Favorite Baby Storytime Books

We all have our personal favorite storytime books. There are plenty of lists of best baby storytime books on the Internet–some of these work for me, some of them don’t. For one thing, we typically have large storytime crowds–a minimum of 40 people, often up to 80-90. With these crowds, I tend to avoid standard 6″ board books. I’ve thought about scanning in the pages and displaying them on my storytime powerpoint, but I like using a physical book for the younger kids (who often don’t have strong enough vision to see the screen).

Our large crowds are often made up mostly of ages 12-24 months, meaning our little ones often have less patience than some of their younger counterparts. I focus on selecting books that have repeated phrases we can read as a group or clear actions. I slip in more traditional stories sometimes, but those never go over as well as more action-based titles.

Finally, and most importantly, I choose books that work for me. For whatever reason, I have never been able to make Clip Clop by Nicola Smee work. I can’t seem to get the rhythm right, even though this should be a book that would be ideal for my storytime crowd and style (its available in big book format and has easy actions).

My personal go-to titles are included below. What are some of your go to baby storytime books?

The Babies on the Bus by Karen Katz

Row, Row, Row Your Boat by Jane Cabrera

For this title, I include the different verses on the PowerPoint behind me so the parents can join in. The first few times I read this book, parents, used to my style, joined in, but they repeated the traditional “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” verse for every page, overwhelming my reading voice (that happens with 40 parents reading along!). My slides look like this:

If You’re Happy and You Know It: Jungle Edition by James Warhola

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.

Jump! by Scott M. Fischer

Ten Tiny Tickles by Karen Katz

Up!: How Families Around the World Carry Their Little Ones by Susan Hughes

The Baby Goes Beep by Rebecca O’Connell

Leo Loves Baby Time by Anna McQuinn

Baby Faces Peekaboo! by Dawn Sirett

Peek-a-Baby by Karen Katz

Do Crocs Kiss? by Salina Yoon

Splish, Splash, Ducky! by Lucy Cousins

Baby Play: Sticky Paper

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.

Finding multiple ways to use one item is a staple for library programming, and something I try to do with baby play materials. Libraries only have so much money and so much storage space (as do parents). Our regular storytime space has floor-level windows that work perfectly for foam shape water play. Our larger programming space, which generally works better for our large crowds, unfortunately does not have windows. However, a similar activity can be recreated with contact paper taped to the wall, creating a sticky surface.

Foam shapes (also tissue paper and construction paper scraps) stick easily to contact paper. Little ones quickly realize that some things are too heavy to stick, helping them experiment with cause and effect. Older toddles can also practice identifying colors or shapes.

How to Make

Materials: contact paper, painter’s tape, scissors, objects to stick (foam shapes, construction paper, tissue paper, etc).

Steps:

  • Lay contact paper on floor in front of wall. Cut strip to preferred size.
  • Tape paper to wall with side that peels off facing you.
  • Once secure, peel off one piece of tape at a time to remove cover for sticky part of paper. Put each piece of tape back as you peel so that the paper doesn’t fall off the wall.
  • Consider additional pieces of contact paper as your wall space allows.
  • Put out objects to stick to paper.

Cost: $10+

  • Contact Paper Roll
  • Foam (if creating foam shapes)
  • Construction Paper (if using as sticky object)

Time to Make: <5 of prep, 5+ minutes of time immediately before program

Pro-Tip: Make sure to plan the time to tape up the paper before your storytime. The contact paper can be hard to wrangle.

Conversation Starters

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

  • What colors are you using?
  • What does the paper feel like?
  • Why did that fall off the paper?
  • What happens if you stick this to the paper?
  • Can you find some red paper?

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:

Adhere
Adhesive
Attach
Cling
Color
Fall

Fasten
Fix
Glue
Hold
Outline
Pattern

Shadow
Shape
Silhouette
Slump
Stay
Stick

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

We are joining the blog trend of Monday posts about what we have read during the last week (12/16/19-12/22/19).

Annamarie’s Reading

Annamarie Top Titles include:

Note: Annamarie serves as chair of the ALSC Notable Children’s Recordings Committee. Due to her position, she listens to and evaluates many audiobooks for children and teens. Annamarie never includes any of the audiobooks she listens to in her “What Are You Reading?” posts.

Michala’s Reading

Michala’s top titles include:

Note: I am currently moving and have read no books this week…..I’ll catch you back in the next decade.

Kids Passive Program: Scavenger Hunts

A few year’s ago, one of my personal work goals was to start a monthly kids passive program. At the time, our library offered a monthly Imagination Station, a pretend play space for approximately ages 2-6, and a monthly teen passive, for students in grades 6-12. Children in the middle often ended up trying to participate in the activities designed for younger or older kids.

There is nothing quite as appealing to kids of all ages as a scavenger hunt. These are particularly great passives, as the intended audience of school age children complete them, but younger siblings can too and therefore don’t feel left out.

We have made a ton of scavenger hunts at my library, and a few of my favorites are available to download below. Most scavenger hunts involve a sticker, 1″ button, or bookmark as the prize, typically made by department staff.

Dinovember Scavenger Hunt

I couldn’t help but use Land Before Time characters for the November 2019 Dinovember scavenger hunt.

Mother Bruce Scavenger Hunt

This was made for a Mother Bruce program, but I have used it a few times since. Little ones practice their counting skills by finding all 10 numbered geese.

Pokemon Scavenger Hunt

This scavenger hunt design is adapted from the amazing Ontarian Librarian blog. It makes an appearance in the week before my annual summer Pokemon Party.

Pooh Count the Bees Scavenger Hunt

The Winnie the Pooh Count the Bees scavenger hunt has a different concept behind it–instead of finding six specific pictures, participants count how many bees they could find around the room. I believe I hid around 30, and anyone who gave an answer over 28 received the prize. 

Superhero Scavenger Hunt

My very first Imagination Station was superhero themed, and I created a superhero logo hunt around the youth department.

Where’s Waldo Scavenger Hunt

Definitely a fan favorite at our library, patrons loved this real-life Where’s Waldo game. 

Baby Play: Giant Balls

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.

As a child, did you ever longingly walk past those giant ball bins in the Walmart or Target play aisle? I did, and I imagine many little ones today do as well. While those giant balls are cheap, they are not fun to store or manage in a house filled with breakable items protected on high shelves from small hands. Since these balls are not ideal for many homes, they are perfect for baby play in the library, since we have the opportunity to provide adults and children with toys and activities they may not be able to experience at home.

These “giant” balls can be used for many purposes. If being rolled or tossed between an adult and child, they can help develop gross motor skills. These balls often have different textures, providing a sensory experience. The littlest babies enjoy being bounced on these balls, especially to the rhythm of music or the rhythm of words. In my crazy storytime dreams, every child is being bounced on one of these to our weekly bounce rhymes as we practice phonological awareness skills by focusing on the small parts of words. While I know that the storage required for that many balls is simply impossible at essentially any library (we often have 30-50 babies per storytime), this kind of activity can still be encouraged during after storytime play.

As little ones grow older, it is fascinating to watch them figure out new ways to use everyday play items as well. The toddler in the image above was working with dad to fill the muffin tray with ball pit balls. He asked for an orange ball–and she delivered.

Recommended Purchases

  • Giant Balls (toy aisle of any big-box store)
  • Storage Bag

Price: Typically $2-$5 a ball

Pro-Tip: See if your big-box store also sells storage bags for giant balls. I would like a mesh one that can be pulled closed, but I haven’t found that in my neighborhood, so we use extra large garbage bags from maintenance. They easily hold our four big balls, with the possibility of squeezing in one more.

Conversation Starters

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

  • Can you bounce on top of a ball with an adult’s help?
  • How does the ball feel?
  • What happens when you push the ball?
  • What color is the ball?
  • Can you stack two balls on top of each other?

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:

Big
Bouncy
Bound
Bump
Curve
Giant

Light
Push
Rebound
Ricochet
Roll
Rotate

Round
Shiny
Smooth
Sphere
Swivel
Throw

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

We are joining the blog trend of Monday posts about what we have read during the last week (12/9/19-12/15/19).

Annamarie’s Reading

Annamarie was on vacation last week–new titles will resume next Monday!

Note: Annamarie serves as chair of the ALSC Notable Children’s Recordings Committee. Due to her position, she listens to and evaluates many audiobooks for children and teens. Annamarie never includes any of the audiobooks she listens to in her “What Are You Reading?” posts.

Michala’s Reading

Michala’s top titles include:

Note: I tried to have more kids book reads this week since Annamarie out having the fun vacay time (2 of which I stole from her holds list).

Frozen Sing Along & Celebration

Whether you personally have children or not, it is impossible to work as a youth librarian and not be aware of the Frozen phenomenon. I am a Disney fan, and I have been waiting for the release of Frozen II since I started this job three years ago. I’m not kidding–I had the date for this program reserved in our meeting room scheduler for well over two years before the program finally occurred.

My library had hosted Frozen movie watching parties in the past, but I wanted to try something a little different. At the time this program was planned, I was still reeling from the Paw Patrol Program of 2019, when we had 300 people lined up outside of the building and around the corner to enter our Friday morning Paw Patrol event. Our meeting rooms, with stations set up inside, can not accommodate that many people. With those numbers in the back of my mind, I was definitely nervous about what a Frozen program would bring on a Saturday afternoon a week before the release of Frozen II.

To prepare for crowds, I structured this event much differently than other fandom based programs that I regularly run. The afternoon ran as follows:

  • 1-5 pm: Frozen Activity Stations in Youth Dept.
  • 2-2:40 pm: Frozen Sing-Along & Celebration Option 1
  • 3:30-4:15 pm: Frozen Sing-Along & Celebration Option 2

Frozen Sing-Along & Celebration

The star event was my performance–and yes, this was as close as I have gotten to a “performance” in a program–retelling the Frozen story in about 30 minutes with jokes and songs scattered throughout. The same show was presented twice during the day, to audiences of about 120 people each.

Technology

I relied heavily on technology to make this program work (which, as expected, worked flawlessly for the first program and exploded in fire like Kristoff’s sled for the second).

Two laptops were connected to our meeting room’s overhead projector. One was set to my powerpoint (included below) and the other had the Frozen Sing Along DVD set up. Under bonus features, the Sing Along DVD lets you jump right to the start of each song and takes you back to the song selection menu when finished.

Our projector remote allowed me to toggle between the two laptops with the press of one button. Essentially, when it was time to move into a song, I would continue spieling as I approached the laptops, would select the song on the second laptop, and would then press the button to change inputs on the remote. By the time the projector caught up, the DVD had as well, and the song was beginning. When I was ready for a song to end, even if I wanted to cut it off early (like after the part where the parents die in “Do You Want to Build a Snowman”), I changed the input back to the other laptop. My powerpoint appeared on the screen again, while the song played on without sound on the other laptop, invisible to patrons, and returned to the menu screen by the time I was ready for the next song. This structure worked well throughout both performances until my HDMI cable decided that it didn’t want to play sound anymore.

I imagine that explanation isn’t entirely clear–please reach out or comment below if you want to talk through this more.

Presentation

The “show” involved me bumbling through a retelling of Frozen, sometimes getting things very wrong–such as forgetting that Kristoff exists or the entire ending to the story–and sometimes cracking jokes made for parents (such as the trolls making the excellent decision to terrify a 6-year-old Elsa by telling her that her powers are extremely dangerous, but not offering her any help with them when they obviously can do magic themselves).

I used the PowerPoint below to move through the storyline, breaking for most Frozen songs as they occur.

I’m not going to upload by script here, as I didn’t entirely stick to it, and I think it makes things more confusing, but if you would like to talk through what I did, please comment below.

Frozen Activity Stations

Meanwhile, before, during, and after my presentations, the youth department was covered with snowflakes and Elsas and included a collection of Frozen activity stations.

These were intentionally kept as low-key as possible, in an effort to not completely overwhelm our two youth librarians working in the department. Teen volunteers helped throughout the afternoon as well.

Frozen Scavenger Hunt

Visitors completed a scavenger hunt to track down a collection of Frozen characters. Scavenger hunt sheets and characters can be downloaded below. They received a sticker at the youth desk upon completion.

Elsa Crown Craft

Girls and boys decorated gorgeous Frozen crowns. I printed the crown outline on blue glitter cardstock from Amazon, and pre-cut the crowns. Adults and teen volunteers measured ribbon to tie to both sides of the crown to fit to their child’s head.

Sven Reindeer Antlers

Kids also had the option to make Sven Antlers, which were loved by many attendees (there were also some interesting crown/antler mashups).

Pin the Nose on Olaf

Finally, we had a Pin the Nose on Olaf activity that resulted in getting a Frozen bookmark. Due to some teen volunteer mishaps, this activity did not run according to plan, but we did end up with extra Frozen bookmarks to distribute for days afterward to many happy children.

Baby Play: Mirror Play

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.

Once a baby’s vision develops, they love to look at faces, including their own. Starting around nine months of age, babies will begin to recognize their own reflection in a mirror. A great way to test this is to put a sticker on a mirror. If the baby tries to wipe their own face after looking in the mirror and seeing the sticker, they recognize that they are seeing themselves and not looking at a picture.

Baby-safe mirrors provide fantastic ways for parents and little ones to interact, from adults copying little one’s facial expressions to working together to identify basic body parts. With large mirrors, babies can sit in front of them while a parent moves an object behind the baby, helping the baby practice visual tracking with their eyes.

We currently don’t have enough mirrors to use these as storytime manipulatives, but I do put out our small collection during baby play time. While mirrors are not as large as some of our other toys, babies are still fascinated by them, particularly once they catch a glimpse of their own reflection.

Recommended Purchases

Price: $36 for 6 mirrors

Consider your audience size when determining how many mirrors you want to purchase, especially if you are also using these as manipulatives in storytimes. There are many fantastic mirror rhymes for during storytimes.

Possible Extension Purchases:

Personally, I prefer mirrors that do not have to be affixed to a wall, as these can easily be packed up after baby play, eliminating a distraction during storytimes and programs for older children.

Conversation Starters

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

  • What do you see in the mirror?
  • Can you find your eyes in the mirror?
  • What does the toy look like in the mirror?
  • What happens when the light bounces off the mirror?

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:

Body
Cheeks
Chin
Ear
Eyelashes
Eyes

Face
Hair
Head
Lips
Look
Mirror

Nose
Nostril
Reflection
Shoulders
Teeth
Watch

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

We are joining the blog trend of Monday posts about what we have read during the last week (12/2/19-12/8/19).

Annamarie’s Reading

Annamarie’s top titles include:

Note: Annamarie serves as chair of the ALSC Notable Children’s Recordings Committee. Due to her position, she listens to and evaluates many audiobooks for children and teens. Annamarie never includes any of the audiobooks she listens to in her “What Are You Reading?” posts.

Michala’s Reading

Michala’s top titles include:

Note: 2019 has not been kind to celebrity kitties. RIP Grumpy Cat and Lil Bub, I read Grumpy Cat’s ABC book remembering you both fondly. Hang in there Smudge!

Wonderworks: Animals in Winter

Occasionally, I get the opportunity to fill in for other regular storytimes at my library. I don’t often have the chance to work with preschoolers, but last week I presented our weekly Wonderworks storytime. This STEM storytime is designed for ages 3-6 with a collection of station-based activities afterwards allowing attendees to explore that week’s theme.

Whenever I get a chance to present Wonderworks, I typically connect the theme to animals. Last week, we talked about what animals do in winter, particularly hibernation, adaptation, and migration.

There are many great books on this topic, but I was right in predicting that my audience would be young (it was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and we had a ton of first time families and mostly children that were either 2-3 or 7-8).

We used a big book to read Sleepy Bear by Lydia Dabcovich. While the book is quite simple for the intended age range of this program, we were able to talk about the illustrations and the behaviors of many of the animals on the pages. We had a lengthy conversation about how we know the seasons are changing, and what we saw in the pictures that reflected that.

The flannel rhyme “Five Little Penguins” was definitely the hit of the storytime. We didn’t get to the book Mother Bruce, which we were going to watch via the Weston Woods video, due to lack of time, which I expected.

My full storytime outline is below.

STEM Stations

After storytime, folks were welcome to participate in a variety of activities that allowed them to further explore that week’s theme. These included:

Animal Tracks in the Snow

I cut out accurately-sized outlines of a polar bear track, deer track, raccoon track, and bird track out of thin foam. Attendees used markers on white butcher paper to trace and color in animal tracks in the snow, with the option of practicing writing skills by writing the name of the animal beside the track they made.

Blubber Experiment

Whenever possible, I like to include a small “experiment” in Wonderworks station-based play, where kids can learn more about a topic, make a hypothesis, and then test their hypothesis to see if it was true.

This week, we learned about blubber. We talked about this briefly during storytime when we talked about how animals, like polar bears and penguins, adapt during winter.

A coworker brought me a small bag of ice just as station play was beginning, which I dumped into our pre-set bin of water. Three kids at a time stopped by my station. They put their hand in the water and determined that it was, in fact, cold. We talked about how many winter animals in the Arctic and Antarctic swim in much colder water than this every day.

They then could test out three possible blubber substitutes–cotton balls, powdered sugar, and shortening. Quart sized ziploc bags were lined with each substance, and another quart size bag was placed in the middle inside-out, with the bags duct taped shut. That way, the child’s hand was protected from both water and the blubber substitute.

This is where science failed me–according to the internet and my own tests of this experiment, shortening acts as the best insulator. For whatever reason that morning, all three substances provided the same amount of warmth. The idea of explaining blubber still worked overall, even if the specifics of the experiment didn’t quite work.

This was definitely a popular activity, though I did have to manage it the whole time, since water was involved and our audience skewed young.

Find the Goslings Scavenger Hunt

Ten goslings were hidden around our activity center, and little ones had to practice their counting skills to find them all.

Download geese to hide around your room or library here.

Polar Bear Craft

Art is far from my favorite subject, but I like to include something art related in station-based play. I would have preferred something a bit more open-ended, but since I knew I would have to stay with the experiment station, I included an activity that was a little more straightforward in this polar bear craft.

Preschoolers practiced their fine motor skills by cutting out their own polar bears, and many got creative in coloring their bears and camouflaging them to match their backgrounds.

Polar Bear Craft printable outlines can be downloaded below:

App Play: Endless Alphabet

My last station incorporated technology. The Endless Alphabet app is definitely expensive ($8.99), but it is a high-quality app that helps little ones expand their vocabulary and practice identifying letter and recognizing letter sounds. During the storytime, we used the app as a group to talk about the word “camouflage.” Attendees were free to explore the app and and vocabulary words they liked. All ipads were locked to only allow access to that app.

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