Monkeying Around: A Storytime About Monkeys

Among the little known celebrations I’ve discovered while trying to come up with themes for storytime is World Monkey Day, a celebration of all things monkey on December 14. So today we did stories and songs about monkeys. Here’s what we did:

Books:

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina

This is a longer story than I typically read for my toddler-heavy storytime crowd, but it worked because of all of the motions. It’s a classic story about a peddler, who takes a nap under a tree, and wakes to find that all of his caps have been stolen by monkeys. At this point I asked the kids if they were ready to be monkeys, and had them act out all of the monkey motions: shaking one fist, shaking both hands, stamping one foot, etc., all while saying “tsz tsz tsz!” They loved it! Sometimes I’ve done this one with play scarves, and had the kids pretend the scarves were caps.

Count the Monkeys by Mac Barnett and Kevin Cornell

Another fun, interactive book, with large colorful illustrations. In this one, the narrator is ready to count the monkeys, but they keep getting scared away by different animals: one king cobra, two mongooses, etc. The kids are asked to help out by yelling, “scram!”, moving their hands in a zig-zag, and other silly motions. The asides (like wondering about the plural of mongoose) are hilarious. Always a hit!

Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett

This simple rhyming book was one of my daughter’s absolute favorites as a toddler. The repeated chant goes “Monkey and me, Monkey and me, Monkey and me, we went to see, we went to see some…” and then reveals a different animal (penguins, kangaroos, bats, elephants, etc.). The kids loved shouting out the different animals each time.

Songs:

Monkey See and Monkey Do

I don’t remember where I learned this song, but it’s one I’ve been doing for years.

When you clap, clap, clap your hands,

The monkey clap, clap, claps his hands,

Monkey see, and monkey do,

The monkey does the same as you!

Repeat with other motions: when you jump up and down; make a funny face; turn yourself around; and sit back on the ground.

No More Monkeys by Asheba

Claire held up the Monkey Mitt, while I sang this joyful adaptation of the traditional Five Little Monkeys rhyme by Caribbean singer-songwriter Asheba.

Here’s a video of Asheba’s version:

[C] Five monkeys were playing on the bed.
One fell off and bumped his [G7] head.
Mama called the doctor, and [F] the doctor said,
[C] “No more monkeys [G7] jumping on the [C] bed!”

[C] “No more monkeys jumping on the bed!
No more monkeys [G7] jumping on the bed!
[C] No more monkeys [F] jumping on the bed!”
[C] That is what the [G7] doctor [C] said.

Four monkeys were jumping on the bed…

(Repeat, counting down to one…)

One monkey was playing on the bed,
She fell off and bumped her head.
Mama called the children, and the children said,
“YES! More monkeys jumping on the bed!”

“Yes! More monkeys jumping on the bed!
Yes! More monkeys jumping on the bed!
Yes! More monkeys jumping on the bed!”
That is what the children said.

Going to the Zoo by Tom Paxton

We did this song as our instrument play-along at the end. Here’s the tune:

Daddy’s taking us to the zoo tomorrow (C)
Zoo tomorrow, Zoo tomorrow. (G7)
Daddy’s taking us to the zoo tomorrow, (C)
And we can stay all day. (C  G7)

CHORUS:
We’re going to the zoo, zoo, zoo!  (F)
How about you, you, you? (C)
You can come too, too, too! (G7)
We’re going to the zoo, zoo, zoo! (C G7 C)

See the elephants with the long trunk swinging,
Great big ears and a long trunk swinging.
Snuffing up peanuts with the long trunk swinging,
And we can stay all day!

CHORUS

See all the monkeys, they’re scritch, scritch, scratchin’.
Jumping all around and scritch, scritch, scratchin’.
Hanging by the long tails scritch, scritch, scratchin’,
And we can stay all day!

CHORUS

Well, we stayed all day, and I’m getting sleepy,
Sitting in the car getting sleep, sleep, sleepy.
Home already and I’m sleep, sleep, sleepy,
‘Cause we have stayed all day!

We’ve been to the zoo, zoo, zoo!
So have you, you, you!
You came too, too, too!
We’ve been to the zoo, zoo, zoo!

But Mommy’s taking us to the zoo tomorrow
Zoo tomorrow, Zoo tomorrow.
Mommy’s taking us to the zoo tomorrow,
And we can stay all day!

CHORUS

Stay & Play: Jungle Collage

This was a really simple activity, but the kids got really into it. I printed and cut out pictures of two different types of monkeys: an emperor tamarin and a macaque. For the Stay & Play, I put out green card stock, glue sticks, the monkey pictures, markers, and some leaves and small plants (mostly oxalis) from my yard.

The kids enjoyed gluing the monkey pictures to the paper, and then sticking the plants around and on top of them to make a kind of jungle scene, and decorating with markers. As a funny aside, I mentioned that the emperor tamarin is one of my very favorite animals, and I used to love watching them at the San Francisco Zoo. And then one of the Moms said that she used to work with the emperor tamarins there, before they got rid of that exhibit a few years ago. I was so excited to talk to her about them, especially since she said they were a lot of fun to work with.

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

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