Tag Archives: online storytimes

Storytime: Fingerplays

Fingerplays are awesome! Fingerplays are especially fantastic for toddlers and preschoolers, allowing them to practice controlling their fingers in specific ways while building those finger muscles they will need for writing. I sometimes include fingerplays in baby storytimes, but I’ve been able to explore fingerplays more since I’ve started presenting toddler and preschool virtual storytimes.

Problems with 10 Littles

Ten Little Indians. I’ve heard librarians use it (with those original words). For a while, I used adapted fingerplays to the same tune with different words, but I’ve stopped. I may attempt to avoid dehumanizing Indigenous people by not counting Indians like they are toys, but the few times I used this fingerplay, some caregiver would often mess up my new words and loudly use the original words because they are so associated with the tune.

At the beginning of virtual storytimes, I shifted to a different counting tune I found while watching other library storytimes (I have one, I have two, I have three little fingers). I adapted this a lot virtually because it was a quick, easy fingerplay that was just…easy to adapt.

But. Not everyone has 10 little fingers. Or 10 little toes. Or 5 little fingers. I’ve made storytime videos using ten fingers that I am not highlighting below. I’m including fingerplays that count up to five, though I want to eventually phase those out to or make videos where we count to five using two hands instead of always just using one. How do you think about inclusivity in your fingerplays and overall storytime plans? What other elements to this am I not thinking about?


Thinking about some of the inclusivity lessons I mentioned above, plus that some kids can’t bend their fingers one at a time, I’m also including action rhymes that focus on hand motions.

Bananas Unite

Bananas unite!

Peel bananas.
Peel, peel bananas.
Peel bananas.
Peel, peel bananas.

Continue with: Chop, Mash, Eat


Bubble, Bubble Pop!

One little red fish
Swimming in the water,
Swimming in the water,
Swimming in the water.

One little red fish
Swimming in the water,
Bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble (roll arms)
POP! (clap)

Clap Them

Clap them, clap them, clap them so.
Clap them high!
Clap them low.
Clap them left.
Clap them right.
Clap them, clap them, out of sight!

Continue with: roll them, shake them

Cool Cat

Hey there everybody, you’re a real cool cat.
You got a lot of this,
And you got a lot of that.
So come on in
And get down (ch ch ch ch ch ch)
To the left (ch ch ch ch ch ch)
To the right (ch ch ch ch ch ch)
Up in the air (ch ch ch ch ch ch)
And get down (ch ch ch ch ch ch)

Dance Your Fingers Up

Dance your fingers up.
Dance your fingers down.
Dance your fingers side to side.
Dance them all around.

Dance them on your shoulders.
Dance them on your head.
Dance them on your tummy.
And put them all to bed.

The Elevator Song

Oh the city is great and the city is grand.
There are lots of tall buildings on a little piece of land,
And we live way up on the 57th floor,
and this is what we do when we go out the door.

We take the elevator up and the elevator down,
take the elevator up, take the elevator down
Take the elevator up and the elevator down
and we turn around.

Five Fat Peas

Five fat peas in a peapod pressed.
One grew, two grew,
And so did all the rest.

They grew, and they grew,
And they wouldn’t stop.
They grew, and they grew,
Until they popped! (clap)

Five Green and Speckled Frogs

Five green and speckled frogs
Sitting on a spaced log.
Eating the most delicious lunch,
Yum, yum!

One jumped into the pool
Where it was nice and cool
Then there were four green and speckled frogs
Ribbet, Ribbet.

Continue with: 4, 3, 2, 1

Five Little Caterpillars

Five little caterpillars wiggling on a leaf,
One falls off, goes to sleep.
Close her eyes and wait a week,
Up come a butterfly floating on the breeze.

Repeat with: 4, 3, 2, 1, None

Five Little Hot Dogs

Five little hot dogs
Frying in a pan.
The grease for hot,
And one went BAM!

Continue with: 4, 3, 2, 1

Funky Spunky Monkeys

Funky spunky monkey
Climbed up the coconut tree
Down came the coconut
And bonked him on his knee
Along came his mama
And kissed away the pain
And the funky spunky monkey
Climbed up the tree again.

Here is the Beehive

Here is the beehive,
But where are the bees?
Hidden away where nobody sees.
Watch and you’ll see them come out of the hive…
1, 2, 3, 4, 5…They’re alive!

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.

Leaves on the Trees

The leaves on the trees turn orange and red,
Orange and red,
Orange and red.
The leaves on the trees turn orange and red, all around the town.

The leaves on the trees come twirling down,
Twirling down,
Twirling down.
The leaves on the trees come twirling down, all around the town.

The leaves on the ground go swish, swish, swish,
Swish, swish, swish,
Swish, swish, swish.
The leaves on the ground go swish, swish, swish, all around the town.

Little Mousie Brown

Little Mousie Brown
Little Mousie Brown
Climbed up the big, white candlestick
And couldn’t get back down.

So she called to her Grandma,
“Grandma! Grandma!”
But Grandma was not around.
So she curled into a little ball,
And rolled herself back down.

Mix a Pancake

Mix a pancake.
Stir a pancake.
Pop it in a pan.
Fry a pancake.
Toss a pancake.
Catch it if you can!

My Garden

Here is my garden.
Rake it with care.
And then, some seeds
We’ll plant in there!

The sun will shine,
The rain will fall,
And then my garden
Will grow big and tall.

Point to the Ceiling

Point to the ceiling.
Point to the floor.
Point to a window.
Point to the door!

Point to your elbow.
Point to your knee.
Now sit down,
And point at me!

Put Your Claws

Put your claws in the air.
Put your claws on the ground.
Put your claws in the middle,
And wiggle them around.

Put your claws to the side,
And pretend to soar!
Put your claws to your mouth,
And give a big ROAR!

Put Your Hands Up High

Put your hands up high,
Put your hands down low,
Put your hands in the middle,
And wiggle just so.
Put your elbows in front.
Put your elbows in back.
Put your elbows to the side and

Roll Roll Sugar Babies

Roll roll sugar babies,
Roll roll sugar babies,
Push and pull
And clap, clap, clap!

Roll roll sugar babies,
Roll roll sugar babies,
Push and pull
And clap, clap, clap!

Roll up high!
Roll down low.
Roll real fast!
Roll real slow.

Roll roll sugar babies,
Roll roll sugar babies,
Push and pull
And clap, clap, clap!

Slowly, Slowly

Slowly, slowly, very slowly,
Creeped the garden snail.
Slowly, slowly, very slowly
Up the wooden rail.

Quickly, quickly, very quickly
Ran the little mouse.
Quickly, quickly, very quickly,
Round about the house!

There Was a Crocodile

There was a crocodile,
An orangutan,
A flying eagle,
And a silvery fish.

A bunny,
A beaver,
A crazy elephant,
Da na na na na na
Da na na na na na

This is Big

This is big big big.
This is small small small.

This is short short short.
This is tall tall tall.

This is fast fast fast.
This is slow slow slow.

This is yes yes yes yes.
This is no no no no.

Two Little Friends

Two little friends sitting on a hill,
One named Jack and one named Jill.
Run away Jack! Run away Jill!
Come back Jack. Come back Jill.

Two little friends sitting on a cloud.
One named soft and one named LOUD.
Run away soft! Run away loud!
Come back soft. Come back loud.

Two little friends sitting down below.
One named fast and one named slow.
Run away fast! Run away slow.
Come back fast! Come back slow.

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom

Zoom, zoom, zoom,
We’re going to the moon.
Zoom, zoom, zoom,
We’ll get there very soon.

If you want to take a trip,
Climb aboard my rocket ship.
Zoom, zoom, zoom,
We’re going to the moon.

In 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

Storytime: Book Retellings

We are on a brief live storytime hiatus as we re-adjust for whatever the fall will bring, so I thought I would highlight one of my favorite storytelling tools: Book Retellings! (Post updated 10/15/20.)

Book retellings were a part of my storytimes well before COVID and the move to virtual programs, though I’ve been happy to dig into them more since I am presenting more storytimes for toddlers and preschoolers. I sometimes use a book retelling element for babies with puppets, but mostly any “story” element is for the caregivers, with me focusing on and emphasizing the puppet reveal and animal sound for the babies.

Book Retellings Pros and Cons

Book retellings allow you to:

  • appeal to visual or action-based learners and listeners (so, most toddlers)
  • make things larger–puppets are often bigger than the pictures on a page, especially when presenting to a large in-person crowd (this distinction isn’t such a big deal behind a camera)
  • include more repetition – a book you read earlier in storytime or the week before could be used as a flannel or puppet activity
  • give caregivers ideas for ways to get excited about familiar stories that might be read over and over and over again at home
  • include props, puppets, and other manipulatives in your program

On the other hand, book retellings put more pressure on you as a presenter. Reading the words on a page with the proper inflection, emotion, timing, and engagement is a challenge on its own. Pulling that off without exact words to guide you can be more challenging. However, I also like to think of book retellings as more freeing–viewers can’t see the words, so if I mix up an animal or two, or intentionally skip an entire portion of the story or rearrange something to make more sense visually, as long as I keep my cool, the audience doesn’t have to know. (I think there is a better word than “audience” here. Storytimes are presentations, in a way, but there is a back and forth–what is the word for an engaged, participating audience? Is that still audience? I’m digressing.)

To Memorize or Not To Memorize

I’m going to say something here that may make some library folks cringe–yell in the comments. Please. I know this is my opinion, and it isn’t a popular one, but I still feel strongly about it, so: it is better if you memorize.

Yes, we aren’t actors. Yes, our caregivers know this. No, most kids don’t really notice if we read. But there are kids that do, and there are adults who also notice, and…well I was that totally judge-y preschooler who really didn’t know any better, and compared you (rightfully or not) to Barney and Sesame Street and the Wiggles, and those real people aren’t reading off of a page or constantly glancing off screen to read their next line.

Yes, there will be mistakes, and no, you shouldn’t refilm a 30-minute pre-recorded storytime 17 times because of one error toward the end. Have a cheat sheet somewhere but don’t make it a script and don’t rely on it. I normally put a list of key words taped either directly below my camera on my tripod or right beside the location where I am hiding the puppets or flannel pieces. If I decide to do a dramatic reveal and look back and forth a few times with fun facial expressions–I’m probably re-reading the next line.

I know this isn’t the way most librarians view or encourage this type of storytime experience, especially because it can make it harder or scarier to jump into something like this. But…I do, personally, feel like it makes it a little better. The storytelling experience is stronger and less stilted. But if you need that script, try it with the script. With time and repetition, you’ll know the story so well that you may be able to stop relying on the piece of paper. (End of Annamarie being rude and judge-y. Please berate me in the comments.)

How to Make Props and Flannels

I steal. I am not as creative as some of my coworkers. Do not be fooled by awesome flannel sets in videos. Some of these things are made by them. Other things are designed based off of me seeing someone else’s work online and remaking piece by piece. Other selections are my personally owned purchased sets, made by awesomely talented people who are not me.

I am not going to continue rambling here because my skills are not great or varied. My one tip, which is obvious to regular crafters but not to those of us new to this domain: get. scissors. just. for. felt. Use for nothing else. The world is a much, much more magical place.

Book Retellings Examples

There are so many great ways to retell stories, but now that I’ve made so many videos for our patrons to watch online, I decided to collect some of my favorites below, in alphabetical order by book title.

Bark George by Jules Feiffer (prop & puppets)
Learn about how I made George in this blog post.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. (puppets)
Change to whatever animals you have on hand. I tried to select stuffed animals that were different colors to continue the color emphasis from the physical book.

Brown Owl, Brown Owl What Do You See? (Adapted from Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.) (flannel)

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. (flannel)
Abbreviated because you don’t realize how long this book is, and how many letters there really are, until you are halfway through.

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell (flannel)

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell (puppets)

Do Cows Meow? by Salina Yoon (puppets)

Do Crocs Kiss? by Salina Yoon (puppets)

Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma Dodd (flannel)
I’ve also seen this done as a really cool dry-erase marker activity. I was going to do this on a physical stuffed dog with flannel dots, but my velcro dots didn’t work the way I imagined. Still curious about doing this with a stuffed animal though!

Froggy Gets Dressed by Jonathan London (flannel)
Filming this was the worst because socks kept falling off the flannel board. Something to keep in mind during creation or execution–so many small parts.

Go Away Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley (magnet)
Download the printable template from Kizclub.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (flannel)
I re-wrote part of the story to create the all-items-enter and all-items-exit effect.

I Spy on the Farm by Edward Gibbs (puppets)
I made an I Spy window with a piece of cardboard hanging from a floor lamp. Change out the animals to whatever you have on hand.

I Went Walking by Sue Williams (puppets)
Change out the animals to whatever you have on hand. I focused on having animals of different colors.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff (flannel)

I’m the Biggest Thing in the Oceanb by Kevin Sherry (magnet)
Download magnet template from Kizclub.

Jump! by Scott Fischer (puppets)

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin and James Dean (flannel)

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin and James Dean (flannel)

Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Bill Martin Jr. (puppets)
Change out the animals to whatever you have on hand.

Tickle Monster by Edouard Manceau (flannel)
If you want to try retelling, this is the story for you. The set is super easy to make, and the order of body parts really isn’t that important. Caregivers can tickle little ones throughout.

Tip Tip Dig Dig by Emma Garcia (magnet)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (flannel)
This is a great example of a story where you don’t need to memorize or have a script–just have your flannel pieces in the order you need them. The words are essentially the foods that you are adding to your board.

White Rabbit’s Color Book by Alan Baker (props)

I am always, always looking for more books to retell, especially stories that are about diverse characters or by diverse authors. This video list is very white, and and in storytimes I try to balance that, at least a little, with diversity in my physical book for the week. What are some of your favorite stories to retell?

Storytime Prop: Bark George

Funny stories and book retellings 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 retold Bark George with a giant dog stuffed animal 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 for my Bark George prop.

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!