Happy Birthday, America! A Storytime for the Fourth of July

Today was a beautiful day in the park, and we had a lot of fun celebrating the Fourth of July a little early.

To be honest, I have a hard time finding Fourth of July books that work well for storytime, so instead I focused primarily on the theme of birthdays. After we sang our opening song (Put Your Finger in the Air), I asked if anyone had a birthday coming up. Two girls raised their hands (their moms said they were both in September, but we sang Happy Birthday to them anyway). And then I said that there was a big birthday coming up…America’s! And we sang Happy Birthday to America before reading our first book.

Here’s what we did:

Books:

This Bear’s Birthday by Alyssa Satin Capucilli; illustrated by Lorna Hussey

Sweet story about a little bear who wants to do things for himself on his birthday. He has trouble putting on his jacket, and picking apples high in the tree, but still finds ways to get things done with a little help from his family. Although it was a little on the long side for my audience (which is largely two and three year-olds), there were lots of opportunities for the kids to participate by stretching up high, or pretending to blow out candles, so it still held their interest.

A Birthday for Cow by Jan Thomas

Jan Thomas’ books are always fun for storytime, and this one was no exception. When Mouse and Pig decide to make a birthday cake for cow, they dismiss Duck’s suggestions of adding a turnip. But when it’s finally time to celebrate, it’s the turnip that excites Cow the most. The kids enjoyed pretending to stir the cake batter, and singing Happy Birthday to Cow.

Red, White, and Boom! by Lee Wardlaw; illustrated by Huy Voun Lee

Simple, colorful rhyming book about a Fourth of July celebration, with a parade, a picnic on the beach, and fireworks at the end. Before we started reading, we handed out small squares of bubble wrap (the kind with large bubbles), and told the kids we would pop them when we got to the page with the fireworks. They had a great time.

Songs & Rhymes:

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 make a wish and blow them out.
Watch and you will see! (blow on fingers and quickly close hands into fists)

After we did the rhyme with ten candles, I asked if there were any one year-olds in the group, and we did it again with one candle, then two, then three, then four.

This is the Way I Blow My Balloon

This is the way I blow my balloon: (mime holding a balloon in both hands)

Blow! (blow air out while spreading your hands apart)

Blow! (blow air out while spreading hands even wider)

Blow! (blow air out while spreading your hands as wide apart as you can)

This is the way I POP my balloon. Oh! Oh! No! (clap hands together)

Old MacDonald

We sang this one as a follow-up to A Birthday for Cow. I asked the kids to suggest animals and their sounds:

C] Old MacDonald [F] had a [C] farm,

E-I- [G7] E-I- [C] O!

And on that farm he [F] had a [C] pig,

E-I- [G7] E-I- [C] O!

With an oink-oink here, and an oink-oink there,

Here an oink, there an oink,

Everywhere an oink-oink.

[C] Old MacDonald [F] had a [C] farm,

E-I- [G7] E-I- [C] O!

Wave, Wave, Wave Your Flag

For this one, I held up an American flag, and asked the kids what colors they saw. Then we handed out play scarves and told the kids we were going to pretend the scarves were flags for the next song.

These were actually two separate songs that I found on PreschoolEducation.com, but they were both to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat, so I combined them. In between the second and third verses, I told the kids we were going to do some magic and turn our flags into fireworks, which we threw up into the air and caught over and over again in the third and fourth verses.

Wave, wave, wave the flag,
Hold it very high.
Watch the colors gently wave,
Way up in the sky.

March, march, march around,
Hold the flag up high.
Wave, wave, wave the flag,
Way up in the sky.


Boom, crack, whistle, pop!
Fireworks in the sky.
See them lighting up the night,
On the Fourth of July.


Red, blue, gold, and green,
With fireworks we say,
“Happy Birthday, America,
It’s Independence Day!”

You’re a Grand Old Flag by George M. Cohan

We sang this for our instrument play-along (after we handed out egg shakers).


[C] You’re a grand old flag, you’re a high-flying flag,
[G7] And forever in peace may you wave.
[C] You’re the emblem of the land I love,
The home of the [D7] free and the [C] brave.

[C] Every heart beats true ’neath the Red, White and Blue,
Where there’s [A7] never a boast or [Dm] brag.
But should [C] auld acquaintance [G7] be forgot,
Keep your [F] eye on the [G7] grand old [C] flag!

Stay & Play: Cardboard Tube Fireworks

I found this idea on TheBestIdeasforKids.com and it was a big hit. We had cut small slits in the bottom half of some toilet paper and paper towel rolls ahead of time, and flattened them out to make a flower shape.

For the Stay & Play, I put out the cut cardboard tubes, along with sheets of black paper, plates of red, white, and blue tempera paint, and glitter. The kids had fun dipping their cardboard tubes in the paint and stamping them on the paper, then sprinkling on the glitter. They turned out really well!

Happy Fourth of July!

Velveteen: A Song for Margery Williams

The Velveteen Rabbit was one of my favorite childhood books. As a kid, I empathized with the poor stuffed rabbit, who was ridiculed by other toys, the nanny, and actual rabbits, before the doctor orders him burned with all of the other germ-ridden toys once the boy falls ill with scarlet fever.

But the other day, a Facebook post by a parent suddenly made me think about the song from a totally different perspective. I was curious about Margery Williams, not knowing anything about her life. I read that she had two children of her own, and that many of her books focused on children who were isolated or different from others. Parenting is always challenging, but especially when you have extra reason to fear for your kids’ safety or acceptance.

So I wrote this song for those kids, and for the people who love and support them. May the nursery magic protect us all.

Velveteen, velveteen,
Are you real,
Are you seen?
Or are you lost in between?
Velveteen.

You were a gift, bright and new,
And everybody thought they knew
Who you were, what you’d do,
We couldn’t see

The part you kept deep inside,
How you longed to be alive,
To be yourself, not just survive,
To be free.

Velveteen, velveteen,
Are you real, are you seen?
Or are you lost in between?
Velveteen.

But one day you showed the spark that burned inside you,
And let us see the you you couldn’t hide.
And though others might tease you and deride you,
I hope you know you fill my heart with pride.

Velveteen, velveteen,
You don’t know how much you mean.
You are real,
You are seen
Velveteen.

Fun in the Sun: A Summer Storytime

Today was the first official day of Summer, and boy, was it hot! We actually had to move our storytime to a shadier part of the park.

Here’s what we did:

Books:

Paletero Man by Lucky Diaz

Great book for a hot day! This story celebrates paletas, a kind of Mexican popsicle made with real fruit. In the story, a boy is anxious to find Paletero José, to buy a cool treat on the hottest day of the year in Los Angeles. But when he finally finds him, he discovers he has lost his money along the way. Luckily, his friends arrive to save the day. Simple Spanish words are scattered throughout the text, and there’s a repeated refrain that’s fun for the kids to join in on.

The Whale in my Swimming Pool

When a little boy goes to swim in his wading pool, he finds a very unexpected surprise: a giant whale. He tries everything he can think of to move the way or encourage it to leave, until finally he realizes that having a whale in your pool can be fun after all. Simple, funny story, with clear, cute illustrations.

The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli

Adorable story about a crocodile who loves watermelon, until he accidentally eats a seed. He is convinced that a watermelon will grow in his stomach, and relieved when he burps the seed up. He vows never to eat watermelon again…but who can resist watermelon? I asked the kids throughout if they thought the watermelon would really grow in his stomach, so they could call out, “NO!”

Songs:

If All the Raindrops

This one worked well as a follow-up to Paletero Man. I asked the kids to suggest other favorite foods for the second and third time we sang it. We sang “If all the raindrops were popsicles and ice cream” and “If all the raindrops were chocolate and cookies.” Always a hit!

[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!

Oh, Mister Sun

This was one of the first storytime songs I ever learned. I usually do the Raffi version, which is linked below:

Oh, [C] Mister Sun, Sun, [F] Mister Golden Sun,

[C] Please shine [G7] down on [C] me!

Oh, [C] Mister Sun, Sun, [F] Mister Golden Sun,

[G7] Hiding behind a tree.

[C] These little children are [G7] asking you,

[C] To please come out so we can [G7] play with you,

Oh, [C] Mister Sun, Sun, [F] Mister Golden Sun,

C] Please shine [G7] down on [C] me!

Baby Shark

A fun way to follow-up The Whale in My Swimming Pool, especially since most of the families already knew it. I sing the PinkFong version, which is linked here:

[C] Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo


[F] Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo


[Am] Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo


[G] Baby shark!

Mommy shark…

Daddy shark…

Grandma Shark…

Grandpa Shark…

Let’s go hunt!…

Run Away…

Safe at last…

That’s the end…

Here Comes the Sun by George Harrison

[G] Here comes the sun doo, doo, doo, doo,
[C] Here comes the [A7] sun,
And I say, “[G] It’s all right.” [C6][G] [C6] [G] [D][G] [D]

[G] Little darling, it’s been a [C] long cold lonely [D] winter.
[G] Little darling, it seems like [C] years since it’s been [D] here.

[G] Here comes the sun doo, doo, doo, doo,
[C] Here comes the [A7] sun,
And I say, “[G] It’s all right.” [C6] [G] [C6] [G] [D][G] [D]

[G] Little darling, the smile’s re[C]-turning to their [D] faces.

[G] Little darling, it seems like [C] years since it’s been [D] here.

[G] Here comes the sun doo, doo, doo, doo,
[C] Here comes the [A7] sun,
And I say, “[G] It’s all right.” [C6][G] [C6] [G] [D][G] [D]

[B flat] [F] [C] [G] [D]

[B flat] Sun, [F] Sun, [C] Sun, here it [G] comes [D] (Repeat five times)

[G] Little darling, I feel that [C] ice is slowly [D] melting.

[G] Little darling, it seems like [C] years since it’s been [D] clear.

[G] Here comes the sun doo, doo, doo, doo,
[C] Here comes the [A7] sun,
And I say, “[G] It’s all right.” [C6][G] [C6] [G] [D][G] [D]

[G] Here comes the sun doo, doo, doo, doo,
[C] Here comes the [A7] sun,
And I say, “[G] It’s all right.” [C6][G] [C6] [G] [D][G] [D]

Stay & Play: Clay Summer Mementos

This was a really simple project, but a big hit with the kids and grown-ups (one grandparent even asked what kind of clay we were using, so he could try it with his other grandchildren). I put out balls of Crayola Air Dry Clay on paper plates, along with small rocks, sea shells, and rhinestones for the kids to smash into the clay. The clay was very stiff, so the grown-ups sometimes had to help to flatten it, but you can also mix it with water to make it softer. I recommend rolling the clay into balls ahead of time to make it easier to set-up.

Happy Summer!

Good Clean Fun: A Storytime for International Bath Day

Today (June 14) is International Bath Day, supposedly created to celebrate the Greek mathematician Archimedes’ famous bath time discovery about water displacement and buoyancy. It also makes for a wonderful storytime theme. Here’s what we did:

Books:

Animal Baths by Bob Barner

Cute book describing the bathing habits of different animals. We had the kids act out different motions: the monkeys grooming their hair, the ducks preening, etc. I asked the kids if they’d like to have their teeth cleaned by shrimp, which got lots of “eww’s” in response.

Get Out of My Bath! by Britta Teckentrup

An interactive story about an elephant struggling with uninvited guests in her bathtub. Readers are asked to tilt the book left and right, shake it, and call out different phrases (I had the kids tilt their bodies left and right and shake their hands instead). Claire spritzed the crowd with water from a spray bottle at the end, when the elephant sprays all the water back into the tub.

Mommy Go Away by Lynne Jonell and Petra Mathers

This was a favorite of my daughter’s when she was little. When Christopher gets tired of being told what to do, he tells his mother to “Go away on this boat.” When she says that she is too big for the boat, he tells her to “Get Small.” She shrinks down, and he puts her on a boat in the bathtub, reminding her to brush her teeth, remember her manners, and “no hitting the other Mommies.” When she says that she is scared, he promises to help her, towels her off, and tells her she can be big again, while they both reflect on how hard it is to be small. I noticed that some reviewers on Amazon objected to the premise, but I think it’s a compelling fantasy for kids to be in charge, and, despite the book’s title, it’s a nice story about a moment of empathy between parent and child.

Songs:

Brush Your Teeth

This Raffi song is always great for toddlers and preschoolers. Here’s a video with the tune:

When you wake up in the morning,
It’s a quarter to one,
And you want to have a little fun,
You brush your teeth,
Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch!
You brush your teeth,
Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch!

When you wake up in the morning,
It’s a quarter to two,
And you just can’t think of something to do,
You brush your teeth…
When you wake up in the morning,

It’s a quarter to three,
And your mind starts humming,
“Fiddle-dee-dee,”…
When you wake up in the morning,

It’s a quarter to four,
And you think you hear a knock on the door,
You get a little scared,
And then you brush your teeth…

When you wake up in the morning,
It’s a quarter to five,
And you just can’t wait to come alive!…

Down in the Jungle

This was a lot of fun, and worked perfectly after reading Animal Baths. The lyrics I used were from Let’s Play Kids Music, which also includes this video of just the tune:

Down in the jungle where nobody goes,
There’s a great big elephant washing his toes,
With a rub-a-dub here, and a rub-a-dub there,
That’s the way he washes his toes!

CHORUS

Boom, boom, boogie-woogie boogie-woogie,
Boom, boom, boogie-woogie boogie-woogie,,
Rub-a-dub here, and a rub-a-dub there,
That’s the way he washes his toes!

Down in the jungle where there’s nobody there,
There’s a great big lion washing his hair,
With a rub-a-dub here, and a rub-a-dub there,
That’s the way he washes his hair!

(repeat chorus)

Down in the jungle, if you look in the trees,
There’s a cheeky monkey washing his knees,
With a rub-a-dub here, and a rub-a-dub there,
That’s the way he washes his knees!

(repeat chorus)

Down in the jungle if you care to check,
There’s a very tall giraffe washing his neck,
With a rub-a-dub here, and a rub-a-dub there,
That’s the way he washes his neck!

Down at the river, if you look underneath,
There’s a great big crocodile brushing his teeth,
With a rub-a-dub here, and a rub-a-dub there,
That’s the way he brushes his teeth!

I Love My Hair

This one’s to the tune of Love Somebody, Yes, I Do.

I love my hair, yes I do! (nod)

Love to wash it with shampoo (Mime washing your hair)

Rinse it, dry it (shake head vigorously), style it too.

Don’t you love my new hairdo? (fluff your hair with your hands)

I Had a Little Turtle

Cute version of the old children’s song by JBrary. Here’s a video that shows the motions:

I had a little turtle,

His name is Tiny Tim.

I put him in the bathtub

To see if he could swim.

He drank up all the water,

He ate up all the soap,

And now he’s home sick in bed

With bubbles in his throat!

Bubble Bubble Bubble,

Bubble Bubble Pop!

Bubble Bubble Bubble,

Bubble Bubble Pop!

Rubber Ducky by Jeff Moss

I couldn’t resist doing this classic song from Sesame Street. Here’s a .pdf of the lyrics and ukulele chords from jenfo.com.

Stay & Play: Foam Bath Toys

To be honest, I had no idea if this project was going to work, but it ended up being a lot of fun. Basically, I put out foam sheets for the kids or grown-ups to cut into shapes. When these get wet, they will temporarily stick to the walls of a bathtub. To decorate them, I put out some small pieces of adhesive foam sheets that they could cut into mouths, noses, or other shapes. I brought several different kinds of scissors: regular kids scissors, as well as adaptive scissors for both kids and adults. I also put out googly eyes and some markers, which were really intended for drawing out the shapes before cutting, since they would wash off in the bathtub, but some kids used them to draw on their shapes too.

My main purpose was to give kids a chance to work with scissors, and I left the choice of what shape to make up to the them, although I provided a couple of samples (a fish and an octopus) to give them ideas or to serve as a template if they were stuck. It was fun to see all of the different things they came up with, and the ways the kids and grown-ups ended up working together. Some kids did the whole project on their own. Some had the grown-ups cut out shapes that they decorated. Some kids made really intricate layered foam art pieces. They were all really engaged, and excited to try out their creations in the bath.

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

That’s What Friends Are For: A Storytime for Best Friends Day

Tomorrow (June 8, 2022) is National Best Friends Day, which made for a really fun storytime theme. During the Stay & Play activity at the end, one little girl asked everyone at the table, “Do you want to be a friend?” so I think the message got through!

Here’s what we did:

Books:

Bob and Flo by Rebecca Ashdown

Very cute story about a penguin named Flo, who discovers that her lunch bucket is missing on the first day of preschool. Meanwhile, another penguin named Bob seems to be wearing an unusual hat, standing on a familiar looking stool, and making bucket-shaped sand castles. When Bob gets stuck on the top of the slide, Flo uses her bucket to set him free, and the two new friends enjoy whooshing together through the water.

Be a Friend by Salina Yoon

Adorable book about a boy named Dennis, who never speaks, but loves to communicate in mime. Although he is lonely at first, he soon finds a friend who shares his interests. I read the story, while my coworker Claire demonstrated the different mime motions for the kids to copy. Lots of fun!

Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry; illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Very simple, clever story about a stick and a stone who start out alone, but become friends when Stick saves Stone from a bullying Pinecone. Stone returns the favor when Stick gets stuck in a puddle, and they become the best of friends.

Songs:

Do You Want to Be My Friend?

To the tune of Do You Know the Muffin Man? or Mary Had a Little Lamb

I found this one on this nice collection of friendship songs from PreschoolEducation.com. We had fun doing different actions suggested by the kids and parents:

Do you want to be my friend,

To be my friend,

To be my friend?

Do you want to be my friend,

And jump along with me?

Repeat, changing the action each time. We did jump, clap, spin, nod, dance, pat, and skip.

Do As I’m Doing

We sang this as a follow-up to Be a Friend, and asked for the kids to demonstrate different actions for us to copy as we sang the song each time.

[C] Do as I’m doing, follow, follow [G7] me.

[C] Do as I’m doing, follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

[C] Follow, [G7] follow, [F] follow [C] me.

[F] Follow, [C] follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

Follow, [G7] follow, [F] follow [C] me,

[F] Follow, [C] follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

If You Want to Be a Friend

To the tune of If You’re Happy and You Know It. We used the American Sign Language signs for Hello, Name, and Play.

[C] If you want to be a friend, say, [G7] “Hello!”  Hello!

If you want to be a friend, say, [C] “Hello!” Hello!

If you [F] want to be a friend, you can [C] talk to without end,

If you [G7] want to be a friend, say, [C] “Hello!” Hello!

If you want to be a friend, say, “What’s your name?”…

If you want to be a friend, say, “Come and play!”…

We Are Going to Be Friends by the White Stripes

We did this song as one of our instrument play-alongs (when we hand out shakers to all the kids). It’s a song that has special meaning to me because it was a favorite of Barbara Amberg’s, a dear friend and mentor of mine, and one we used to do in Musical Storytime, led by my friend and manager, Thom Ball. Both of them are no longer with us, but I thought of them while we were singing, and the kids really seemed to enjoy the song.

[C] Fall is here, hear the yell,
[C] Back to school, ring the bell.
[F] Brand new shoes, walking blues,
[C] Climb the fence, books and pens.

[G7] I can tell that [F] we are gonna be [C]friends.
[G7] I can tell that [F] we are gonna be [C]friends.

[C] Walk with me, Suzy Lee,
[C] Through the park and by the tree.
[F] We will rest upon the ground,
[C] And look at all the bugs we found.

[G7] Safely walk to school [F] without a [C] sound.
[G7] Safely walk to school [F] without a [C] sound.

[C] Here we are, there’s no one else.
[C] We walk to school all by ourselves.
[F] There’s dirt on our uniforms,
[C] From chasing all the ants and worms.

[G7] We clean up and [F] now it’s time to  [C] learn.
[G7] We clean up and [F] now it’s time to [C] learn.

[C] Numbers, letters, learn to spell,
[C] Nouns and books, and show and tell.
[F] At playtime, we will throw the ball.
[C] Back to class, through the hall.

[G7] Teacher marks our [F] height against the [C] wall.
[G7] Teacher marks our [F] height against the [C] wall.

[F] And we don’t notice any [C] time pass
[F] We don’t notice any [C] thing
[D] We sit side by side in every class.
[F] Teacher thinks that I sound funny,
[G7] But she likes the way you sing.

[C] Tonight I’ll dream while I’m in bed,
[C] When silly thoughts go through my head.
[F] About the bugs and alphabet,
[C] And when I wake tomorrow I’ll bet

That [G7] you and I will [F] walk together a-[C] gain.

Cause [G7] I can tell that [F] we are gonna be [C]friends.
[G7] I can tell that [F] we are gonna be [C]friends.

 

Stay & Play: Craft Stick Friends

This was a simple idea that ended up being a lot of fun. I put out craft sticks, markers, pipe cleaners, yarn, googly eyes, scissors, and glue sticks for the kids to make their own “craft stick friends.” Both the kids and the grown-ups got really involved in making them, and they were all adorable!