Preschool Storytime: Monster Mayhem!

Instead of Halloween, last week we focused on “not-so-scary” monsters during storytime. The books, app and activities I included offered opportunities to talk about rich vocabulary, the names of human and monster body parts, colors, healthy foods, individuality and friendship. It all made for a fabulous week of storytimes.

Early Literacy Aside: Vocabulary
Our word of the day was mayhem! It appears in several monster books and the kids had no idea what it meant. As I described it, we agreed that mayhem and storytime could be synonymous some days. I reinforced with parents the value of expanding a little one’s vocabulary and the role books and storytelling play.

Book: Mostly Monsterly by Tammi Sauer (Simon & Schuester/Paula Wiseman Books, 2010)

Mostly Monsterly by Tammi Sauer Photo:

Bernadette is a creative little monster. She looks like a monster (horns, fangs, claws, etc.) and can create mayhem like a monster, but she also likes to bake, plant flowers and make cards! Her new monster friends at school are a little shocked and then a lot happy to meet Bernadette and her mostly monsterly ways.

After seeing the great diagram of what makes Bernadette a monster, we had fun singing the monsterly version of Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes. Of course we sang it slowly first and then went faster and faster until many of us fell down!

Action Song: Horns, Fangs, Knees and Claws
Horns, fangs
Knees and claws
Knees and claws.
Horns, fangs
Knees and claws
Knees and claws.
Eyes and ears and tail and paws
Horns, fangs
Knees and claws
Knees and claws.
Source: King County Library Wiki

Book: Monster’s Monster by Patrick McDonnell (Little, Brown, 2012)

Monster's Monster by Patrick McDowell Photo:

Monster’s Monster by Patrick McDowell Photo:

Is this a book about monsters or being thankful? Both! Three bad monsters decide to make the baddest monster of all who ends up teaching them about being grateful.

Great Monster Hunt

The Great Monster Hunt by Norbert Landa Photo:

Book: Great Monster Hunt by Norbert Landa (Good Books, 2010)
This book is a fun read aloud in part because of the great onomatopoeia and also because of the progression we see in the story. As the tale of the monster under Duck’s bed passes from one animal friend to the other, the sounds the monster makes grow in number and intensity until the group confronts the unsuspecting source. Don’t miss the sun rising as time passes!

Action Rhyme: Monsters, Monsters Turn Around
Monster Monster, Turn Around! (turn around)
Monster, Monster, Touch the ground! (touch ground)
Monster, Monster, Reach up high! (stretch up high)
Monster, Monster, Squint your eyes!  (squint eyes)
Monster, Monster, Show your teeth!  (bare teeth and make claws)
Monster, Monster, Stomp your feet!  (stomp)
Monster, Monster, Slap your knees!  (slap knees)
Monster, Monster, Sit down, please!  (sit down)
Source: King County Library Wiki

Sago Mini Monsters

Sago Mini Monsters || iOS || Free || Ages: 3-5 || Contains in-app ads for developer’s other apps behind a parent gate

Joint Media Engagement: Meet Maggie!

In addition to the books we shared about monsters, I also introduced the kiddos to the wordless Sago Sago’s Mini Monsters app. I share apps and other digital media when approriatefor a few reasons: to demo high quality apps, to model joint media engagement, and to offer digital literacy moments. While many kids know what an iPad or iPhone is, many families don’t know how to find quality apps or how to strengthen early literacy skills when they use digital media.

Kids were pretty fascinated by the iPad and what I might do with it so I told them I was going to tell them a story about Maggie, a not so scary monster. (I don’t have a large monitor so I share apps on my iPad.) I showed them them the iPad screen with the already loaded app. I then pressed the play arrow on the app home screen which revealed a bubbling green pool and part of a monster’s head peeking out of it. I told them Maggie was a nice monster and I’d love for them to meet her but she is shy. In order to get her to come out of the bubbling pool we need to say hello. We all said “Hello, Maggie!” When she didn’t appear I asked the kids to say “Maggie, Maggie come out, come out where ever you are!” I then showed the kids how I could raise her out of the pool by dragging my finger up the screen. A template of a monster appears above the pool.

As I talked about Maggie’s love of all sorts of colors, I pointed to each circle of color at the bottom of the screen. I asked kids to call out their favorite color and I would add it to Maggie by touching the color and swiping my finger across Maggie’s fur painting her. I operated the iPad throughout this sharing and had the kids tell me which colors to paint next and where to put the paint. Once we were happy with Maggie’s colors, we moved on to the next screen and picked horns, her mouth shape and her eye/eyes. We changed her features by swiping them into the green pool below.

Once her features were decided it was time to feed Maggie! During the week leading up to Halloween Maggie is supposed to only eat healthy food because she is going to go trick or treating and get a lot of candy, so we talked about examples of healthy food before we began. Individual food popped up from green pool and we decided whether or not it was healthy and then I showed everyone how to feed Maggie. Foods we didn’t want to feed her I swiped it down into the green pool at the bottom of the screen. After several foods a tooth brush appeared on the screen and it was time to brush Maggie’s teeth!

Before we were done with Maggie we added some other accessories including a hat, a mustache and some stickers. The accessories are unlimited as far as I can tell so I mentioned to kids that it was time to make and feed our own monsters. It was a perfect transition and kids easily said goodbye to Maggie and got ready for the next activities. (Note: One of the accessories that appears in the green pool is a Sago logo. I’m not a fan. It didn’t appear while I was playing with the kids, but if it did I would have pointed it out to families and why I don’t like it.)

Crafts and Activities
Toilet Roll Monsters & Spider Rings

Toilet Roll Monsters and Spider Rings

This is an open-ended craft and I made a variety of materials available plus these samples. A quick search on the web will show you lots of examples of toilet roll monsters and even the spider rings. Here’s a great tutorial for the rings if you need help: Fantastic Fun and Learning.

Monster Materials:
toilet rolls
strips of construction paper, pre-cut so the width is the same as the height of the roll.
googly eyes
pipe cleaners
scraps of paper for facial features

Spider Materials:
4 regular size black pipe cleaners (makes full size spider ring) or
2 pipe cleaners cut in half (makes small spider rings)
medium and small size puff balls
googly eyes

Feed the Monster Activity


Print out courtesy of

I found these play dough monster mats on and thought they would make a perfect storytime activity. I printed out several of these mats and laminated them. At a separate station, kids made food out of play dough and fed the 1, 2, 3 or 4 pieces to their monster. Each mat had the number of items they should feed the monster printed on the bottom. I encouraged adults to talk about the food the kiddos were making and about their monster- where it lives, if it has a name and if it has a favorite food.
I brought these mats out during the toddler storytime also and many of our littlest storytimers enjoyed their first adventure with play dough!



Social and Emotional Skills Are On My Mind, part 1

Like many librarians and educators, I spend a lot of time focused on early literacy. Whether its in storytime, when I’m selecting materials, or in conversation with parents and caregivers I’m thinking about how fun activities, stories and tools can strengthen early literacy skills. Underneath the literacy layer, though, is a deep interest I have in the social and emotional development of little ones. I’ve been looking at books and digital media through this lens. With this post, I’m starting a mini-series about some of the books, literacy tools and apps I like for their overall high quality and the way they address the emotional and social side of growing kids that are creative, flexible, curious, caring, and ready for the dynamic world we live in. The recent release of Toca Boo was well-timed, so I’ll start there.

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

Toca Boo
Toca Boca
iOS (5.0+)
3-5 years

This new app by the developers at Toca Boca is an interesting one. I’m a huge fan of Toca Boca’s apps so I was ready for the smooth navigation, the open-ended, noncompetitive play, inclusion of facial expressions and representation of emotions, multi-touch capability that encourages joint media engagement and the minimal language that makes the app universal. This app has all of the elements that I look for in an app to share in a program or recommend. Toca Boca knows their audience well.

What’s different about Toca Boo is that it deals with the illusive fear emotion, underrepresented in the world of apps for young children. Just in time for Halloween, Toca Boo features a a small ghost named Bonnie who happens to be a young girl who dons a white sheet for the scare games she instigates in the low-lit house at bedtime.  Inspired by the classic hide and scare game and Tove Jansson’s Moomin world, the open-ended game lets kids play with feelings of fear, tension and the element of surprise in a nonthreatening, kid-friendly experience.

Bonnie is the mischievous star in a cast of colorful characters who’s theatrical reactions to Bonnie’s scares spark instant giggles. The identical twins, the braces-clad, phone obsessed teen, the blanket-toting toddler, the old man with stilt-like spindly legs and the disco dancing rotund old woman wander the house with Bonnie in pursuit. When Bonnie is near, a tap on the unsuspecting victim causes a scare. Many of the rooms, like the bathroom and bedrooms feature hiding places highlighted by a subtle blue light.  Dragging Bonnie to the hiding place lets her sneak up behind her next victim more easily making his/her reaction more hilarious. The app player can tap lights and sounds to startle the family members, adding to the not-so-spooky atmosphere.

Each family member reacts in a different comical way- the twins may bump into each other and see stars, the old woman’s hair might pops out of her tightly wrapped hairdo, the old man’s spindly, stilt-like legs sometimes wobble before he falls down. The teenager sometimes falls down and sometimes screams revealing a mouth full of braces just before his pants fall down. (Not to worry, a long shirt keeps things covered so nothing is exposed.)

To ease any anxiety, the developers have added a few special touches. They gave each character a light source which they can shine on Bonnie if the app player doesn’t hide her quickly enough. If she is spotted, the light bearer chuckles. They also provided some refreshments for Bonnie that customize her scare tactics and help lighten the mood. Bonnie farts to scare her victim after eating plums and breathes fire after eating peppers. The results are hilarious, helping to make this noncompetitive game easy to enjoy!

Over time the small number of rooms and characters may limit repeated play, but the developers may have plans for that. In the meantime, Toca Boo is a fun, not so scary app to explore together with young ones during the Halloween season.

Here are a couple more apps that help kids address fear and tension (and may be perfect for Halloween):
Go Away, Big Green Monster!
The Monster at the End of This Book…starring Grover!

What apps do you like for talking about fear and tension?

Preschool: Halloween

Pumpkins at night

Happy Halloween! This might just be my favorite holiday. Every other time of year we worry quite a bit about how scary stories for kids are, but around Halloween, kids are free to imagine, read, and create scary tales. Great stories plus pumpkin carving and candy equals fun! And if you still need convincing, who doesn’t love a good costume?

little old lady afraid

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Willams

Action Rhyme: Pumpkin, Pumpkin
Pumpkin, pumpkin, big and round, (Make big circle with hands)
Sitting on the cold, hard ground. (Touch the ground)
Soon I’ll pick you off the vine, (Pretend to pick a pumpkin)
Give you a name, and make you mine (Hug pumpkin tightly)
Carve a face for all to see, (Point to face)
Add a candle for Halloween glee! (Clap your hands)


Hallo-Weiner by Dav Pilkey

Action Rhyme: 5 Little Pumpkins

Five little pumpkins sitting on the gate. (Hold up 5 fingers behind arm laid horizontally.)
The first one said, “Oh, my it’s getting late.” (Hold up thumb.)
The second one said, “There’s a chill in the air.” (Hold up index finger.)
The third one said, “But we don’t care.” (Hold up middle finger.)
The fourth one said, “Let’s run and run and run.” (Hold up ring finger.)
The fifth one said, “I’m ready for some fun.” (Hold up pinky.)
Ooooo! Went the wind, and out went the light. (Blow through hands, then clap.)
And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight! (Roll hands over and under each other.)

Bone Soup

Bone Soup by Cambria Evans

Have you seen the impressive felt board version of this tale created by SLC Book Boy? It’s perfect! (I heard about his fabulous felt version at Storytime Underground blog. Follow it, if you don’t already!)


Families chose one or more of the Halloween characters to create- a pumpkin, a cat, or a ghost. Each featured a 20131105-213232.jpgslightly different medium for kids to play around with. Families could then take the project home and decorate for Halloween the following day.

Paper plate for each character
Liquid glue
Hole punch

For the cat:
Rectangle of black construction paper with 2 triangles drawn on it (for ears)
Triangle of pink construction paper for nose
Rectangle of yellow paper for kids to draw and cut out into any 2 shapes (for eyes)
Crayons and markers
Black streamers
Yarn for hanger

For the pumpkin:
1″ x1″ orange squares of tissue paper
1/2 sheet of green construction paper for kids to cut up (for eyes, nose, and mouth)
Orange streamers
Yarn for hanger

For the ghost:
1/2 sheet of black construction paper for kids to cut into eyes and mouth
White puff balls for eyeballs
White streamers
yarn for hanger

IMG_1225I also had trick or treat bags to pass out, thanks to the fire department, and tattoos! It was great fun helping kids put on their tattoos before they left and watching and listening as I read the Boo! tattoo I put on my hand. Letters and words are everywhere!