Category Archives: Baby and Toddler Programs

Baby Storytime Magic: Sneak Preview

Taking turns is fun to do.

First it’s me and then it’s you.

Back and forth and to and fro.

Your turn, my turn, here we go!

Literacy bit (Share this with caregivers!): “Babies and toddlers live very much in the present, so the concept of waiting for a turn is difficult for them! The back and forth nature of this bounce and the sign TAKE-TURNS both emphasize that the turn is coming. Use the sign TAKE-TURNS in everyday interactions with your child to describe and cue desired behavior.”

Baby Storytime Magic coverLook for more active fun for baby storytimes in Baby Storytime Magic: Active Early Literacy through Bounces, Rhymes, Tickles, and More by Kathy MacMillan and Christine Kirker, coming Spring 2014 from ALA Editions.

Recommended Reading: Storytimes for Everyone!: Developing Young Children’s Language and Literacy

storytimesStorytime for Everyone!: Developing Young Children’s Language and Literacy by Saroj Nadkarni Ghoting and Pamela Martin-Diaz (American Library Association, 2013)


Ghoting and Diaz incorporate the latest research in this resource for what they call “early literacy enhanced storytimes” – storytime programs that introduce early literacy concepts in dynamic, practical ways that engage children and parents alike, providing families with tools they can use to develop children’s language every day.  The authors focus on the five components of early literacy:

  • Phonological awareness
  • Print conventions and awareness
  • Letter knowledge
  • Vocabulary
  • Background knowledge

The book is divided into three sections:

“Learning It”: a summary of the latest early literacy research, explaining the components above and linking them to the “five practices” that enhance early literacy: talking, singing, reading, writing, and playing.  This section illuminates the specific ways that these features play out in storytimes, and also provides chapters focusing on several much-needed topics: English-language learners in storytimes, the use of technology in storytimes, and the use of informational books in storytimes.

“Doing It”: This section provides guidance and samples for incorporating literacy-enhancing practices in storytimes, and especially in effective use of “asides” – comments geared to caregivers that link storytime materials and practices to the early literacy components they support.

“Making It Your Own”: Storytime tools, early literacy asides, and evaluation and assessment tools for incorporating the materials from the book into existing programs.

A valuable resource that elegantly interlaces theory and practice.

Baby Storytime Magic

Baby Storytime Magic coverCheck out the beautiful cover for our forthcoming book, Baby Storytime Magic: Active Early Literacy through Bounces, Rhymes, Tickles, and More!  Coming your way in Spring of 2014 from ALA Editions, this treasure trove of interactive activities for baby storytimes and infant classrooms will give you lots of original and adapted traditional activities to use in your programs, along with ready-to-go literacy bits for each entry to help you share early literacy information with caregivers. 


Look Who’s Linking and Liking!

A recent sweep of the web reveals lots of enthusiastic programmers making use of rhymes, flannelboards, and story ideas from, Storytime Magic, Kindergarten Magic, and Multicultural Storytime Magic!  Check out the links below to see how they put our ideas into action!

Away We Go Storytime at Sunflower Storytime, featuring “Vehicle Guessing Game” and “Helicopter” Sign Language Rhyme from Storytime Magic.

My Family/Mi Familia Storytime at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission/Texas Reading Club, featuring “Some Families” from Storytime Magic.

Dinosaurs Roar! Storytime at Falling Flannelboards, featuring “Dinosaur Romp” and “I’m a T-Rex” from Kindergarten Magic.

“Five Little Stars and the Moon Too” at Read Rabbit Read, from Storytime Magic.

“Five Toothbrushes” at What Happens in Storytime…, from Storytime Magic and Children’s Programming Monthly 1:5.

Colors of My World Storytime at Sunflower Storytime, featuring “Dog’s Colorful Day” Flannelboard from Storytime Magic.

Pumpkin Storytime at Falling Flannelboards, featuring “Where is My Pumpkin?” Flannelboard from Kindergarten Magic.

Hats! Hats! Hats! Storytime at What Happens in Storytime…, featuring “Milo’s Hats” flannelboard from Storytime Magic.

Outer Space Storytime from Falling Flannelboards, featuring “Bumpin’ Up and Down in My Little Space Shuttle from Kindergarten Magic.

Have you used our rhymes, flannelboard patterns, or other storytime ideas in your storytimes?  Tell us about it!  Comment on this post to share, or send us an email at  Everyone who shares will be entered into a drawing for a free copy of one of our books (winner’s choice!).  And if you send us a picture of how you used the item in your programs, we’ll put your name in the drawing twice!

Brilliant Bean Bags

bean bagsBean bags may be some of the least appreciated storytime props – after all, they are easy to make, cheap to buy, and they can be used for so many different activities across a variety of age groups and storytime themes.    But that’s not all!  Bean bag activities also help children to:

  • develop directionality and orientation in space, which supports writing skills
  • improve self-control
  • develop  hand-eye coordination, an important early literacy skill
  • improve gross motor skills
  • understand the rhythm of language with their whole bodies

Here are some fun ideas for using bean bags in your programs, and links for more ideas!


1) Butterfly

On each line, move both hands from sides to up in the air above the head.  Each time your hands go above your head, pass the beanbag to the opposite hand.


In the sky

Flap your wings

And up you fly

Back and forth

To and fro

Up, up, and

Away you go!


2) Froggy Hop

(to the tune of “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush”)

For baby and toddler storytimes: Give a bean bag to each caregiver and have them hop it on the baby’s toes, knees, etc. as described in the rhyme.

For older children: Follow the directions below to make this a balancing activity.

Froggy’s hopping on my toes, on my toes, on my toes (balance bean bag on toes)

Froggy’s hopping on my toes –

RIBBIT! (move bean bag to knee)

Froggy’s hopping on my knee…

Froggy’s hopping on my tummy…

Froggy’s hopping on my shoulder…

Froggy’s hopping on my head, on my head, on my head (balance bean bag on head)

Froggy’s hopping on my head –

RIBBIT! (make bean bag jump to floor)

He hopped away!


3) At the Circus

Place a masking tape line on the floor to act as a tight rope.  Invite the children to balance their beanbags on their heads as they walk across.  If they drop them, encourage them to pick them up and keep trying!

With my bean bag on my head,

I stand so very tall.

I walk along my own tightrope

And will not let it fall.


4) Cook Out

This is a fun bean bag activity for food or summer themed storytimes.  As a bonus, when you are moving the hamburger from hand to hand in the first part of the rhyme, you are also signing HAMBURGER in American Sign Language.  Click here to see a video of the sign.

(Hold bean bag in right hand.  Hold left hand facing up.  Turn right hand over to deposit bean bag into left palm.  Then turn both hands and repeat it the other way, as if you are shaping a hamburger patty.  Repeat this rhythmically through the first verse.)

I’m making a hamburger for the grill. 

Will I eat it?  Yes I will!


(Place bean bag on flat left palm.  Use your right hand as a spatula to lift the beanbag and flip it over.  Then switch hands.  Repeat this motion throughout verse 2.)

I’m flipping my hamburger on the grill.

Will I eat it?  Yes I will!


(Hold bean bag in left palm.  Pretend to squirt on ketchup, mustard, etc. with other hand.)

Now I’m fixing my hamburger from the grill.

Will I eat it?  Yes I will!


(Place bean bag in left hand.  Raise hand toward mouth, then down to right hand.  Switch the bean bag to the right hand and repeat.)

Now I’m eating my hamburger.  This is fun!

Did I eat it?  Yes, all done!

(If desired, sign ALL DONE at the end.  Click here for a video of the sign.)


5) Vacation

I went to the train station

To take a little vacation  (Pass bean bag back and forth between hands for the first 2 lines)

I went to the beach (Move bean bag diagonally away from you, starting at your right side, and ending up far out in front of your on you left side)

And then came home (Bring bean bag back to right side)

And had some relaxation. (Place bean bag into left hand)

 Repeat, replacing “the beach” with vacation destinations chosen by the children.  Each time you begin, you should be starting with the bean bag in the opposite hand from the previous time.  Make sure the diagonal cross-body movements also alternate hands between verses.  This simple motion of crossing the midline improves communication between the two hemispheres of the brain.


Got a great bean bag activity that you use in your programs?  Tell us about it in the comments below or by sending an email to and you’ll be entered into a drawing for a copy of our latest storytime resource book!


More Bean Bag Activities:

5 Reasons to Welcome Older Siblings in Your Baby and Toddler Storytimes

1) Older siblings are role models for babies.

According to a study published in New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, siblings are even more influential role models than parents when it comes to everyday situations.  “We know that having a positive relationship with siblings is related to a whole host of better outcomes,” says Laurie Kramer, professor of applied family studies at the University of Illinois.  By welcoming older siblings and encouraging their relationships with babies and toddlers throughout storytime, we can foster positive relationships that impact the whole family.

2) Older siblings can help out!

Channel an older sibling’s energy by asking him to help pass out shaker eggs or hold a puppet in a story, and you’ve got an eager helper who is modeling cooperation skills for the little ones!  And here is the key – you’ve got to be prepared to guide them.  Just as parents don’t always know to sing along without encouragement, siblings don’t always know how to help out – but most of the time they are desperate to!  A little planning ahead and gentle guidance can go a long way.

3) You can model early literacy skills for the whole family.

When we model fingerplays, bounces, and story-sharing for parents, we are also teaching older siblings by example.  Encourage siblings to join in the fun and interact with their babies, with stuffed animals or dolls, or with you!  (Kathy often invites an older sibling to be her “bouncing buddy” during the lap-rhyme segment of her baby programs.)  Positive encouragement of sibling interaction with the little one in storytime will translate later into sharing of rhymes and stories in a spontaneous way at home.

 4) The presence of older siblings allows you to discuss and model coping skills for parents.

By welcoming older siblings into storytime, we open a space up for discussion of everyday practicalities – how do you select a story that will appeal to a one year old and a five year old?  How do you read to both at the same time? We can offer resources and strategies for incorporating early literacy into the real lives of families.  Many parents hold feelings of guilt that they are not doing all the things they think they should to promote their children’s language skills – especially when the demands of taking care of multiple children seem to take up every minute of the day.  By acknowledging the everyday challenges parents face, we can support more positive environments for all children.

5) Older siblings are an inescapable part of a baby’s world.

Babies and toddlers don’t exist in a vacuum.  Older siblings are a part of their world every day, and, as we saw above, can become their most powerful role models.  The reality of life for many families is that, if older siblings are not allowed in a program, no one will be able to attend.  While it might be nice to be able to offer a storytime that focuses with laser-accuracy on the developmental needs of one specific age group, the fact of the matter is that, even if you restrict your program to a narrow age range and disallow siblings, participants will still represent different stages of physical, cognitive, and emotional development.  Welcoming older siblings supports the development of babies and toddlers by supporting the family as a whole.

One last thought:

When you allow older siblings into your programs, is it with a welcoming attitude, or an impatient sigh?  (And we all know that kids can tell the difference!)  Perhaps what we need is a paradigm shift in the way we look at siblings in storytimes: not as a distraction or a potential problem, but as little helpers with the wonderful potential to be excellent role models for the babies and toddlers in their lives.

Baby Storytime Plan: In My Neighborhood

Recommended Books

Where Are You Going, Maisy? by Lucy Cousins.  Candlewick,

Maisy the mouse is out and about!  In a series of large lift-the-flap pages, readers must put the clues together to figure out the places she is visiting in her neighborhood.

The Sounds Around Town by Maria Carluccio.  Barefoot Books, 2011

Baby enjoys a stroller-ride through town with his mommy, listening to the sounds of the city, from morning birdsong to an afternoon café to evening traffic.



Five Little Trucks

(to the tune of “5 Little Ducks”)

5 little trucks drove out one day,

Over the hills and far away.

Mama Truck said, “Beep, beep, beep!”

4 little trucks came home to sleep.

4 little trucks…

3 little trucks…

2 little trucks…

1 little truck…

Mama Truck said, “BEEP, BEEP, BEEP!”

5 little trucks came home to sleep!

Click here for a printable flannelboard pattern.  

It’s easy to add American Sign Language to this song!  Click here to learn how in this video tutorial with Kathy MacMillan.


Rhymes, Songs, and Bounces

Bounce: A Smooth Road

(adapted traditional)

A smooth road, A smooth road.

A rough road, A rough road.

A bumpy road, A bumpy road.

An icy road, An icy road.

Oh no, there’s a…HOLE. (drop baby gently through legs)


Bounce: Trot, Trot

(adapted traditional)

Trot, trot upon a horse,

To the library we’ll go.

We’ll open books

and read just so.


“Sammy” from Getting to Know Myself by Hap Palmer (CD).  Educational Activities, 1994.

Sammy imagines that he is a bird, a fish, a bug, and a bunny as he explores different ways to move on his way to the store.  Adapt this movement song for babies by introduces animal puppets before the song and encouraging parents to move their babies in ways that mimic the animals:

  • Bird: hold babies in the air
  • Fish: Rock baby while making fish faces
  • Bug: Let older babies crawl; put younger babies on their backs and move their legs back and forth
  • Bunny: Bounce baby in lap
  • Me: Cuddle!

Programming Puzzler: How do you get kids to give back the cool stuff without crying?

We’ve all been there: you’ve just done a great storytime activity with scarves, shaker eggs, or instruments, and it’s time to collect those goodies – and someone doesn’t want to give it up. What do you do?

Readers respond with their ideas:

“After we use cool stuff in our storytimes (lapsit-family), singing this little ditty almost always works like magic in getting the kids to return the items (sans tears). We sing as we either offer the empty container up front, or bring it around to the kids. We can even fold up a parachute to this song. We model waving bye bye to the cool stuff as we sing, so the children can also wave!

(to the tune of “Good Night Ladies”)

Bye bye bells (shakers, sticks, maracas, etc.)

Bye bye bells

Bye bye bells

It’s time to let you go.

Then we follow up with an action song to immediately engage.”-Carla E.


“If the youngsters want the item, I let them keep it until the end of the program. At the end when they are leaving I trade it for something they can keep (often a toy that the parent has with them).”-Jill R.


Kathy and Christine say:

  • Above all, don’t panic or get flustered! Babies and young children look to adults to guide their own reactions, so if you make a big deal about their reluctance to part with the object, it’s likely to escalate the situation. Remember that parents often don’t know how to deal with the situation either (and are often embarrassed by their children making a scene), so an unflappable attitude from you will go a long way toward keeping everyone calm.
  • Make the giving back as much fun as the getting! Sing a special song, as in Carla’s suggestion above, or have the children hold their items over their heads as you zoom around the room like an airplane collecting them, while the kids make airplane noises. Or, as one workshop participant suggested, “make it go boom”. As each child puts his or her item in the box or basket, invite everyone to make a loud “boom” to celebrate it.
  • Move on to the next activity as quickly as possible. Even if someone is still upset, demonstrate your confidence in his or her ability to recover by immediately moving on to another fun book, song, or flannelboard. When adults show confidence in children’s resilience, it encourages children to have confidence in themselves.

Sign This Song!

Autumn Leaves

(to the tune of “London Bridge”)

Autumn leaves are falling down,

Falling down, falling down

Autumn leaves are falling down,

Red, yellow, orange, and brown.

Share this song using American Sign Language! Click here to learn how with Kathy MacMillan.


Super Scarves: 7 New Ways to Use Them in Your Programs

Beyond peek-a-boo and freeze dances, what can you do with a scarf? Plenty!

1) Windy Days:

Perfect for weather or springtime storytimes, the activity encourages children to imitate the qualities of the wind with their scarves.  With or without music, ask the children to move their scarves as they would in a light wind, a medium wind, and a heavy wind. They can even be the wind and blow their scarves into the air! Ask older children to make two lines facing one another and wave their scarves at shoulder height, then have each child take a turn walking through the lines and experiencing the indoor “windy day”!

2) Kites:

Using the song “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” from the Mary Poppins soundtrack or the original song below, encourage children to fly their kites through the air.

“Kites Are Flying” (to the tune of “Frere Jacques”)

Kites are flying, kites are flying

In the sky, in the sky

See them in the springtime,

In the windy springtime

Kites fly by, kites fly by.

Blue kites flying, blue kites flying…

Red kites jumping, red kites jumping…

Yellow kites circling, yellow kites circling…

Green kites diving, green kites diving…

Orange kites turning, orange kites turning…

Purple kites wiggling, purple kites wiggling…

(Adjust color verses to the scarf colors you have; End by repeating first verse)

 3) Waves in the Ocean:

Pass out scarves and encourage the children to wave them at waist height to mimic the waves as you tell the story below.

Ocean Journey

We’re going on an ocean trip

We’re boarding a great big ship.

Se the tiny waves below

In the harbor rippling slow.

Now we’re leaving from the shore

And the waves are moving more.

Slow and steady, our ship goes past

But now the waves are getting fast.

Here comes a wind, the waves get bigger.

Will we make it, do you figure?

The ship is rocking to and fro

As higher and higher the waves go.

A storm is coming, see the clouds?

This is getting scary now!

The waves are huge! Big and rough!

I’m getting seasick! I’ve had enough!

But look! The sun is shining through.

The waves are growing calmer too.

They are still big, but getting slow.

Back and forth and to and fro.

Now we’re almost safe in port.

And the waves are getting short.

Little ripples in the water.

And we’ve arrived at the shore, just like we oughta.

The waves are waving, small and shy

So we wave too, and say goodbye!

4) Butterflies:

Make a beautiful butterfly using American Sign Language along with your scarf! First, hold both hands up facing away from you.  Then hook your scarf over one thumb. Next, cross your wrists. Now carefully turn your palms so that they face you. (Don’t drop the scarf!) Hook your thumbs together and wiggle your fingers and you’re signing “butterfly”! Play instrumental music or a freeze dance as the children make their butterflies fly around the room!

See a video of the sign BUTTERFLY.

5) Flag-waving Fun:

Have a Fourth of July Parade! Pass out scarves in red, white, and blue and play patriotic music as your storytimers march through the library! Make it a St. Patrick’s Day Parade by using green, white, and gold scarves.

6) Washcloths:

Read Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma Dodds and invite the children to “scrub” the colorful spots off the dog with their scarves when he takes his bath. Then invite everyone to scrub-a-dub with Bert and Ernie as you sing “Everybody Wash” from Splish Splash: Bath Time Fun.

Click here for a free flannelboard pattern for Dog’s Colorful Day, courtesy of artist Melanie Fitz.

7) Soup-Stirring Tissue:

Share Monkey Soup by Louis Sachar, and invite the children to “stir” the soup with their “tissues” (scarves). This book lends itself well to a flannelboard or prop story presentation.

Click here for a free flannelboard pattern for Monkey Soup, courtesy of artist Melanie Fitz.