Witching Hour: A Storytime for Halloween

For Outdoor Musical Storytime today I read three of my favorite non-scary Halloween books, and had a great time.

Here’s what we did:

Books:

Moonlight: The Halloween Cat by Cynthia Rylant and Melissa Sweet

Very sweet book describing the sights of Halloween through the eyes of a cat who loves them all. The illustrations are bright and colorful, and the book does a nice job of presenting Halloween as a fun and festive night instead of focusing on the elements that might scare younger kids (my storytime audience includes a lot of babies and toddlers, so this was perfect).

Leonardo, the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems

My coworker Angela and I read this one together (I read the part of Sam, which includes one of my favorite monologues of all time). Leonardo is a terrible monster, who can’t scare anyone. Frustrated, he searches for the most scaredy-cat kid in the entire world to scare, and roars and makes scary faces until the little boy (Sam) cries. But when he hears Sam’s story, he decides to become a wonderful friend instead.

Ghosts in the House by Kazuno Kohara

This is my all-time favorite Halloween books for younger kids. A girl moves into a big old house that has one problem: it is haunted! Luckily the girl is a witch, who knows how to catch ghosts. One by one, she catches them, puts them in the washing machine, dries them on the line, and turns them into very friendly-looking curtains, tablecloths, and blankets. We had handed out movement scarves before we read this one, and I had the kids pretend the scarves were ghosts.

Rhymes & Songs:

On Halloween

I asked the kids for suggestions of Halloween things they might see in the house for each verse. We had pumpkins, monsters, cats, bats, tigers, and witches. I always end with “The kids at the door say, ‘Trick or Treat!'”

To the Tune of The Wheels on the Bus

[C]The ghosts in the house say, “Boo! Boo! Boo!”

[G7]“Boo! Boo! Boo! C] Boo! Boo! Boo!”

The ghosts in the house say “Boo! Boo! Boo!”

[G7]On Hallo- [C]ween!

Five Little Pumpkins

This was a repeat from last week, which was nice because the kids recognized it and found it easier to say the rhyme with me.

Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.
The first one said, “Oh my! It’s getting late!
The second one said, “There are witches in the air!”
The third one said, “But WE don’t care!”
The fourth one said, “Let’s run and run and run!” (run in place)
The five one said, “This is Halloween fun!”
Then, “OOOH” went the wind, and OUT (clap!) went the light!
And the five little pumpkins rolled (roll your hands) out of sight.

We Are Scary Ghosts

We handed out movement scarves before we sang this song, so the kids could put them on their heads and pretend to be ghosts. I took suggestions from kids each time we sang it, so we were creepy cats, scary wolves, flying bats, and scary witches.

We are scary ghosts floating down the street,

Walking down the street,

Walking down the street.

We are scary ghosts walking down the street,

We’ll scare you…BOO! 

Candy Corn for Dinner

We sang this as our instrument play-along (after handing out the shakers). This was one of the first songs I ever wrote.

This song was also on an album we made a long time ago to distribute to storytime families at the Millbrae Library. Here’s a link to that version on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/ashley-larsen-1/sets/musical-storytime-2016

C                                                                     G7                  
Mom and dad put me in charge of our dinner tonight.
C                                                                                G7
They said I could make anything as long as we ate right.
C                                                        G7                   C
I had to serve some vegetables, a salad, and a stew.
C                                                                        G7               C
I thought a while and cooked a bit, and here is my menu.

F                                                     C
We’re having candy corn for dinner
G7                             C
With a side of chocolate stew.
F                               C
A three jelly bean salad,
G7                                                C
And an ice cream sandwich too.

I don’t know why Mom and Dad say cooking is a chore,
‘Cause I had such a great time going to the grocery store.
My mom said we were out of milk, so I bought a big milkshake,
And since my dad likes cheese so much, I got him a cheesecake.

We’re having candy corn for dinner
With a side of chocolate stew.
A three jelly bean salad,
And an ice cream sandwich too.

Life is better when it’s sweet,

Like a big hot plate of Rice Krispie treat.

So if you have to cook tonight, I hope you’ll learn from me.
And make your family carrot cake, or cherries jubilee.
Even if they don’t approve, you can count it as a win.
You’ll have a yummy dinner, and you won’t be asked to cook again!

We’re having candy corn for dinner
With a side of chocolate stew.
A three jelly bean salad,
And an ice cream sandwich too.

Stay & Play: Paper Bag Monsters

This was an easy, versatile craft. The paper bags can be puppets, but also double as trick-or-treat bags. Basically, I just put out paper bags, googly eyes, glue sticks, markers, and an assortment of colored paper shapes. The kids always seem to enjoy projects that involve a mix of drawing and gluing, and it’s fun to see all of the different things they create.

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

Happy Halloween!

Pumpkin to Talk About: A Storytime About Pumpkins

Pumpkins are a really big deal out here on the coast, especially just South of us in Half Moon Bay, where they just held their annual Pumpkin Festival. So today we did a pumpkin-themed storytime, which was a lot of fun.

I started out by holding up a small pumpkin, and asking if anyone had gone to a pumpkin patch or carved a pumpkin. I also taught the ASL sign for Pumpkin, before we read our first book.

Here’s the rest of what we did:

Books:

We’re Going on a Pumpkin Hunt by Mary Hogan Wilcox; illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

In this cute take on the traditional Going on a Bear Hunt rhyme, several animals go on a nighttime adventure to find a pumpkin. The kids enjoyed chiming in on the “Not me’s!” whenever the book asked’ “I’m not scared. Are you?” and acting out the different actions described in the story. One girl was so taken with the illustrations that she came up to point at different things happening in each picture,”Pig in a boat!”

Pumpkin Cat by Anne Mortimer

Simple, beautifully illustrated story about the different steps involved in growing a pumpkin. I had the kids mime the actions (digging a hole, planting the seeds, etc).

Ten Orange Pumpkins by Stephen Savage

This counting rhyme about disappearing pumpkins features lots of favorite Halloween characters: ghosts, mummies, witches, etc. The older kids loved calling out the number of pumpkins remaining on each page before we counted them together.

Songs & Rhymes:

Pumpkin Patch

I learned this rhyme from an Orff Music teacher years ago, so I don’t know who wrote it, but it’s a fun one to do with a group.

Pumpkin Patch, Pumpkin Patch, (crouch down low)
Walking all around in my pumpkin patch.
Here is a pumpkin, nice and fat (spread arms wide),
Turns into a jack-o-lantern, just like that! (make a scary face!)

There Was a Pumpkin on a Vine

This one is to the tune of Aiken Drum. Claire held up a paper pumpkin, and added the different parts of the face as we sang. Here’s the tune to Aiken Drum, in case you are not familiar with it. It’s another old favorite of mine.

[C] There was a pumpkin [F] on a vine,
[C] On a vine, [G] on a vine.
There [C] was a pumpkin [F] on a vine,
And his [C] name was [G] Jack-O- [C] Lantern.

And we gave him two triangle eyes,
Triangle eyes, Triangle eyes.
We gave him two triangle eyes,
And his name was Jack-O-Lantern.

And we gave him a big circle nose…

And we gave him a rectangle mouth…

And we put him in the window!

Five Little Pumpkins

Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.
The first one said, “Oh my! It’s getting late!
The second one said, “There are witches in the air!”
The third one said, “But WE don’t care!”
The fourth one said, “Let’s run and run and run!” (run in place)
The five one said, “This is Halloween fun!”
Then, “OOOH” went the wind, and OUT (clap!) went the light!
And the five little pumpkins rolled (roll your hands) out of sight.

The Pumpkin Pirate

I wrote this silly song to go with pumpkins and Halloween. You are welcome to use it if you like:

[Am] I’m gonna be a pumpkin pirate,
[C] My name is Lantern Jack.
[F] My pumpkin boat will stay afloat
[E7] ‘cross the Seven Seas and back.

[Am] I’m gonna be a pumpkin pirate.
[C] A real squash buckler, I!
[F] My pumpkin patch remains unmatched.
[E7] My pirate flag waves high!

[F] I’ll search for golden treasure,
[C] But I won’t go overboard.
[F] With a yo ho ho, away I’ll go
[E7] In my trusty orange gourd.

[Am] I’m gonna be a pumpkin pirate.
[C] My boat serves all my needs
[F] Cause whenever I get hungry
[E7] I’ll just roast some pumpkin seeds

[Am] I’m gonna be a pumpkin pirate. 
[C] In my boat I’ll travel far
[F] And if you’d like to go with me
[E7] I’ll meet you where you [Am] ARRRR!

Stay & Play: Paper Jack-O-Lanterns

This was a super easy process art activity, but the kids were really into it! I printed out blank pumpkin templates on orange paper, and cut some triangles out of black construction paper. For the Stay & Play, I put out the templates, black triangles, googly eyes, and markers, along with some black paper and scissors. I told the kids they could decorate their pumpkins however they liked. They all turned out differently, and the kids were so absorbed that many of them didn’t want to stop decorating their pumpkins when it was time for us to gather up the supplies.

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

Turning Over a New Leaf: A Storytime for Fall

The San Francisco Bay Area is unusual in that September and October are often the hottest months of the year. But lately we’ve actually had what feels like Autumn weather, which made it perfect for a Fall-themed storytime in the park.

Here’s what we did:

Books:

The Scarecrow by Beth Ferry & The Fan Brothers

Very sweet rhyming story about a scarecrow who rescues an injured baby crow, and raises it until it flies away. The scarecrow is lonely through the long winter, until the crow returns and starts a family. The illustrations are beautiful.

Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert

Colorful leaf collages form different animals and scenes in this simple story about a Leaf Man who blows away on the wind. I’ve also followed up this book by having the kids make “leaf people” of their own, which is a lot of fun.

Leaves by David Ezra Stein

I love the simplicity of this story about a young bear who is surprised when the leaves fall off of the trees, and tries to stick them back on. We had handed out play scarves before we read this one, and we had the kids toss their scarves in the air during the parts about the falling leaves. Claire also dropped some actual leaves as we read.

Songs & Rhymes:

Scarecrow, Scarecrow

To the tune of Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star. I got this one from Little Fox — Kids Songs and Stories.

Scarecrow, Scarecrow, turn around.

Scarecrow, Scarecrow, touch the ground.

Stand up tall and blink your eyes.

Raise your hands up to the sky.

Clap your hands, then tap your knees.

Turn around and tap your feet.

Scarecrow, Scarecrow, touch your toes.

Scarecrow, Scarecrow, tap your nose.

Swing your arms so very slow,

Now real fast to scare the crows!

Touch our head, jump up and down.

Now sit down without a sound.

Two Little Blackbirds

I had done this one last week too, so it was fresh on the kids’ minds.

Two little blackbirds sitting on a hill, (Hold up both thumbs)
One named Jack, and the other named Jill.
Fly away, Jack! (Put one thumb behind your back)
Fly away, Jill! (Put the other thumb behind your back)
Come back, Jack! (Bring the first thumb out in front).
Come back, Jill! (Bring the second thumb out in the front).

Two little blackbirds sitting on a cloud,
One was quiet, and the other was loud (I make my voice as loud and obnoxious as possible each time I sing the word “Loud!”)
Fly away, Quiet!
Fly away, Loud!
Come back, Quiet!
Come back, Loud!

Two little blackbirds sitting in the snow.
One flew high,
And the other flew low…

Two little blackbirds sitting on a gate.
One was early,
And the other was…late!…  (I like to drag the pauses out as long as possible before saying “Late!” until the kids are all yelling it out.)

Way Up High in the Apple Tree

This is a classic rhyme that works really well for toddlers and preschoolers. Today Claire and I held up maracas shaped like apples as a visual the first two times we did it, and then asked for suggestions of another fruit that could be in the tree (the kids chose oranges) the third time.

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

Two little apples smiled at me (made circles with the thumb and fingers of each hand).

I shook that tree as hard as I could! (shake imaginary tree)

Down came the apples (lower arms quickly)

Mmmm! They were good! (rub stomach)

Leaves are Falling on the Ground

To the tune of The Wheels on the Bus. I got this one from PreschoolExpress.com, who credits Jean Warren as the author. We handed out play scarves before we sang it, and pretended they were leaves falling through the air, then swished them in the air like rakes for the second verse:

The leaves on the trees are falling down,
Falling down, falling down.
The leaves on the trees are falling down,
All through the town.

Let’s rake the leaves into a mound,
Into a mound, into a mound.
Let’s rake the leaves into a mound
All through the town.

The kids in the town jump up and down,
Up and down, up and down.
The kids in the town jump up and down,
All through the town.

What Falls in the Fall? by Laurie Berkner

This is a really catchy, moody song for Fall. Here’s a link to the YouTube video:

[Am] What falls in the Fall?
[F] Rain falls in the Fall.
[G] Down, down, down, down ,[Am] down.
[Am] The rain is falling down,
[F] Puddles on the ground,
[F] It’s wet beneath my feet in the [Am] Fall.

[Am] What falls in the Fall?
[F] Temperatures fall.
[G] Down, down, down, down, [Am] down.
[Am] It’s when the summer ends,
[F] You’ve got to hug your friends,
[F] To keep your body warm in the Fall [Am].

[G] And when the leaves start to [C] change,
[F] It’s beautiful to me.
[G] Red, gold, and yellow [C] colors all around,
[F] High up in the trees.

[Am] What falls in the Fall?
[F] Leaves fall in the Fall
[G] Down, down, down, down, [Am] down.
[Am] They twirl everywhere,
[F] And I throw them in the air.
[F] They crunch beneath my feet in the [Am] Fall.

[Am] What falls in the Fall?
[F] Kids fall in the Fall.
[G] Down, down, down, down, [C] down.

Stay & Play: Leaf Rubbings

This was a really simple process art activity that many of the kids (and grown-ups) had never done before. I put out leaves of different shapes and sizes (along with some Scotch tape for anyone who wanted to tape their leaf to the back of the paper to hold it in place), along with crayons to do leaf rubbings.

One thing I forgot to take into account is that the concrete tables at the park have a bumpy texture of their own that also came through in the rubbings. But the kids still enjoyed the magic moment when the leaf shape appeared, and loved trying out the different crayon colors. Some of the caregivers commented that they had never thought to try this activity with their kids before.

What are your favorite picture books about Autumn? Please share them in the comments below.

Be Kind to Your Web-Footed Friends: A Storytime for Kindness to Animals Day

Today is Kindness to Animals Day, a day that originated in the Philippines in 1958. It made for a great storytime theme. I started by asking the kids for ideas on how to be kind to animals. Most of them said things like, “pet them,” and “be gentle,” and “talk quietly.” Then we went into our books and songs.

Here’s what we did:

Books:

How to Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham

I told the kids that this book hit home for me because we are constantly having to rescue hummingbirds that get trapped in the library. I must have cursed myself, because sure enough, another one (our fifth this year!) flew in this afternoon, and it took us over an hour to catch it in our special extra-long hummingbird net. Anyway, all that aside, this is a very sweet book about a boy named Will who finds a pigeon who has broken its wing after crashing into a window. He carefully brings it home and patiently nurses it back to health until it is ready to fly away. The kids were mesmerized by the story.

Ginger Finds a Home by Charlotte Voake

Another very sweet story, about a thin cat who lives in a patch of weeds at the end of a garden. One day, he finds a plate of delicious cat food, and the next day another, and then he meets a little girl who wants to take him home. The author does a nice job of capturing the patience it requires to earn the trust of an animal. The ending got a collective “awwww!” from the crowd.

Katie Loves the Kittens by John Himmelman

I love this book. Not only are the illustrations hilarious, but it captures so well the overwhelming excitement that dogs (and kids!) feel in the face of small animals. Plus, there are lots of opportunities for the kids to say “AROOOOOO!” throughout the book. Katie loves the three adorable kittens that Sara Ann brought home, but every time she sees them, she ends up scaring them away. Finally, when she is so sad that she curls up in her bed and goes to sleep, she wakes up to find all three kittens lying on top of her, and she is finally able to stay still and quiet.

Rhymes & Songs:

Two Little Blackbirds

This is one of my favorite songs to use with toddlers and preschoolers. They especially love the loud and late verses. Today I started out by teaching them the ASL sign for bird.

Two little blackbirds sitting on a hill, (Hold up both thumbs)
One named Jack, and the other named Jill.
Fly away, Jack! (Put one thumb behind your back)
Fly away, Jill! (Put the other thumb behind your back)
Come back, Jack! (Bring the first thumb out in front).
Come back, Jill! (Bring the second thumb out in the front).

Two little blackbirds sitting on a cloud,
One was quiet, and the other was loud (I make my voice as loud and obnoxious as possible each time I sing the word “Loud!”)
Fly away, Quiet!
Fly away, Loud!
Come back, Quiet!
Come back, Loud!

Two little blackbirds sitting in the snow.
One flew fast!
And the other f-l-e-w s-l-o-w!…

Two little blackbirds sitting on a gate.
One was early,
And the other was…late!…  (I like to drag the pauses out as long as possible before saying “Late!” until the kids are all yelling it out.)

Little Bird

This is an old folk song, which I’ve also done as a kind of a dance with small groups of kids. You have the kids stand in a circle with their arms raised out to the sides and their hands touching, and then each kids takes a turn “flying” under their raised arms, in and out of the circle. For larger groups, I just have them suggest bird names to sing about. Today they suggested chicken and pigeon.

C
Little Bird, Little Bird,
C
Fly through my window.
G7
Little Bird, Little Bird,
G7
Fly through my window.
C
Little Bird, Little Bird,
C
Fly through my window.
G7                       C
Find molasses candy.

Chorus:
G7
Fly through my window, my sugar lump!
C                            G7            C
Fly through my window, my sugar lump!
G7                        C
Find molasses candy!

Robin, Robin, Fly through my window…

I Have a Cat

Simple rhyme that the kids always enjoy. They especially like the “caught a rat!” part, and the “MEOW!” at the end.

I have a cat, (pet imaginary cat)

My cat lies flat, (put one hands on top of the other)

I have a cat, (pet imaginary cat)

He wears a hat. (pat the top of your head)

I have a cat, (pet imaginary cat)

He caught a rat (pretend to catch a rat in your hands)

I have a cat, (pet imaginary cat)

PURR! PURR! MEOW!

Two Little Kitty Cats

I learned this one years ago from a Music Together class. Here’s a video from Sally’s Music Circle with the tune:

Two little kitty cats lying in the sun (crouch down)

One jumped up and said, “I’d like to run!” (jump up and run in place)

Then said the other one, “I’ll run too!

Running, running, running, and I’ll play with you!

Meow! Meow! Meow!

Two little puppy dogs lying in the park,

One jumped up and said, “I’d like to bark.”

Then said the other one, “I’ll bark too,

Running, running, running and I’ll play with you.”

Woof! Woof! Woof!

How Much Is that Doggie in the Window by Bob Merrill

I sang this one for our instrument playalong (when we hand out shakers to the kids). Here’s a link to the Patti Page version. It’s very easy to play on the guitar or ukulele, since it only has two chords:

CHORUS

[C] How much is that doggie in the [G] window? (Arf! Arf!)

The one with the waggley [C] tail?

How much is that doggie in the [G] window? (Arf! Arf!)

I do hope that doggie’s for [C] sale!

VERSE 1

[C] I must take a trip to [G] California,

And leave my poor sweetheart a-[C]lone.

If he has a dog, he won’t be [G] lonesome,

And the doggie will have a good [C] home.

CHORUS

[C] I read in the paper there are [G] robbers,

With flashlights that shine in the [C] dark.

My love needs a doggie to [G] protect him,

And scare them away with one [C] bark. BARK!

CHORUS

Be Kind to Your Web-Footed Friends

I threw this one in as a surprise at the end. We actually used to use this as our final song for Musical Storytime years ago. The abrupt ending always gets a laugh. It’s to the tune of Stars and Stripes Forever by John Philip Souza.

[C] Be kind to your web footed friends,
For a duck may be somebody’s [G7] mother.
Be kind to your friends in the swamp,
Where the [C] weather is [F] very, very [G7] damp.
You [C] may think that this is the end:
And it is!

Stay & Play: Cheerio Bird Feeders

This was one of the easiest Stay & Play activities I’ve ever done, and the kids loved it. They were especially excited to see the Cheerios, (which many of them also ate). Basically, all I did was put out pipe cleaners and paper plates full of Cheerios. The idea was for them to thread the Cheerios onto the pipe cleaner and then bend it into a circle and twist the ends together. You can hang it on a tree to turn it into a bird feeder, but a lot of the kids just made bracelets.

Happy Kindness to Animals Day! If you have any favorite animal stories, please share them in the comments below.