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.

Preschool: Monkeys

March storytimes are all about the letter M. This week I featured some great books about monkeys and brought out the paint for our art project.

Letter M

Welcome: Song Cube

To introduced this week’s storytime theme, I brought along my monkey puppet friend. He’s a spider monkey and helped me talk about what a monkey looks like, what it eats, where it lives, how it travels, and of course what it sounds like. We talked about the difference between monkeys and apes also. With the exception of the spider monkey, did you know most monkeys do not actually get around using brachiation, in other words, do not actually swing from tree to tree?

My little monkey friend also served another purpose. He introduced storytime do’s and don’ts, with my translation skills. It went something like this:
Monkey: Eeee, screeee, eee, eeeeeeeee, ee.
Me: Welcome to Storytime! We’re going to read, sing and play together for about 30 minutes and then we’ll be doing an art project. If you need a break, that’s fine. Just make sure your adult stays with you. We’ll have lots of fun together, so is everyone ready? (I save reminders about sitting so others can see, no wrestling etc. for when they are needed instead of piling on the reminders at the beginning.)

Count the Monkeys

Count the Monkeys Credit:

Book: Count the Monkeys (Disney-Hyperion, 2013)

Mac Barnett & Kevin Cornell made this story for storytime, I’m sure of it! Why is this a great storytime title? The book is funny, the illustrations are engaging, the characters and text reference other stories kids may know and want to talk about (Red Riding Hood anyone?), it gets kids counting (preschool math) and talking, and its interactive.

The premise is that readers are going to have the chance to count monkeys, but are woefully frustrated by the lack of monkeys on all of the pages…except the endpages. Readers will delight, however, in the variety of characters who take over the story. Who are your favorites? The proper beekeeping old ladies? The persistent lumberjacks? The pesky bears? The silly monkeys hiding at the end?

5 Little Monkey PuppetsSong: 5 Little Monkeys

It was time to wiggle, so we did a full body version of Five Little Monkeys. Everyone stood up and then jumped (some pretended to fall off the bed) and sang while I used my finger puppets to guide the song. This song offers great opportunities for preschool math also. As we sing the song, I take breaks to talk about how many monkeys we have left, how many jumped off, and how many we have altogether, pointing out our use of addition. Note: I alternate “his” and “her” in each verse to be more inclusive.

Book: Monkey See Monkey Draw (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2011)

monkey see monkey draw

Monkey See Monkey Draw Credit:

Alex Beard’s book inspired today’s craft. It’s the story of silly monkeys who love to play games, including monkey in the middle. During one such game the monkeys are terrified to discover that the seed pod they’re playing with gets tossed into the dark cave they fear. Along comes elephant, who isn’t afraid of the cave, to save the day. The monkeys are convinced to venture into the cave and, once their eyes adjust to the dark, discover the wall paintings that abound there. The monkeys turn to making their own paintings outside the cave and eventually turn art into a competition. They eventually learn that art isn’t a contest and that everyone’s art is important.

The illustrations are beautiful, the characters endearing, and regional references useful in talking about the natural history of monkeys and elephants. Talking about the history of cave paintings can also inspire kids to tell stories in different ways. I used this book to talk about the craft we would be working on after the third story.

Before the last story, I used our new parachute to introduce the preschool storytime families to a new version of Pop Goes the Weasel. We warmed up with a couple of other parachute songs that I’ve used in my outreach program and with the toddlers and then started popping our puppets in the air. I don’t have a stuffed weasel, but I do have a cool lizard, so I adapted the song. Everyone loved it just the same.

Pop Goes the Lizard Parachute

Parachute: Pop Goes the Lizard (based on the song Pop Goes the Weasel)

All Around the Cobbler’s Bench
The monkey chased the lizard
Monkey thought ’twas all in fun
POP goes the lizard

We needed a transition from the crazy parachute time to our last story reading. I know just the thing.

Song: If You’re Read for a Story

two little monkeys

Two Little Monkeys Credit:

Book: Two Little Monkeys (Beach Lane Books, 2012)

Mem Fox and Jill Barton teamed up to create a quick tale about Cheeky and Chee that is another nice storytime read.  With repeating text, rhyme, and easy to see illustrations, the story features two monkeys having a grand time in the trees until a leopard comes along and almost has them for lunch. Cheeky and Chee are too quick and agile for the leopard though!

This storytime went a little over 30 minutes, my usual length, but we were all having fun so it worked out fine.

Craft: Handprint Monkeys

Hand Monkey Craft


We used our hands and brown paint to create our own monkeys! The preschoolers and siblings all enjoyed creating versions of my sample (scroll down for some of my favorites).

Monkey Hand Craft MaterialsMaterials:
brown finger paint (in plates wide enough for extended hands)
card stock
scraps of green construction paper for leaves
yarn for vines and tree trunks
googly eyes
markers and crayons

Monkey Handprint Art 4

Monkey handprint 3

Toddlers: Colors

Welcome Song: Hello Everybody

Action Song: Open Shut Them
Open shut them, open shut them
Give a little clap, clap, clap
Open Shut them, open shut them
Lay them in your lap, lap, lap

Creep them, crawl them
Creep them, crawl them
Right up to your chin, chin, chin (where is your chin?)
Open wide your little mouth
But do not let them in

Shake them, shake them
Shake them, shake them
Shake them just like this this this

Roll them, roll them
Roll them, roll them
And blow a little kiss!
Muach! (blow kiss with hand)

Action Song: Red, Red is the Color I See (with felt pieces)
Red, Red is the color I see,
If you’re wearing red, show it to me!
Stand up, turn around,
And sit back down on the ground!
(repeat with different colors)

There are other verses to this color song, but I have found that for toddlers who are concentrating hard on figuring out colors, the repetition is easier to follow.

Action Song: Green Says Go!
Green Says, “Go!” (march fast in place)
Go! Go! Go!
Yellow says, “Slow.” (march slow)
Slow… slow… slow…
And Red says, “Stop!” (freeze stop)
GO! GO! GO! (march fast)
Slow… slow… slow (march slow)
STOP!!! (stop)

Credit: Sturdy for Common Things

If You’re Ready for a Story
wave your hands in the air!
… sit down please

Book: Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma DoddDogsColorfulDay

One of the many things I like about this book is that the main character is a dog called “Dog.” Kids can relate. Ask any toddler or preschooler the name of their stuffed friend and inevitably it is named dog or frog or cat, not Billy, Daisy, or Periwinkle.

This book mesmerizes toddlers and preschoolers! They are quickly drawn into the connection between what happens to Dog on his adventure and the additions of colored spots to his white fur. It is a nice complement to storytime because there are a variety of ideas, concepts (math!), objects, and places to talk about as you read the book.

Movement: Bubbles!

Our Friends group just gifted us a parachute for storytime so today I put it to use during a preschool outreach program first thing in the morning and then during the toddler storytime shortly after. The dozen preschoolers went crazy with the parachute and there were tears, I hate to say, when I started winding storytime down. So, I was a little nervous about using it at a toddler storytime with 40 people (about 24 kids). No need! It went perfectly well! Having alot of extra adults is very helpful.

I told caregiverss about the parachute experiment and asked them to help their little ones hold the chute. I mentioned that it was ok if some kids weren’t interested or if they were worried about the noise that might ensue when many toddlers play with a parachute.

This first song set the tone because it was a familiar song we sing often. It gave us the chance to try holding on to the parachute as we walked around during the first verse and then lay it on the floor during the second verse.

Parachute Song: 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!

The second song let everyone get a chance to see what the chute could do.

Parachute Song: If You’re Happy and You Know it
If you’re happy and you know it, lift it high!
If you’re happy and you know it, shake it fast!
If you’re happy and you know it, shake it slow!
If you’re happy and you know it, shake it low!

Credit: Kendra at Read, Sing, Play

The final song got everyone laughing and giggling! We repeated this one several times before moving on to our regular closing song.

Parachute Song: Pop Goes the Lizard (with monkey and lizard puppets)Pop Goes the Lizard
All Around the Cobbler’s Bench
The monkey chased the lizard
Monkey thought ’twas all in fun
POP goes the lizard

Credit: adapted from Kendra’s version at Read, Sing, Play

Closing Song: Wave Hi, Wave low

Photo Credit:
Dog’s Colorful Day: Kentucky Department of Libraries


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