Storytime

Favorite Baby Songs

For more baby storytime posts explore:

Music is a staple of baby storytime. It is more valuable for little ones to hear people singing instead of recorded music. When singing acapella, adults can slow down words to help little ones hear small parts. Little ones often respond more to their parent’s voices than recorded music, and singing can help build the child-caregiver bond. I use a scattering of well known songs throughout storytimes that we will sing as a group without backing music (often Wheels on the Bus or If You’re Happy and You Know It).

However, like many folks, my voice is far, far away from Beyonce’s. My singing can be politely described as off-key. I sing in front of parents and poke fun at myself, reminding them that if I can sit in front of 100 people and sing horribly, they can do it with their child who doesn’t know any better. For everyone’s sake, however, I include a good amount of recorded music in my storytime. My favorite songs are linked below.

Just like my rhymes and other activities, all the words to songs are on my PowerPoint in the front of the room:

Kids Music – Storytime Songs

These are my favorite songs to use as an element of storytime (like books, rhymes, and puppets).

Kids Music – Play Music

These are some of my favorite kids songs that I use for play time.

Popular Music

Popular music is a great way to engage parents in a storytime as well as littles.

Top Baby Movement Rhymes

Each week, I present at least one baby storytime for fairly large crowds. My general storytime outline remains very similar week to week, particularly after my regular co-presenter and I worked together to make sure our dueling weekly storytimes followed the same general plan.

One staple of any baby storytime, mine included, are bounce rhymes. These are excellent tools to help little ones feel the rhythm in words (building phonological awareness), to keep both little ones and adults engaged in the program, and to provide caregiver/child bonding–the caregiver is essentially forced to participate by having to move their child.

I call these types of rhymes “movement rhymes” instead of “bounce rhymes” after having a parent (nicely) call me out after a program when she pointed out that the three rhymes I used that week–all of which I referred to as bounce rhymes–actually mostly involved swaying, lifting, and movements other than bouncing.

I also don’t tend to use traditional Mother Goose rhymes. This is one (of a few) ways that I deviate from the Mother Goose on the Loose program. That program is excellent–take a look at their website, read the book, take a course–and I think about the research behind that program when structuring and selecting activities for my storytime.

However, I struggle with MGOL because (1) we have large crowds that can’t accommodate some of the activities well (like the drum), (2) my programs tend to focus on older babies (10-24 months) who want to move a lot, and (3) the rhymes, particularly nursery rhymes, are dated. Goosey Goosey Gander (arguably) either references Catholic priests being persecuted or has sexual overtones. Maybe its my immaturity, but I can’t bring myself to say “two little dicky birds” in front of a group of adults. I know there is research backing up the value of nursery rhymes, but, frankly, I didn’t grow up with many of these, and the parents I work with didn’t either. The parents don’t know them, the parents find them weird, and if the parents aren’t enjoying the program, the babies aren’t coming. Unless it is one of those nursery rhymes that has really stood the test of time (like Itsy Bitsy Spider) I tend to choose rhymes that have a more modern feel.

After quite a bit of intro, I am happy to share some of my favorite movement rhymes. I take credit for inventing absolutely none of these. During a storytime, these are always repeated twice (and sometimes three times).

All of my rhymes appear on the PowerPoint at the front of the room to encourage parents to recite along.

A Bouncing We Will Go
A bouncing we will go,
A bouncing we will go,
Hi ho the derry-o
A bouncing we will go.

Continue with: Rocking, Tickling

Five Little Riders
Five little riders on a nice fall day
Jumped on their ponies and rode far away.
They galloped int he meadow.
They galloped up a hill (lift)
The galloped so fast (fast)
That they all took a spill. (tip over)

Gregory Griggs
Greggory Griggs, Gregory Griggs
Had 27 different wigs.
He wore them up (lift)
He wore them down
To please the people of the town.
He worse them east (tip to one side)
He wore them west (tip to the other side)
But which one did he love the best?
This one! (hug)

A Hippopotamus on a City Bus
A hip, a hip, a hippopotamus
Got on, got on, got on a city bus
And all, and all, and all the people said,
“You’re squishing us!” (hug)

A cow, a cow
A cow got on the bus
And all, and all, and all the people said,
“Mooooove over!“ (tilt sideways)

A sheep, a sheep,
A sheep got on the bus
And all, and all, and all the people said,
“Baaaack up!“ (lean back)

Humpty Dumpty
Rock and rock and rock on the wall (sway)
Rock and rock; I hope we don’t fall!

Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall! (tilt backwards)

All the kings horses and all the kings men (bounce fast)
Couldn’t put Humpty together again!

I Bounce You Here
I bounce you here, I bounce you there,
I bounce you, bounce you, everywhere! (lift)

I tickle you here, I tickle you there,
I tickle you, tickle you, everywhere!

I hug you here, I hug you there,
I hug you, hug you, everywhere!

Popcorn, Popcorn
Popcorn, popcorn (bounce gently)
Sittin’ in the pot.
Shake it up, shake it up. (wiggle baby)
Pop! Pop! Pop! (bounce high 3 times)

Snuggle Up
Snuggle up together
Baby’s in your lap.
Snuggle up together
And clap, clap, clap

Snuggle up together
Don’t you nap.
Snuggle up together
And tap, tap, tap. (tap feet)

You’re workin’ out together
Baby don’t stop.
You’re workin’ out together
So hop, hop, hop. (big bounce)

Now our song is over
Get ready to stop.
Now our song is over
So stop, stop, stop.

Tick-Tock
Tick-tock, tick-tock, (sway)
I’m a little cuckoo clock.
Tick-tock, tick-tock,
Now it’s almost one o’clock.
Cuckoo! (lift)

Tiny Little Babies
Tiny little babies love bouncin’ bouncin’
Tiny little babies love bouncin’, yeah.
Tiny little babies love bouncin’, bouncin’
Tiny little babies love bouncin’ so.

Bounce to the left, bounce to the right
Now hug that baby nice and tight!

Toast in the Toaster
I’m toast in the toaster,
I’m getting very hot!
Tick tock, tick tock,
Up I pop!

Two Little Boats
(Tilt forward and backward)
Two little boats went out to sea
All is calm as calm can be.

(Tilt side to side)
Gently the wind begins to blow
Two little boats rock to and fro.

(Bounce up and down)
Loudly the wind begins to shout.
Two little boats they bounce about.

STOP! Goes the storm, the wind, and rain (freeze)
Two little boats sail on again (rock forward and backward)

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom
Zoom, zoom, zoom
We’re going to the moon.
Zoom, zoom, zoom,
We’ll get there very soon.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1…
BLAST OFF! (lift)

Baby Storytime Outline

I don’t write up weekly storytime reports, as I don’t theme my storytimes, and I repeat quite a lot of content week to week and month to month. While two back to back storytimes contain different content, the first storytime of December and the first storytime of January may have many similar elements.

Generally, I think of storytimes in “seasons.” (January-April, summer, and August-December). In each season, I try not to repeat the book I use. However, the set of books used from January-April will look very similar to the set of books used in August-December. Summer is essentially a mixture of my favorite activities that work best with large crowds (especially since I will typically only present about four storytimes in the summer due to our staff size and reduced schedule). In the two longer “seasons”, I make an effort to rotate through about six manipulatives and to take about a month between reusing a rhyme or song (except for the rhymes and songs that are repeated week to week).

Some things that have changed since my last baby storytime outlines:

  • For simplicity, we have changed our baby storytime name from Wee Wonders to Baby Storytime.
  • The program is more clearly defined for ages 0-24 months. We used to list the ages as 0-2, and we had more two-year-olds attending the program than we do now.
  • My co-presenter and I worked together to create a core outline that we use for our baby storytimes. Our powerpoint layout, opening song, opening rhyme, number of books, and activity order is always the same. We have slightly different endings because I don’t quite have the confidence to free dance at the end of my storytime (with bubbles and music), but I am hoping to get to that point in the next few weeks.

The songs, rhymes, stories, and activities I used for a 25-minute baby storytime, followed by 20 minutes of free play in January 2020 are below. Our baby storytime is for ages 0-24 months, with most children being 12-24 months old. Approximately 68 people attended this storytime, including about 35 babies.

My powerpoint is available here:

Room Setup: Doors open about 5 minutes before storytime. Powerpoint slides are displayed on a smartboard at the front of the room with words to all songs and rhymes. As folks enter, two bubble machines are hard at work in the front of the room while baby songs play from the department iTunes account.

Welcome Song: Wake Up Feet (play from 0:14 to 1:00)
Wake up feet, wake up feet
Wake up feet and wiggle, wiggle, wiggle
Wake up feet, wake up feet
Wake and wiggle in the morning.
Continue with: Legs, Arms, Hands

Welcome Rhyme: Clap and Sing Hello
We clap and sing hello,
We clap and sing hello,
With all our friends at storytime,
We clap and sing hello!

Continue with: kick and sing hello, wave and sing hello

Focused Early Literacy Tip: The shape of the human face is the first thing a baby learns to recognize. Young babies focus best of faces and objects held 8-10 inches away.

Book: Toes, Ears, & Nose! by Marion Dane Bauer

Song: Row, Row, Row Your Boat from Songs for Wiggleworms

Body Rhyme: 1 Little, 2 Little, 3 Little Finders
1 little, 2 little 3 little fingers
4 little, 5 little, 6 little fingers
7 little, 8 little, 9 little fingers
10 little fingers on my hand.

They wiggle and they wiggle and they wiggle all together.
They wiggle and they wiggle and they wiggle all together.
They wiggle and they wiggle and they wiggle all together.
10 little fingers on my hand.

Continue with: Clap, Tickle

Song: If You’re Happy and You Know It (sang without music)

Body Rhyme: Slowly, Slowly
Slowly, slowly, very slowy
Creeps the garden snail.
Slowly, slowly, very slowly
Up the wooden rail.

Quickly, quickly, very quickly
Runs the little mouse.
Quickly, quickly, very quickly
Round about the house.

Song: What Shall We Do With the Sleeping Baby by Rainbow Songs

Movement Rhymes: This portion of my storytime involves 2-3 rhymes that specifically focus on bouncing, swaying, or tilting to the rhythm of the words. I talk about how these types of rhymes help develop phonological awareness.

  • Tick-Tock
    Tick-tock, tick-tock, (sway)
    I’m a little cuckoo clock.
    Tick-tock, tick-tock,
    Now it’s almost one o-clock.
    Cuckoo! (lift)
  • Five Little Riders
    Five little riders on a nice fall day (bounce)
    Jumped on their ponies and rode far away.
    They galloped in the meadow.
    They galloped up a hill (lift)
    They galloped so fast (fast)
    That they all took a spill. (tip over)
  • Two Little Boats
    (tilt forward and backward)
    Two little boats went out to sea.
    All is calm as calm can be.

    (tilt side to side)
    Gently the wind begins to blow.
    Two little boats rock to and fro.

    (Bounce up and down)
    Loudly the wind begins to shout!
    Two little boats they bounce about!

    STOP! Goes the storm, the wind, and rain. (freeze)
    Two little boats sail on again. (rock forward and backward)

Puppet Time: Who’s in the Barnyard?
An oink, a moo
A cockle-doodle-doo
Who’s in the barnyard
Playing peekaboo?

This week’s friends: Cow, Pig, Horse, Dog, Cat

Manipulative Time: Shaker Eggs

  • Manipulative Rhyme: We Shake and Shake
    We shake and shake and shake and stop.
    We shake and shake and shake and stop.
    We shake and shake and shake and shake and shake and shake and shake and shake and shake and shake and STOP!
    Continue with: Tap, Bounce

Closing Song: Skinnamarink by Sharon Lois and Bram

Discovery Time Activities: Discovery Time is 15-20 minutes of free-play at the end of storytime that encourages parents to have time to talk to one another and for parents to interact with their children. I try to include a variety of fine motor, gross motor, and sensory activities that appeal to my wide age range as well as a mixture of purchased toys and items that parents can remake at home. This week’s activities included:

  • Cereal Boxes and Straws
  • Ball Pit Balls and Pool Noodle Pieces in Baby Pools
  • Tumbling Mats with Soft Blocks
  • Sensory Tiles
  • Sensory Bottles
  • Pom Pom Drop

Baby Play: Sensory Bottles

After each of my baby storytimes, I include a Discovery Time free-play session that encourages parents to talk to one another and to interact with their children. I include a variety of fine motor, gross motor, and sensory activities that appeal to 0-2-year-olds.

Sensory play is very important for all ages but especially for babies. Babies are exploring concepts (like gravity and motion) and textures for the first time. Their brains are growing at exponential rates as they learn how they can manipulative the world around them.

There are so many ways to encourage sensory play in a storytime setting. I regularly use textured tiles, liquid tiles, sensory boards, sensory bags, and, more recently, sensory bottles. Unless the program is designed and advertised as play only, I avoid sensory bins (except for water play) since objects inside those bins are often choking hazards (and there isn’t enough time to clean up beans, rice, sand, or water beads from the floor between story times).

Sensory bottles allow little ones to manipulate liquids without getting wet or manipulate small objects that would be a choking hazard or dangerous if left out for free play.

My most recent set of bottles included:

  • Mixtures of oil and water with food coloring
  • Water Beads
  • Water with small plastic spoons
  • Hair gel with suspended items
  • Oil with chunks of floating glitter glue

You can also add objects to create sound bottles like:

  • Paperclips
  • Thumbtacks
  • Googly Eyes
  • Keys

How to Make

Materials: Voss water bottles (the best type of bottle), materials to fill bottles, clear packing tape

Steps:

  • Empty Voss water bottle. Carefully peel off all labels. These should come off cleanly with no leftover residue.
  • Fill bottle with desired items or mixture.
  • Wrap 2-3 layers of clear tape around bottom of cap.

Cost: $12+ (depends what you have on hand)

Time to Make: 5 minutes

Tips: Voss bottles are the way to go. These are the perfect size for small hands and the labels peel off perfectly, creating a clear, smooth surface.

You can hot glue the bottle closed as well, but babies will not try to peel off tape they can’t see. Clear packing tape around the clear bottle is essentially not visible to little ones, so they don’t try to open the bottle. We’ve never had a child successfully get into a taped bottle.

Conversation Starters

Start conversations as babies play with this tool by asking questions like:

  • What happens when you shake the bottle?
  • What sound does the bottle make if you shake it?
  • What happens if you turn the bottle upside down?
  • Do the items in the bottle float?
  • What colors are in the bottle?
  • How many items are in the bottle?
  • What would you put in a bottle?

Stretch Vocabulary

When talking with little ones, use big words and small words. The more new words a child hears, the larger their vocabulary will be when they start to learn to read.

Consider using some of the following vocabulary words when using this activity:

Bounce
Drip
Faint
Fast
Float
Hash

Jolt
Knock
Loud
Muffled
Pleasant
Quickly

Quiet
Rattle
Shake
Slow
Soft
Wiggle

Baby Shark Storytime

Baby Shark is popular. I know this. I use the song regularly in my storytimes for all ages. However, I don’t think I realized how popular until I had 185 kids and adults crammed in our programming space.

Like many libraries, we are generally short-staffed on the weekends. While we provide a weekly Saturday storytime, many of our other popular programs, especially for the 0-5 crowd, take place on weekdays. This works better for us, and those events still get large crowds, but working parents do not often get a chance to attend these party style events.

This was my second Saturday Tales @ 10 “takeover” (read about Mother Bruce Storytime to learn about my first one). I like using this programming slot for a bigger event because you have a guaranteed built-it audience (our regular weekend storytime attendees), and you also provide an opportunity to attract new faces to the library without having to ask for an additional staff member to work that weekend to cover your desk time.

Baby Shark Storytime was a celebration of all things Baby Shark. We had a shark-themed storytime followed by a collection of shark activities in place of our regular free play.

My storytime powerpoint is available below:

Storytime

My storytime followed a very similar structure to our standard family storytime. I tried to not make everything Baby Shark related so that parents wouldn’t pull their hair out (though, surprisingly, I think this just confused parents).

Opening Song: I Wake Up My Hands by Rainbow Songs

Opening Rhyme: Open, Shut Them
Open, shut them; open shut them.
Let your hands go clap, clap, clap.
Open, shut them; open, shut them.
Drop them in your lap, lap, lap.

Walk them, walk them,
Walk them, walk them,
Right up to your chin, chin, chin.
Open your little mouth,
But do not let them in!

Book: Bedtime for Baby Shark
This baby shark title has some easy to replicate hand motions without just singing the song (which we will get to) as a group in book form.

Song: Row, Row, Row Your Boat by Old Town School of Folk Music

Fingerplay: Two Little Sharks
Two little sharks in the deep blue sea.
One named Luna and one named Lee.
Swim away Luna, swim away Lee!
Come back, Luna, come back Lee!

Action Rhyme: Slippery Fish
Slippery fish, slippery fish, swimming through the water.
Slippery fish, slippery fish, Gulp, Gulp, Gulp! (clap)
Oh no! It’s been eaten by a…

Continue with: Octopus, Great White Shark, Humongous Whale

Magnet: Five Sharks in the Bathtub
One shark in the bathtub
Going for a swim
Knock, knock (clap twice)
Splash, splash (slap knees twice)
Come on in! (wave)

Book: Shark in the Park

Music: Baby Shark! by Pinkfong

Magnet: Five Little Fishies
Five little fishies, swimming in the sea.
Teasing Mr. Shark — “You Can’t Catch Me!”
Along comes Mr. Shark, as quiet as can be…
And (claps) SNAPS that fishy right out of the sea!

Closing Song: Shake Your Sillies Out by Rainbow Songs

Activites

After the storytime, many parents bolted because 185 people in a room meant for 75 is a lot.

But for those folks that stayed, we had some activities in the room as well as a scavenger hunt around our youth department.

Shark Fin Hats

Since this was my “easy” craft, it ended up being a bit more complicated than I would have liked. Each headband required 2-3 grey strips of paper–1-2 for the standard headband and another across the middle that the grey shark fin would be attached to. A standard shark fin shape was printed on grey cardstock to create the fin.

Shark Clothespin Puppets

The more complicated craft. Kids colored their own shark prints (found here) to make moveable shark clothespin puppets. I tried to have folks use glue dots instead of bottled glue to attach the sharks to the clothespins. That wasn’t the best idea, as they didn’t stick very well.

Pin the Fin on the Shark

This is exactly what it sounds like. Kids played pin-the-fin-on-the-shark with our lovely Baby Shark banner print from our marketing department. They received a button made on our button maker afterwards.

Feed the Shark Bean Bag Toss

This game was designed to be a standard bean bag toss game. Kids threw our toy fish into the shark’s mouth. They received a sticker after a successful throw.

This sort of worked out as planned, but essentially became a fascinating activity for our younger kids (ages 0-2) who just wanted to pick up the fish, put them in the shark’s mouth, take them out, put them in the basket, and dump them back out. Since this activity seemed to work best for the little kids, this helped the flow of the room since the older kids focused on the crafts.

Baby Shark Scavenger Hunt

Our last activity was our Baby Shark scavenger hunt, which got parents and kids out of our cramped programming space and into the youth department. After completing the scavenger hunt, each kid received a Baby Shark bookmark.

Baby Play: Liquid Tiles

After each of my baby storytimes, I include a Discovery Time free-play session that encourages parents to talk to one another and to interact with their children. I include a variety of fine motor, gross motor, and sensory activities that appeal to 0-2-year-olds.

Sensory play is very important for all ages but especially for babies. Babies are exploring concepts (like gravity and motion) and textures for the first time. Their brains are growing at exponential rates as they learn how they can manipulative the world around them.

I’ve been using textured tiles for a while. These are liked by all and allow babies to explore different surfaces in a safe environment. The foam puzzle tiles allow for adults or kids to create a path, a large block of textured squares, or any other shape they can think of.

However, my textured tiles have been put to shame by my coworker’s amazing liquid tiles. These have gone through many iterations, and, unfortunately, are not leak-proof.

We recently purchased factory-made liquid tiles that have also been fan favorites. These have been well-loved in the last three weeks with no signs of breaking. They are especially loved by the larger kids and adults, who can safely step on these without being concerned about them breaking.

Both types of tiles have different advantages–read on to see my pros and cons of each style, plus how to make those awesome handmade liquid tiles.

DIY Liquid Tiles

This method is developed by the talented Sarah Simpson, who I would make write this post except she is at home with her own new baby at the moment.

Materials: lamination pouches (the thicker the better; example is 5 mil), iron, baby oil (4-6 oz. a tile), food coloring, various items to add into bags, duct tape

Optional: Foam Puzzle Tiles (any size, extra large in images), Industrial Hole Punch, Zip Ties

Steps:

  • Trim lamination pouch to your ideal size. If you are planning to attach it to a foam puzzle tile or other surface, measure to fit that surface while leaving some space around the edges for eventual attachment.
  • Iron three sides of the pouch shut, at least 1.5″ around each edge.
  • Insert 4-6 oz. of baby oil into the open end of the pouch.
  • Insert a mixture of other items. Consider water with food coloring, plastic bingo chips, large foam shapes, googly eyes, or tissue paper squares.
  • Remove as much air from the pouch as possible while ironing the last side closed.
  • Wrap colorful duct tape around all edges. Leave a margin of duct tape around the edges (at least 0.5″ thick) that does not have any lamination bag in between the duct tape.
  • You can stop here, unless you want to attach your bag to a tile. The tiles create a different sensory experience for babies, but, be warned, we have never had a tile last more than 3-6 months (sometimes 3-6 days) before some part starts leaking. We think the leaking has to do with the industrial holepunch in the steps below, since bags not attached to tiles have not had this issue.
  • Use an industrial hole punch to punch a hole through the duct tape towards the edge of the bag. Do your best to only punch through the extra duct tape flap you created above, NOT through duct tape and lamination pouch.
  • Use the industrial hole punch to punch a hole in the foam puzzle tile.
  • Attach your lamination pouch using zip ties.

Cost: $25+ (depends what you have on hand)

Time to Make: 15 minutes

Pros: From watching interactions, I think this bag style is better for really little ones than the purchased tiles. Babies can see the movement inside the tiles and can use their hands and body weight to move objects around.

Cons: We have never successfully made one of these tiles that has not eventually leaked. Mostly, those leaks don’t occur until after 2-3 months of regular use. These bags can also take a while to make, especially if you refresh your collection after they start to break.

Purchased Tiles

We recently purchased the Excellerations Large Liquid Tile set from Discount School Supply. While pricey ($142 for the four tiles), these are sturdy to the point of being heavy to pick up. Each tile has a different color inside, and it takes some weight (or gravity if you pick them up and lean them against a wall) to make the liquid move. Adults can stand and jump on them with no sign of any wear.

There are very similar looking tiles available from sellers on Amazon, though those generally have questionable reviews.

We have only had these for about a month, with consistent use 2-3 times a week for only about three weeks, but there is no sign of leaking or damage.

Pros: These are sturdy and require no staff time to make or setup. Cleaning is a breeze–I just use cleaning wipes on them after each story time.

Cons: They are costly. Depending the materials you have on hand, you may be able to make quite a few liquid tiles yourself for less than $10. I also don’t think these are as exciting for the babies, as it takes a lot more force to move the liquid. The adults and walking kids really like this style.

Conversation Starters

Start conversations as babies play with this tool by asking questions like:

  • What do you see in the tile?
  • What does the tile feel like?
  • What colors are inside the tile?
  • Can you stomp on the tile?
  • Can you make the colors move?

Stretch Vocabulary

When talking with little ones, use big words and small words. The more new words a child hears, the larger their vocabulary will be when they start to learn to read.

Consider using some of the following vocabulary words when using this activity:

Bend
Dry
Examine
Explore
Find
Flexible

Grasp
Hunt
Inspect
Investigate
Mushy
Search

Shape
Smooth
Spot
Squeeze
Squishy
Wet

Baby Storytime: Large Crowds

Our storytime crowds are large. Often, they are very large.

The above picture was a particularly busy day–possibly the busiest storytime we’ve had. That is a picture of toddler storytime (presented by my coworker)–we had 120 people come to storytime that day.

On an average week, each of our baby and toddler storytimes see somewhere between 40-100 visitors (this includes all people, so babies, siblings, and adults). Most of the time, our busier baby storytime has 60-80 attendees. Last week, I presented to a group of 111 visitors, with most children between 12-18 months.

Large crowds mean approaching storytime differently. Some immediate changes:

  • All of those amazing Jbrary name songs are definitely not happening.
  • Parachute play isn’t something I’ve ever been able to consider.
  • My manipulative options are limited, as I have to make sure we have enough to give every child an item (60+). Giving an item to every adult and child typically isn’t an option.
  • Activities have to focus on those larger babies and young toddlers, as they are the loud, active majority in the room.

While large crowds can feel like a struggle, remember that large crowds are actually AWESOME. Yes, they present problems and limitations, but large crowds mean your library is doing something right. Word of mouth is the best marketing tool, and someone, somewhere is talking about your program and telling others to come check it out. For us, the larger the storytime crowd, the higher percentage we have of first time visitors. We have the opportunity to turn all of those first-timers into lifelong users.

My library has talked about ways to limit these crowds. The most consistent response is a ticketing or reservation system. To me, these kinds of systems create barriers, especially to new patrons and patrons who speak a language other than English (the very patrons we need to be reaching the most). The patrons that understand and use reservation systems are our power users. They know us, they love us, they will vote for us in levies…but they are also almost always the families that are already reading aloud at home, who are also power users at nearby libraries, who attend anywhere from 3-7 storytimes a week in the surrounding communities. Our power users will continue to come to the library because they will understand they have to arrive early.

But that new family, that mom who might be coming out with her children for the first time in months, who arrives 10 minutes late because it was a challenge to get two kids under the age three out of the house on time, just got turned away at the door because she didn’t get to the library fifteen minutes before the program. All she remembers from her visit to the library is that she put in a ton of extra, exhausting work to get to there, and then the library told her she couldn’t even attend the program she was excited about. Her and her kids are left out. They leave and, very likely, don’t come back.

Tips for Large Crowds

I am no expert at handling large crowds, but there are some things that I’ve learned from experience.

You are doing better than you think.

After some of these extremely busy storytimes, I talk to parents who praise my classroom management skills and how well I handle the crowds. This often makes me feel a little odd because I tend to have these conversations the most when I feel like something was a complete mess. Parents don’t hear your inner maybe-not-so-nice words when you realize that your crowd is way over fire code, and this is the week you decided to try that new book whose rhythm you don’t quite have down.

Don’t panic.

Large crowds at baby storytimes in particular are not quite so bad because you don’t really have children attending without adults (like you might at preschool) and generally adults are a bit more engaged with their tiny children. The number of other adults in the room are an asset. It will all work out.

Adjust your plan accordingly.

I always have a powerpoint template with the words of rhymes, songs, books, and more. While this is very helpful at getting adults involved in the program, it can force me to a more strict structure than I would like when these surprise super-sized crowds appear.

If you are not using a powerpoint or similar tool that has your structure on display for everyone to see, you have the freedom to adjust what you want to do and what you want to skip.

If you are using a powerpoint–you still have that freedom. I skip slides every week. In weeks where we have very large crowds, that new rhyme I wanted to try for the first time that I know no parent in the room will be familiar with is just not happening. You can do more than skip slides though. The babies have no idea what is on the screen, and the adults are well aware that your crowd is extra large. Tell them that the powerpoint shows You Are New by Lucy Knisley, but due to our crowd size, we are going to sing Babies on the Bus by Karen Katz as a group instead. The parents get it, they don’t judge you, and they appreciate your flexibility. This isn’t that group of preschoolers who will ask 50 questions about why the book you are holding is not the book on the screen behind you.

If your crowd is active, use your body as a physical deterrent or barrier.

This is a common classroom management technique. At the beginning of my program, I tell everyone that I expect there to be movement during this program and that is fantastic. Older babies and toddlers are going to wander around the room, and I don’t expect parents to hold them down in their laps during storytime. I do ask, though, if kids start to try to crawl under my materials table, please redirect them for their own safety.

Making an announcement is often all it takes, but sometimes there is that active little one with an adult who isn’t paying attention, or it is just hard for an adult to make their way to the front of the room when there are 50 people between them and their toddler.

Last week, I had an extra energetic little one who was determined to belly crawl over two storage tubs underneath a table to reach the place I stashed puppets after using them. I am not sure where the adult was, but the easiest way to stop this from happening was to physically stand in front of the tubs until he got bored and wandered elsewhere. Yes, I am blocking the powerpoint for a few minutes, but the whole situation defused without me having to stop the storytime or say a word.

Aim for activities that appeal to the older end of your audience.

Our baby storytimes are designed for ages 0-24 months. We offer a lapsit for our prewalkers, but we allow everyone to attend out standard storytimes, so they have an option that fits their schedule.

Most of my attendees are about 18-24 months. These babies are essentially toddlers. They waddle, run, jump, laugh, sometimes talk, have a ferocious strength that lets them snatch puppets off your hand, and have no desire to sit still for 20-30 minutes.

My activities, and songs in particular, are often active to interest these older babies. There are no lullabies in my baby storytimes because there is never a moment where the audience is quiet and wants to rock or sway.

I do try to select activities that can be easily adapted across developmental abilities. I show a few ways to do a rhyme or adapt a song before starting it as a group. Slowly, Slowly is one of my favorites that is so easy to adapt to all abilities:

For the smallest babies (really any age), parents can crawl their fingers over the child slowly and then fast. Babies sitting on their own can be bounced at different speeds. Walkers can jump along.

Stand tall and hold everything up high.

Older babies, like toddlers, like to explore and they like to grab everything. We have a large rolling easel that has a flannelboard on one side. The whole structure is maybe 4 feet tall, meaning that any flannel pieces placed on it can be easily reached by small hands.

If you have a large crowd, stand, don’t sit. Hold books high. Have a mobile flannelboard (or cookie sheet for magnets). Hold it at least even with your head. Hold puppets high. This helps everyone see, but it also means that things aren’t getting snatched out of your hands.

Remove…everything.

Look at your space. Sit on the floor. What items are loose? What catches your eye? Are there curtains that would be great for hiding behind? Does that large rolling easel have appealing, brightly colored bars at the bottom that are perfect to climb in? Are those puppets peaking out from under the table? Is that bright red mobile speaker right at eye level?

Carefully look at your space and remove things that could become mass baby distractions. Once one baby notices something, they all soon follow. Babies on the Bus is never as interesting as that curtain another baby is waving frantically in the air.


I am by no means an expert at large crowds, and I know our library is not the only place to receive them. How do you handle them? I’d love to hear your tips in the comments!

Family Storytime Outline

These are the songs, rhymes, stories, and activities I used for a 25-minute family storytime, followed by 20 minutes of free play in December 2019.

We offer an unregistered family storytime every Saturday at 10 am. While this is designed for roughly ages 3-5, we expect an audience that includes all ages. For this storytime, I had about 55 attendees, spanning in age from newborns to upper elementary students.

Room Setup: Doors open about 5-8 minutes before storytime. Powerpoint slides are displayed on a smartboard at the front of the room with words to all songs and rhymes. As folks enter, two bubble machines are hard at work in the front of the room while baby songs play from the department iTunes account.

The powerpoint below includes more content than I actually used in this program. The material I actually used is listed below.

Welcome Song: Can’t Wait to Celebrate by Jim Gill
We clap our hands when we get together.
Clap our hands to celebrate.
We clap our hands when we get together.
My friends and I can hardly wait….

Continue with: Stamp Our Feet, Wave Hello, Bounce Up and Down, Clap Our Hands

Welcome Rhyme: Open Shut Them
Open, shut them; open, shut them;
Let your hands go clap, clap clap.
Open, shut them; open, shut them;
Drop them in your lap, lap, lap.

Walk them, walk them,
Walk them, walk them,
Right up to your chin, chin, chin.
Open up your little mouth,
But do not let them in!

Book: Get Out of My Bath! by Britta Teckentrup

Song: Elephants Have Wrinkles from When You Are Two

Flannel: Five Little Penguins
Five little penguins playing in the snow,
Slipping and sliding to and fro.

One looks up and yells “Oh no!”
“I see a great big ball of snow!”

Rolling down the hill it stopped with a splat.
All that’s left is a fuzzy hat!

Countdown to 0.

Song: Baby Shark by Pinkfong!

Movement Rhyme: Slowly, Slowly
Slowly, slowly, very slowly
Creeps the garden snail.
Slowly, slowly, very slowly
Up the wooden rail.

Quickly, quickly, very quickly
Runs the little mouse.
Quickly, quickly, very quickly
Round about the house.

Body Rhyme: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes

Puppet Time: Retold abbreviated version of book Bark George using George box prop.

Song: Can You by the Wiggles

Flannel: Little Mouse
Little mouse, little mouse
Are you in the _________ house?

Closing Song: Shake Your Sillies Out from When You Are One

Discovery Time Activities: Discovery Time is 15-20 minutes of free-play at the end of storytime that encourages parents to have time to talk to one another and for parents to interact with their children. I try to include a variety of fine motor, gross motor, and sensory activities that appeal to my wide age range as well as a mixture of purchased toys and items that parents can remake at home. This week’s activities included:

Baby Play: Puppet Time

After each of my baby storytimes, I include a Discovery Time free-play session that encourages parents to talk to one another and to interact with their children. I include a variety of fine motor, gross motor, and sensory activities that appeal to 0-2-year-olds.

If your library is anything like mine, you have a good stash of high quality puppets stashed away somewhere. These are probably frequently used by librarians in storytime–there are so many amazing puppet rhymes, books, and songs for all ages (check out my Bark George post for one of my favorites).

One of my coworkers asked a great question about a year ago–why do we leave the majority of these puppets locked away in cabinets most of the time? We may use 3-5 in an average storytime, leaving 50 puppets in storage. While we don’t want to put these often expensive puppets out in public areas for unsupervised free play–we are well aware of what happens to items left out for public use–these could be used as a play item in supervised, post-storytime play.

Puppets are an excellent tool for developing social and emotional skills in children of all ages. Puppets provide an easy way to grab the attention of little ones. Babies and toddlers like exploring their soft texture. Older toddlers can fit their hand inside of a puppet to make it move and interact with others, practicing social and fine motor skills.

There are a variety of ways to include puppets in your storytime, beyond the standard puppet rhymes. Consider:

  • Using puppets as a “manipulative”, just like you would use shaker eggs or scarves. Little ones can select a puppet from a bin (practicing making choices). Provide some questions for little ones and caregivers to answer together–“what animal is your puppet?”, “what sound does your puppet make?”, “what is your puppet’s name?”. End with a dancing song that makes it easy to include their new stuffed friend.
  • Put out a bin of puppets (or a baby pool of puppets) during storytime after play. Puppets naturally promote parent-child engagement while also providing some time for little ones to explore this item often reserved for adults.

Recommended Purchases

Our best puppets are from Folkmanis. You really cannot go wrong with their puppets, but some of my favorites from their current selection include:

Price: Use what you own. Folkmanis puppets are expensive (often $30+ each). Make sure to ask about discounts for buying in bulk–they have a deal allowing you to get 50% off all puppets if you agree to spend a certain amount (around $300-$400 after the discount).

Conversation Starters

Start conversations as babies play with this tool by asking questions like:

  • What animal did you pick?
  • What sound does this animal make?
  • How does the puppet feel?
  • Can you make the puppet talk?
  • Can you tickle the puppets head?
  • What can you do with the puppet?

Stretch Vocabulary

When talking with little ones, use big words and small words. The more new words a child hears, the larger their vocabulary will be when they start to learn to read.

Consider using some of the following vocabulary words when using this activity:

Animal
Colorful
Fluffy
Friendly
Furry
Hand

Hidden
Jump
Laugh
Loud
Pet
Pretend

Quiet
Soft
Sound
Surprise
Tickle
Touch

Storytime Prop: Bark George

Funny stories are a staple of my storytimes. I love leaning into the humor of preschoolers, and I particularly like when a story can make parents snicker as well.

I like retelling stories in different formats, and I am always looking for books that can be retold with large props or puppets. Personally, I have never been a huge fan of flannel board story retellings. I do not have great vision, and I struggle to focus on (or even see) tiny flannel pieces. We often have large storytime crowds, and all I can think about when holding small items is that if I was sitting on a chair in the back of the room, I would have no idea what the librarian was holding up. The same goes for finger puppets.

Because of that, I look for ways to adapt things in a large scale way. The book Bark George by Jules Feiffer is a perfect story to retell with props. Essentially, the dog George makes various animal sounds that dogs don’t make (moo, quack, oink, etc.). When George goes to the vet, everyone realizes he has swallowed these animals. The vet pulls them out safe and sound. This continues until George barks again. At the very end of the story, George says a slightly ominous “hello.”

When I was in library school, I saw an amazing online post where a librarian took a giant dog stuffed animal (like one of those hanging above the impossible games at a fair) with a mouth that opened. She cut the seam inside the mouth and used some awesome sewing skills to make it possible to physically stuff the dog with animal puppets that can be pulled out as you reach that point in the story.

I unfortunately don’t have those sewing skills, but another amazing librarian blogger made a dog out of a box, and I copied their structure.

I found a large square box (about 18-20″ on each side). I taped the flaps and reinforced the seams with duct tape and shipping tape. I then cut a slit diagonally down two sides and about two-thirds of the way down the new “front” of the box using a box cutter.

This creates a “mouth” that can be opened easily for me to reach inside and find various animals.

I used brown butcher paper to wrap the box, aiming to keep all seams as invisible as possible. In this case, seams are located on the inside, bottom of the box, the back of the box, and underneath what eventually are covered by dog ears.

This was my second time making George, and I had learned a few lessons from the first time. Double sided tape and shipping tape were my main tools. In the past, I attempted to use hot glue, but that resulted in a lot of peeling over time.

After wrapping the box in brown paper, I worked on the smaller elements to create the dog face. I used dark brown construction paper for the ears.These wrapped around the front corners of the box, to cover the paper seams. Ears were secured with double sided tape.

From my first version of George, the ears were the element I had to replace the most often. I have debated laminating them, but I am not sure how the shiny ears would look on the overall box.

The rest of the dog face was created using black, pink, and white cardstock and black sharpie.

George is a staple in my family or preschool storytimes. I hide him in a large black garbage bag before it is time for him to make his debut, with 4-5 animal puppets inside. Since I tell the story myself, I pick whatever puppets are most readily available that make obvious animal sounds. Just make sure you remember what puppets you put inside–it was an interesting storytime the day that George said “oink” but hadn’t eaten a pig.

Do you have a favorite storytime prop? I’d love to learn about it in the comments!

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