Easy As Pie: A Storytime for Pi Day

Next Monday (March 14) is Pi Day, which is a storytime theme I’ve never explored, but we had a lot of fun trying it today.

My Outdoor Musical Storytime crowd is mostly toddlers and a few preschoolers, so I kept the theme largely to Circles and Pie. But I did want to do a very brief explanation of the number Pi, just in case any of the adults wanted a simple way to explain it. So I began by showing the Greek symbol for Pi, and the first few digits (3.14159265). I explained that the number Pi is a little more than 3, and that it’s a number used to measure circles.

I held up a picture of a circle with a piece of yarn glued around the outside. I had also taped a second piece of yarn (the same length) so that it was folded three times across the middle of the circle, with a little bit sticking out at the end. I told the kids that sometimes you want to be able to know how long the line around a circle is. And an easy way to figure that out is to draw a line across the middle. If you know how long that line is, you can make a line three times as long (plus a little extra). That three plus a little extra is represented by the number Pi.

I pointed out my picture, where the yarn in the middle was folded three times, with a little bit leftover, and said that that piece was just as long as the yarn on the outside of the circle. I then pulled both pieces of yarn off of the circle and held them up to show that they were the same length.

I only took about a minute for this demonstration, which was really basic. I mostly just wanted to convey that the number Pi had something to do with circles, and we were celebrating Pi with books and songs about the food Pie, and other things shaped like a circle.

Here’s what we did:

Books:

All for Pie, Pie for All by David Martin; illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev

Adorable story about a cat family who enjoys all but one slice of pie, which is then enjoyed by a mouse family, who leaves six crumbs for a family of ants. In the end, all of the animals enjoy a fresh new pie together.

Pete’s a Pizza by William Steig

This is one of my all-time favorite picture books. When Pete’s plans with friends get rained out, his Dad decides it might cheer him up to be made into a pizza. Pete the Pizza gets kneaded, stretched, and twirled in the air, then topped with sauce (water), cheese (pieces of paper), and tomatoes (checkers). After baking in the over (the living room couch), it’s time to slice the pizza! But the pizza runs away, and gets captured and hugged, just in time for the sun to come out. I love that families can participate in the kneading, stretching, and hugging, making this a great lapsit story, even for very young kids.

Mom Pie by Lynne Jonell; illustrated by Petra Mathers

Christopher and Robbie are disappointed because company is coming, and Mommy is too busy to spend time with them. So instead they make a Mom Pie with things that remind them of Mommy: gloves that are soft like Mommy, slippers that are cuddly, and a candle in her favorite color. When Mommy finds out what they are doing, she sits with them on the sofa while their family guests jump in to finish making dinner. The last line (about nothing being better than Mom Pie, except Mommy) drew big “Awwww’s” from the crowd.

Songs:

Alligator Pie

This is a fun, easy rhyme that I learned from an Orff Music lesson years ago. Kids always really seem to like it (today I had a toddler signing “More” every time the rhyme ended). We started out by clapping a steady beat, and then I chanted the words. We chanted Alligator Pie twice, and then I asked for other types of pie to substitute. We did Blueberry Pie and Pumpkin Pie:

Alligator Pie, Alligator Pie,

If I don’t get some, I think I’m going to cry.

Take away my basketball and take away the sky,

But don’t take away my Alligator Pie!

Do You Know What Shape I Have?

I learned this song from my coworker, Angela. It’s to the tune of Do You Know the Muffin Man? I cut out different shapes (circle, square, star, and triangle) out of paper, and put them in a bag. Each time we sang the song, my coworker, Claire, pulled one out of the bag, and we asked the kids what it was:

Do you know what shape I have?

What shape I have? What shape I have?

Do you know what shape I have?

Right here in my hand!

Silly Pizza Song

This song by Rachel de Azevedo Coleman from her Signing Time series is one of my absolute favorites. Here’s a YouTube video with the tune and the signs. I usually just teach the kids the sign for pizza and the sign for cheese, and then I ask them for topping suggestions. Today we had pepperoni, mint, olives, mushrooms, and pumpkin.

Shoofly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy by Guy Wood and Sammy Gallop

This is an old song, originally popularized by Dinah Shore. Here’s a link to the tune. We did it as an instrument play-along and the kids were dancing, which was adorable:

[C] Shoofly Pie and Apple Pan [G7] Dowdy

Makes my [C] eyes light up and my tummy say [G7] “Howdy,”

[C] Shoofly Pie and Apple Pan [G7] Dowdy

I [C] never get enough of that [G7] wonderful [C] stuff.

[C] Shoofly Pie and Apple Pan [G7] Dowdy

Makes the [C] sun come up when the heavens are [G7] cloudy.

[C] Shoofly Pie and Apple Pan [G7] Dowdy

I [C] never get enough of that [G7] wonderful [C] stuff.

[E7] Mama, when you bake,

[A] Mama, I don’t care for cake.

[G7] Mama, make no mistake,

[C] Go to the oven, and [G7] make some ever lovin’

Shoofly pie… (repeat first verse)

Stay and Play: Circle Art

This was really simple and fun, if a bit messy. I put out small pie tins with three different colors of tempura paint in each. Then I gave each child a Dixie cup and a piece of card stock. They had a great time stamping circles all over their papers with the cup (some cups got a little squished in the process, which made for some unusual shapes, but the kids seemed to enjoy that too). I recommend having some baby wipes or paper towels on hand.

What are your favorite books about pie? Please share them in the comments.

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