Family: Splish, Splash, Water!

This summer I again included a water storytime in the line up. As a coastal community, we are very connected to water, the salt variety in particular.  Kids love water and I’m not afraid of a little contained wetness during storytime.

Even when I reuse a storytime theme, I never do it quite the same way. SO, this time we began with an activity. I got this idea from Amy, the Show Me Librarian, who posted about a water storytime on the ALSC blog. We often simply have a conversation at the beginning of storytime, but this one focused on where we find water. As Amy points out, writing the kids’ ideas on the chalkboard helps them make a connection between oral language and the written word and it includes kids in the conversation that may feel too shy otherwise. Kids had no problem calling out their ideas as I wrote them on the board.

Book: Milo and Millie by Jedda, Robaard  (Candlewick Press, 2014)
During bath time, Milo and Millie, Milo’s teddy bear, go on an adventure in an origami boat, we get to replicate during the activity time! The book includes a tutorial.

Book: What Floats in a Moat? by Lynne Berry (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2013)
This book is a bit forced, but talks about why things float. I didn’t read it word for word, but it worked well for this storytime with a little modification on my part. Simple illustrations on a white background make the images easy to see, even with a large group.

Movement: Octopus’ Garden by the Beatles (This song was suggested in a Storytime Underground Facebook conversation about storytime music.)
We listened to this song while popping bubbles, something I don’t normally do at the preschool/family storytimes. Of course the kids loved it. To bring everyone back for the last story, we sang If You’re Ready for a Story.

Book: Rain by Manya Stojic (Crown, 2000)
Animals of the African Savanna try to predict rain, a vital source of water around the world. The book includes bright, colorful images and clear text. I loved talking about how rain smells.

The kids and I were all ready for some water activities. So we quickly reviewed what we would be doing, put away our storytime mats and got to work!

Sink and Float Station
This station is a must! The idea is that kids test out objects ability to float or sink and use their observation and recording skills. Don’t forget to roll up your sleeves for this one because everyone is bound to get a little wet!IMG_0220


  • 3 dish tubs
  • water
  • sink/float objects: rubber ducky, crayon, paper clip, LEGO, sponge, rock, leaves
  • sink and float chart in the SRP 2014 manual
  • pencils and crayons

Objects we Tested


Recording our Observations

Origami Boat Station
In the back of the Milo and Millie book, there are instructions for making an origami boat. I provided paper cut to the correct size, a sample, and the book open to the instructions. Kids and caregivers were able to make the paper boats with just a little guidance at this self-serve station.


Melting station
At this station, the young scientists got to experiment with states of matter. That sounds pretty advanced for preschooler, but it really equates to making things melt, turning them from a solid (ice) to a liquid (water). Kids generally stayed at this station for longer periods and often visited it last. Once they figured out what the activity was all about, they were mesmerized.


  • ice cubes
  • warm water
  • salt
  • eye droppers
  • trays
  • cups for salt
  • cups for water

To reinforce that text has meaning, I included labels at each station. This also helped parents identify which station was which. With larger storytime group sizes in the summer, having multiple stations with labels like these is helpful as families navigate the children’s library.


Preschool: The Dark

In anticipation of Halloween and the shorter Alaskan days, this week’s story time was all about the dark.

Before I detail the program, I’ll just say some storytimes are better than others. Despite hours of planning and prepping, sometimes the program doesn’t turn out like you hoped. This was one of those weeks. The program wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t awesome. And, I thought it was going to be AWESOME.

Glow in the Dark

Why wasn’t it? I think there were a couple of reasons. This story time needed the story portion of the program to link with the activity portion so kids could better make the connections between the two. This was hard to do because we had a guest who played music and read stories during the first portion of story time, while I led the activity portion. While we do have guests come occasionally, this week’s plan wasn’t the one to use with a guest who only comes occasionally.

The other reason I think this week wasn’t as successful as it could have been was that by the time the activity portion of the program started we had lost the attention of many kids and parents. This may be due to reason #1. So explaining the activities, or even engaging some of them, was a challenge. This week’s program was a great example of the need for consistency, the importance of trained storytime presenters, and yes, the need for better, if not just different, planning.

How do you incorporate volunteers into storytime?


The Dark by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen (Little, Brown, 2013)

Night Light by Nicholas Blechman (Scholastic, 2013)

The pout-pout fish in the big-big dark by Deborah Diesen and Dan Hanna (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2010)Don’t Let the Pigeon

Stay Up Late by Mo Willems (Hyperion Books for Children, 2006)


Glow in the Dark Art Boxes

Even though the children’s library isn’t completely dark (thankfully there are a lot of windows) we made darkness! I found this great idea for a glow in the dark art box that let me explain a little about light, ultraviolet light in particular, fluorescence, and how black lights work.

2 or more large cardboard boxes (mine had space for two people lying on the floor with room to draw just inside the open end of the box)
a handheld blacklight
white paper
fluorescent markers of various colors

Glow in the Dark Box

To make the two glow in the dark boxes, I first taped one end of each box open so kids and adults could draw with their heads, or at least their arms, inside the box. Then I cut a hole in the top of the box just smaller than the light end of the black light so that it would fit tightly. I then taped around the black light inside and outside of the box so it wouldn’t fall on someone’s head while they were drawing inside. It was that simple.

I set up the similar boxes with lots of room surrounding them, one on the floor and one at a table, so the glow in the dark artists had space to get comfortable. While the boxes initially made many wonder about them, it wasn’t until the other crafts were done that most kids and caregivers wondered over to explore. Once they did, the kids were mesmerized! The littlest ones actually climbed inside to draw, while the bigger storytimers only tucked their head or hands inside with their artwork inside the box. Either way glow in the dark creations of all kinds were made.

These boxes were fun and both demonstrated activities that could be easily recreated at home and how to explain ideas not typically thought of as preschool topics, increasing vocabulary. Speaking of vocabulary and early literacy, have you seen the report about the importance of a diverse vocabulary in kids as young as 18 months and its effects on literacy later on?


Glow in the Dark Sensory Bags

The younger kids enjoyed the glow in the dark sensory bags that I had available at the next station. I made enough for families to take home with them where I am sure the real fun started. These gallon size ziploc bags were filled with shaving cream and two glow in the dark bracelets (activated). Kids could play with the sealed bag, find the hidden bracelets, and trace the shape of the bracelets to strengthen their important finger muscles they use for coloring, cutting and soon writing.

1 gallon size ziploc bag per child
1/4-1/3 can of shaving cream per bag
2 glow in the dark bracelets, one with connector to make the circle shape
clear packing or duct tape to seal the tops of the bags to avoid spillage

Itsy Bitsy Spider Craft

This was the perfect craft for this week’s program. It was easy for parents to figure out while I was busy with the other Spider craftactivities and kids could modify it however they wanted. Some added more legs or used different colors of pipe cleaners. Others added more eyes or more letters. Some kids even colored the black spiders. For those who didn’t want to make a spider, paper, markers, crayons, and scissors were available.

1/2 sheet of black card stock with a circle traced on it for the spider’s body (I used an old CD to trace the perfect round shape)
2 pipe cleaners per child cut in 1/2 for the legs (black is an obvious choice, but other colors were used)
1hole punch
letter stickers
googly eyes


STEAM-y Storytime: Independence Day

Storytime at our library is on Wednesdays and this year the first storytime of July landed on July 3rd. We couldn’t let the week go by and not celebrate Independence Day. The trick was how to tie STEAM activities into the program. While I certainly could have focused on the art element of STEAM, I wanted to continue the success of the summer’s STEAMY-y Storytimes and include some of the other elements.

What is a librarian to do? Fireworks in a Glass, of course! But first…


141692454X-olivia2_zoomOlivia Forms a Band by Ian Falconer (Athenuem Books for Young Readers, 2006)

While I find that the humor and subtle elements in some Olivia books go right over the head of preschoolers, this one seems to work well in the storytime setting. It tells the story of the lovable Olivia and her ideas about July 4th.


In between books we took the lead from Olivia. I distributed red, white and blue shower rings (Credit: Mel’s Desk) which we waved all around while we marched and sang around the children’s library. I even slipped in a learning moment and had the kids shaking their rings up high, down low, to the left and to the right.

Music: “This Land is Your Land” from Nikki Loney’s album You Are My Sunshine: Favorite Sing-Along Songs (broadcast on speakers via iPhone).

betsyrossThe charming book Betsy Ross by Becky White and Megan Lloyd (Holiday House, 2011) tells the story of the American flag with simple, rhyming text (including sound words like “snip, snip” and “drip, drip”) and illustrations created using cloth. The combination gives the story a warm feel. The author’s note about Ross’ contribution of the five-pointed star to the flag and the instructions for how to make a five-pointed star with one snip of the scissors are excellent additions.

Activity Stations:

IMG_0761Fireworks in a Glass

Materials:IMG_0731 Water (warm in a tall glass container like a vase)
Vegetable oil (in a small glass for mixing with the food coloring)
Blue and red food coloring
tray for all of the materials (optional)

Mix the food coloring into the oil in the small glass. Coloring will break up into small drops. Slowly add the oil mixture to the warm water. After about 30 seconds, the food coloring will separate from the oil which formed a layer on top of the water and float downwards, looking like blue and red fireworks.

What are the bags of cotton balls and beans for? I used them to talk about density (same volume, but different density) and why the oil, food coloring, and water act differently and create the fireworks effect.

Credit: So Tomorrow via ALSC blog

IMG_0732Fireworks painting

Black construction paper
plates of white, blue, and red washable paint
pipecleaner brushes
plastic table cover (optional)

To make the pipe cleaner brushes, take 3 pipe cleaners and bend them in half together. Twist the bent pipe cleaners 3 or 4 times t form the handle. Separate the untwisted ends and fold over so they are flat, forming a star when laid on a flat surface. Press the pipe cleaner paint brush in the paint and then press it on to the construction paper. For best results, paint the other additional colors over the first color but turn the brush clockwise slightly to offset the colors.

Credit: Juggling with Kids

Toilet Roll Firecracker



  • Toilet roll
  • Red, white, and blue themed scrapbook paper
  • Heavier weight paper cut into circles approx. 2″ to create the nose (I cut a triangle out of the circle to make it easier to form the pointed nose. Join edges after cutting the triangle out and it will create the point.)
  • Red, white, or blue ribbon
  • Glue
  • Tape
  • Stapler

I prepped the scrapbook paper and the noses by cutting and IMG_0734measuring them.  I was sure to include a variety of colors. Kids and caregivers worked together to glue or tape the paper around the toilet roll, attach the nose, and then staple the ribbon on the bottom of the roll. Some kids chose to color their firecrackers with the crayons and markers I always provide.

Five Point Star

We followed the instructions from Betsy Ross to make five-pointed stars. With six folds in plain white paper (cut to 8 1/2″x10″) and one cut, a star is born!

This activity was the one many kids and adults went to last, but ended up staying with for quite awhile.  Kids liked seeing the paper folded smaller and smaller and then once cut, opened up to reveal a star! A pdf of the instructions is available from Holiday House.

Book images courtesy of: Holiday House and Junior Library Guild

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.

STEAM-y Storytime 3: Dinosaurs

Dinosaur-Roar-1024  More than sixty people showed up today. We had a lot of fun! Dinosaur storytime is such a crowd-pleaser with the preschool set.

This storytime is similar to one I posted earlier this year.  The Dig Into Reading theme and my STEAM-y storytime summer schedule both called for more dinos, so I reused the storytime plan with some additions.

We read three great dinosaur books this week:Goldilocks and the 3 dinos

Dinosaur Roar! written by Paul Stickland and illustrated by Henrietta Stickland (Dutton Children’s Books, 1994)

Dinosaur Bones by Bob Barner (Chronicle Books, 2001)

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems (Balzer & Bray, 2012)

In between books, we talked about dinosaur skeletons, paleontologists, what dinosaurs ate, how we know Photo Jun 11, 1 59 00 PMabout dinosaurs, their size, and their habitat. I brought out a couple of dinosaur skeleton figures from this year’s cool summer program prizes as we talked. (I created digital images of dinosaur skeletons using these same figures and turned them into flashcards for the dinosaur dig activity station so kids could identify the dinosaurs they dug up by matching it with the card that had the same image and the dinosaur’s name.)

T-rex and Nancy PearlAt the last minute, my Nancy Pearl action figure came to the rescue! Along with my T-rex puppet, I used her to compare the sizes of people and some dinosaurs. T-rex broke one of her arms off at one point during a fierce storytime battle, but a brave preschooler attached her limbs back on and she is back at work championing all things library. Phew!

We also sang a couple of songs!

Feltboard: Dinosaur Song
(I change the color order based on how I place the dinosaurs on the board. We talk about the different dinosaur names and match the sets of three before we sing.)

1 red, 1 blue, 1 orange dinosaur,
1 green, 1 yellow, 1 white dinosaur,
1 pink, brown, 1 purple dinosaur,
9 little dinosaurs roar!dino felt board
Credit: SurLaLune

Action Song: Dino-Pokey
(Tune: “The Hokey Pokey”)

You put your claws in,
You take your claws out,
You put your claws in,
And you scratch ’em all about.
You do the dino pokey,
And you turn yourself around.
That’s what it’s all about!
Credit: SurLaLune

Dinosaur Activity Stations:

Photo Feb 21, 11 44 55 PMDino fossil dough

We made dinosaur fossils out of salt dough. I quickly made the recipe before work at home and brought in the large bowl of dough to storytime. I gave each little one a ball of dough to flatten and use to make impressions of toy dinosaur feet and anything else they could find that would make an interesting pattern. Many kids played at this station for quite awhile. Each child then took their shaped fossil home in a small baggie with easy baking instructions.

Dinosaur DigDinosaur Dig

I filled four dish tubs with local beach sand and then the teen storytime volunteer and I buried dinosaurs in each tub. Kids used brushes and spoons to gently move the sand and small rocks around to uncover the dinosaurs. The flashcards I created (mentioned above) were used to match the figures with a labeled card so the explorers could learn the name of the dinosaur they discovered in the sand. The distinct shapes of each skeleton made for great conversation during the matching.

Dinosaur Noodle Skeleton

Dino Noodle Skeleton imageThe younger kids in particular liked this activity. I provided a T-Rex skeleton template (from Busy Bee Kids Crafts) which kids glued onto a piece of black cardstock. The kids and parents then glued noodles (penne) along the lines of the template to create a skeleton. The little ones worked diligently to get all of the noodles lined up. I provided both small and regular size penne.

Photo credit: Busy Bee Kid Crafts