Standing on My Head…Or How to Entertain a Crowd of Kids Under the Age of 3

When I first started as a children’s librarian in Raleigh, North Carolina, I was lucky enough to be apprenticed to a woman who patiently taught me how to do infant and toddler storytimes. I was still terrified.  The hardest thing about doing storytime for this age group was that I was painfully aware that I was mostly performing for the parents, while the babies and toddlers were busy pulling books off the shelves, chewing on their friends’ toys, crying over a lost binky, and basically anything but listening to me.  At first this was so frightening that I would find myself forgetting the words to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”  I started writing my favorite rhymes and songs down on index cards, which would inevitably wander off and get chewed on, but they were still very helpful in those early years. Here are some of my favorites:

CUCKOO CLOCK

Tick Tock, Tick Tock (rocking side to side)
I’m a little cuckoo clock
Tick Tock, Tick Tock
Now I’m striking one o’clock…
Cuckoo! (lift baby up, or have toddler jump up in the air)

(Repeat for two and three o’clock)

THEY JUMPED IN THE BOAT

(Don’t ask me why the kids love this so much, but they do)

They jumped in the boat, and the boat tipped o-ver! (Lean baby far to the right)
They jumped in the boat, and the boat tipped o-ver! (Lean baby far to the left)
They jumped in the boat, and the boat tipped o-ver! (Lean baby far to the right)
Ten little boys and girls (bounce baby on lap)

GIDDY-UP!

(A bouncing rhyme, to the tune of the Lone Ranger part of “The William Tell Overture”)

Giddy-up, Giddy-up, Giddy-up-UP-UP! (Bounce baby on lap)
Giddy-up, Giddy-up, Giddy-up-UP-UP!
Giddy-up, Giddy-up, Giddy-up-UP-UP!
Whoa! Horsey! (Lean back)

INSIDE THE SPACE SHUTTLE

Inside the space shuttle (hold baby on lap, or have toddler crouch down)
Just enough room (hug baby or show toddler how to hug knees)
Here comes the countdown (holding up five fingers)
5-4-3-2-1
Blast-off!  (Raise baby in the air, or have toddler jump up)

ZOOM! ZOOM! ZOOM!

(Similar to Inside the Space Shuttle, start with baby on lap or toddler crouching)

Zoom! Zoom! Zoom! (rub hands together on each “zoom”)
I’m off to the moon!
10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1
Blast off!!!

TEN CANDLES ON A BIRTHDAY CAKE

Ten candles on a birthday cake (hold up ten fingers)
All lit up for me! (point to yourself)
I’ll make a wish, and blow them out
Watch and you will see! (blow on fingers and quickly make hands into fists)

MY BALLOON

This is the way I blow my balloon (hold hands in front of your face in the shape of a balloon)
Blow! (blow air, and bring hands apart)
Blow! (blow air, and spread hands wider)
Blow! (blow air, and spread hands very wide)
This is the way I break my balloon
Oh, oh NO! (clap hands together)

SLOWLY, SLOWLY

Slowly, slowly, very slowly goes the garden snail (walk fingers slowly up baby’s arm, or have toddler walk very slowly in place)
Slowly, slowly, very slowly up the garden rail
Quickly, quickly, quickly, quickly
Goes the Little Mouse (run fingers up to baby’s chin, or have toddler run in place)
Quickly, quickly, quickly, quickly
All around the house!

HERE IS THE BEEHIVE

Here is the beehive (make a fist)
Where are the bees?
Hiding away where nobody sees.
Watch, and they’ll all come out of their hive
1-2-3-4-5 (open up fingers one at a time)
They’re alive! (tickle baby or toddler)

DOWN BY THE BANKS OF THE HANKY PANKY

(hold baby or toddler on lap and bounce them from leg to leg)

Down by the Banks of the Hanky Panky
Where the bullfrogs jump from bank to banky
With a hip, hop, a hippity hop
Jump off the lily pad (lift baby up)
And kerplop! (lower baby back down)

THE ELEVATOR

(To the tune of “Bouncing Up and Down in My Little Red Wagon”)

Riding up and down in an elevator (lift baby up and down, or have toddler stand and crouch)
Riding up and down in an elevator
Riding up and down in an elevator
First floor
Second floor (lift baby up, or have toddler stand)
Third floor (lift baby higher, or have toddler stretch up high)
DOWN! (lower baby, or have toddler crouch back down)

MERRY-GO-ROUND 

(To the tune of “This Old Man”)

Merry Go Round (lift baby up and down, or put her on your knees and bend and straighten them)
Merry Go Round
We all ride on the merry-go-round
Now we’re UP
And now we’re DOWN!
We all ride on the merry-go-round.

Down to town, down to town
We go riding down to town
Better be careful you don’t fall DOWN (lean baby far to the right)
We go riding down to town.

RAISIN BREAD

(Have baby or toddler lie on her back on the floor)

How do you make raisin bread?
You roll it (roll baby gently to one side)
And roll it (roll baby to the other side)
And roll it
And roll it
And then you put the raisins in (gently poke baby’s stomach in several places)

SEE MY PONY 

(a bouncing rhyme; thanks to Laura Siegel)

See my pony, jet black pony
I ride him each day
When I give him oats to eat
Clippity clappaty go his little feet!
See my pony, jet black pony
I ride him each  (long pause holding tension)
day (simultaneously open knees and child drops down- while holding on of course)

I HAVE A CAT

I have a cat (stroke imaginary cat on lap)
My cat is fat (spread arms wide)
I have a cat (stroke cat)
He wears a hat (pat the top of your head)
I have a cat
He caught a rat (clap your hands together quickly in the air)
I have a cat (stroke cat)
Purrrrrrr….Purrrr…..
ME-OWWWW!

THE HIPPOPOTAMUS

(pat hands on lap in time to the rhyme)

The hip-, the hip-, the hippopotamus
Got on, got on, got on the city bus
And all, and all, and all the people said
You’re squishing us! (put your hands on the sides of your face and squish your cheeks forward)

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