Discovery!: Throwback Games


For this spring session of “Discovery!”, we switched to a 30-45 minute format instead of the hour long program it had been in the fall. This worked so much better for our families!

I wanted to start off the session with another icebreaker type of activity so that the kids would become familiar with me and be cool with the harder/more complicated things we might try in the future. Instead of doing the parachute as an icebreaker (I did use it later on in the session!), I went with a throwback game session so that parents would also have some fun with me.

To start it off, we read two books:


Playground Day by Jennifer J. Merz
Follow the Leader by Erica Silverman

And that led us straight into our games:

1. “Follow the Leader” I played this in a slightly modified version where each child got to tell us what they wanted the group to do. Instead of having the child led the line, we just stayed in our group bunch. Most of the kids decided that we should jump, so be prepared for that possibility.

2. “Red Light, Green Light” I had the kids line up against the wall of our meeting room and stood at the other end. I turned my back to them and called “Green Light” while they all raced towards me. I shouted “Red Light” and turned around quickly to catch any kiddos that didn’t freeze in time. Since I was playing with preschoolers, we did not play for “winners” in any of the games and just played for fun. So as far as the kids know, none of these games have a winner.

3. “Musical Cushions” I wasn’t about to use chairs with preschoolers since that seemed like a recipe for disaster. As each child was knocked out, I let them control the CD player for the next round. Most of the kids decided that the best part of the day was when they got to push the CD player buttons!

4. “Duck, Duck Goose” This is where having parents help the kids was imperative, otherwise they all tried to run at the same time to chase the runner. I spent most of this game running with the “goose” to help them around the circle. Again, we didn’t play for winners, so no one was taken out by the game.

And that was it! I had a few other games in my head (Mother, May I? & Simon Says) but we were running short on time anyways. And I didn’t take any pictures since I was very busy facilitating the whole ordeal, but I sure had fun.

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Flannel Friday: Animal Flashcards

Adorable animal flashcards are this week’s prop!


I used these in toddler storytime and sang “Where is Animal?” to the tune of “Where is Thumbkin?”

Prop Song: “Where Are Animals?”**
Where is [animal]? Where is [animals]?
Here I am. Here I am.
How are you today, sir? Very well, I thank you.
Run away. Run away.
Credit: Modified from childhood

I purchased this clip art from Pink Pueblo’s Etsy shop. Each animal print-out was backed with a piece of blue cardstock for stability. Then, together, they were laminated.

Andrea is hosting the round-up today! You can also check out our website, Pinterest, or Facebook!

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Families: Boxes

For more information on how I plan and prepare my family storytimes, check out this introduction post. I starred the materials used in the plan. Some activities go unstarred because I only do this program once a week.

The Plan



Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell*
Meeow and the Big Box by Sebastien Braun*
My Book Box by Will Hillenbrand
Not a Box! by Antoinette Portis

Early Literacy Tip

Let children explore using their imagination. We’ve all seen the time after we’ve unpacked a new item or toy and our child is more interested in the box than the toy. Let them imagine whatever they want the box to be!

Theme Extension Activities

Featured CD: Wiggleworms’s “Wiggleworms Love You”*

Featured Track: #4 Little Red Caboose*

Flannelboard: “Building Blocks”

Flannelboard: “Color Zoo”*

Prop: “Memory Box”*

Fingerplay: “I Have a Little Turtle”*
I have a little turtle
He lives in a box
He swims in a puddle
And he lives on the rocks
He snapped at a mosquito
He snapped at a flea
He snapped at a minnow
And he snapped at me
He caught the mosquito
He caught the flea
He caught the minnow
But he didn’t catch me!
Credit: Childhood

Repeating Extension Activities

I had four back-up activities in case I needed them for time. I rarely used them, but here they are:

  • Dance Your Fingers Up*
  • Head, Shoulders, Knees, & Toes
  • Itsy Bitsy Spider
  • Thumbkin*

How It Went

This was our time change this past week, so the kids were extra wiggly. The kids sat super well for “Meeow and the Big Box”, but really wanted to come up during “Dear Zoo” and lift the flaps for me. (Luckily I stand for this storytime and there’s no chance of them getting ahead of the flaps.) I skipped the “Building Blocks” flannelboard because I worried that I didn’t have enough pieces for all the kids. (I have fifty pieces.)

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Shake, Shimmy, & Dance: 7/22

For the first time in our library’s history, we ran our own summer reading program — Make Some Noise! What better opportunity to do a bi-weekly music and movement dance party? This program was advertised for ages 0-7 and their families.


The Plan

Brontorina by James Howe
I love the story of Brontorina. The kids and I did our very best ballet dancer impersonations today and pliéd and relevéd to the best of my teaching ability. (I took two years of ballet when I was a child. I remember first, third, and fifth position. That’s it.) But despite our nowhere near perfect ballet steps, they had a great time dancing and hearing Brontorina’s story.

Parachute! (WARNING: Measure your room before you buy a chute!! This one just fits in our large meeting space, but I almost bought the next size up based on the handles…)

The Playlist

Hello & How Are You? — Old Town School of Folk Music
Walkin’ Shoes — Carole Peterson
The Airplane Song — Laurie Berkner Band
Rolling Ball — Eric Litwin and Michael Levine
Fast & Slow — Laurie Berkner Band
Take the Sun — Caspar Babypants
Very, Very Tall — Old Town School of Folk Music
Shake Hands With Friends — Ella Jenkins

How It Went

The families are officially pros at the parachute. When I ask the kids to touch the wall, they run to it and stay there until I’ve shaken out the chute. I got more than a little teary-eyed during “The Airplane Song” this week — partially because of Angie (who once mentioned that the thought of the kids sitting down in their hometown made her tear up), partially because the kids are so darn cute I can’t even, and partially because I think the new library finally feels like home to me.

(For an example of the Powerpoint and handouts that I made for each Shake, Shimmy please visit the original post.)

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Toddlers: Music

For more information on how I plan and prepare my toddler storytimes, check out this introduction post. And for a complete list of the repeating extension activities, visit this post. I starred the materials used in the plan; multiple stars indicate use for more than one session.

The Plan



The Babies on the Bus by Karen Katz*
I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More by Karen Beaumont
If You’re Happy and You Know It by David Carter
Row, Row, Row Your Boat by Jane Cabrera*

Early Literacy Tip

Even if you can’t sing on key, be sure to sing to your child! Your child is not looking for a concert-quality song; he/she wants familiar sounds from a person who means a great deal to them.

Theme Extension Activities

Featured CD: Rockin’ Red by The Learning Groove

Featured Track: “I Can Shake My Shaker Egg”*

Flannelboard: “Brown Bear, Brown Bear”*

Flannelboard: “Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes”*

Repeating Extension Activities

  • Open, Shut Them*
  • These Are My Glasses*
  • This Is Big, Big, Big*
  • Zoom Zoom Zoom*

How It Went

Tuesday morning
I had such singing, it was amazing! I should have led off with “Row, Row, Row” though — it would have made a better leading book. The group loved “Zoom Zoom Zoom”! Singing “Brown Bear” is always a tip they love to hear over and over again.

And there were no Thursday classes this week, sadness! I came down with the plague cold that I’m still fighting over a month later.

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Flannel Friday: Lots of Cars!

Today’s flannelboard was one I found at Miss Meg’s Storytime!


“Lots of Cars”
There are lots of cars driving down the street (pretend to have a steering wheel)
Tell me what color do you see? (place color car on felt board)
Big cars, little cars (spread arms big and little)
Beep! Beep! Beep!
There are lots of cars driving down the street!

I used Homemade by Jill’s car template which I had pinned on Pinterest a few years back. I kept my cars really simple since I was using this flannelboard in toddlers and wanted them to be able to play with them afterwards.

Laura is hosting the round-up today! You can also check out our website, Pinterest, or Facebook!

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Families: Ocean

For more information on how I plan and prepare my family storytimes, check out this introduction post. I starred the materials used in the plan. Some activities go unstarred because I only do this program once a week.

The Plan



Fish, Swish, Splash, Dash by Suze MacDonald
Hooray for Fish! by Lucy Cousins*
I’m a Shark! by Bob Shea*
Who’s Is the Ocean? by Dorothea Deprisco

Early Literacy Tip

When we do songs like the “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, we are working on new vocabulary (itsy bitsy, teeny weeny, great big hairy) and letting our children hear the song multiple times. Repetition is so much important for little ears!

Theme Extension Activities

Featured CD: Laurie Berkner’s “Best of Laurie Berkner Band”*

Featured Track: #13 The Goldfish

Flannelboard: “I’m the Biggest Thing In the Ocean”*

Flannelboard: “Five Little Fishes Swimming In the Sea”*
(This is just a play on “Five Little Monkeys Swinging In a Tree” and I used a shark puppet to gobble up the fish.)

Puppet: “If You Ever See a Fishy”* (Tune of “Did You Ever See a Lassie?”)
Did you ever see a fishy, a fishy, a fishy
Did you ever see a fishy, swim this way and that?
Swim this way and that way, and that way and this way?
Did you ever see a fishy, swim this way and that?
Credit: Childhood

Song: “Baby Shark”
Baby shark, do-do doot-doot
Baby shark, do-do doot-doot
Baby shark, do-do doot-doot, doo
(Repeat with Mama Shark, Papa Shark, and Grandpa Shark. Baby Shark is done with two hands, wrists touching to make a shark mouth. Mama Shark is slightly bigger, Papa Shark is bigger than Mama. For Grandpa Shark, fold fingers in and clap with no teeth.)
Credit: My amazing co-worker Amanda

Repeating Extension Activities

I had four back-up activities in case I needed them for time. I rarely used them, but here they are:

  • Dance Your Fingers Up
  • Head, Shoulders, Knees, & Toes
  • Itsy Bitsy Spider*
  • Thumbkin

How It Went

At this point, during our opening song (“Hello Friends”), our American Sign Language has gotten so good! I love seeing the kids and parents/caregivers participate so much during our songs. My crowds keep getting larger and that is such a positive thing! The best part of this storytime was definitely “The Goldfish” — the kids loved dancing along with that song and playing.

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Early Literacy Messages In Action!

[Graphic by Kelly of Ms. Kelly at the Library!]

Nearly a month ago, Lindsey from Jbrary tweeted this out:


And I knew immediately that I was *IN* for this project.


You’re avoiding using early literacy tips in storytime. You’re thinking that parents have got enough to do without adding another thing to their plate. You’re thinking that parents will feel attacked and be frustrated with you. And you might be thinking, “Who am I — a woman without children — to try and explain anything to caregivers about the children that they know best?”

And by “you” in that story, I’m actually talking about me.

Yep. It took me a long time to get comfortable with early literacy tips and using them. But I believe in them SO MUCH that I regularly include four to five tips in each week’s storytime. And yes, you heard that number right. Let me take the time to break down those concerns up above.


toddlerhandouts1. Parents have enough to do with adding another thing to their plate.

Yes, that’s true. But many parents are showing up in storytime FOR that extra guidance. So here’s how you can present it without making anyone feel like it’s an assignment: put it in that handout. Every week, I write up some of the early literacy tips from The Early Literacy Kit and tie it into Every Child Ready to Read 2. I often change up the activity to match the theme of the week. On the reverse side is an activity page for the child. (On the inside is a booklist and some fingerplays/songs that we sang that week. You can see the front and inside on this ALSC blog post.)

And now they’re there. The parents that are interested in going further can and other parents don’t have to feel guilty.

2. Parents will feel attacked and be frustrated with you.

Here’s where reading from a card will get you in trouble. I use scripted early literacy tips as a jumping off point. I will write out the whole tip on my storytime plan, but what comes out of my mouth is a completely different story.

For example, in for my Family Storytime about cake, I wrote out: “Children can help you measuring things in all kinds of ways — in deciding whether something will fit in a certain space, in cooking, and in making things. Understanding the concept of measuring begins to develop one of the mathematical skills children will need in school.” What actually came out of my mouth? “The next time you’re baking at home, ask your child if they’d like to help ‘The Little Red Hen’ out. Measuring is a great math skill!”

See the difference? The first one sounds preachy and know-it-all if I were to say it out loud. (I don’t think it sounds that way written out though.) The second way is much more conversational and it ties into the book I had just finished reading, creating a pretty flawless transition.

3. Who am I to explain anything to caregivers about *their* children?

First of all, you’re an educated early literacy specialist, that’s who! Everything that I do at storytime has a benefit or a reason behind it. The easiest way to share early literacy tips is to explain WHY you’re doing the activity in storytime.

When I passed out foam hearts to the kids to dance with during Hugs and Kisses storytime, I also encouraged the kids to give them to the caregivers and the other kids. Why did I do this seemingly silly activity? “Today, we’re practicing sharing since our toddlers will be school-age soon and in need of this skill!”

When my toddlers got too fussy, I kept it real at Cars storytime. I told the parents it was okay to put down a book if their child was becoming too frustrated. And then I did it! “Our group seems ready to get up and move, am I right? Let’s put this book away — and feel free to do this at home, too! Let’s make reading fun.”

When some parents expressed a frustration with reading the same old book every night, I introduced a new way to sing a familiar book (Brown Bear sung to Twinkle Twinkle) in babytime. “This is a great way to re-visit an old favorite in a new way!”


It takes time for these to flow out naturally and organically. And if it doesn’t for you — write them out in conversation style beforehand. Practice in your mirror. Use your family. If you have pets, dogs make great test subjects for storytime prep! (If my dog-nephew Winston tries to kiss me while I sing, I know it’s a hit.)

I actually started using tips with my Song Cube. I memorized tips to tell parents depending on what song comes up. And even after several sessions, I still have to model how to sing the ABCs to Mary Had a Little Lamb every time!


So, how do parents receive the tips and do they provide feedback? Here’s some quotes from our Winter 2015 storytimes. (Spring 2015 isn’t yet typed up; summer reading is coming!!)

I liked how the program included the parents or the caregiver.

I love the research and explanations that Ms. Katie provides.

[Co-worker] did a great job in teaching the parents different methods of interaction with books & our children.

Katie does a terrific job explaining the “why” behind activities.


And that’s why I think early literacy messages are so important. If you’d like to talk more about them, please leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter: @storytimekatie.

And make sure to check out Jbrary‘s round-up of all the posts this Friday!

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Toddlers: Food

For more information on how I plan and prepare my toddler storytimes, check out this introduction post. And for a complete list of the repeating extension activities, visit this post. I starred the materials used in the plan; multiple stars indicate use for more than one session.

The Plan



Chew, Chew, Gulp by Lauren Thompson*
Edible Colors by Jennifer Vogel Bass***
The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, & the Big Hungry Bear by Audrey Wood
Lunch by Denise Fleming***

Early Literacy Tip

Songs that focus on body parts and their actions increase children’s awareness of how different parts of the body can start specific movements. By using their muscles to make the motions in a song, children develop both their gross motor skill and body self-awareness.

Theme Extension Activities

Featured CD: Songs for Wiggleworms

Featured Track: “Peanut Butter and Jelly”***

Flannelboard: “Five Red Strawberries”***

Flannelboard: “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”**

Repeating Extension Activities

  • Dance Your Fingers*
  • Roly Poly**
  • Slowly, Slowly***
  • These Are My Glasses**
  • This Is Big, Big, Big***
  • Wake Up Toes**

How It Went

Tuesday morning
I had such laughter from the group when Bear ate the five red strawberries off the flannelboard. This group did an amazing job listening today, which is not our normal. I gave out egg shakers during “Peanut Butter and Jelly” and the toddlers went to town shaking them. They shook so hard we couldn’t hear the music. But that’s life, I guess!

Thursday morning (9:30)
We got through two books again today, hooray! The kids and parents/caregivers had a great time singing today, so they will love next week’s theme. (Spoiler alert: it is music!) We had low attendance today though because it was negative twenty-eight degrees in Chicagoland. One of my little boys was the best ever at naming the fruits and veggies in “Edible Colors”.

Thursday morning (10:30)
My group was strangely subdued today, but that meant we read three books, of which “Edible Colors” was their favorite. The toddlers thought I was dancing CRAZY during “Peanut Butter and Jelly”, but I got lots of laughs. Their favorite rhyme of the day was “Roly Poly”.

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Discovery!: Process vs. Product Art


This was my simplest Discovery! program for good reason: it was the end of the session and I had two presentations during the month of November to prepare for. I purposely planned the most intense programming towards the beginning when my energy would be up.

The Plan

Brief Art Storytime


The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse by Eric Carle
A Day With No Crayons by Elizabeth Rusch
Monsters Love Colors by Mike Austin

Flannelboard: “Mouse Paint”

Free Art

I made sure to explain to parents and caregivers what a product art is and what process art is. Today, the group was going to concentrate on the process of creating and not making a product. I had different craft supplies out — paper, paper bag, paper plates, crayons, feathers, buttons, glue, scissors, markers, felt scraps, etc. The important point of today’s program was to have the kids enjoy doing their art. Furthermore, this was about letting them touch the supplies without saying “No, do it this way.” (Obviously, if it was a safety I did ask them to intervene.)

Here’s just a few pictures of the day:


How It Went

The kids loved the book selections. A few of my boys were excellent at color identification and color mixing. During “Mouse Paint”, they proclaimed loudly, “Those are the PRIMARY colors and those are the SECONDARY colors.” (Librarian pride!) I had several parents and caregivers compliment me on giving the kids the freedom to explore these materials without providing a sample. Overall, while this was a shorter program (about forty-five minutes instead of an hour), this was also a huge success in my book.

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