Tag Archives: babies

Science, Baby!

Before there was Play & Learn, there was the idea of Science, Baby. A presentation at an annual ALA Conference by Brooklyn Public Library about their Science Baby! program opened my eyes to how much more babies can do than what many baby storytime outlines imply. Babies are so much more than passive observers–their brains are developing faster than they ever will for the rest of their lives–combined. STEM concepts do not need to be limited to older children. In fact, babies are the perfect example of little scientists as they learn everything about the world:

Poster from Nerdy Baby

My own Science Baby! program finally became a reality during our winter storytime break in late December. Seventy babies and adults joined me for a morning of baby play with a STEM twist.

Activities were broken down into a few rough categories. They included:

Some of these stations just involved putting out an item, like mirrors for mirror play. Others involved some ahead of time creation, like the sensory bottles. Still more involved in-room setup, like attaching sticky contact paper to the wall and building the pool noodle counter by stringing pool noodle pieces to string tied between two chairs.

Each station included a front and back laminated handout explaining the value of the particular activity, what little ones are learning, conversation starters, and vocabulary to stretch conversations with little ones.

We had many older siblings join in the fun as well, particularly enjoying all of the building activities. The sticky contact paper, baby pool play, bubbles, pom pom drop, and sensory bottles were the most well-loved activities.

Most families stayed for about 45-50 minutes. I’m looking forward to bringing this back again someday!

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 Storytime Outline – July

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

Our baby storytime is for ages 0-24 months, with most children being 12-24 months old. Approximately 85 people attended this storytime, including about 50 babies.

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.

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: Babies focus on the work spoken immediately after their name. For example, if you say, “Raven, do you want to read a book?”, the child focuses on the word “do.” Instead, try saying “Raven, book. Do you want to read a book?”

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

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

Body Rhyme: Everybody Knows
Everybody knows that I love your toes!
Everybody knows that I love your toes!
I love your eyes,
Your ears,
Your mouth
And your nose!
But everybody knows that I love your toes!

Action Rhyme: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes

Song: Baby Shark by Pinkfong!

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.

  • Zoom, Zoom, Zoom
    Zoom, zoom, zoom
    We’re going to the moon.
    Zoom, zoom, zoom,
    We’ll get there very soon.
    In 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…
    BLAST OFF! (lift)
  • 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)
  • Humpty Dumpty
    (sway) Rock and rock and rock on the wall,
    Rock and rock; I hope we don’t fall.

    (sway) Humpty Dumpty say on a wall
    Humpty Dumpty had a great fall! (tilt backwards)

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

Puppet Time: Retold abbreviated version of book Dear Zoo.

Manipulative Time: Scarves

  • 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: Wave, Jump

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
  • Scarves in Oballs
  • Water Painting
  • Easter Grass & Balloons in Baby Pools
  • Tumbling Mats with Soft Blocks
  • Large Blocks
  • Sensory Tiles
  • Sensory Bags

Babytime Outline

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

Our baby storytime is for ages 0-24 months, with most children being 12-24 months old. Approximately 80 people attended this storytime, including about 45 babies.

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.

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: Talking to Your Baby (the LATS method described on jbrary)

Book: Peek-a-Baby by Karen Katz

Song: The Monkey Dance by The Wiggles

Bounce Rhyme: Five Little Monkeys
Five little monkeys jumping on the bed
One fell off and bumped his head
Mamma called the doctor and the doctor said
No more monkeys jumping on the bed!

Fingerplay: Itsy Bitsy Spider
The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout.
Down came the rain and washed the spider out.
Out came the sun and dried up all the rain,
And the itsy bitsy spider went up the spout again.

Song: Little Red Wagon from Wiggleworms Love You

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.

  • The Baby Hop (to the tune: Bunny Hop)
    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

    You’re workin’ out together
    Baby don’t stop.
    You’re workin’ out together
    So hop, hop, hop.
  • 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

Puppet Time: Who’s in the barnyard?
An oink, a moo, a cockle-doodle-doo
Who’s in the barnyard playing peek-a-boo?
Featuring: cow, pig, sheep, chicken, horse

Manipulative Time: Bells

  • 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: