Toddler Storytime: Animal Heroes

Monty's Magnificent Mane by Gemma O'Neill (Photo source:

Monty’s Magnificent Mane by Gemma O’Neill (Photo Source:

To continue this week’s storytime theme, I read a book about animal heroes to the toddlers and babies (and caregivers). I held on to Monty’s Magnificent Mane by Gemma O’Neill (Candlewick, 2015) after the the family storytime and read it again today. Not all books about heroes resonate with this younger audience, but this one did. I think part of its appeal is the artwork, which is beautiful, colorful and nicely expresses the text of the story about friendship and courage in a very whimsical way. Using mixed media and collage, O’Neill produces a crocodile, for example, just scary enough to create a mood without being the stuff nightmares are made of. This double page spread offers an interesting perspective:

Monty's Magnificent Mane: at the watering hole (Photo source:

Monty’s Magnificent Mane: at the watering hole (Photo Source:

The book’s text also played nicely with the early literacy tip of the week because words like magnificent, mane and meerkat are fabulous words not often included in day to day conversation.

Weekly Early Literacy Tip:
Having a rich vocabulary will help growing readers decode words and to understand what they will read. Reading books helps grow young children’s vocabulary because books often include words we don’t use in everyday conversation. If you come across a word that is new to your child explain it. When talking with your little one, use the real names of things. Avoid replacing unfamiliar words with familiar ones.

Several of the songs and rhymes I chose are familiar and work well with the diverse group I often have. Babies to toddlers can join in. I chose a couple songs about opposites to go along with the large and small opposite represented by the lion and meerkats in today’s story.

Welcome: The More We Get (Read) Together (with ASL)

Action Song: Dance Your Fingers
Dance your fingers up, up high
Dance your fingers down, down low.
Dance your fingers side to side and dance them all around.
Dance them on your shoulders.
Dance them on your head.
Dance them on your tummy,
And put them all to bed!

Action Rhyme: I am Big
I am big, big, big (stretch hands far to sides)
I am small, small, small (crouch down)
I am short, short, short (stay low)
I am tall, tall, tall (reach for the sky)
I am fast, fast, fast (roll hands or march quickly)
I am slow, slow, slow (roll hands or march slowly)
I say yes, yes, yes (nod head)
And sometimes no, no, no (shake head)

After our story (or stories depending on the length and audience attention span), we always pop and play with bubbles. Bubbles is often a little one’s first library word!


Action Song: Going to Kentucky (with shakers)
We’re going to Kentucky.
We’re going to the fair,
to see the senorita with the flowers in her hair.
Oh, shake it, shake it, shake it.
Shake it all you can.
Shake it like a milkshake,
and do the best you can.
Rhumba to the bottom,
and rhumba to the top.
Turn around and turn around until I holler stop!

Closing (Action) Song: If You’re Happy and You Know It (with shakers)
If you’re happy and you know it give a shake.
If you’re happy and you know it give a shake.
If you’re happy and you know it and you really want to show it.
If you’re happy and you know it give a shake.

If you’re happy and you know it give a clap.
(Clap shaker against palm.)

If you’re happy and you know it give a tap.
(Tap shaker on the floor.)

If you’re happy and you know it do all three.
(Shake, shake, clap, clap, tap, tap)

Preschool: Rhythm and Sounds

This week’s story hour was all about rhythm! I regularly talk with families about the role music, and singing, can play in literacy- it helps kids hear the rhythm (cadence) in language and slows down are speaking so they hear more sounds.  And it’s fun to sing, dance and make music! So, I am a big fan of books that incorporate fun sounds and rhythm into the story. A couple of kids are particularly big fans of any music or sound activities we do, so this story time theme is dedicated to them!

Rhythm books

We started story time at each location with Storytime Katie’s version of Rafi’s Shake Your Sillies Out using shakers. I was inspired after arranging an upcoming summer visit to our library by the musician Andy Mason, who also does a great version. We shook, jumped, stretched, clapped, and stretched some more to get rid of the late January blahs. These kids love to sing, wiggle, and dance! Since only a few kids had arrived at this point I then read Giraffes Can’t Dance to give the others a chance to arrive and get settled.

From there we moved on to more music and movement!  In one of the outreach programs we use a room with a linoleum floor (vs. the carpeted floor at the library) so the sounds we created were fun and different.  We used the the rhythm sticks I made out of dowels to make quite a ruckus banging on the floor, metal chair legs, mats, other rhythm sticks, shakers, books, you name it! After the free form music making we made sounds together with this song I found at Read Sing Play. I read a suggestion somewhere along the way that is helpful with the rhythm sticks- have the kids rest the sticks on their shoulders between trying out the sticks on their own and playing this song. It is a great tool for focusing the kids’ attention.

This is the way we tap our sticks, tap our sticks, tap our sticks
This is the way we tap our sticks so early in the morning!
This is the way we rub our sticks, rub our sticks, rub our sticks
This is the way we rub our sticks so early in the morning!
This is the way we tap our knees, tap our knees, tap our knees
This is the way we tap our knees so early in the morning!

And I added:
This is the way we bang on the floor, bang on the floor, bang on the floor
This is the way we bang on the floor so early in the morning.

The additional verse lets us do what we really want to do, bang on the floor, in addition to making the softer sounds called for in the earlier verses.

We have also used this rhyme with the sticks. It’s a favorite in snow country.

Snow is falling, falling down; Snow is falling hit the ground. (Move hands down, wiggling fingers like snowflakes)
Flurries, flurries (slow beat, slowly said)
Snowing, snowing (faster)
Blizzard (Loud and very fast)
Perpetual School

I continued on with books and read This Jazz Man, Pete the Cat: I Love my White Shoes, and Dancing Feet. With each page, we were predicting, counting, identifying colors, interpreting illustrations, naming animals, and learning about jazz and music. The great questions kept on coming!BINGO

Just before we moved on to the craft for this week, I brought out the flannel board. The kids got quiet as soon as they saw the blank, black rectangle appear. I placed five felt letters on the board, spelling BINGO, and kids immediately began to identify letters. “The letter this week must be B!” a little one proclaimed. I got this idea from the Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy site.

After pointing out each letter as I said it’s name, it was time for a song. Most kids know the BINGO song, so they caught on quickly. As each letter is “removed” in the song’s lyrics, the felt letter is turned over. Instead of clapping, in this version we barked in place of the turned over letter. ( didn’t get a chance to put a dog image on the back as was recommended, but that would be cute.)

The song with the BINGO letters worked very well and I found that more kids, particularly the youngest ones, were able to keep the rhythm going when they barked vs. clapping. It can be tough without well-developed fine motor skills. By the time we got to barking for “N,” there were smiles all around and everyone had it figured out.

To round out the morning, we created fun music makers for the budding performers to take home. These were constructed by 2-5 year olds, so they are simple and can be made with limited adult support. My sample is so boring compared with the kids’ which were featured multicolored rays of streamers, an abundance of giraffe and elephant stickers, and crayon colored patterns!  The story time’s grand finale was an orchestra of paper plate shakers!Shaker

This craft was made with materials I already had at the library:

1 paper plate folded
dried rice, beans, or grain to go inside once the plate is folded
staples and glue to make a tight seal around the edge
crayons or markers for coloring the plate
stickers for decorating the sides
dots of glue on one edge for the paper streamers

Do you know of another easy to make instrument for story time? Let me know!