Sharks, Halibut, and the Zen of Toddler Storytime

Many of my Small Fry storytime littles are not so little anymore. The ratio of babies to toddlers has shifted. They are all growing into wonderful kiddos who are curious, active, social, and very emotional. It makes for crazy storytimes on occasion, as you can imagine. To keep the show moving forward, I make sure the atmosphere is as stress-free as possible. Many of these parents are first timers and watching your child snatch all of the felt pieces off the board or running and screaming through the middle of the circle can cause anxiety. I try to model “It’s gonna be ok everyone. We got this!”

Even with 40-60 people in the room, we try to make a circle. This contains the wanderers and helps the adults connect with other parents and caregivers. I sit on the floor and stand during storytime so the circle helps insure that everyone can see and makes it easier to pass out shakers, scarves, and other materials. If the crowd is big I may walk around the circle with the book to help include everyone.

Here’s what I shared this week. Just imagine squeals, a few cries, clapping, a kiddo laying on the floor kicking his legs up and down, other kids standing right in front of the book mesmerized, other kids taking off and putting the felt pieces on the board, etc. It’s all good. Kids and their adults are participating: signing (and singing) along with the songs, moving their fingers to the counting songs, talking about the pictures in the book, and inviting me to read more with them by bringing me other books to read.

Welcome Song: The More We Get Together (with ASL signs for ‘more’, ‘we’, ‘together’, ‘friends’, ‘read’, ‘big’, ‘little’, ‘short’ and ‘tall’)

Fingerplay: Open, Shut Them

Four Little Sausages felt piecesFeltboard Rhyme: Four Little Sausages
Four little sausages frying in a pan,
The grease got hot and one went BAM!
Three little sausages frying in a pan,
The grease got hot and one went BAM!
Two little sausages frying in a pan,
The grease got hot and one went BAM!
One little sausage frying in a pan,
The grease got hot and it went BAM!
No little sausages frying in a pan.The grease got hot and the pan went BAM!
Source: Jbrary (Flannel Friday)
Toddler Early Literacy Tip: Sounding out and pointing to words in your family’s environment show kids that text has meaning!

Song: Octopus aka Slippery Fish (with signs for ‘fish’, ‘octopus’, ‘shark’, and ‘whale’)
Slippery fish, slippery fish, sliding through the water,
Slippery fish, slippery fish, Gulp, Gulp, Gulp!
Oh, no! It’s been eaten by an …

Octopus, octopus, squiggling in the water
Octopus, octopus, Gulp, Gulp, Gulp!
Oh, no! It’s been eaten by a …

Tuna fish, tuna fish, flashing in the water,
Tuna fish, tuna fish, Gulp, Gulp, Gulp!
Oh, no! It’s been eaten by a …

Great white shark, great white shark, lurking in the water,
Great white shark, great white shark, Gulp, Gulp, Gulp!
Oh, no! It’s been eaten by a …

Humongous whale, humongous whale, spouting in the water,

Shark in the Park by Nick Sharratt

Shark in the Park by Nick Sharratt

Humongous whale, humongous whale,
Gulp! … Gulp! … Gulp! … BURP!
(Cover your mouth.) Excuse me!
Credit: Charlotte Diamond
Check out the Jbrarians performing the song!
Science Tip: this song teaches about the food web!

Book: Shark in the Park by Nick Sharratt (D. Fickling Books, 2002)

Song: Bubbles!

Play: Bubbles!
We always blow and pop bubbles after we read. It brings the group back together and gives everyone a movement break.

Feltboard Rhyme: 5 Little Halibut (with felt halibut and shark puppet)
There were five little halibut swimming in the sea,
Teasing Mr. Shark “Oh, you can’t catch me, you can’t catch me!”
Along comes Mr. Shark as quiet as can be, and snatched 1 halibut right out of the sea!
… 4, 3, 2, 1
(Inspired by: There Were Five Little Fish)
Toddler Tip: When kids learn to wait until I invite them to grab felt pieces off of the board during the song, they are practicing self-regulation. It takes time so we’ll keep practicing! When I want the felt pieces to stay on the board, I tell families “It’s my turn!” Then I invite (and thank) kids to remove or add felt pieces depending on the activity.

Closing Song: If You’re Happy and You Know It
If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands!
If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands!
If you’re happy and you know then your face will surely show it,
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!
…stomp your feet
…wave your hands in the air

Sago Mini Ocean SwimmerDigital Media Advisory and Access:
Sago Mini Ocean Swimmer
by Sago Sago

(iPad and iPhone)
After storytime I introduced families to the featured app on the mounted iPad in our children’s library. Sago Mini Ocean Swimmer is a great example of an app that can support the learning of young children. It has no bells, coins, etc. to distract or confuse children, just open-ended play with creatures under the sea!  I love the gently action of the app and the cause and effect experience kids can have exploring the animated sea. The app is wordless, so our dual language families can tell stories and talk together about the app’s animals and objects in their home language and English.


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!


Family: Sound & Music

As part of the summer series of Family Storytimes, we explored sounds and music this week.  I was actually giddy as I set up! It wasn’t because we had a guest who regularly reads, plays guitar and sings, but that was great. It wasn’t because of the fun books he read, but those worked well. It wasn’t because of the cute tissue box guitars we were going to make, but they were a hit. It was because I was going to blow the minds of preschoolers with the Makey Makey!

For the first half of storytime, our guest played music, sang and read stories related to sound and music with families. Whenever he comes to storytime, he reads and I pick the books, plan the theme, and take care of the second half of storytime. I usually pick out the books for him because I plan the storytime themes before I know when he’ll be reading. (It also helps to have a plan if he’s sick or can’t make it for another reason at the last minute.) He’s an excellent addition to storytime and has been joining us every six weeks or so for years. We talk often about how storytime went and change what we need to.

Hilda Must be Dancing (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2004) by Karma Wilson and Suzanne Watts
The Loud Book (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) by Deborah Underwood and Renata Liwska
Squeak, Rumble Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!: a Sonic Adventure (Candlewick, 2012) by Wynton Marsalis and Paul Rogers

Activity Stations
This week I created four activity stations. The only way I can do this is employing the talents of a summer teen volunteer who is quickly settling into the busy storytime routine.  I can have her run one station while I run another. The other two stations were either independent stations that have directions for caregivers or require only minimal help and I can assist from a nearby station.

Tissue Box Guitar
I explained to kids that, all over the world, people make instruments out of what ever they have around them and that was just what we were going to do! Marsalis’ book really demonstrates that sounds come from all kinds of “instruments.”


You’ll find examples of this craft all over the internet, but Instructables has step-by-step instructions if you need help. I had cupboards full of donated tissue boxes and paper towel tubes that were perfect for this craft, so start gathering! Before storytime, I went through the collection of rectangular boxes and made sure they had holes only in the bellies. (Some boxes have holes that run from the center around one side and obviously don’t work for this project.) I also made sure the plastic was removed from the hole.

Caregivers and kids selected a tissue box, drew the outline of the paper towel tube on one of the short ends of the tissue box, cut out the hole (slightly smaller than drawn to create a tight fit), glued the tube if necessary, attached rubber bands, decorated and then played the new instrument.

tissue boxes (one for each child)
varying sizes of rubber bands (each size makes a different sound)
paper towel tube
glue gun (used by the teen volunteer)
foam alphabet stickers
construction paper for decorating the belly of the guitar
crayons and markers

Basket of Musical Instruments
I have a small collection of individual, kid-friendly musical instruments that I placed in a basket for families to explore. Some musicians played together while others made their own music. I encouraged caregivers to ask questions of their young musician, observing what kind of sound each instrument made, how the sound could be changed, and if it was loud or soft.

Coloring sheets
I printed out several music-related coloring sheets and placed them at a table with markers and crayons. This helped ease the crowds at the other stations.

Makey Makey/Sago Mini Sound Box
I regularly use new media in storytime and programs for kids of all ages, but I was especially excited to introduce everyone to the Makey Makey at storytime. I first heard about the Makey Makey from Stephen Tafoya in a discussion on the Little eLit listserv and knew I had to get one. I bought one and played with it at home with my two kids before bringing it to storytime.

The basic idea is this. The Makey Makey is an invention kit that fools a computer into thinking its a keyboard, thus allowing you to turn almost anything into something that can create sound, type text, be used to play a game, or create an image.


Playing a SCRATCH piano with bananas and the Makey Makey

I love the Makey Makey for several reasons.

  • It gets kids (or teens or adults) creating while using digital technology in addition to consuming it.
  • It makes some ho-hum digital content more dynamic and gets kids and adults playing and talking together, encouraging joint media engagement.
  • Using it warrants basic scientific questions. What happens if you do this? How does this work? Why did it stop working?
  • It allows kids and parents to learn about the big concept of electricity in a kid-friendly, hands-on way.
  • It introduces parents to Arduino, an open source platform for manipulating electronics in cool ways that artists, designers, and hobbyists can work with to make great things.
  • It seems like magic, but isn’t! I believe that if kids realize they can make music with play dough or bananas, they can do anything!

I set up a laptop and the Makey Makey at a table with enough space for several kids and adults to experiment together. I also had four bananas and four containers of different colored play dough. On the laptop, I had the Makey Makey Piano-2 site ready to go. This provided a visual keyboard on the screen so kids could see and hear what happened when they touched the banana or blob of play dough.

I did a quick demo of how the tool worked and gave a brief explanation of electricity. For many kids and adults, this alone was mind bending. (I have to admit I learned a few things about electricity preparing for this storytime.) The best part, though, is that each time a child sat in the player’s chair, we talked about how electricity works and demonstrated how it works at the same time. Several three year olds got it and applied their new knowledge as they manipulated the new toy. It was amazing. Caregivers were b-l-o-w-n away. You just have to make that happen at storytime sometimes.

As each child took their turn controlling the Makey Makey, I asked them if they wanted to use play dough or bananas to make music. Once they chose, I showed them how the tool worked and hooked up the alligator clips (either by sticking each of the four clips into a different blob of play dough or clipping them to the end of four different bananas). I showed them how they had to hold the ground/Earth/negative clip in one hand and then, with the other hand, tap one of the four “keys” they created. I gave each child enough time to understand all of the pieces involved which was key (no pun intended). Every child was patient as they waited for their turn, which blew my mind.Makey Makey Set Up

At the table, I also had an iPad with Sago’s Mini Sound Box app loaded on it. I wanted to offer another way to make digital music and sound through touch and provide a second option for play while kids waited for the Makey Makey. The app, a nice choice for toddlers and preschoolers, gets kids making music and sound by tapping, shaking, and moving the iPad and the images on the screen. I really like the fact that this open-ended app employs multi-touch so kids or kids and adults can play together. I engaged the device’s Guide Access feature so I wouldn’t have to worry about kids leaving the app accidentally while I was using the Makey Makey. A few kids explored the app and a couple of parents asked about it, but most kids weren’t particularly interested.