This winter, I definitely wanted to revisit bears as a theme and I knew that I could shake things up enough that kids who were around last year wouldn’t be bored this session.

I had to start off with my favorite storytime book, period — “Old Bear” by Kevin Henkes.

I really like reading this for all the different seasons, especially when the kids get so excited when the season we’re in shows up — and the winter spread is my favorite of the four. (Even though winter is my least favorite season!) Next up, an action rhyme to get the kids pumped:

Action Rhyme: “Bears Eat Honey”
A bear eats honey (pretend to eat)
He thinks it’s yummy
In his tummy (rub tummy)
But the bees don’t think it’s funny!
Buzzzzzzzzzzzz! (make buzzing noise)
Credit: King County Library System

Next up, “Bears on Chairs” by Shirley Parenteau.

My kids love ANYTHING that has counting involved, so needless to say — they were HUGE fans of this one. Afterward, I brought out a special friend (read: bear puppet) to help me do the next song:

Song & Puppet: “Sleepy Bear” (Tune: “Thumbkin”)
Where is bear? Where is bear?
Here I am. Here I am.
How are you this winter?
Very tired, thank you.
Go to sleep. Go to sleep.
(Have kids shout “WAKE UP BEAR” to do the song again.)
Credit: Preschool Education Music & Songs : Animals > Winter

I’ve been doing a lot of “Thumbkin” twists this storytime session, and the kids are really responding to the familiar tune at this point — definitely have some kids humming with me. This song/puppet works out great. Our bear puppet is pretty big, and really expressive, so I pull in his snout and curl him on my knee when he “sleeps” and ask the kids, “Should we wake him to sing again?” We sang this four or five times until one of my little boys said, “LET HIM SLEEP.” So cute!

Next, a book that I invite the kids to read with me — “Orange Pear Apple Bear” by Emily Gravett.

Before I start reading, using the cover, I teach them the four words and what letters that the words start with — and then I go into the books, pointing at the beginning letters to help them figure out which word they should be saying. Sometimes, I wind up with a chorus of answers, sometimes I’m the only one reading. (Especially as the fruits change their colors — trips some of my little guys up.) I followed this book up with the flannel of the day.

Flannelboard: “Ten Teddy Bears Sleeping in the Bed”
Ten little teddy bears sleeping in the bed,
Five at the foot and five at the head.
One little teddy said, “This bed is TOO full!”
So he grabbed the blanket and started to pull.
He pulled and he pulled and he pulled some more,
Until two little teddies went BOOM to the floor!
(Make pulling motions with PULL and clap with the BOOM)

(Count down until…)

One little teddy bear sleeping in the bed,
Zero at the foot and one at the head.
This little teddy said, “This is not right!
I don’t want to sleep alone tonight!”

One little teddy bear sleeping in the bed,
Zero at the foot and one at the head.
This teddy said, “This bed is NOT full!”
So he put out his paw and started to pull.
He pulled and he pulled and he pulled some more,
Until four little teddies climbed up from the floor!

(Count up until…)

Ten little teddy bears sleeping in the bed,
Five at the foot and five at the head.
One little teddy said, “This is JUST right!”
So ten little teddy bears said, “Good Night!”
Susan Pflug, Copyright 1990
Credit: SurLaLune Storytime

Then I had the kids do “Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear” until I got them to sit down for the next story, “Bear In the Air” by Susan Meyers.

This one is on the longer side, and I wasn’t sure that it would hold their attention so late in the storytime. But, I had nothing to fear as usual — the kids were very worried about what was happening to Bear, and were very patient to find out the answer. One last song:

Song: “If You’re a Bear and You Know It”
If you’re a panda bear and you know it, clap your paws
If you’re a polar bear and you know it, show your teeth
If you’re a grizzly bear and you know it, growl real loud
Credit: Childhood

And our last book — “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Eric Carle.

My library has multiple board books copies of this one in the storytime collection — so each child and caregiver got a copy to read along with me reading our big-book copy. Our parents love when we do this, and I think it serves such a great literacy skills purpose (teaching both print motivation and print awareness!) that the minor cost (about $75-100 for each set) is worth it.

Our craft was once again from KidsSoup and was very well received.

26 comments on “Bears!

  1. Amanda
    February 23, 2011 at 3:41 pm #

    I did a bear storytime last week! We found a very cute hibernation song (to Frere Jacques):

    Bears are sleeping, bears are sleeping
    In their lairs, in their lairs
    Soon it will be springtime, soon it will be springtime
    Wake up bears! Wake up bears!

    • Katie
      February 23, 2011 at 3:42 pm #

      Love it! So cute, and well-fit in the tune!

  2. Abby
    February 24, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    Loooove this!!!
    That thumbkin song is awesome – I am totally doing that. 😀

  3. Tracey
    October 1, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

    Thanks so much for recommending Bears on Chairs–soooooo cute!

  4. Trista
    October 30, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

    Love this! Totally doing it. Thanks for posting. 🙂

    • Katie
      October 31, 2013 at 9:30 am #


  5. Emily
    March 22, 2019 at 1:47 pm #

    Your website is such an amazing and thorough resource. I’ve been cobbling together my own system and having your and others’ help has been invaluable. Thank you for all the time and effort you put in.

    I do have one request/complaint, however: please consider swapping genders evenly on your fingerplays, songs, etc. Almost everything of this ilk that I see in books or on the internet assumes default male, and that drives me crazy. I don’t want the little girls in my storytimes feeling invisible because everything everywhere is “he, he, he.” It gets to the point that when I’m reading umpteenth book with a male protagonist I simply adapt as I read to make the character female.

    This seems to be the unaddressed side of the diversity in children’s literature movement, especially for the very young. I feel proud when I see our picture book displays featuring a variety of shapes, colors, sizes, and abilities in the children on the covers, but these older folk songs and fingerplays have not yet been brought up to date.

    Would be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

    • Katie
      March 25, 2019 at 2:11 pm #

      Hi Emily!

      Thank you so much for comment.

      I’ve actually stopped using any he/she pronouns unless the book text explicitly uses it. All of my fingerplays and flannelboards are done in the “they” pronoun so I can be as inclusive as possible. I just haven’t updated the older posts to reflect that. I think I will definitely address this in an upcoming ALSC blog post (probably June’s post) and I’ll link that post to this comment when I write it. I really appreciated your feedback and definitely think that we need to call this into attention in the library (and beyond) world. Thanks again!

      • Emily
        March 26, 2019 at 9:37 am #

        Thanks for your reply, Katie. I’m so heartened to hear that you’ve been thinking about this too. Hopefully many more are as well.
        I look forward to reading your upcoming blog post!


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