Preschool: Spring Cleaning

A couple of months ago I read about the idea of a “kid wash” in one of the discussions on the Storytime Underground Facebook page and knew it would be a great addition to the storytime I was planning this Spring around Mo Willems’ new book, The Pigeon Needs a Bath. And that is how a storytime is born, my friends! A great activity and a witty book were combined with a few other elements to fill in the gaps and another week of fun and literacy building was had.

I finally got a moment to collect my thoughts so here’s what we did.

Song Cube

Book: Time for a Bath by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2011).

Steve Jenkins is one of my favorite author/illustrators and his books are popular with not only preschoolers, but much older kids and adults as well. This book introduces kids to how a variety of animals bathe, some of which are quite surprising! Instead of reading the whole book to the group, ahead of time I picked out a few animals whose bathing habits would surprise the storytime crowd and stimulate discussion. Also check out their other related books: Time to Eat and Time to Sleep.

Book: The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems (Hyperion Books for Children, an imprint of Disney Book Group, 2014)

Wh doesn’t love the pigeon? This book is a nice addition to Willems’ collection of pigeon stories, complete with spot on expressions that are perfect for initiating a conversation about a book’s illustrations and what they contribute to a story. I only wish I owned a copy of this story in big book format because one of the spreads includes many small images in comic-style panels which are hard for a group to see in the smaller format. How ’bout it Mo? Hyperion? Is a big book in the works?

Movement/Dance Break: I Took a Bath in a Washing Machine by Jim Gill
All this talk about bathing left us itching for some dancing! I brought out the scarves to use as wash cloths as we danced to Jim’s popular song.

Song: If You’re Ready for a Story
To help us get settled back down for the last story, we started this action song standing. By the final verse everyone was seated back on their mats and ready for one more read.

Book: Mrs. Wishy Washy’s Farm by Joy Cowley and Elizabeth Fuller (Philomel Books, 2003)

This delightful story is a fun read because of its rhyming text and high quality illustrations. It could be used in a farm storytime as well this one. The only trouble I have with this book (besides it being out of print!) is the page where it talks about the animal jail which is actually the animal shelter, although jail rhymes much better. I like to think that our shelter is less jail, and more temporary home. I talk about this page a bit when we get to it so kids understand what the author is talking about.

Before the day’s activities, we sang one more song just for fun!
Action Song: 5 Elephants in the Bath
One elephant in the bathtub
Going for a swim.
Knock, Knock                     Clap twice
Splash, Splash,                   Slap knees twice
Come on in!                        Motion with both hands to come in
(Repeat up to ‘Five’)
Five elephants in the bathtub
Going for a swim.
Knock, Knock,
Splash, Splash,
They all fell in!
Credit: Sur La Lune Fairy Tales

We had two activities today. The first was the kid wash and the second was a simple art activity designed to ease the line that formed around the kid wash. Both worked well.

Kid Wash Entrance


Kid Wash Exit

Kid Wash Exit

Kid Wash Side View

Kid Wash Side View

Kid Wash
I grabbed a couple of large cardboard boxes that came through the library a few weeks ago and stored them for the kid wash. For storytime, I opened them up to form tunnels and used tape to secure the flaps. I did not connect the two tunnels because when the wash was set up, I wanted a gap in which I could blow bubbles on the kids to simulate the wash of a car wash. I used two chairs to keep the tunnels from falling over- the other side was pushed up against some of our picture book bins. I taped streamers over the opening of the tunnel that was going to be the exit, reminiscent of the drying that happens when you drive out of an automatic car wash. I also made a stop sign that a caregiver held at the entrance to help control kid traffic and not crowd the inside of the wash. It was a great literacy tool as well. I stood half way down the wash and blew bubbles as kids came through. Even the most hesitant kids eventually made their way through the wash and many kids made several passes.

Part of the fun of this activity was that I had the parts staged, but not set up during storytime. (Storytime takes place in our children’s library and the only place to put the kid wash was in the space where we sit for storytime.) While I set up, I had the kids close their eyes for a surprise after the story portion. Most kids actually kept them closed until I said I was ready. No one expected a kid wash, so there was no secret to give away. It worked like a charm!

Credit: Susan Dailey

Bathtub ArtBathtub Craft
This simple craft involved a bathtub image, a poem about bathing, and stamping. I photocopied the poem into the middle of the tub image and gave each child one page. They cut out the tub and glued it on to a piece of construction paper (color of their choice). Then they used Do a Dot art markers to create colored bubbles around the bath. These markers are easy to use and satisfying for both preschoolers and toddlers, offering an alternative tool for painting.
Credit:  Read it Again Mom

Song Cube

I love my song cube. Lots of librarians use them and I got the idea awhile back from Anne Hicks over at Anne’s Library Life. The idea is to have kids roll the cube and help select the song(s) we sing which immediately engages them in storytime.

The empty tissue box is covered in bulletin board paper and then clipart is attached to each side. Like Anne, I covered the whole box in book tape after adding the images to lengthen its lifespan. The clipart on each side is an image that symbolizes a song, just as letters, numbers and words are symbols. The name of the song is included below each image.

Once a child rolls the cube, I hold up the cube so everyone can see the image that ended up on top. Then I point to the image and ask if anyone knows a song about a (spider). We read the name of the song together and I mention to parents the importance of print awareness. Then it’s time to sing! I usually have two children roll the cube at the beginning of storytime as families are arriving. If we need a song/movement break in between stories, I’ll have another child roll the cube.


The songs I include on my current song cube are:
If You’re Happy And You Know it
Open Shut Them
Itsy Bitsy Spider
Ring Around The Rosie
ABC Song
Ants Go Marching

Preschool: Trains

Train books

Choo Choo!

There is just something about trains. Most of the kids in our town have not been on one because of our geographic location, but there are still so many train fans! I’m happy to foster their interest during storytime. I’m an enthusiast, too!

As usual, we started storytime with the Song Cube. Even with new families, there is always at least one child who knows how the Story Cube game works.  This week one of the children told us which song she likes best. As I explained to the other children how we play with the cube, she told me which image symbolized her favorite song (Ring Around the Rosie, represented by a bunch of roses). It was a great opportunity to talk to families about the connection between the song cube and early literacy.

Before our first book we sang a song I learned about on the Storytime Underground‘s Facebook page. Check out Storytime Underground for helpful tips and great conversation, both perfect for children’s librarians. I sing it before I read most of the books during storytime.

Song: If You’re Ready for a Story

If you’re ready for a story, clap your hands!
If you’re ready for a story, clap your hands!
If you’re ready for a story, if you’re ready for a story,
If you’re ready for a story, clap your hands!
(jump up high, turn around, sit down please…)

Our first book was a classic, Freight Train (Greenwillow Books, 1978) by Donald Crews. This is a nice book to start with because it has simplefreight train text, but offers opportunities for talking about topics and concepts like colors and the parts of a steam engine.  Kids loved the book and were fascinated when I asked “where did the train go?” on the page with the train passing through the tunnel.  Lots of conversation was had before we continued on.

Inspired by Storytime Katie, I made a felt train similar to the trains in Freight Train. I didn’t retell the story, but I used them with the song Melissa Depper at Mel’s Desk crafted. The kids recognized the train cars and helped me place the trains on the feltboard as we sang the song. Many of the kids were mesmerized as they watched the train grow and listened for the rhyming sounds throughout the song. Lots of phonological awareness happening here!

Felt board: Clickety Clack!

Felt train

Clickety-clack, clickety-clack,
Here comes the train on the railroad track!
Clickety-clunn, clickety-clunn,
Here comes ENGINE number one.
Clickety-clew, clickety-clew,
Here comes COAL CAR number two.
Clickety-clee, clickety-clee,
Here comes BOX CAR number three.
Clickety-clore, clickety-clore,
Here comes TANK CAR number four.
Clickety-clive, clickety-clive,
Here comes COACH CAR number five.
Clickety-clicks, clickety-clicks,
Here’s the CABOOSE, that’s number six.
Clickety-clack, clickety-clack,
There goes the train on the railroad track!
Choo-choooooooo! Goodbye!

(Credit: Mel’s Desk via Storytime Katie)

This theme is a great opportunity to share some non-fiction. The book Seymour Simon’s Book of Trains (Harper Collins Publishers, 2002) is not a book that can be read all the way through in storytime, but we discussed the images on the pages and the information about trains that might make it a good take home book. Kids were quick to point out the similarities between the trains in the book and the freight train in the first book.

Before the next book, we repeated If You’re Ready for a Story with a different action that settled kids and got their attention back on reading together.

The last book can be tricky for some kids to grasp in the storytime setting without explaining the premise. Shark vs. Train (Little Brown, 2010) by Chris Barton is the story of a shark and a train competing in challenges that are both ridiculous and practical based on the natural history of sharks and the mechanics of trains. It is also about two boys who are playing with the shark and train toys and are actually creating the story, which the reader learns until the end of the book. Kids need time to think about this aspect of the book, which I make sure to give them. Some kids even like to turn back through the book and check to see how it reads with this new knowledge.


This week we had two activities.

LEGO Trains

The first, most popular, station was actually right at their feet! Before story time I used masking tape to create a circular train track on the carpet. After the stories and songs, I brought out the collection of large LEGOs which we recently were gifted by the Alaska State Library. What a great present!

We used the LEGOs to construct trains and all sorts of vehicles to run on the track. We used books to make tunnels, learned how to pass other trains (track manners), and talked a lot! This station was easy and had a huge impact.

The second station included the materials to build a paper train. The craft was easy, so caregivers could work with kids without my constant attention. (I was busy playing with LEGOs!)


Paper Train

4-5 pieces of scrapbook paper with different designs (rectangles approximately 2″ x 4″)
skinny strips of black paper (approx. 1″ long) to connect cars
Engine cut out of card stock in various colors, pre-cut
2 black circles (approx. 2″) for engine wheels, pre-cut

Coloring Sheets

For kids too young for either station or just not interested, I left out a variety of train coloring pages printed from the internet. I use coloring pages with illustrations that are realistic, related to the theme, and commercial-free.

Preschool: Summer!

20130526-225947.jpgSummer is here! While the weather is still a bit cool, but school is finished for the year and everyone is excited about what lies ahead in the months to come. Our summer reading program has begun (a week early this year to coincide with the closing of local schools) and so have the summer storytimes. This week, I decided to celebrate the fun expected in the months ahead.

To get us in the mood, I built a campfire in the library complete with wood from home and flames made of tissue paper. It was a great conversation starter! We discussed the steps to build a campfire and the fun you can have camping in the summer. Of course, kids immediately said aloud their favorite campfire foods, s’mores and hot dogs, when I asked “what do you like to do around a campfire?”

Song Cube

Before we read together, we sang together. I introduced the Rhyme Cube, or Song Cube as I call it, which I adopted from Anne Hicks over at Anne’s Library Life. It’s a valuable early literacy tool that is rewarding and fun for kids.20130526-230009.jpg

I demonstrated how the Song Cube works by rolling the cube in front of the kids. When the cube stopped, an image of the letter ‘A’ and some ants, a smiling sun, a spider, etc. was facing up. Below the image was the name of the corresponding familiar rhyme or song.

I made the cube using an empty tissue box which I wrapped in paper. On each side I hot glued a different image and song/rhyme name to the box. I then taped the whole box (not pictured) to help it last a bit longer.

A few kids took turns rolling the cube and we sang the song selected. All of the songs were familiar which made it easy to get the crowd singing along. Each child that rolled the cube smiled broadly as the group sang the song the child chose.It’s a fun way to start storytime and allows families to trickle inn while families already present engaged while they wait.

What is the early literacy value of the Song Cube? Emphasizing the rhyming sounds as we sing the favorite songs builds phonological awareness. It’s also a valuable tool for print awareness. The image on each side relates to the song and becomes a symbol referring to a specific song, much like letters organized in certain combinations in a word or words in the name of a song. I point to the words below each image in the sides of the cube and children see the name of the song.


In addition to camping, summer for kids in our cosmic hamlet means fish, berries, and lots of free play in the long Alaskan days. So, we read a selection of favorite picture books about these pastimes.

Marla Frazee’s A Couple of Boys Have the Week Ever (Harcourt, 2008) is a fun book about summer, grandparents, play, and boys.

Jamberry by Bruce Degan (Harper & Row, 1983) was our second book. The kids love finding the silly additions to the scenes on each page. Toast and berry waterfalls always cause shout outs. The variety of berries familiar to Alaskan kids from summers of picking makes this book a favorite.

Our last book was the wonderful This is Not My Hat, the 2013 Caldecott award winning story by Jon Klassen (candlewick, 2012). It’s a smart, witty story perfect for preschool age kids who love anticipating the tale of the small fish who steals a hat from a very large fish and attempts to hide behind a kelp forest. What happens when the large fish follows the small into the kelp forest? We’ll never know.

Before our craft time, we sang around the campfire!

Campfire Pokey
You put your marshmallow in,
You put your marshmallow out,
You put your marshmallow in,
And you cook it ’till it’s brown.

You do the campfire pokey
and you pop it in your mouth –
That’s what I’m talkin’ about! Yum!

(repeat changing out the different food that can be
cooked over a fire… apples, hotdogs, popcorn, etc.)

Credit: Storytimes with Moxie


Our craft was a paper campfire. The kids enjoyed gluing on the small colored tissue paper squares on to the black cardstock where the flames would be and small sticks where the logs would be. It was a simple craft with simple supplies.