Sharks, Halibut, and the Zen of Toddler Storytime

Many of my Small Fry storytime littles are not so little anymore. The ratio of babies to toddlers has shifted. They are all growing into wonderful kiddos who are curious, active, social, and very emotional. It makes for crazy storytimes on occasion, as you can imagine. To keep the show moving forward, I make sure the atmosphere is as stress-free as possible. Many of these parents are first timers and watching your child snatch all of the felt pieces off the board or running and screaming through the middle of the circle can cause anxiety. I try to model “It’s gonna be ok everyone. We got this!”

Even with 40-60 people in the room, we try to make a circle. This contains the wanderers and helps the adults connect with other parents and caregivers. I sit on the floor and stand during storytime so the circle helps insure that everyone can see and makes it easier to pass out shakers, scarves, and other materials. If the crowd is big I may walk around the circle with the book to help include everyone.

Here’s what I shared this week. Just imagine squeals, a few cries, clapping, a kiddo laying on the floor kicking his legs up and down, other kids standing right in front of the book mesmerized, other kids taking off and putting the felt pieces on the board, etc. It’s all good. Kids and their adults are participating: signing (and singing) along with the songs, moving their fingers to the counting songs, talking about the pictures in the book, and inviting me to read more with them by bringing me other books to read.

Welcome Song: The More We Get Together (with ASL signs for ‘more’, ‘we’, ‘together’, ‘friends’, ‘read’, ‘big’, ‘little’, ‘short’ and ‘tall’)

Fingerplay: Open, Shut Them

Four Little Sausages felt piecesFeltboard Rhyme: Four Little Sausages
Four little sausages frying in a pan,
The grease got hot and one went BAM!
Three little sausages frying in a pan,
The grease got hot and one went BAM!
Two little sausages frying in a pan,
The grease got hot and one went BAM!
One little sausage frying in a pan,
The grease got hot and it went BAM!
No little sausages frying in a pan.The grease got hot and the pan went BAM!
Source: Jbrary (Flannel Friday)
Toddler Early Literacy Tip: Sounding out and pointing to words in your family’s environment show kids that text has meaning!

Song: Octopus aka Slippery Fish (with signs for ‘fish’, ‘octopus’, ‘shark’, and ‘whale’)
Slippery fish, slippery fish, sliding through the water,
Slippery fish, slippery fish, Gulp, Gulp, Gulp!
Oh, no! It’s been eaten by an …

Octopus, octopus, squiggling in the water
Octopus, octopus, Gulp, Gulp, Gulp!
Oh, no! It’s been eaten by a …

Tuna fish, tuna fish, flashing in the water,
Tuna fish, tuna fish, Gulp, Gulp, Gulp!
Oh, no! It’s been eaten by a …

Great white shark, great white shark, lurking in the water,
Great white shark, great white shark, Gulp, Gulp, Gulp!
Oh, no! It’s been eaten by a …

Humongous whale, humongous whale, spouting in the water,

Shark in the Park by Nick Sharratt

Shark in the Park by Nick Sharratt

Humongous whale, humongous whale,
Gulp! … Gulp! … Gulp! … BURP!
(Cover your mouth.) Excuse me!
Credit: Charlotte Diamond
Check out the Jbrarians performing the song!
Science Tip: this song teaches about the food web!

Book: Shark in the Park by Nick Sharratt (D. Fickling Books, 2002)

Song: Bubbles!

Play: Bubbles!
We always blow and pop bubbles after we read. It brings the group back together and gives everyone a movement break.

Feltboard Rhyme: 5 Little Halibut (with felt halibut and shark puppet)
There were five little halibut swimming in the sea,
Teasing Mr. Shark “Oh, you can’t catch me, you can’t catch me!”
Along comes Mr. Shark as quiet as can be, and snatched 1 halibut right out of the sea!
… 4, 3, 2, 1
(Inspired by: There Were Five Little Fish)
Toddler Tip: When kids learn to wait until I invite them to grab felt pieces off of the board during the song, they are practicing self-regulation. It takes time so we’ll keep practicing! When I want the felt pieces to stay on the board, I tell families “It’s my turn!” Then I invite (and thank) kids to remove or add felt pieces depending on the activity.

Closing Song: If You’re Happy and You Know It
If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands!
If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands!
If you’re happy and you know then your face will surely show it,
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!
…stomp your feet
…wave your hands in the air

Sago Mini Ocean SwimmerDigital Media Advisory and Access:
Sago Mini Ocean Swimmer
by Sago Sago

(iPad and iPhone)
After storytime I introduced families to the featured app on the mounted iPad in our children’s library. Sago Mini Ocean Swimmer is a great example of an app that can support the learning of young children. It has no bells, coins, etc. to distract or confuse children, just open-ended play with creatures under the sea!  I love the gently action of the app and the cause and effect experience kids can have exploring the animated sea. The app is wordless, so our dual language families can tell stories and talk together about the app’s animals and objects in their home language and English.


Toddler: Rhyming Words and Have You Seen My New Blue Socks?

Toddler storytime is full of little ones these days. The caregivers are hungry for tips and are so enthusiastic. The kiddos are moving to the rhythm, clapping, signing, pointing to the book illustrations, touching the felt pieces and just generally getting into storytime. What a blast!

Weekly Early Literacy Tip: Singing nursery rhymes or other songs is fun and fosters early literacy! We usually sing slower than we speak and as we sing kids can more easily hear the individual sounds in words. This is called phonological awareness and will eventually help your child sound out words when they are ready to read. often the ending sounds are the easiest to hear, so we’re focusing on rhymes today.

Welcome Song: The More We Get (Read) Together (with ASL)

I brought along my monkey puppet to sing with us on this next song. This crowd LOVES puppets.

Action Rhyme: Monkey See Monkey Do
Monkey see, monkey do
Little monkey in the zoo
Monkey, monkey, in the tree
Can you jump around like me?
(…clap your hands…climb a tree…nod your head…sit down…)

Have You Seen My New Blue Socks book image

Have You Seen My New Blue Socks by Eve Bunting and Sergio Ruzzier (Photo source:

Book: Have You Seen My New Blue Socks? by Eve Bunting & Sergio Ruzzier (Clarion Books, 2013)

Bunting’s book reads well as a story, unlike some rhyming stories that seem forced. The amount of text, story line and word choice create a pacing, when read aloud, that encourages emphasis on the rhyming words and offers opportunities for the youngest storytime kids to interact with the illustrations and make connections with the text. One on one sharing allows for even more conversation, reinforcing the value of this title as a repeat read.

 Felt game: Little Fox, Little Fox
This felt game was inspired by erinisinire. Lots of people have versions of this game (and it’s cousin Little Mouse, Little Mouse) as Jbrary found out, but I do love this fox the best and it ties nicely with the book we shared this week which includes a fox and some boxes. I used my Folkmanis fox puppet (called Big Fox in this game instead of mom or dad fox) to add another dimension and reinforce the concept of big and small.

Some of the toddlers wanted to hide the fox as well as find it which worked out great because the hiders still let us say the rhyme and were surprised when we found it behind one of the different colored boxes!

Before we sang this song and popped bubbles together, I mentioned why I count starting with my thumb. We count to three a lot during this storytime to show how easy it is to integrate counting (math) into daily activities and I always start with my thumb. These first three fingers are essential for pinching and grasping small objects and will later be used to hold a paintbrush or writing tool.

Bringing out a box of scarves after I put the bubbles away is a great transition! Before our next song which used different colored scarves, I explained and demonstrated what we were going to do with our scarves and then we sang together. For example we were going to wave the scarves overhead and then rub our hair.

Scarf Song: Scarves in the Air
Put your scarf in the air, in the air
Put your scarf in the air, in the air
Put your scarf in the air, now rub your hair
Put your scarf in the air, in the air
…on your knee, count to three
…on your toe, way to go!
…on your head, who has red? (the families with a red scarf waved it in the air)
Source: Read, Sing, Play
See and hear the tune in action with KCLS

Action Song: If You’re Happy and You Know It
If you’re happy and you know it, wave your scarf.
If you’re happy and you know it, wave your scarf.
If you’re happy and you know it and you really want to show it.
If you’re happy and you know it, wave your scarf.

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.
If you’re happy and you know it, shout “hooray!”
If you’re happy and you know it, do all three.
(wave, wave, clap, clap, hooray!)

Time to clean up our scarves! I usually have a bag to put the scarves in, but today I brought a box so we could sing this song!

Song: Picking up scarves
Pickin’ up scarves and put them in the box
Pickin’ up scarves and put them in the box
Pickin’ up scarves and put them in the box
Put the scarves in the box
Source: KCLS

Closing Song: Ring Around the Rosie

Activity: Dot painting!
Today I brought out the paint dobbers and some plain white paper for toddlers to try. For some kids, it’s their first experience painting. For all of the kids and adults, it offers a great opportunity to experiment with and talk about colors and patterns.

Toddler: Things That Go

“That was really fun,” said one of the new-to-storytime parents. And it was! With the perfect mix of stories, movement, conversation, and parent involvement, toddler storytime left us all with smiles on our faces.

Wecome Song: Hello Everybody

Action Rhyme: This Is Big
This is big, big, big (stretch hands far to sides)
This is small, small, small (cup hands together)
This is short, short, short (hold palms close vertically)
This is tall, tall, tall (hold palms far apart vertically)
This is fast, fast, fast (roll hands quickly)
This is slow, slow, slow (roll hands slowly)
This is yes, yes, yes (nod head)
This is no, no, no (shake head)

Feltboard Game: Things that Go

This game involves matching up a place and the vehicle (or dog) that goes there. The kids loved this game! I placed these felt pieces on the board first and we talked about what each of them were.

Things That Go Felt 1


Then I showed the kids the things that go, one at a time. Together we placed the felt vehicle (or dog) where it belonged. It’s amazing to see kids make sense of the world right before your eyes. What smiles! We of course made the sound that corresponded with each thing that goes.

Things That Go Felt 2

Song: If You’re Ready for a Story
… bend (to the ground) and stretch (to the sky)
… tap your toes (tap left toe and say 1, then tap right toe and say 2)
… sit down please (with slide whistle)

seals on the bus

Book: Seals on the Bus (Henry Holt, 2000)
by Lenny Hort and G. Brian Karas

Just like the Jbrary rock stars, I am a fan of singable books! I always ask kids if they know a song about a bus before we begin singing and reading this one. At least one child chimes in with “Wheels on the Bus!” I tell a little back story before singing about the family waiting for the bus on the first page because we don’t have public transportation in our community and many kids don’t know about public buses. While we sang, a group of toddlers danced and acted out each of the animals on the bus. The adults all laughed at the end when the people say “Help, help, help!”

Dance Break: Happy by Pharrell Williams
With scarves! I find reluctant dancers are more apt to dance with a scarf in their hand. Today’s group was no different. We boogied! We danced for a bit and then I counted to three on my fingers before saying “Freeze!” and pressing pause. This group is really good and the freeze game! I played about 2 of the 3 minutes of the song. I used my phone and portable speakers to play this music.

tip-tip-dig-dig-274x300Book: Tip, Tip, Dig, Dig (Boxer, 2007)
by Emma Garcia

Emma Garcia’s books (Toot Toot Beep Beep and Tap Tap Bang Bang) are all toddler crowd pleasers! The combination of easy to read large text, action words, and fun vehicle images in this work vehicle delight are perfect for small and larger crowds. It even catches the attention of wandering toddlers. This one worked nicely with the This is Big, Big, Big action rhyme because we could easily replicate many of the vehicle actions with our bodies since we had used them in the earlier activity (“Let’s roll our arms around each other fast, like we did earlier!” Now, let’s roll them slowly!”)

This song gets kids working their fingers, build anticipation and strengthens number sense as kids count from 1 to 10. They are so ready for bubbles when this song is done! I blow bubbles by hand and make sure all of the little ones get a chance to pop some. We pop them in the air, down on the ground, with our elbows, our thumbs, our toes, our chins, you name it.

Action Song: Dance Your Fingers Up
Dance your fingers up,
Dance your fingers down.
Dance your fingers in and out
And all around the town

Dance them on your shoulders,
Dance them on your head.
Dance them on your tummy
Then tuck them into bed.
On the second go through I ask questions like “Can you find your shoulders? Where is your belly (Anna)? I also will accentuate the ‘in’ and ‘out’ hand movements because that part of the song can go by quickly without little ones understanding what is in and out. I’ll even add in a ‘beep beep’ when I point to my tummy.

Goodbye Rhyme: Wave Hi, Wave low

Looking for more toddler storytime ideas? Visit my Toddler Themes page.


Preschool: Sharks Under the Sea

My recent trip to the island of Hawaii has left me saltwater deprived, so an ocean themed story time was in order. This program got a lot of mileage this week, demonstrating at the very least its repeatability. I used some version of this theme at both the preschool and toddler storytimes at the library and during an outreach visit at a local childcare center. (This storytime theme is featured in a radio story recorded by our local radio station. Listen here!)

Living by Kachemak Bay means that kids get a lot of marine experience, but it is usually focused on Alaskan and Arctic environments. I wanted to expand their world a bit and explore more southerly locales and give them a taste of what they might find closer to the equator. it wasn’t a stretch for them because they could use their marine knowledge and their reading experience to guess the names of plants, comment about the stories, and ask questions.

In Hawaii I picked up a Folkmanis great white shark puppet, Snappy, disregarding my husband’s remarks about the fear I would induce in the preschoolers with it. That gave me some focus and I was off to look for shark books. I found a couple that were close, but one that was recommended on Facebook we didn’t own  and the other would make a good second book, but didn’t feature my shark. (For what it’s worth, I ordered Shark in the Park, the recommended title which is now out of print, but it still hasn’t shown up…) So, I headed off to Jbrary’s Under the Sea Pinterest board for some ideas. I wandered down the rabbit hole of internet searching and ended up on Lisa Mulvenna’s site Lisa’s Libraryland where she talked about the different ways to “read” A Hole in the Bottom of the Sea by Jessica Law. She ended up creating a flannelboard of the story.

Did we have the book? No, of course not, as my luck would have it. (It’s my own fault since I order all of the kids, and many of the YA, materials at the library.) But, I agreed that the story had great potential as a flannelboard and had the added bonus of allowing me to incorporate STEAM elements into storytime, as Lisa pointed out.

I adapted the story to include snappy the shark who I met while swimming in the ocean off Hawaii. He became my tour guide20140130-220054.jpg and showed me the magical hole in the deep blue sea where lots of other animals in the food chain lived.

And that, my friends, is how storytimes are born!

(Note: the sun is from my weather felt collection and the plane is from my things that go collection. I love being able to use felt pieces in different stories!)

From there, the rest of the program fell easily into place.

We started story time with rhyme cube, but before we could even give it a roll, the designator roller saw the picture of the spider and started us all singing “Itsy Bitsy Spider!” It was a perfect segue since I am a little scared of both which I confessed to as we began talking about the day’s theme.

To set the stage for today’s theme, we used the library’s globe to see how I traveled from Alaska to Hawaii. Did I swim? Did I drive? Did I walk? Did I fly? We talked about an island and what makes it a unique landform (water). Then we talked about sharks and all of their cool characteristics like: they are fish with cartilage (like in our noses) instead of bone, they are great at growing teeth, and their eating habits. I had an eye-catching Hole in the Deep Blue Seanon-fiction Shark book on hand to share as we went along. Snappy the shark also provided a less startling approach to the shark talk. Who knew a shark could be cuddly? Those shark kisses are sweeeeet!

A Hole in the Bottom of the Sea (Barefoot Books, 2013) is a story about the food chain that is sequential. First is the shark and then comes the eel, the squid, the crab, the snail, and finally the seaweed. The story ends by going back through the chain with the sun feeding the seaweed which feeds the snail, and so on. Jessica Law’s version is worth reading and you can even watch a short video of the book made by Barefoot Books on You Tube featuring music by the Flannery Brothers.

I kept moving with the feltboard and shark puppet to sing this next song with the kids. They loved this song and were swaying, dancing and singing along by the third verse.

Song: Five Little Fishes (with felt fish and shark puppet)
(Tune: 5 Little Monkeys Swinging in a Tree)
Five little fishes, Swimming in the sea.
Teasing Mr. Shark, You can`t catch me, You can`t catch me.
Along comes Mr. Shark, As quiet as can be… Snap!
(Repeat with:)
Four little fishes, etc…

Credit: Canton Public Library

Are you Ready for a story (with penny whistle)

If you’re ready for a story, clap your hands
If you’re ready for a story, clap your hands
If you’re ready for a story, If you’re ready for a story,
If you’re ready for a story, clap your hands.
… sit down please

over in the oceanBook: Over in the Ocean by Marianne Collins Berkes & Jeanette Canyon (Dawn Publications, 2004)

This is a beautiful counting book that features a variety of mama sea creatures and their babies which increase in number throughout the book. Unfortunately, after the felt board story and songs, the kids were ready for something else. So, instead of reading the book word for word, we took a quick book tour, talking about the colorful animals. This book would be a nice one to share one on one or with a group earlier in storytime. Over in the Ocean is also an iOS book app (best shared on a big screen).

Book: Mrs. Armitage and the Big Wave by Quentin Blake (Harcourt Brace Co., 1997)mrs armitage and the big wave

To bring the focus of the group back together, we read this tale of a woman and her dog who are ready to surf the big wave. While they wait for the perfect wave, Mrs. Armitage realizes there are things she is missing to help them pass the time. From snacks to a tool for detecting wind direction and force, she returns to the beach of each of them before catching the big one. The repeated lines allow for kids to participate, keeping them engaged in the story.

Activity: Cork boats and Jellyfish

I pre made these cork boats by hot gluing two equal size corks together with a small wood stick in between. The colored craft stick was approximately 2 inches long. Kids used scrap pieces of construction paper to create a sail for their boats before trying them out in the small oceans we had waiting at a big table. Kids tested to see if their boats floated and sailed them around islands, trees, and sea creatures they constructed out of play dough. (Non-paper material for sails works best so that it doesn’t fall apart when wet and the play dough eventually dissolves in the water. Several kids loved feeling the soupy mess left behind!)

Cork boats

Does it float?

2 wine corks
1 wood craft stick hot glue
scraps of construction paper, ribbon, fabric, or other sail material
craft glue
play dough (various colors)
aluminum pans for “ocean” (shared)

The paper bowl jellyfish was a craft I added at the last minute thinking some kids wouldn’t want to make a boat. In actuality, most kids made both which was great! I forgot to take a picture of the jellyfish sample, but take a look at this link for the idea.

paper bowl
google-y eyes
ribbon in various shapes and colors
craft glue
hole punch
piece of ribbon for hanger to secure on top of finished jellyfish

Photo Credit:
Marianne Collins Berkes

Toddler: Sheep

Welcome Song: Hello, Everybody
(clap hands on lap and then together, clap twice on the word “you”)
Hello everybody, how are you?
Hello everybody, how are you?
It’s such a lovely day, I’m so glad you came to play,
Hello everybody, how are you?

Time for a toddler yoga!

Tall as a Tree
Tall as a tree (Stretch arms overhead)
Wide as a house (Stretch arms out to side)
Thin as a pin (Arms tight against side)
Small as a mouse (Crouch small)
Credit: Annapolis Valley Regional Library’s Storytime site

If You’re Ready for a Story

If you’re ready for a story, baa like a sheep!
If you’re ready for a story, baa like a sheep!
If you’re ready for a story, If you’re ready for a story,
If you’re ready for a story, baa like a sheep!
(clap your hands)

Book: Russell the Sheep by Scotton (Harper Collins, 2011)

russell the sheep

With economical use of text, whimsical illustrations, and a lovable sheep, kids can relate to Russell’s trouble- finding sleep. Russell tries everything to bring sleep long after the rest of his flock has drifted off to dreamland. The toddlers quickly warmed to Russell and were anxious to see how he solved his problem. Counting sheep just might do the trick… (we even counted sheep together to see if that would help Russell.)


Action Chant: I Like to…
I like to pop, I like to pop, I like to pop, pop bubbles.
I like to pop, I like to pop, I like to pop, pop bubbles.
I like to pop, I like to pop, I like to pop, pop bubbles.
(stomp, clap, blow)

Old MacDonald (with farm puppets)
Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O.
And on that farm he had a cow, E-I-E-I-O.
With a moo moo here and a moo moo there,
Here a moo, there a moo, everywhere a moo moo.
Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O.
(chicken, pig, sheep, dog)

Alphabet Song
(tune: Mary Had a Little Lamb)

If You’re Happy and You Know It
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands,
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands,
If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it,
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands,
(wiggle your knees, shake your hips, do all three)

Wave HI, Wave Low
I think it’s time, we’ve gotta go
Wave your elbows, wave your toes
Wave your tongue, wave your nose
Wave your knees, wave your lips
Blow me a kiss with your fingertips
Wave your chin, wave one eye
Wave a hand and say “goodbye!”


Early Literacy Tip: Some nursery rhymes help children develop narrative skills. Those skills will later help them understand what they read. Giving children aids, like flannelboard pieces, puppets, or cut out images, helps them remember the sequence of a story and makes it easier for them to retell the story in the correct order. (from The Early Literacy Kit: A Handbook and Tip Cards, Diamant-Cohen & Nadkarni Ghoting, 2010)

Appvisory: Looking for a fun, open-ended app to help children tell stories? Try Software Smoothie’s digital Feltboard ($2.99) or Feltboard-Mother Goose on the Loose (Free). Both apps are available for iOS.

Photo Credit:
Rob Scotton