear while painting (optional)

Each child picked out a piece of card stock with a circle already drawn on it. They cut out the circle and wrote their name on the back of it so we could identify their Earth later on (they all start to look similar when they are drying next to each other).


The kids then brought their cut circle over to the painting station or to the tissue paper station. I offered the two so that kids who were waiting to paint or didn’t want to paint had another option.


At the painting station I had bottles of shaving cream that kids and parents sprayed into the trays. Adults then put 3-4 drops of blue and green food coloring on to the shaving cream. Kids used popsicle sticks to make patterns in the shaving cream, careful not to spread the shaving cream like cake icing (makes for a solid color instead of a pattern if they do this). Once they were done making the pattern, they laid the circle on top of the shaving cream and gently pressed it on down.


Their circle looked something like this when they lifted it off the shaving cream. The final step was to bring me their Earth. By our children’s library sink, I scraped the excess cream off of the Earths and laid them out to dry which took less than 10 minutes. This wait gave families a chance to look for books or play together.

Preschool: Bears

While I pick, and advertise, the themes for the weekly preschool storytime a month in advance, the elements I include may be a little more in flux. For example, sometimes the activity/craft portion of storytime is planned well in advance and sometimes I modify it at the last minute. This week’s storytime is an example of theme-related activities that shifted after I came across a great idea- this one from Jennifer Whorton on the ALSC listserv and via her In Short, I’m Busy blog. The idea was to offer kids an opportunity to paint and to shake up the storytime routine by dividing the art activity into two parts, instead of doing all of the art after the stories. I love giving kids the chance to paint, but carrying wet paint projects out of the library gets tricky for caregivers. I decided to incorporate the painting and collage that Jennifer used to make bears similar to Eric Carle’s animals in the last story we read.

Bear Paint Step 1

Art Part 1

As families arrived I welcomed them to storytime and told them about our change of schedule. The painting activity at the beginning of storytime offered families a great transition from outside into the library. I had the painting station set up for the first fifteen minutes and had kids paint an entire sheet of white copy paper with brown tempura paint (see materials and more at the bottom of the post). We set them to dry and moved over to the storytime area where kids sat down on their mats and caregivers got comfortable nearby. Note: families arriving after 10:15 were offered a modified, dry version similar to the painted collage, minus the paint.


We had lots of new families join us this week, so I re-introduced the Rhyme Cube. A few kids had a chance to roll the cube and choose the welcome songs we sang. We sang “If You’re Happy and You Know it” (growling like a bear) and “Itsy Bitsy Spider” (plus Biggy Wiggy Spider).

Bear Print and Hand

I then introduced this week’s theme, bears. Bears have been on my mind since seeing some footprints of a visiting bear on my dirt road recently. I showed off this photo of one of the bear prints and my hand using my phone while we named the three kinds of bears in Alaska (polar, brown, and black), talked about what bears look like, and shared what else we know about them. It has been a warm Fall with no notable snowfall up to this point, so our conversation led to how the weather might affect their traditional winter sleep patterns.

I brought along my brown bear finger puppet for the first song, which kids easily sang the second time around because of the familiar tune.

Song & Puppet: Sleepy Bear 
(Tune: “Thumbkin”)

Where is bear? Where is bear?
Here I am. Here I am.
How are you this winter?
Very tired, thank you.
Go to sleep. Go to sleep.
(I asked kids if it was time for bear to sleep and most answered “no,” so I had them shout “WAKE UP BEAR” and we sang the song again.)
Credit: Preschool Education Music & Songs : Animals > Winter via Storytime Katie

Our first story was Polar Opposites by Erik Brooks (Marshall Cavendish Children, 2010). After a refresher on opposites, with the kids sharing lots of examples, we read the tale of the big polar bear Alex from the Arctic, and Zina the tiny penguin from Antarctica. With lots of visuals to reinforce the differences between the two lives of these cheerful animals, the story follows Alex and Zina as they plan a trip to meet up in the Galapagos Islands, near the Equator and in the middle. This is a great story to use along with a globe for an introduction to map and globe concepts.

The next action rhyme we did was one I found on Storytime Katie’s site, which she used as a flannelboard activity. I decided to bring out the plethora of stuffed bears I have at home instead. Between my two kids, I was able to come up with four little and five big to go along with my brown bear finger puppet. Boy, does a hoard of stuffed bears really get a group of preschoolers’ attention!

10 Bears in a Bed

At first I was a little confused about this rhyme. The unpatterned addition and subtraction of bears left me a little bewildered; like I’d missed something. Then I realized that was the beauty of it. As a group we decided how many to take away with each verse and how many to add back to the bed. THE KIDS LOVED IT. Preschool math in storytime? Easy!

Action Rhyme: Ten Little Teddy Bears

Ten little teddy bears sleeping in the bed,
Five at the foot and five at the head.
One little teddy said, “This bed is TOO full!”
So he grabbed the blanket and started to pull.
He pulled and he pulled and he pulled some more,
Until two little teddies went BOOM to the floor!
(Make pulling motions with PULL and clap with the BOOM)

(Subtract bears until…)

One little teddy bear sleeping in the bed,
Zero at the foot and one at the head.
This little teddy said, “This is not right!
I don’t want to sleep alone tonight!”

One little teddy bear sleeping in the bed,
Zero at the foot and one at the head.
This teddy said, “This bed is NOT full!”
So he put out his paw and started to pull.
He pulled and he pulled and he pulled some more,
Until four little teddies climbed up from the floor!

(Add bears in various increments until…)

Ten little teddy bears sleeping in the bed,
Five at the foot and five at the head.
One little teddy said, “This is JUST right!”
So ten little teddy bears said, “Good Night!”
Credit: Susan Pflug, Copyright 1990 via Storytime Katie

After this activity, the kids were pretty wound up. Kids were wandering all over and more had arrived since the beginning of the hour making for a bit of chaos. As I began to clean up the bears, I began singing this simple attention-getting song to get us ready for the next book.

Song: If You’re ready for a Story
If you’re ready for a story, find your spot,
If you’re ready for a story, find your spot,
If you’re ready for a story, If you’re ready for a story, If you’re ready for a story,
If you’re ready for a story, find your spot.

Magically, everyone was in their spot when I was done putting the bears away and the song was finished!

More math in storytime! Bears on Chairs by Shirley Parenteau and David Walker (Candlewick Press, 2009) is a lovely bearsonchairs_coverrhyming book for preschoolers that features four lovely bears, each with their own chair, happily sitting together…until poor brown bear comes along with nowhere to sit. Five bears with only four chairs. What are the bears to do? Watching preschoolers work out solutions for the bears was wonderful! We decided the bears needed one more chair. Before finding out the bears’ solution, we came up with a variety of suggestions that included buying a chair, making one, borrowing one, and even stealing one. After briefly talking about the moral ramifications of that last one, the group suggested sharing! They even tried to figure out how the chairs should be shared, just like the bears.

It was time for our last book and the final step of our art project.


To show kids and caregivers what inspired our project, we read a large format version of Eric Carle and Bill Martin,jr.’s Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What do You See?  The story, with its rhyming and repeating text, follows a baby brown bear as it searches for its mother. Along the way the baby bear meets a variety of North American animals.

This book provided a nice opportunity to talk about why it’s valuable to read books everyday with children- books introduce fun, new vocabulary, like flying squirrel and mule deer, that may not be present in everyday conversation and having a diverse vocabulary is an important early literacy skill.

Art Part 2

Now that stories were read, songs were sung, and paint was dry, it was time to cut or tear up the painted brown paper and create a bear collage! Before we moved to the art area, I explained the day’s activities again. Families who arrived late were a bit disappointed, but I offered them an alternative to the painted collage. I’m hoping it will encourage them to join us for the whole storytime in the future!



This bear was created by a 2-year old and his dad.

sheets of white copy paper (1 per child)
brown washable paint
old, adults-sized, t-shirts for kids to wear over clothes, if desired
table covering
small paint brushes, 1 per 2 children
paper plates or other container for paint

bear template (found in clipart, enlarged, and copied onto card stock)
small squares of brown tissue paper (for collage making, especially for those who didn’t make it in time to paint)
Liquid glue

Photo Credits
Polar Opposites: Erik Brooks
Bears on Chairs: Shirley Parenteau