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.

STEAM-y Storytime 4: Colors

This storytime was inspired by Amy Koester’s Color Science post on the ALSC blog about incorporating STEM and science into preschool programs. In fact, after I read her post, I decided to develop my series of summer STEAM-y storytimes.

This week, I began storytime with the Song Cube. It continues to be a hit. Now that kids know about the cube and how the game works, we usually have two or three roll the cube and choose the song to sing.

One of the great reasons to use the cube is that kids are learning that visual symbols on each side of the cube refer to specific songs and then that letters/words below the image when in specific combinations refer to a specific song. In other words: image of smiling sun + words written below the image = If You’re Happy and You Know it song. The songs are also fun, familiar, and rhyming, further extending the early literacy learning opportunities. It’s amazing what will fit in one small cube!


Barnaby Bennett by Hannah Rainforth and Ali Teo (Huia, 2006) is a fun book to read about a boy who’s favorite color is red and who will only wear red until his aunt designs him a fabulous yellow dinosaur-inspired suit to replace his unwashed attire (including his red underwear). The book is full of alliteration, opportunities for learning new vocabulary, and color identification, all in a way that inspires interaction. Perfect for storytime!

In between books, we needed to sing and stretch. The Color I See song does both. I use colored felt shapes on the flannelboard to reinforce the color I am going to call as we sing each verse. That gives kids time to check if they have the color they see and I say.

Action Rhyme: The Color I See

Red, red is the color I see
If you are wearing red then show it to me.
Stand up and turn around.
Show me your red and then sit down.white rabbit's color book

(repeat with other colors)

Credit: Little Fingers That Play

White Rabbit’s Color Book  by Alan Baker (Kingfisher Books, 1999) was a perfect lead in to the acitvities we planned for storytime. The little rabbit hops into bowls of paint, mixing colors to create different ones.  The kids loved guessing what the new color would be and quickly learned about what happens when primary colors are mixed. As happens in storytime on occasion, I didn’t read this purple little birdbook as written but focused on the conversation it generated. Either way its a great addition to colors storytime.

Purple Little Bird by Greg Foley (Balzer + Bray, 2006) is about a purple little bird who loves purple, especially his purple house and garden, but its not quite perfect.  He sets off to find a perfect world. He finds it, but unexpectedly.  It’s a sweet story, especially for the many purple fans at storytime.


Color Mixing

Color Mixing and yellow food coloring equals color fun! When the vinegar (acetic acid) and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) combine they form carbonic acid which falls apart to carbon dioxide and water. Kids and their caregivers both learned about chemical reactions, scientific observation, and color mixing as they poured, squirted, and mixed over and over again watching the

Coloring Mixing bottles

colors change and the bubbling. Parents and caregivers also experienced how easy it is to A tray, a small pile of baking soda and squeeze bottles of vinegar colored with blue, red, introduce scientific concepts to little ones.


Marble Painting

Marble Painting

For each young artist, I placed a new sheet of white or black card stock in the bottom of one of four  plastic tubs we had set on top of a table covered with a plastic tablecloth. Then the teen volunteer or I squirt a dime-sized amount of yellow, blue, or red onto the paper. On their own, or with the help of an adult, the budding artists slid a marble or small rubber bouncy ball from side to side or in circles over the paper and through the paint. The action creates all sorts of shapes and patterns on the paper.with marbles is fun and easy for all ages! It’s also less messy than finger painting or using brushes because the paint stays inside the tub, for the most part.

Tip: Write kids’ names on the back so they can find their painting if left at the library to dry.

Color Matching

Color matchingLots of little ones were thrilled when they discovered toy cars in the basket I placed at the color matching station! I’ve used these cars before, but they made a good addition to this week’s storytime.

I taped sheets of colored construction paper on a round table and showed kids how to match cars to the colored sheets. After the obvious matches were made, I asked lots of questions about matches using the finer details. For example, the wheel hubs were orange on one car even though the rest of the car was green and we decided to put it on the orange sheet.

After the matching was done, the car enthusiasts took the basket to the carpet for some vehicle play.

Just about every child found not just an activity to sample, but at least one to explore thoroughly, repeating it over and over again. We gladly offered them the time, ideas, and resources to do it.