STEAM-y Storytime: Construction!

Photo Jul 22, 10 46 38 AMThis storytime continued our week of construction.  During our Maker Monday event earlier in the week we used lots of natural materials to design and assemble elaborate gnome and fairy houses. We’ll end the building extravaganza with another Maker Monday in a few days. That one will offer LEGO challenges and free play in anticipation of next week’s 3rd Annual LEGO Contest.

This storytime was SO MUCH FUN! I can honestly say “you just had to be there.”  I’ll do my best to share the highlights. It’s worth repeating!

Today I was Carpenter Claudia! Dressed up in my safety vest and hard hat while carrying my toolbox, I introduced myself to the new Photo Jul 24, 12 00 52 PMfamilies.  The kids were instantly curious about the morning’s activities. While they piled they’re shoes by the coat rack and chose a yellow, blue, or green sit mat to bring along to the storytime area, I chatted with them about what kind of construction they have seen around town.

This is an interesting summer not just because of the incredibly sunny weather we’ve been having, but also because of the large amount of construction going on. There was lots to talk about including the vehicles being used, the people working on the jobsites, what they were doing, and why they were doing the jobs!  This storytime was a great opportunity for the kids to use and learn new vocabulary.  (We even talked about camping and campfires due to a couple of stream of consciousness comments…)

When everyone was settled, I brought out my toolbox and explained that I needed helping organizing the tools inside.  After all, I Photo Jul 24, 12 03 00 PMcan’t work with a messy tool box and I can’t share tools with my friends if we can’t find the right ones for the job.  I let everyone who wanted a tool choose a hammer, tape measure, wrench, pliers, or a screwdriver out of the box. Returning to the front of the group, I placed the laminated names of the tools on the floor. Meanwhile, the kids had the chance to test out their paper tools, complete with sound effects.

Then I held up a tool, said its name as I pointed to the letters on the laminated name, and invited kids with that tool to bring their tool to the front and match it.  We counted how many of each tool we had so I would know how many I could share at the jobsite.

Photo Jul 24, 12 02 16 PMWhile this activity could also work using a felt board, I decided the floor gave us more space to lay out and match all of the different tools from the box. During the second part of storytime, I left my toolbox out so kids could explore and sort the tools with each other or their caregivers.

To create the toolbox, I used an old lightweight tackle box from home that my kids use to store stamps. I then found the pictures in clipart, printed multiple copies, laminated them, and cut them out. I did the same with the tools names, but printed only single copies. (Credit: Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives resource page for construction storytime.)

This was the perfect time for a finger play! The kids love to count with their fingers and figure out rhymes, so this short rhyme worked perfectly.

Fingerplay: “Five Little Nails”

Five little nails, standing straight and steady
Here I come with my hammer ready!
Bam, bam, bam! That nail goes down.
Now there’s just four nails to pound.
(count down)

Credit: Mel’s Desk via Storytime Katie

Most of this group of 20-25 kids has been coming to storytime consistently throughout the summer, so I cajun pigsdecided to choose a longer than usual book. They are engaged and are comfortable with the format of storytime, so I thought it could work. Choosing to read this one was a bit of a gamble, but it was one of the only storytime appropriate construction books we had available. I discovered that our library doesn’t have many of the construction picture books which I found in other librarian’s storytime suggestions and living somewhat remotely makes obtaining them quickly out of the question. Several are now on the list for the next order…

I chose to read The Three Little Cajun Pigs by Mark Artell and Jim Harris (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2006). It’s a fun twist on the building theme. It’s definitely a book that should be practiced, not just read, before reading!

During storytime, I didn’t read every word, but instead kept my eye on kids to see how their attention span was doing. I incorporated dialogic reading, which was key, and asked timely questions, explained vocabulary, and commented on the expressive illustrations. Conclusion? It worked well for this group, but I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. (Note: My favorite Cajun retelling of a traditional tale is Artell’s Petit Rouge: a Cajun Red Riding Hood which features even more colloquialisms and requires a Cajun accent throughout.)

Whenever I read a book with more text, I always let kids know they should get comfortable because the story is longer than the others. I took a moment here to tell them what activities we were going to do afterwards to help them appreciate what was ahead.

Before reading, I also explained that this story was the retelling of an old tale that they might know. We also talked about Louisiana, where this version of The Three Little Pigs comes from.  To help them anticipate the events in the story and be able to compare this version with the one they know, I had them tell the story of the three little pigs while I acted it out with my pig and wolf finger puppets. (I had my story basket on hand in case we wanted to use the other story props, but we were too busy.)

Activity Stations:

cardboard tomorrowAll this talk about construction got these kids hungry for building! I had just the thing.

For the last couple of months I have been stockpiling cardboard boxes in various shapes and sizes and storing them in the back of the library. I taped them all closed so they would stack flat. Then today I pulled them all out and let the kids construct (and deconstruct) with them!  Yes, you can still have fun with a cardboard box. (By the way, if you haven’t seen the video about Caine’s Arcade, check it out to see what a 9 year old can do with cardboard.)

While we didn’t create an arcade, we did build towers, houses, shopping malls, and auto shops, some of which were over ten feet tall. Kids used their budding math, engineering, design, and social skills to figure out what made the buildings stand tall or fall over, what shapes fit together, and what looked cool. They also learned how to work together even when someone wanted to build and someone else was ready to smash.

Kids who weren’t building worked on safety vests for their next pretend construction job. Our local grocery store IMG_0871donated a stack of paper shopping bags that each child and caregiver cut into the shape of a vest.  They then decorated the vest with strips of orange and yellow construction paper to look like reflective tape.

To make the vest, hold the bag flat with the open end down. Cut straight up the middle from the open end to the opposite edge. This forms the front of the vest. Open put the bag and cut a hole for the little carpenter’s head starting at the edge where you ended the first cut.  Next, cut two holes in the sides of the bag for arm holes. I also tapered the bottom edges of the vest.  You can find many versions of a paper bag vest on Pinterest, where I found this one.

For younger siblings who I enthusiastically welcome to storytime, I also had construction themed coloring sheets available. These sheets offer a great opportunity to practice their writing skills!

Our Five Senses

What can you see, feel, hear, smell, and taste?

We spent this storytime hour exploring the five senses. We began by talking about the senses which gave late arriving families a chance to get settled before I started reading the first book. We looked out the windows at the cars going by, we heard the male pheasant that lingers outside the kids library in the Springtime, and we felt the fabric of our pants and the roughness of the carpet under our sit mats. No tasting this morning, but many kids told of their favorite flavors!

To help cement the names of the newly identified senses, we sang, of course! During the song we pointed to the body part we used for each sense. Most kids new the tune but not the words, so we repeated this one a couple of times.

Song: Five Senses (Tune: Where is Thumbkin)
Five senses, five senses
We have them. We have them.
Seeing, hearing, touching,
Tasting and smelling.
There are five, there are five.

Credit: Miss Sarah’s Storytimes

baby bear sees blueOur first book was Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff (Beach Lane Books, 2012) which features all of the senses, color recognition, and the chance for kids to do some great animal spotting.  Baby Bear emerges from the den to find amazing colors as it explores the changing landscape with Mama Bear. The text is simple, but the illustrations, created using linoleum block printing and watercolor, are brilliant with lots of detail including a picture of the baby bear fishing that shows the scene above and below the waterline (my favorite). The final scene includes a rainbow to bring all of the colors together.

With the whole group assembled, we stood and stretched in preparation for this action song and more books. As with all new songs, we repeated it so kids could feel comfortable enough with the rhythm and the actions to join in.

Action Rhyme: Touch Your Nose
Touch your nose
Touch your chin
That’s the way this game begins.
Touch your eyes
Touch your knees
Now pretend your going to sneeze.
Touch your hair
Touch one ear
Touch your two red lips right here.
Touch your elbows where they bend
That’s the way this touch game ends.

Credit: Sturgis Kids

seven blind miceThe next book I shared was the Caldecott Honor Book, Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young (Philomel Books, 1992).  Several kids had read the book before and were excited to chime in or read along.  This book also reinforces color recognition, let’s us do some basic counting, and offers us an opportunity to talk about blindness. The kids all came up with suggestions on how people might use their other senses to compensate for blindness as they navigate the world. This book also provides good opportunities to get kids predicting what will happen next.

Time for a game! I found this on the internet somewhere (Pinterest, I think?), but lost 20130410-173129.jpgthe source. It reminds me of several of the activities I used when I homeschooled my son using the Montessori method.  The storytime kids loved it. I showed them the card with the texture on it and let them all have a feel. We came up with words to describe the texture and then I showed them the labeled card next to the original and read the text while pointing to the letters with my finger.  For the dry sponge I added a question mark instead of a word, introducing them to the symbol, and let them decide on a good description for it. During the craft/activity portion of the storytime, I left the game out for kids to play with their parents.


Black card stock
black-eyed peas (bumpy)
sandpaper (rough)
fleece fabric (soft)
aluminum foil (shiny)
sponge (?)

Note: I used hot glue to attach everything to the cardstock. It worked well except for the beans. They were easily picked off by determined little fingers. Also, for smooth, I didn’t add anything to the card and left it blank. The kids easily identified this texture.

toottootDepending on the group, I ended with either Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What do you See? by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle (Big book) or Toot Toot Beep Beep by Emma Garcia (Boxer Books, 2008).  Both have simple text with nice illustrations. Toot Toot Beep Beep certainly draws in the transportation hounds.

The story portion of the morning went longer than usual so the craft I planned was perfect. We made binoculars out of toilet rolls. We often make these in the Spring in 20130410-173544.jpganticipation of the annual stopover of migrating shorebirds on their way North.  The kids quickly got to work customizing the binoculars and then explored the library and outside through the new discovery tool. What’s great about these binoculars is that they help kids focus on one thing or a small area, often seeing more detail than if they looked without.


2 toilet rolls for each child
ribbon or string for the strap
hole punch
stapler (to attach rolls to each other)
stickers, markers, crayons, etc. to decorate


It’s Iditarod season here in Alaska, so we always do a dog storytime to celebrate the amazing athletes (canine and human) that make the trek from Anchorage to Nome in the big race. I quickly put together this storytime for my outreach program with the remaining dog books in the children’s library. (Dog books are a hot commodity this time boot and shoeof year.)

Luckily Boot and Shoe by Marla Frazee (Beach Lane Books, 2012) wasn’t snatched up this week. I’ve been wanting to read it aloud for awhile and this week’s dog-loving crowd was the perfect audience. It’s a story of two furry dogs who do everything together except nap. One loves the front porch and the other prefers the back. All is well in their daily routine until a trouble-making squirrel visits and a wild chase ensues. The dogs leave their respective porches to pursue the squirrel and wind up exhausted on opposite stoops, sadly not able to find the other…until they have to visit the usual tree. The families loved the double page spread that maps out paths of Boot and Shoe around the house chasing a squirrel!

Finger Play:

Five Little Kittens Finger Play

Five little kittens standing in a row.
(Hold up five fingers)
They nod their heads to the children so.
(Bend fingers)
They run to the left; they run to the right.
(Run fingers to the left and then to the right.)
They stand up and stretch in the bright sunlight.
(Stretch fingers out tall)
Along comes a dog who’s in for some fun.
(Hold up one finger from opposite hand.)
ME-OW! See those little kittens run!
(Run fingers all around and end behind your back.)

Credit: Sturdy for Common Things

a dog needs a boneOur next book was A Dog Needs a Bone by Audrey Wood (Blue Sky Press, 2007). It’s rhyming text, lovable dog, and simple vocabulary make this a good choice with preschoolers. The story isn’t riveting, but it’s an enjoyable read aloud.

I brought my dog Bingo along for the road trip this week to celebrate his 1st birthday. He came to live at the library last Spring and is a beloved addition to any storytime. Instead of singing happy birthday, we sang B-I-N-G-O using the felt board. See my Rhythm and Sounds post for all of the details. Using felt letters and turning over each one as we work our way through the song helps the little ones understand the pattern and rhythm while also providing opportunities for print awareness.cosmo zooms

Our last book of the day was Cosmo Zooms by Arthur Howard (Harcourt Brace, 1999). After living in the shadow of the other Pumpkin Lane dogs and their special talents, Cosmo discovers his own talent, skateboarding! That is one special dog.

I brought Smelly Bill by Daniel Postgate (NorthSouth Books, 2007) and See Me Run by Paul Meisel (Holiday House, 2011) which we didn’t have time for, but kids read them on their own or with adults after the craft projects were complete.

Today’s craft I also found on Sturdy for Common Things. The pet photo frame was simple (easy for preschool age and younger), I had the materials on hand, and it got kids excited to find a photo of their pet 20130327-181322.jpgfriend or family member to put inside.


8 popsicle sticks
colorful card stock cut ot fit behind popsicle stick frame
foam stickers or other decorations
yarn (for hanger taped on back)
craft glue to attach popsicle sticks together
picture of family pet or family member

My absolute favorite part of storytime this week was when this picture happened. This is the doing of one little boy is a reluctant 20130327-181411.jpgcrafter and his friend, a preschool age girl.  The boy brings cars with him everytime, often gripping them in his had through out the stories and play that follows. After his picture frame, he decided to make a road with the yarn on the table. We got it taped down and he got his car driving. The girl next to him wanted a road to, so we taped the yarn down for her. With no real cars to be had, she used the white peeled off backs of the sticker shapes we used for the frames. Each road eventually had a bridge and inspired lots of imaginative play!