Friday, December 10, 2010


I like doing storytimes on vehicles because there are so many little boys and girls that just love anything that moves. So I decided on airplanes this week. I started by lining up chairs in rows in our storytime area and we all pretended to take a flight (to Florida, of course. Where else would we go from snowy Minnesota?)

That's Not My Plane by Fiona Watt
I love the "That's Not My..." series. Even older kids and adults like being able to interact with the books by feeling the scratchy propeller, the shiny headlights, the rough seat. And of course I always let the kids feel the pages as I'm reading it. This slows me down, so this time I was smart and had two copies of the same book - one in each hand, letting twice as many kids touch at the same time.

Redbird was a neat book I found that is in both braille and printed text and it has raised bumps under the elements of each picture as well. The story, frankly, is not good and not much of a story. But I read it anyway to the kids the opportunity to touch the bumps on the book and imagine what reading would be like for those who cannot see.

Other books I read this week were:
Airplanes!: Soaring! Diving! Turning! by Patricia Hubbell

Amazing Airplanes by Tony Mitton
I Love Planes!

We got to do something we've been doing a lot at my house lately: make paper airplanes! I gave the kids markers and crayons and instructed them to decorate both sides of a blank piece of paper. Then I folded it into a basic plane (my standby is the dart) and had a space set aside for them to fly their creations. For instructions on how to fold the dart, and other great airplane designs, try the site

This theme was used the week of 12/6/10.
Next week we'll be talking about pancakes.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Big, Bigger, Biggest

I don't know about you, but my own kids have had trouble with size comparisons. Or at least they did early on. They've got it down by now. Seems easy: "A is bigger than B, therefore B is smaller than A". "This jacket is too big for me, but too small for mama." But inevitably they'd say the jacket was too small for me and too big for them, or get it mixed up somehow. So I decided to do a storytime on that. I brought a number of items from my house, each in 3 sizes. I brought spoons (teaspoon, soup spoon, serving spoon), whisks (small, medium, large), jeans (infant, child, and daddy's), and a few other things. The pants were the biggest hit, of course. But for each we figure out which was the biggest, which the smallest, and which in the middle.

I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry
The story of a giant squid (not an octopus, a squid) that goes around stating how he's bigger than this fish, he's bigger than that jellyfish, and then of course an enormous whale swallows him. But then he finds he's the biggest thing inside the whale... It's a good book and funny for the kids, I just wish they wouldn't just use "I'm bigger than..." all the time. An occasional "This ____ is smaller than me" would have been nice, since that's what I was working on with the kids this week.

Big, Bigger, Biggest by Nancy Coffelt
I read this book two different ways depending on the age of the kids. For the older ones, I read it how it was written - there are 3 animals in each set and each says a word and 3 synonyms to describe itself (The hippo is big, large, huge, jumbo; the orca is bigger, gigantic, immense, enormous; the dinosaur is biggest, mammoth, humongous, colossal.). For the younger ones, I just read the hippo as "big", the orca as "bigger" and the dinosaur as "biggest". And so on.

What Size? by Debbie MacKinnon
Each page in this book has a number of pictures and a question - "Which is the smallest car?", "What color is the narrowest line?". Nice to see different adjectives - instead of just big and small, they have wide and narrow, tall and short, thick and thin.

I'm the Best by Lucy Cousins
A dog finds that he's the best because he's bigger than Ladybug, swims better than Donkey, faster than Mole, and a better digger than Goose. But then his friends discover that actually, Mole is the best digger, Goose the best swimmer, Donkey is the biggest. But at the end, Dog has fluffy ears, so he's still the best. Good book about comparisons and also about bragging.

I couldn't come up with a great craft to go with this, so I put together a worksheet with different sizes of pictures (balls, stars, etc) and had the kids color them, then circle which item in each group was the biggest. Can't do something complex every week.

This theme was used the week of November 30, 2010.
Next week we'll be doing airplanes!

Friday, November 26, 2010


This year for the Thanksgiving storytime I decided to focus on the very first Thanksgiving and what it was like "in the olden days". So we talked about how the Pilgrims came here on a boat and they had to cut down trees, build their own houses and raise all their own food. No grocery stores back then. And we learned about how the Native Americans helped the Pilgrims grow more food the next year and they had a big feast at harvest time. I tried to include all this background information at the beginning because most of the books on the first Thanksgiving are written for older kids, with more words and more difficult vocabulary. That doesn't mean I don't use them anyway...

What is Thanksgiving by Harriet Ziefert

A simple lift-the-flap book where a mouse questions his parents about Thanksgiving. It covers both the first Thanksgiving (very briefly and simply) and the traditions we have now. It's not the best book, but I always like to start with a board book or lift-the-flap to get their attention right away and outline what we're talking about in the simplest terms.

This First Thanksgiving Day by

This Is the Feast by Diane Z. Shore
A longer, poetic book, this describes how the Pilgrims crossed the ocean, established their settlement, were devastated by disease and death, were taught by Squanto how to plant, etc. etc.. I liked all the information in this one, but it was too long for most of my groups, so I clipped a few pages together and shortened the story a bit. It still made an effective telling of the Thanksgiving story and reinforced what we had been talking about.

This week we made feather pens. I had been looking for an opportunity to do this craft. It was something that my parents would occasionally make for us and is so simple but fun for kids to play around with. All you need is a larger feather (we used wing and tail feathers from a turkey) and a simple ballpoint or stick pen. Tape is helpful too. Cut the tip off the feather and clean out anything you can from the hollow interior. Take the pen apart, just keeping the part that has the ink and the writing tip in it. Insert the pen into the feather and tape in place. This is a good use for pens that are just about used up since you can trim them better to fit inside the feather. I explained that this was NOT how they used to use feathers to write with in the "olden days" but it was a lot less messy. I had the tables covered with paper so the kids could test out their new quills.

Happy Thanksgiving!
This theme was used the week of November 22, 2010.
Next week we'll be doing superlatives: Big, Bigger Biggest!

Friday, November 19, 2010


Alphabet knowledge and phonological awareness is a key concept in learning how to read. I incorporate it into many storytimes, but it's always nice to do a storytime just completely focused on the ABC's. There are thousands of alphabet books out there, but many of them are oddly geared toward older children and have a whole paragraph (or page!) of text about whatever they choose each letter to stand for. But for preschoolers, here's my top favorites for ABC's.

Creature ABC by Andrew Zuckerman
 I just discovered Creature ABC this summer and absolutely loved it. It has the upper and lowercase letters on one page, then a fantastic photograph of the animal (or concept) that it stands for. Simple. And some of the animals are not what you'd expect (N is for Nocturnal, for example). But still short and easy enough for the youngest to understand. And I really appreciate that it includes the lowercase letters as well.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.
A classic, and one that many of the kids recognized and even had memorized. It doesn't spend too much time on each letter, but you do get to see all the letters - again both upper and lower case.

Old Black Fly by Jim Aylesworth
The ABC's here are not too obvious unless you point them out to the kids. The fly buzzes around people and objects starting with A and all the way to Z (where the fly gets squashed)!

Other books:
Didn't use these, but here are some other good ABC books:
Stuff on My Cat Presents: Cats A to Z 
This is a cute board book with photos of a cat with various objects (H is for Hat, etc.)
My Little Minnesota ABC  
Another board book, with Minnesota interests and landmarks, but I think it would require more one-on-one explanation than I have time for in storytime.

Ok, good idea, poor execution here. I found out you can adhere foamies (in this case, foam letters) to jar lids and have instant cheap rubber stamps. Yay - enough stamps for all the kids! Unfortunately, I didn't have enough stamp pads for all the kids, so we used washable tempera paint. And this just ended up messy. With the proper stamp pads, though, this might be really cool. Maybe save this for next time we have an increase in our budget (feel free to laugh here).

This theme was used the week of November 19, 2010.
Next week we'll be talking about Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Veteran's Day

To honor those who have served our country, I decided to do a Veteran's Day theme this week. It's a difficult subject for a bunch of preschoolers, and there are few very easy books out there, but when has that ever stopped me?

 Veteran's Day by Jaqueline Cotton and Veteran's Day by Leslie Kaplan
Both of these are good non-fiction overviews of what Veteran's Day is. We talked about "people in the army" and saying "thank you" to them.

F is for Flag by

Night Catch by

John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


We read about cookies this week at storytime, then got a little messy and made some ourselves!

Good cookie books:

If you Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff
I have a puppet with accessories that goes with "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" so if I don't have too many kids, I will give them each something (cookie, straw, napkin, broom, etc). and the mouse puppet will grab it from them when it comes to that time in the book. 
 The Cow Loves Cookies by Karma Wilson
 The kids also liked "The Cow Loves Cookies" and joined in the refrain every time I read it, though I don't think all of them "got" the fact that the cow loved cookies because she had milk...
May I Please Have a Cookie by Jennifer Morris 
 "May I Please Have a Cookie" is a short reader book emphasizing manners, which we tied in at the end when we sat down to make our cookies. 
Ginger Bear by Mini Grey

"Ginger Bear" was one of the favorite books this week about a gingerbread bear making his own friends (only to have them be eaten by a dog), then finding a place where a cookie could be safe.

Cookies: Bite-size Life Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
 "Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons" is a cute vocabulary book, but I only used it for the older kids that were able to sit a little bit longer. This is a book that would be best as a one-on-one book and would grow on a child with repeated readings.

This week we made cookies at the library! Now, we have a very small library and our "kitchen" consists of a teeny-tiny dorm fridge with a microwave stacked on top. But I found a recipe where you can bake sugar cookies in the microwave (and posted it here). So I brought my mixer, rolling pin, and cookie cutters from home, and for each group of storytime kids, we measured and mixed, then wrapped the dough up to cool and harden. But in our fridge, it only took a few seconds for the dough to be firm enough to use (or maybe there was some in the fridge previously and I traded, but don't tell the kids that). Each kid got their own slice of dough to pat down and use the cookie cutters on. Then I put the finished shapes on some parchment paper and voila! 1 minute later we had some piping hot, cooked through sugar cookies!

Next week we're talking about Veteran's Day!

This theme was used the week of November 1, 2010.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Halloween is always fun. I dress up (nothing too scary) and always encourage the kids to come in costume as well. This year I did a monster theme and dressed up as a generic monster (just because I had the horns and a large shirt already at home).

I made a glove puppet with a monster for each finger and did a fingerplay of "5 Scary Monsters" that I found on
Five scary monsters howling out a roar,
One ran away, and then there were four.
Four scary monsters hiding in a tree,
One fell out, and then there were three.
Three scary monsters eating spider stew,
One got sick, and then there were two.
Two scary monsters having lots of fun,
One ran off, and then there was one.
One scary monster, afraid to be a hero,
He ran away, and then there were zero. 

 Monster Munchies by Laura Numeroff
A counting book showing more and more monsters eating various things. At the end it says "...better close this book up tight before they chew on you!", and I slammed the book shut and sat on it so the monsters didn't get out. The kids all thought that was hilarious and they kept telling me ways to keep the monsters from escaping the book.

My Monster Mama Loves Me So by Laura Leuck
Shows all the ways a monster mama shows she loves her little monster. Kids especially enjoyed the gross parts like swimming in the swamp and drinking lizard juice.

 Jeremy Draws a Monster by Peter McCarty
 Jeremy never leaves his room until a monster that he draws makes increasing demands. Jeremy finally draws a suitcase and a bus ticket for the monster and goes to play with the neighbor kids. This was one of the favorite books this week and the kids giggled at all the requests the monster made (I made sure to read them quickly and in a monster-y voice).

Even Monsters Need Haircuts by Matthew McElligott
 Where do monsters get their hair cut? I read this book to the older kids and they though it was okay - they were mostly interested in recognizing the various monsters (werewolf, medusa, skeleton) than in the actual story. This might be one that would do better with multiple readings where the kids can ask more questions, or as a book to pass the time while waiting for getting their own hair cut.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak 
I told the kids that was finally going to read the very best monster book in the world and brought out "Where the Wild Things Are". Always a classic, and kids get excited when I read a book that they are familiar with. And who doesn't love Max?

Keeping with the "monster" theme, we made monster picture frames for them to put their Halloween photo in. I took a sheet of foam, cut a rectangle shape out of the middle (a little bit smaller than a 4x6 photo would be) and had them glue different sized googly eyes all around the edge. We glued a magnet strip to the top and bottom of the frame. They then would tape a photo behind it, and hang a monster photo on the fridge!

Next week we're making cookies!
This theme was used the week of October 25, 2010.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Despite the fact that one of our staff members is deathly afraid of snakes, I went ahead with the theme for this week. I tried to save the realistic looking books for when she was out of sight, though.

I brought my son's stuffed animal snake and we talked about different kinds of snakes. I had meant to do "I'm Being Swallowed by a Boa Constrictor", but got distracted as we started talking about rattlesnakes instead. So I ran to the back room, got my basket of maracas and we all sang "If You're a Snake and You Know It" instead. Made sure to put away all the maracas after the song was done as some of the kids were really getting into shaking them and I figured that we wouldn't be able to hear the stories otherwise.

Snakes Slither and Hiss by Fiona Lock
 This non-fiction reader was the favorite book this week. Talking about different snakes and what they can do, each page ended with a "Hissss" that everyone joined in on.

I Am a Big Snake by Lidia Di Blasi and Nuria Roca
I actually have this book at home. It is a board book, but the text is above the board-book level, and the illustrations are downright creepy, they're so realistic (snake with fangs bared, snake eating eggs). But I love it and had to bring it for storytime.

The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash by Trinka Hakes Noble
Remember this one? A story told backwards, a girl relates the end of her field trip, then what happened before, then a little before that until the whole story comes out. Wonderful illustrations by Steven Kellogg make this a both a good book for reading out loud, and nice one to look at over and over to really appreciate what's going on in each picture.

Did two different activities (actually 3) depending on the age of the group. For the youngest, we made snakes out of play dough. Nothing that complicated there, and good tactile stimulation for the little ones. For the older group, I printed out the head and numbers 1-5 of this number snake from DLTK kids and had them color, cut, and glue it together.

Next week we'll be doing Halloween!
This theme was used the week of October 18, 2010.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Always fun to do a fishing storytime. There are so many good fish books and activities!

  • Trout, Trout, Trout by April Pulley Sayre
  • Swimmy by Leo Lionni
  • The Pout Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen
  • Big Al by Andrew Clements
  • Fish Eyes by Lois Ehlert  
The favorite in my household is Trout, Trout, Trout. Wonderful, hilarious illustrations pair with a chant of fish names. It flows so well, both my kids had it memorized very quickly. But it's much better the more you read it and are familiar with it. So the favorite of the storytime kids ended up being The Pout Pout Fish, which lends itself well to over-the-top storytelling with a great frowny face every time you read the "pout pout fish" refrain. 

  • Use the song "Goldfish" by Laurie Berkener and have the kids dance and act out the words. Great silly song that the kids will love. 
  • Thumbprint goldfish craft. Print out a fishbowl, have kids put their thumbs in orange paint and stamp in the bowl. Add eyes, fins, etc. with marker after the paint dries.
  • Rock painting. Have pictures of various sea creatures out, let kids pick out a rock and paint it to resemble a shark, sponge, pufferfish, or other. I made this a faster craft by having the rocks all pre-painted with a solid color, so the kids just had to paint on eyes, fins, and any other details, or glue on googly eyes.

This theme was used the week of June 7, 2010.


Ok, obviously I'm WAY behind on posting. So I'm going to make some short posts as placeholders until I have time to come in and fill in with more details. I'll be listing a topic, good books to go along with that topic, and a craft, as well as any songs, fingerplays, or other activities I come across.

Crocodile books: 

  • Crocodile Beat by Gail Jorgensen
  • Crocodaddy by Kim Norman 
Both "Crocodile Beat" and "Crocodaddy" are shorter books with good rhythm and are perfect for toddler/preschool storytimes. If you have kids that can sit still a little bit longer, try:
  • Keep Your Mouth Closed Dear by Aliki
  • I’d Really Like to Eat a Child by Sylvaine Donnio
Activity: Crocodile with hinged mouth. From our 2010 Summer Reading Program Manual, there was a cutout of a crocodile, a separate lower jaw and a separate tail. Have kids color the pieces, then attach the jaw & tail with brads. 

Theme used week of June 7, 2010.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Mother's Day

I'm busy getting the final things ready for our summer reading program, which starts beginning of June, but have to have our regular storytimes too! This week we talked about Mother's Day.

Book 1: Mother's Mother's Day by Lorna Balian
A story about mothers, and their mothers, and their mother's mothers, this book features a mouse bringing something to her mother for Mother's Day, but mom isn't home - she's bringing something to her mother, who's bringing something to her mother... then in the end, they all end up being chased into the same hole by a cat, so they all spend Mother's Day together.

Book 2: Max and the Dumb Flower Picture by Martha Alexander
Max doesn't want to color the dumb flower picture his teacher gives him. He knows his mom won't like it. So he grabs his crayons and runs away, where he draws a flower of his own. All the kids then draw their own flowers, and the moms are happy that each flower is unique. A nice message, but I think it says "dumb" a few too many times, and I know that's a word some parents object to. Left some of them out and used the book anyway.

Book 3: It's Going to Be Perfect! by Nancy Carlson
A sweet book by a Minnesota author/illustrator, this shows the ideals vs. reality of being a mom. At each age, the mom knows "it's going to be perfect" and baby will sleep through the night, potty train with ease, etc. But reality comes with sleepless nights and "NO!" as a favorite word. Each one is balanced, though with "Boy, am I glad you're here" and all the wonderful lessons this less-than-perfect child has taught her.

Activity: This year, I had the kids draw a picture of their mom and answer some questions about her, like "My mom is ____ years old." "She is the best at ________." It's always fun to see what the kids say about their mothers.

This theme was used the week of May 3-7, 2010. Next week: Kites!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Poetry & Rhyming

Rhyming is a fairly easy concept for preschoolers to understand. And so many kids' books rhyme, so often when I'm reading a book where the rhyme is obvious, I'll pause to let the kids guess the rhyming word in the story. Not long, just a little bit to allow the kids that are paying attention to shout out the missing word. Alliteration is also simple for kids to grasp - words that start with the same sound. Since April is National Poetry Month, I thought we'd talk a little about rhymes and alliteration for this week's storytime.

Book 1: Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw
Of the thousands of books in rhyme for kids, I wanted to pick a couple whose main emphasis was on rhyming. Sheep in a Jeep is perfect. The story is secondary (though funny) - the point of the book is that most of the words end in "-eep". I though about (though decided against) also doing the board book "Truck Duck" by Michael Rex.

Book 2: One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
Classic Dr. Seuss book. Wonderful rhymes, and plenty of alliteration too. What more can I say?

Book 3: Berenstain's B Book by Stan & Jan Berenstain
For our final "poetry" book, we talked about alliteration. The kids already (mostly) knew what it was, they just didn't know the word for it. But we practiced saying "alliteration" a few times, then read the "B Book". Afterwards, we thought of other words that started with B. 

Activity: I was a slacker this week and just made a worksheet for this week's activity. Had pictures on one side of a hat, bear, etc. and had cat, hair, etc. on the other side. They were to connect the two pictures that rhymed.
Theme used week of April 26th, 2010. Next week: Mother's Day!

Monday, April 5, 2010


We talked about colors this week, and I started off by having everyone name their favorite color.  The library had purchased a couple of very neat books about color that I was so excited to read to the kids, and this was my opportunity.

Book 1: See the Colors by Dawn Babb Prochovnic
This book has a nice, calm phrasing that repeats the name of different colors on each page. "See the blue, see the blue, see the blue, little one. Chase the blue jays from our garden, see the blue, little one." What's neat is that it shows the word in sign language on each page (with more detailed instructions on how to do them in back). I signed and also had the kids signing the different colors on each page. At the end, I had a little "quiz" and it's amazing how many kids retained most or all of the signs by the end.

Book 2: The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin and Rosana Faria
Most of the kids had some knowledge of sign language and how deaf people used it to communicate. But then I brought out The Black Book of Colors and we talked about how blind people experience the world. This book is so neat - all of us here at the library have been recommending it to people that come in. It's all black with white text, about a boy who can't see, but tells us what colors feel, taste, or smell like. Braille text is printed below the English text, and raised pictures (also in black) encourages kids to touch the pages and feel the green grass, the yellow feathers, or the black hair. I requested a couple other copies through ILL and left them with the daycare groups that I read with so that the kids could take turns reading and feeling the pages. I also showed them a thank you note we had received here at the library, written in braille, by a local girl who is blind and was introduced to this book through our recommendation.

Activity: Rainbow handprints
We ended with each child tracing their hand on various colors of construction paper. I let the older kids cut out their own, but helped those that we couldn't really trust with scissors yet. They drew their names on the handprint and I hung all of them in ROY G BIV order to form a rainbow in our front window. I like to show people that don't come during storytime some of the neat things we do here with the kids!

This theme was used the week of April 9, 2010.
Next week we're working with math and patterns.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Easter bunnies

In some ways holidays are easy weeks to plan because you don't have to come up with a theme for that week; it's expected that you'll read Christmas books at Christmas, Easter books at Easter, etc. But on the other hand, there are only so many good holiday books out there. There's dozens of holiday books published each year, but I'm not going to read just anything at my storytime... there, doesn't that sound snooty enough? But truly, so many of these books are disposable, meant to be purchased by parents just because it has "Valentine's Day" or "Halloween" on the cover, and with no regard to the quality of the writing on the inside. Ok, enough ranting. I knew this was going to be a fun storytime as one of my moms had agreed to bring her bunny for all the kids to see and pet. But we started off with a few decent holiday books...

Book 1: My First Easter by Tomie dePaola
A short board book illustrating some of the things that happen around Easter. Nice that it includes both the religious and the secular: there's an egg hunt and new clothes for church on Sunday. I do just love dePaola's illustrations. He makes everything so clean and simple, and yet there's always something more to find in all of his pages.

Book 2: Owen's Marshmallow Chick by Kevin Henkes
Another great board book by a wonderful author/illustrator. Owen gets a number of different candies in his basket, each one named his "favorite" before he eats them up. Then he comes to the marshmallow chick, the same color as his blanket. Instead of eating it, he plays with it all day and calls it his "favorite" before he puts it on his shelf with his toys. Very cute and you can just see the excitement in Owen's eyes as he picks up each item in his basket.

Book 3: The Story of the Easter Bunny by Katherine Tegen
Before I brought out our "surprise guest", I read this story about the supposed origins of the Easter Bunny as a pet white rabbit in the home of an old couple who dye eggs, weave baskets, and deliver them all to the village children on Easter. Then one year the old couple are still asnooze when there is work to be done, so the bunny finishes their tasks and delivers the baskets. Little by little the bunny takes over, then moves to his own place with his own troop of bunny helpers to get all the baskets made and delivered each year.

Book 4: An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Aston
Actually this would be book 2.5, as I read it between "Owen's Marshmallow Chick" and "The Story of the Easter Bunny", but only for the daycare groups where I didn't have the live bunny coming. A beautifully illustrated book, it shows the wonderful variety of eggs: bird eggs, insect eggs, fish eggs, and more. A peaceful book that still manages to engage and astonish kids of all ages.

Experiment: Vacuum/Egg experiment
I had video taken of this as well, but my helper had the camera turned the wrong way, so until I get that figured out, the still photo will have to do.  I've always wanted to try this experiment, but didn't think of doing it here until a coworker suggested it. You light a small piece of paper, drop it in a flask, then immediately put a hard-boiled egg on top. The vacuum created by the fire sucks the egg down into the flask with a satisfying pop! And, if you have a neck that is just a little bit too small (like I did), then it also tears the egg in half.  Naturally there was a little talk about fire safety beforehand, but the kids just loved it. Hooray for science!

Theme used week of March 29, 2010.
Next week, we're talking about rainbows.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Spring has sprung!

The spring equinox this year actually coincided with the warming of our cold weather here in Minnesota, and much melting of snow. That's not always the case, so this year we reveled in the diminishing white drifts and enjoyed feeling the warmth of the sun again. For this week, I had originally decided to start with the book "Spring Things" by Bob Raczka, but that made too many books that had too little text, so I left it out in favor of "The Tiny Seed".

Book 1: Cold Little Duck, Duck, Duck by Lisa Westberg Peters
This is a perfect book for the transition from winter to spring. Especially for us in Minnesota where it can change within a day (and then change back to winter, and then to spring, winter, and then spring again). A little duck flies north too early and lands on a frozen lake. But never fear, his warm thoughts cause the weather to warm up and spring arrives! Few words on each page, and there's an echo of three words (duck, duck, duck; cold, cold, cold; etc) on each page that I thought might be distracting, but the kids really enjoyed that extra touch.

Book 2: Mud by Mary Lyn Ray
Another book with minimal text on each page, describing the mud that results from the melting of winter into spring. The wonderful illustrations show a boy reveling in the mud - starting off in shoes, then disposing of them and enjoying the squishyness with his bare feet.  Before I read this book, I asked the kids what kind of boots they wore to go out in the mud with and told them to keep an eye out for what color boots this boy was wearing. A few of them got the joke at the end - he wasn't wearing any boots!

Book 3: The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
Classic book about growing from a tiny seed into a flower. Of the group of seeds that begin the book, none of them survive except the tiniest seed, which grows to a flower.  Not just any flower, of course, but "the biggest flower anyone had ever seen". And the seeds come out of that flower and the cycle begins again. I used this book to talk about what seeds need in order to grow: sun, water, and dirt. We saw how some of the seeds didn't get all three of these, so they didn't grow. This provided a good transition to the activity we were doing. You would think someone planned this out!

Activity: Planting seeds
I gave each of the children a small dixie cup that they decorated on the outside. Then we filled them with damp potting soil. Then everyone got to plant either a bean or a pea. I figured those were the largest seeds with the shortest germinating time that I could think of. Plus I had some left over from my own garden last year. Yay for cheap activities! So we had the "dirt" need covered, and I did get out a plant mister and water each of their cups to fulfill the "water" need before they set their pots on the windowsill for the "sun". With the open storytimes, I had the kids take the pots home with them, but I had the daycares leave theirs here, and by the next week we had little tops peeking out, and then in two weeks, we had bean plants nearly half a foot tall! I sent the plants home at that point. A little reluctantly, since it's been fun watching this greenness growing on the desk next to me, but they're getting too big for their cups and need to be set free.
 Theme used week of March 22, 2010.

Next week: Easter is coming, with a real bunny!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Punching the clock

In honor of daylight savings starting (and to remind myself of the fact that I accidentally set my clocks the wrong way one year), we talked about time this week for storytime.  Considering that we had mostly preschoolers, I kept the minute hand at 12 and just concentrated on the hour hand.  I had a toy clock with me that we could practice with.
We started off by singing a version of this song:
I changed it a little by singing "Tick tock, tick tock, goes the big clock. I know the time is ___ o'clock."
We started at one o'clock (using the toy clock) and sang it through about 6 with me changing the hours each time. Since they mostly had the hang of the melody and words by that point, I asked if we could speed it up. Because really, what kid doesn't love singing faster and faster until it's almost impossible to understand the words?

Book 1: The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle
Eric Carle does such a good job teaching concepts.  I have read The Very Busy Spider before to a storytime group, and it's a wonderful book on its own, with animals trying to talk to the spider at different times during the day.  Then I found this version that is a board book with a movable clock right in it.  Bonus!  So I was able to change the hands for every time an animal interacted with the spider and the kids could tell me what time it was.

Book 2: What Time Is It, Mr. Crocodile? by Judy Sierra
I used the Very Busy Spider clock for this book too, where Mr. Crocodile plans out his day (culminating in catching, cooking, and eating the monkeys) but is foiled by those same monkeys during each hour of the day. Naturally at the end he writes out a new plan for tomorrow which includes playing with and cooking for the monkeys.

Activity: Making clocks
The logical activity with all this would be having the kids make their own clock. Sometimes I buck the "logical" trend, but this time I just went with it. I knew I was going to be gone at a library conference for 3 of my weekly storytimes, so I wanted something not too complicated for my substitute.  Printed out this template from Enchanted Learning, and had them glue the clock to a page that said "I get up at ________ I eat lunch at ________ I go to bed at ________" Put the hands on using a paper fastener, and there you go. Simple clock craft.

Used this theme the week of March 15, 2010.

Friday, March 12, 2010


At storytime this week we talked about how things are easier when we all work together.  I started off by handing each child a food item - salt, pepper, carrot, onion, celery, cabbage, and chicken. As I handed them out I talked about what they were and how yummy each was (except for the salt and pepper, where we agreed that a little was good, but too much was not). Then I gave the last child a rock. You know where I'm going with this, of course...

Book 1: Stone Soup by Marcia Brown
A classic story of cooperation, where 3 soldiers trick/encourage suspicious villagers to share what little food they have by making stone soup together. This is a longer book, so I used the props I had given the children to have them come up one at a time and add them to the "soup" we were making.  I used the plastic food that I had at home, so I changed some ingredients to match what I had and skipped others entirely.  At the end, I emphasized that everyone shared and made the soup together.

Book 2: The Gigantic Turnip by Aleksei Tolstoy
A cumulative tale of a man, woman, cow, pigs, cats, hens, etc. who try their hardest to pull a gigantic turnip from the garden. In the end (of course) it only comes out when they all pull together. Again, this was a little bit wordy, but the repetition made it easier for the kids, and I tried to have them join in "...but the turnip would not come out.".  I made up flannelboard images for this story, but in the end I decided not to use them as I thought it would distract from the flow of the story.

Book 3: Sand Castle by Shannon Brenda Yee
This story of a group of kids working together to build a sand castle was going to be my shorter story that I would have read second but the library I requested it from was slow and I didn't receive it until the end of the week. I think it would have worked well enough, so maybe next time I'll request it a bit earlier!

Activity: Making a dinosaur
Before the kids came, I drew a basic Stegosaurus body minus the back plates and the legs on a large piece of paper. I drew 4 legs and enough back plates and tail spines to have enough for each kid. I had them all cut out, then passed them out and had each child decorate their own dinosaur part. We assembled the dinosaur and all decorated the body together. I tried again to emphasize that it was only by working together that we could see the complete picture.

Theme used week of March 8, 2010.

Next week we'll talk about time in honor of the start of daylight savings!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Little Pigs

National Pig Day was March 1. How can you not celebrate a holiday like that?  And there are so many good books and stories about pigs... I started off this week by pulling out my great pig puppet that I bought for my son several years ago. It's so nice and soft, and looks just like a good little piglet should. I asked if the kids had all brought their pigs too, but they all claimed they hadn't. But I proved them wrong when we all did "This Little Piggy" on our hands. Actually, for one storytime we took off our shoes and socks, but I figured it was better to stay with hands...

Book 1: Little Oink by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
A sweet story about a pig who prefers to be clean, and hates "mess up time".  The kids enjoyed the reversal in this one, where Little Oink is required to dump out all his toys and put on a stained shirt before he can go out and play.  Nice jokes in there for parents too - the pigs dig for truffles, eat from a trough at school, etc.

After Little Oink, I pulled out my pig puppet again, and added a wolf puppet, and we did the story of the Three Little Pigs.  I don't know what it is about puppets, but the kids thought this was just the greatest thing they had seen in a long time, and everyone joined in when the wolf was blowing the houses down. 

Book 2: My Lucky Day by Keiko Kasza
After nearly being eaten by a wolf, we then moved on to My Lucky Day, where our pig-hero narrowly avoids the same fate when he happens on the fox's house. But this tricky pig instead gets the fox to give him a bath, feed him dinner, give him a nice massage, and then escapes when the fox collapses, exhausted.  A little more text than a typical book I read for storytime, but with different voices and a compelling story, the kids had no problems sitting still for this one.

Book 3: Olivia by Ian Falconer
We rounded off Pig Week with one of my favorite pigs, Olivia. Just like so many of the storytime kids themselves, Olivia is an energetic pig, good at wearing people out. There are so many good Olivia stories, but I chose the original as a nice ending to a fun storytime.

Activity: This Little Piggy
This week we did just a simple coloring page of pigs, with numbers to trace. Nice & easy.  Theme done week of March 1, 2010.

Friday, February 26, 2010


A few weeks ago, my 6-year-old son came home and asked me if other galaxies were real or not (we've been watching Star Wars lately), so we got into a discussion about planets, galaxies, and what makes up our universe. Since I like talking about science and space, I decided to cover that in this week's storytime. I did have a harder time finding the books this week because most books that discuss the planets and stars in any detail are just too long and difficult for a preschool group. I know these books must be out there, but I don't feel like I exactly found what I wanted - a simple non-fiction book that named the planets without going into much detail, talked about stars and moons and other things on a pretty basic level. I'll keep my eyes out something like that for next time.

Anyway, I started this week by showing a display we have here at the library that shows the solar system and talked about how all the planets go around the sun. Most of them could pick out which one was Earth, and several already knew that the sun was a star. We all sang "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" then as a transition to our books.

Book 1: The Little Star by Deborah Nash
We started off this with this reader about a star that wants to live on Earth. The moon then gives him a tour of things in the sky and he decides to stay. At the end, a boy says he wants to live in the sky instead of on Earth. A simple story, but I do have a little problem with it that there's not a distinction between "sky" and "space", so the moon & star bounce on clouds and also roast hot dogs by the sun. Even some of the preschoolers notice that clouds and rainbows are not what we find in space. I did like the way it ended, because then I asked them questions like "Where do boys live?" "Earth" "Where does the sun live?" "Space".

Book 2: Night Goes By by Kate Spohn
Another book that didn't quite get at what I wanted to cover, but it was a nice soft story about the sun and moon (and star) taking turns in the sky. Loved the illustrations, and the soft colors and minimal text made me think about using this one for a bedtime book some time.

Book 3: My Place in Space by Robin & Sally Hirst
I kept this one for my Kindergarten group as it was too in-depth for my younger ones. A neat story about a young boy Henry and his sister getting on a bus and the bus driver getting quite an education when he patronizingly asks them if they know where they live. Henry goes into a detailed explanation of city, country, planet, solar system, galaxy, supercluster, and universe. Lots of neat facts about just how big space is, and this is a book that would only get more interesting with more readings.

Activity: Magic Stars
I found this one on the DLTK Kids' site. I laid down white paper on our tables and drew stars, moons, and planets all over them with white crayon. Then we painted over the paper with diluted tempera paint (washable paint, of course). My black paint was almost gone, so I mixed it with blue, and it turned a beautiful midnight blue color. The kids loved making it "turn from day to night" and find all the stars.  I don't think there was any white space left at the end of any session - the kids probably would have painted longer if they had more paper. I think we may use this project again this summer when we do an ocean theme - I'll take some time to draw fish and other sea creatures for them to "find" next time!
This theme was used the week of February 22, 2010.

Next week: Pigs!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Presidents' Day

Since the library was closed on Monday for Presidents' Day, I wanted to talk to the kids about who the President is and what he does. Quite a few of the kids knew who our current President was, and several shared opinions about him that they had heard at home - good and bad!  Many also knew George Washington was the first President (though some guessed George Bush). I also brought up Abraham Lincoln, since some knew his name and since it tied in with the craft we did later.  I showed them several coins and talked about which President was on each. We discussed how the President was in charge of the whole country just like their parents were in charge at their house or teachers were in charge in the classroom.  In one of my groups, a girl asked how a person became President, so we talked briefly about how adults get together and vote and pick the person they think will do the very best job, and whoever gets the most votes, wins.

Book 1: What Does the President Do? by Amanda Miller
A brief non-fiction overview of what the President does - make laws, meet with other leaders, lead the military.  I like including non-fiction books, and this was at the perfect level for preschool and Kindergarteners.  A recent book, it includes photos of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.  The kids were most impressed that the President has his very own airplane.

Book 2: I'm Going to Washington to Visit the President by Tanya Roitman
Readers are nice filler books - they're very short and cover basic concepts.  This book shows a little boy, who is going to visit the President. President Lincoln? Nope. President Washington? Nope. President Jefferson? Nope. THE President at the White House. A nice addition because it reinforced some of the ideas from the first book (White House, Oval Office) and listed a number of former Presidents (all of who happen to be on coins).

Book 3: Madam President by Lane Smith
The final book, Madam President, worked ok for storytime, though it would be best as a one-on-one book. A humorous look at a girl pretending to be President, it shows approving lunch, doing "photo-ops", and "attending state funerals". Some of the concepts were simple and silly enough for the children to grasp right away (being protected by her secret-service pet), but others such as the toys in her "capable cabinet" are amusing, but would need a little more explanation than I can do in a group setting. So we just moved through that part and spent a little more time on the "veto" section, where the kids really enjoyed vetoing everything, complete with thumbs-down signs.

Activity: Penny necklace
I gave each of the children three stars cut out from cardstock - one red, one white, and one blue, each about half an inch smaller than the last. They decorated each star, glued one on top of another, then glued a penny to the middle.  I punched a hole in their stars and let them thread a string through to make a necklace that they could wear. As we were working, I talked about Abraham Lincoln (the penny guy) and had each child repeat the name as they put their penny on their necklace. George Washington would have been easier to work with since more kids knew his name, but I wasn't about to spend a quarter on each necklace.
Theme used week of February 15, 2010

Next week: Space - the final frontier!