Right As Rain: An Outdoor Storytime About the Weather

I had a fun time at our Toddler Outdoor Storytime yesterday. Lately, the weather here in the Bay Area has been interesting, to say the least. On top of the usual fog and rain, we now have bomb cyclones and atmospheric rivers. So it seemed like the perfect time to do a Weather theme.

Here are the books and songs that I did:

BOOKS:

Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems

This Elephant and Piggie book worked really well for my theme. Piggie is excited to play outside with Gerald, until it starts to rain. But a pair of playful worms convince the two friends that they can still have just as much fun in the rain. Some of the kids joined in on the running and jumping parts, and as a special surprise, I sprayed a tiny bit of water into the crowd with a water sprayer in the part of the book where the rain started.

Sometimes Rain by Meg Fleming; illustrated by Diana Sudyka

This simple rhyming book describes different types of weather and activities that sometimes happen as the seasons change (playing on the beach in the summer, jumping in leaves in the fall, etc.). I wish I had thought to bring some actual fall leaves to give out or scatter into the crowd. Unfortunately, my coworker who usually walks around with a second copy of the book was out sick, so it was a bit hard for the kids to see the illustrations, which are beautiful, but a little small for an outdoor setting.

It Looked Like Spilled Milk by Charles G. Shaw

I had the big book version of this wonderful book about cloud shapes. It was so much fun to read. For each page, I asked the kids what they saw, and got some really interesting answers (a boat instead of a birthday cake, a bat instead of an angel). I incorporated their ideas into the text, saying “But it wasn’t a boat OR a birthday cake,” etc.

SONGS AND RHYMES:

For this storytime, I usually open with Open and Shut Them and close with The More We Get Together (with sign language).

If All the Raindrops:

I did this one earlier this week for Musical Storytime, but I had to include it in my weather theme. Once again, I asked for the kids to tell me their favorite foods, and we sang it several times, with verses like “If all the raindrops were M&M’s and Ice Cream,” and “If all the raindrops were peanut butter and jam.”

[C] If all the raindrops were [G7] lemon drops and [C] gum drops,

Oh, what a rain it would [G7] be.

[C] I’d stand out- [G7] side with my [C] mouth open [G7] wide,

[C] “Ah, Ah, Ah, [G7] Ah, Ah, Ah, [C] Ah, Ah, Ah, [G7] Ah!”

[C] If all the raindrops were [G7] lemon drops and [C] gum drops,

Oh, what a [G7] rain it would [C] be!

Way Up High in the Apple Tree:

A simple, fun rhyme to go with the apple picking in Sometimes Rain. I asked the kids to suggest other fruits to pick from the tree, and we repeated it several times:

Way up high in the apple tree (stretch arms high in the air)

Two little apples smiled at me! (make circles with your index fingers and thumbs)

I shook that tree as hard as I could! (mime shaking the tree with your hands)

Down came the apples! Mmmm, they were good (lower arms, and rub tummy)

Five Little Snowmen:

One of my favorite storytime songs. After the first verse, I asked the kids what other things they could make out of snow, so we sang about four little snow kitties, and three little snow bunnies, two little snow giraffes, and (my favorite!) one little snow skunk:

Five little snowmen standing in a row, (hold up five fingers)
Each with a hat (touch head), and a brightly colored bow (adjust imaginary bowtie).
Five little snowmen dressed up all for show.
Now they are ready,`
Where will they go?

Wait! (hold out hands in a “Stop!” motion) Till the sun shines. (move hands in a circle)
Wait! Till the sun shines.
Then they will go
Down through the fields
With the melting, melting snow (“melt” all the way down to the floor, then pop up for the next four snowmen).

Rainbow ‘Round Me:

Another storytime favorite, composed by Ruth Pelham. I asked the kids for suggestions of things they might see outside their windows. By the end, we had purple unicorn, a white flag, and a green mountain lion.

When I [C] look outside my [G7] window,
There’s a world of color I [C] see.
Fiddle-dee-dee, [F] outside my [C] window 
There’s a [G7] world of color I [C] see.

CHORUS:
[F] Rainbow, [C] rainbow, [G7] rainbow ’round [C] me. 
[F] Rainbow, [C] rainbow, [G7] rainbow ’round [C] me. 

And the sky outside my window,
Is as blue as blue can be.
Fiddle-dee-dee, outside my window
It’s as blue as blue can be.

Chorus

And the grass outside my window,
Is as green as green can be.
Fiddle-dee-dee, outside my window
It’s as green and green can be,
And the sky is blue as blue can be.

Chorus

And the flowers outside my window,
Are as yellow as yellow can be.
Fiddle-dee-dee, outside my window
They’re as yellow as yellow can be.
And the grass is green as green can be.
And the sky is blue as blue can be.

Chorus

STAY AND PLAY: COTTON BALL CLOUDS AND CLOUD VIEWERS

Cotton Ball Clouds

For our Stay and Play activity, I put out cotton balls, blue paper, and glue sticks for the kids to make their own clouds. They could glue the cotton balls as they were, or stretch them out to make thinner clouds. The kids really enjoyed playing with the cotton balls, and sticking them to the page. I also gave them a cloud viewer to use in the park and at home.

I got the idea for the cloud viewer from The UCAR Center for Science Education, which offers a more detailed version here: https://scied.ucar.edu/activity/cloud-viewer. Basically, you cut out the center square so that kids can look through the hole and compare the clouds they see with the ones in the pictures. For my toddler storytime crowd, I wasn’t as worried about providing the names of the different types of clouds (although I included them for the caregivers). Mostly, I just wanted to offer families some ideas for ways to talk about clouds together, by describing their shapes and colors and textures, etc.

One of the programs our library system offers is LENA Start, which emphasizes the importance of talking with babies and toddlers. Each family is given a special recorder that tracks how many words the child hears throughout the day (without documenting what the actual words are), and how many times a caregiver responds to sounds and words the child says. Each week, the family receives a graph charting how many back and forth exchanges they’ve had with their child, even if it’s just naming something in the environment (a dog, a tree, etc.) and then reacting when the baby or child responds. The weekly classes provide topics for daily conversation (food, bathtime, etc.), and time to brainstorm how to talk with young children about them. This cloud viewer activity was intended to generate the same kind of inspiration by suggesting questions caregivers might ask, or things they might point out as they look at the sky together. (To learn more about LENA and the importance of early talk, you can visit the LENA website. Before the pandemic, I had the opportunity to lead a series of LENA Start classes for two different sets of families, many of whom are now regular attendees at my storytimes. It’s a fascinating program, and extremely rewarding.)

Here is the simplified cloud viewer I used:

What are your favorite books or songs about weather? Please share them in the comments below.

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