Toddlers: Fall & Moose

Fall is on its way and kids are seeing moose cows and their calves everywhere here in Alaska. Storytimes about topics like the seasons and local animals are a must for helping kids relate to the stories they hear and understanding the world around them.

Welcome Song: Hello Everybody

Action Song: Open Shut Them

This next feltboard story I told first with felt leaves (or bunches of spruce needles) and then using our fingers. Counting is an important toddler and preschool math skill which I include every week in some form another. It may be counting to three before we start a song or action or counting as we share a story like this one, for example.

Feltboard: Five Autumn Leaves
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!

Now we had the opportunity to be leaves!
Action Song: Leaves Are Twirling
(tune: Frere Jacques)
Leaves are twirling
Leaves are twirling
All Around
All Around
They are falling softly
Very, very softly
To the ground
To the ground.

Book: Looking for a Moose by Phyllis Root and Randy Cecil (Candlewick Press, 2006)
Kids at my library all know what moose look like, but before we read this story we talked about some of their characteristics so we could find them camouflaged in the story. I explained we were going to help the kids in the story spot the moose. We have some very good spotters!

To reinforce the differences between moose and people, we followed the story with the hokey pokey, moose style.
Action Song: Moose Pokey!
You put your right hoof in (use foot)
You take your right hoof out.
You put your right hoof in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Moose Pokey
And you turn yourself around.
That’s what it’s all about.

*You put your left hoof in…
*You put your antlers in…
*You put your tail in…
*You put your whole self in…

Movement: Bubbles!

Ring Around the Rosie
Ring (or skip or hop, etc.) around the rosie
Pocket full of posies
Ashes, ashes, we all fall down!

The cows are in the meadow
Eating buttercups
Thunder, lightning,
We all jump up!

Closing Rhyme: Tickle the Clouds
Tickle the Clouds. Tickle Your Toes.
Turn Around,
And Tickle Your Nose!
Reach down low. Reach up High.
Storytime’s over, wave goodbye!

Happy Unbirthday!

I needed a storytime at the last minute, so I decided it was time for our unbirthday party!  With a few balloons and streamers to decorate the children’s library, a birthday cake (felt), birthday hats (today’s craft), and some great songs, we were set. It was a silly day!

Kids had never heard of an unbirthday so we first talked about when everyone’s real birthday is celebrated. Most kids didn’t know their exact birthdays, but we eventually got everyone’s day figured out. We then sang both Happy Birthday and the Unbirthday Song!

Song: Unbirthday Song
Happy birthday not to me,
Happy birthday not to me,
Happy birthday to someone else,
Happy birthday not to me!
(I found this on the web somewhere!)

We then talked about what we need for a birthday party: decorations, invitations, presents, and cake! Let’s make a cake!

Action Rhyme: A Birthday
Today is everyone’s birthday
Let’s make a cake (form cake with hands)
Mix and stir, stir and mix (stir)
Then into the oven to bake (push hands out)
Here’s our cake so nice and round (make a circle)
We frost it pink and white (spread frosting)
We put five candles on it (hold up hand)
To make a birthday bright!
Credit: Addison Public Library (found on Storytime Katie)

I had the kids pick the frosting colors, instead of just saying pink, but included white for the rhyme.

The first book we read together was Froggy Bakes a Cake by Jonathan London and Frank Remkiewicz (Grosset & Dunlap, 2000). These 20130525-214644.jpgkids love Froggy!

Our birthday was out of the oven now and frosted beautifully, so the last thing to do was add the candles.  I made two of each color candle so we could put them on in a pattern the first time. I found this counting rhyme that go along with my felt cake. This was a tricky one, but the kids figured it out by the time we got down to 4 candles. The visual of taking two candles away each time we blew out the flames helped immensely. We put the candles back on the cake any which way and then sang the song a second time.

20130525-214654.jpgFlannelboard: 10 Little Candles
Ten little candles on a birthday cake.
Wh!  Wh!  Now there are eight.
Eight little candles in candle sticks.
Wh!  Wh!  Now there are six.
Six little candles, not one more.
Wh!  Wh!  Now there are four.
Four little candles, red and blue.
Wh!  Wh!  Now there are two.
Two little candles, one by one.
Wh!  Wh!  Now there are none.
Credit: ACLD Storytime

With all of this singing, we had time for one more book. We decided on I Want Two Birthdays! by Tony Ross (Lerner Publishing Group, 2010). It’s a great story about why we don’t have a birthday everyday. The other books I pulled out for storytime were checked out and taken home to be shared one on one. Perfect!

20130525-214702.jpg Our craft was the final piece of the party planning- birthday hats!  This simple craft had kids hard at work.  I copied this template onto white cardstock so kids could cut out the hat. They then decorated the hats with crayons, markers, and stickers. Before bending and stapling the hat into the cone shape, parents helped kids staple streamers on the top. We used yarn to ties the hat on kids’ heads which worked just fine. Our library’s moose even got a hat for the party!

Once we had the hats made, we played my favorite party game- musical chairs. For storytime, we used the beanbags found in the children’s library and changed the game a bit. Each time I stopped the music, we took a beanbag away and kept all of the kids in the game. When the music stopped the next time, all of the kids had to squeeze onto the remaining beanbags. Eventually, all of the kids were piled on to one beanbag. Lots of giggles ensued, as you can imagine!  My music choice? Andy Mason, who will be visiting the library this summer from New Mexico.

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.

Affirmative! Robots in Storytime

Today I chose to use a game app in storytime. Yes, I used my iPad…during Screen Free Week. I didn’t do it by accident or in spite of the Kids ipad photoevent. Awhile back before I remembered about the week, I came across another librarian’s storytime plan that was perfect in its own right, but it had the added bonus of a recommended app well-suited to my preschool storytime audience and setting. I put the theme on the schedule for this week and kept on planning. I could have reconfigured the schedule when I realized the significance of the week, but I made a conscious choice to go ahead with it because I think how, and not just how much, we use apps with kids needs attention. How better to model that usage than by including one in storytime?

How did it go? The kids and I talked, read stories, told stories, sang songs, played with the feltboard, built digital robots with the app, then built paper robots, cleaned up, and then played with LEGOs. We had a blast and those amazing kids demonstrated their wide array of early literacy skills and their ability to smoothly migrate from one medium to the next without obvious hesitation.

First off I have to thank Anne Hicks of Anne’s Library Life. Not only did she post her great robot storytime plan for the rest of us to see, but she answered my questions about her experience using an iPad only vs. using an iPad mirrored on a big screen in her library.

My children’s library is lovely, but not particularly suited for using a big screen to mirror what’s on my iPad. Behind the story area is a corner of book shelves leaving no wall space for a safe place to place a monitor without it being precariously set on a cart with cords extending across the floor, just waiting for feet to trip over. The room is also full of windows and we really don’t like to darken them. With such dark winters, we’ll take all of the light we can get in Alaska.

The other reason I wanted to use my iPad only in the storytime, is the fact that this was not advertised as a digital storytime. We do have another meeting room with a large monitor that I’ve used to share an enhanced e-book as part of a special program, but my ultimate plan in storytime is to reflect the intertwined reality that exists in our mixed media lives. Since this was the first time I used interactive digital media in a weekly storytime (instead of a regular e-book), I also didn’t want the screen to be the focus. I felt that using the iPad only (without the monitor) was a more subtle and normalized way to show families how digital technology can be successfully integrated into the activities we all love already. The iPad is one more tool that extends our exploration and fun.


While families arrived, I sang with the kids who came on time. Sometimes we sing Open Shut Them, a popular storytime starter, or a themed song using shakers or other instruments. (I look forward to trying out the rhyme cube Ann and other librarians mention on their blogs!)

robotsEach week, I display books that I am going to include in storytime, as well as a few others, in front of the group. (I often bring out more books than I am going to read during storytime so kids can see related books to read in the library or take home with them.) I have kids use the images and words or letters on the book covers to try and figure out what we are going to talk about. With books like Robots by Mark Bergin (Franklin Watts 2001) it was pretty easy this week. While this book is older, it showed some basic images that were helpful. We used these images to talk about what differentiates a robot from a person. And then we decided to pretend to be robots! With legs, arms, bodies, and heads, we fit the bill.

Once everyone was settled, I installed on/off buttons on every little robot. We practiced our robot movements, our robots sounds, and even learned the robot word for yes, “Affirmative,” which features prominently in the next book, Boy + Bot. Before each book we turned on our listening buttons. We didn’t make them quiet buttons because questions and comments are strongly encouraged in my “interactive” storytimes.boyandbot

Boy + Bot by Ame Dickman with illustrations by Dan Yaccarino (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012) was the perfect book for this storytime. The simple text and friendship theme is easily understood and loved by the preschool crowd. The boy and robot meet, become quick friends, and then appreciate how each works after a slight mishap with the robots power button and the boy’s nighttime sleep, both new concepts to the other.

We usually spend some time practicing counting when we use the felt board with activities like this one. I point to each robot as kids interject the number of robots. Kids are usually very enthusiastic about contributing to the counting. (In the storytime at a local childcare center I brought these robots and kids named each of the robots also.)

5 Little Robots FeltFelt Board

Five Noisy Robots
5 noisy robots (make sound effects!) in the toy shop,
Shiny and tall with antennae on the top (hands/arms above head and then hold fingers up as antennae above head).
Along came a girl with a penny one day (walk fingers and then show a penny to the kids).
Bought a noisy robot (make sound effects!) and took it away.
(continue with 4, 3, 2, 1 noisy robots)
Credit: Ann’s Library Life

When all of the robots were purchased, I asked the kids how many were left. Some proclaimed “zero” while others said “none.” We talked about how zero was the number that represented none and then we made the shape of a circle with the fingers of both hands touching and talked about how the number zero, the letter O, and the circle were all the same shape. We then had to make big circles with our arms overhead, the fingers on one hand, and our bodies, of course.

Robot Zombie FrankensteinRobot Zombie Frankenstein by Annette Simon (Candlewick Press, 2012) was the final book I shared. This is a great book to share at storytime, but I have found that reading it definitely needs some prefacing. The elements of friendship, playful competition, and repetition are subtle and preschoolers may need help appreciating them (dialogic reading is key here). I preface the story by telling kids it is a story about two friends who are having a contest. As the story progresses, kids love to guess what costumes the robots will come up with next. Some preschoolers were even able to remember the long list of personas the robots dressed up as throughout the competition.


I’m a little robot, short and strong,
Here are my handles, just turn me on. (put fists on hips for handles, then push your sticker “on/off button”)
When I get all warmed up, watch me go.
Sometimes fast, sometimes slow. (roll forearms and hands around each other fast and slow)
Credit: Ann’s Library Life


Robot Lab by Toca Boca (iOS version)robotlab, $2.99
The object of the app is to take junkyard parts and make a robot that can fly. Legs, arms, bodies, and heads are chosen from three options for each piece displayed at the bottom of the screen and dragged to the flashing shape of the robot part to be added. Then the robot is flown by dragging the robot with your finger (directed by up, down, left, and right arrows) through a maze to an overhead magnet. Once the robot is connected to the magnet, it goes through the tester. It comes out the other side and receives the “approved” stamp. There is no sound and no in app advertising. We talked about shapes, colors, directions, body parts, and took turns picking which piece to add. We made two robots before moving on.

I tested out both this app and Bot Garage based on the book Lots of Bots!: A Pop-up Counting Book, but I thought this one worked better for my storytime. The Robot Lab’s simpler screen (image of cardboard box plus three body part choices at a time and the flashing outline of the body part to be added) allowed the kids to focus on one aspect of the new media at a time. We started by adding legs, and were then guided to add the parts one section at a time moving up the body of the robot. They weren’t trying to understand a busy background at the same time as making a choice for which color or shape of part to add. It was easy to see what the object of the game was, especially important when using the smaller screen of an iPad (vs. on a monitor) with a group.


Paper Robot CraftFor this storytime’s craft we built paper robots. The kids were thrilled to create these little bots inspired by Rebecca at Sturdy for Common Things. I substituted a few pieces and steps because I couldn’t find glitter paper or enough brass fasteners in town for the whole group. Ah, small town living. The changes worked out just fine!

metallic (or glittery) cardstock- I cut each 8 1/2 x 11″ piece of card stock into 3 sections and then cut each strip (approximately 8″h x 3 1/3″w) to make a one piece robot with a thinner head and wider body, leaving rectangles used for arms (shorter) and legs (longer) from the bottom for each robot.
brass fasteners (to make movable arms/legs)
foam papers cut into shapes
googly eyes
pipe cleaners for antennas
small hole punch- I let kids/parents punch the holes where arms would be attached with fasteners and on the head for the pipe cleaner antennas.

For kids who still wanted to play together at the library, I offered up my basket of large LEGOs® at the end of storytime. A small group of parents and kids sat and talked together while building robots, trucks, trains, and walls.

What would I do differently with this storytime? I would include more tips for parents about joint media engagement, early literacy, and using apps. I focus on the kids and modeling successful practices during storytime, but I am looking for more strategies for informing parents about the skills, practices, and research without taking away from the storytime experience. Have any tips? I would love to hear them.

Update 6/18: Check out a 2018 Robot Storytime with more ideas!

Photo of children with the iPad is courtesy of Barrett Web Coordinator, used according to a Creative Commons license.

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.