Out of This World: A Storytime About Space

Last Saturday, May 7, was International Astronomy Day, so it seemed like a fun week to do a storytime about Space.

Here’s what we did:

Books:

Astro Girl by Ken Wilson-Max

Very sweet, empowering story about a girl named Astrid, who tells her father that she wants to be an astronaut. He asks her if she’s ready to eat food out of a tube, be in zero gravity, and do science experiments, and she enthusiastically says yes. In the end, the family goes to see her mother, who is just arriving home from a space mission herself.

A Kite for Moon by Jane Yolen, Heidi E. Y. Stemple, and Matt Phelan

Dedicated to astronaut Neil Armstrong, this beautifully illustrated book tells the story of the lonely Moon, and the boy who tries to hug her. When he finds that she is too far away, he sends up kites to keep her company. He spends his whole life studying how to be an astronaut, and finally goes to visit the Moon in person, while the whole world watches.

Aliens Love Underpants by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort

This silly, colorful book got lots of giggles. When aliens come to Earth, it’s not to see you, but to steal your underpants, which they all love!

Songs:

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

It’s always nice to throw this song in, since it’s a surefire way to get the families singing along. I like to sing it really fast the last time through.

[C] Twinkle, Twinkle, [F] Little [G7] Star,
[G7] How I [C] wonder [G7] what you [C] are.

[C] Up a-[F] bove the [C] world so [G7] high,

[C] Like a [F] diamond [C] in the [G7] sky,

[C] Twinkle, Twinkle, [F] Little [G7] Star,
[G7] How I [C] wonder [G7] what you [C] are.

If You’re Going to the Moon

This one is from JBrary, although I found it on this wonderful list of Space Songs for Preschools from Preschool Inspirations. It’s to the tune of If You’re Happy and You Know It:

[C] If you’re going to the Moon,

Wear your [G7] boots (stomp! stomp!)

[G7] If you’re going to the Moon,

Wear your [C] boots (stomp! stomp!)

If you’re [F] going to the Moon,

This is [C] what you have to do.

If you’re [G7] going to the Moon,

Wear your [C] boots (stomp! stomp!)

If you’re going to the Moon,

Wear your helmet… (mime putting on helmet)

If you’re going to the Moon,

Wear your gloves… (mime putting on gloves)

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom!

This one is always a hit. I have the kids crouch down while we sing the first part, then jump up in the air when we blast off. Here’s a slightly different version from Jiggle Jam, which uses the same tune:

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom,

We’re going to the Moon.

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom,

We’re going to the Moon.

If you want to take a trip,

Climb aboard my rocket ship.

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom,

We’re going to the Moon.

10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1

Blast-off!

Rocketship Run by Laurie Berkner

This one was so much fun, and worked perfectly for the theme. Here’s a link to the You Tube video.

[Am] 5-4-3-2-1 [C] Blast off! Another rocket [E7] ship [Am] run!
[Am] 5-4-3-2-1 [C] Blast off! Another rocket [E7] ship [Am] run!

[C]Take me [G7] to the [F] Sun,
[C]Take me [G7] to the [F] Sun,
[C]When I [G7] get there [F] I’ll be spinning everywhere.
[C]Spinning [G7] round the [F] Sun.

[Am] 5-4-3-2-1 [C] Blast off! Another rocket [E7] ship [Am] run!
[Am] 5-4-3-2-1 [C] Blast off! Another rocket [E7] ship [Am] run!

[C]Take me [G7] to the [F] Moon,
[C]Take me [G7] to the [F] Moon,
[C]When I [G7] get there [F] I’ll be dancing through the air,
[C]Dancing [G7] on the [F] Sun.

[Am] 5-4-3-2-1 [C] Blast off! Another rocket [E7] ship [Am] run!
[Am] 5-4-3-2-1 [C] Blast off! Another rocket [E7] ship [Am] run!

[C]Take me [G7] to the [F] stars,
[C]Take me [G7] to the [F] stars,
[C]When I [G7] get there [F] I’ll be jumping everywhere,
[C]Dancing [G7] from star to [F] star.

[Am] 5-4-3-2-1 [C] Blast off! Another rocket [E7] ship [Am] run!
[Am] 5-4-3-2-1 [C] Blast off! Another rocket [E7] ship [Am] run!

[C]Take me [G7] to the [F] Earth,
[C]Leave me [G7] on the [F] ground,
[C]When I [G7] get there [F] I’ll be [C] home.

[Am] 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1

[C] Blast off! Another rocket [E7] ship [Am] run

Stay & Play: Mixed Media Night Sky

I originally just intended to have the kids stamp circles with pompoms dipped in tempera paint (to represent planets), and then add the sparkly star stickers. But I was surprised to see that some kids were sticking the pompoms onto their paper with the paint, which added a whole other dimension. The kids loved everything about this craft.

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

Stuffed Animal Sleepover at the Library

Last night, we hosted a Stuffed Animal Sleepover at the library. It was an unusual program, because the kids just dropped their stuffed animals off by 5pm, and then my manager Stephanie and I photographed them in different settings around the library.

There are lots of ways to do these programs. Some branches print a picture of each animal to give to the kids when they come to pick up their stuffies. Others make a slideshow or video to email out to the participants. I wanted to have a literacy component, so I made a simple book template in Microsoft Word. It printed on two pages, front and back, but with eight pages of photos.

The kids were so sweet when they dropped off their animals. Many of them had questions about where the animals were going to sleep, or if they were going to roast marshmallows. We just had the first family come to pick up their stuffy this morning, and the mom and daughter were eagerly looking through the book to find their toy in the photos.

We ended up with 43 animals in all (we didn’t set a limit to the program). When the families dropped off their animals, we asked them to fill out a tag with their name, a name and description of the animal, and a phone number (the template is at the bottom of this post). These we attached to the animals with binder clips. At first, I was planning to make separate nametags for each one, so the tags wouldn’t show in the photos. But we ended up with so many stuffies, that we just tried to clip the tags on the backs of the toys.

We had advertised the program through the schools, and on Facebook groups for local families. It actually brought in a lot of families who hadn’t been to the library before, and ended up signing up for library cards.

In our evening hours, when the library is usually quiet, we had fun arranging the animals reading books together, exploring the staff room, playing on the 3D printer, and reading stories.

The most challenging part of the program was actually arranging the photos in Microsoft Word, which can be a formatting nightmare, especially when you’re in a hurry. I recommend setting the photos to “With Text Wrapping” so that you can fit more on each page. I’m copying a very basic template of our book below. Feel free to use it. Just make sure that when you print, you set it to “Print on Both Sides-Flip Pages on Short Edge” and to “Landscape Orientation.”

Here’s our little book, the Word template we used, and the tags for the animals:

April Fools! A Silly Storytime

My storytimes are usually pretty silly, but for April Fools’ Day this week, we went even sillier.

I started by telling the kids that I had made them all brownies, and to raise their hands if they wanted one. Then Claire handed out letter E’s that I had cut out of brown paper. At first they were disappointed, but once they understood the joke, the older kids enjoyed offering people “Brown-E’s” themselves.

Here’s what we did for the rest of the storytime:

Books:

Knock, Knock by Tammi Sauer; illustrated by Guy Francis

A sleepy bear is trying to prepare for his long Winter’s sleep, but his friends keep showing up at his door in what turns out to be an extended series of knock-knock jokes. The “Knock-Knocks” are in large red letters, providing the perfect opportunity to point them out on each page and have the kids say them along with you. My coworker, Claire, read the part of the bear, and I read the other animals. A fun introduction to word play and jokes.

I Want to Go First by Richard Byrne

Elphie, the elephant, wants to be first in the line for the watering hole, but as the smallest, he has to go to the end of the line. In order to trick the elephants in front of him, he asks you, the reader, to distract them by calling their names, hissing like a snake, squeaking like mice, and shaking the book. The kids enjoyed the participation elements, especially the squeaking!

I Will Surprise My Friend by Mo Willems

When Gerald and Piggie see two squirrels having a great time hiding from and jumping out at each other, they decide to give it a try themselves. The trouble is that they both decide to hide on either side of the same rock, and then worry when they can’t find each other. This one is always a lot of fun to read aloud.

Songs & Rhymes

I’m Singing in the Rain

There are lots of different versions of this old camp song, which riffs off the song from the musical by Alfred Freed and Nacio Herb Brown. The punchline is always the last line, where you try to say the “tee-ta-ta’s” while sticking your tongue out. Here’s the version I used:

I’m singing in the rain,
Just singing in the rain,
What a glorious feeling,
I’m happy again!

(Spoken) Thumbs up!
A-tee-ta-ta-a-tee-ta-ta-ta-tee-ta-ta-ta (Move your thumbs back and forth in front of you)
A-tee-ta-ta-a-tee-ta-ta-ta-tee-ta-ta-ta

I’m singing in the rain,
Just singing in the rain,
What a glorious feeling,
I’m happy again!

Thumbs up!
Knees together!
A-tee-ta-ta-a-tee-ta-ta-ta-tee-ta-ta-ta (Put your knees together, and move your thumbs back and forth in front of you)
A-tee-ta-ta-a-tee-ta-ta-ta-tee-ta-ta-ta

I’m singing in the rain,
Just singing in the rain,
What a glorious feeling,
I’m happy again!

Thumbs up!
Knees together!
Toes together!
A-tee-ta-ta-a-tee-ta-ta-ta-tee-ta-ta-ta (Put your knees and toes together, and move your thumbs back and forth in front of you)
A-tee-ta-ta-a-tee-ta-ta-ta-tee-ta-ta-ta

I’m singing in the rain,
Just singing in the rain,
What a glorious feeling,
I’m happy again!

Thumbs up!
Knees together!
Toes together!
Tongue out!
A-tee-ta-ta-a-tee-ta-ta-ta-tee-ta-ta-ta
A-tee-ta-ta-a-tee-ta-ta-ta-tee-ta-ta-ta

There’s a Spider on the Floor

To the tune of If You’re Happy and You Know It. This is an old Raffi song, although I usually change the lyrics a little. I acted it out with a big toy spider, and encouraged the kids to make spiders with their hands.

There’s a spider on the floor, on the floor.
There’s a spider on the floor, on the floor.
Who could ask for any more than a spider on the floor?
There’s a spider on the floor, on the floor.

Now the spider’s on my leg, on my leg.
Now the spider’s on my leg, on my leg.
Oh, he’s really, really big, this old spider on my leg.
There’s a spider on my leg, on my leg.

Now the spider’s on my tummy, on my tummy…
Oh, I feel so very funny with this spider on my tummy!…

Now the spider’s on my neck, on my neck…
Oh, I’m gonna’ be a wreck, I’ve got a spider on my neck!…

Now the spider’s on my face, on my face…
Oh, I’m such a big disgrace. I’ve got a spider on my face!…

Now the spider’s on my head, on my head…
Oh, it fills my heart with dread to have this spider on my head!…

Spoken: But it jumps off!

Now the spider’s on the floor, on the floor…

Who could ask for any more than a spider on the floor?…

April Fools!

We sang this one as an instrument play-along. Click on the triangle for the tune, or it also works to the tune of If You’re Happy and You Know It.

[C] April Fools’! April [G7] Fools’!
It’s the day when silly pranks don’t break the [C] rules.
If your orange juice is pink,
When you [F] go to take a drink,
Then it’s [C] time to stop and [G7] think,
“It’s April [C] Fools’!”

There’s an [C] alligator swimming in the [G7] tub.
A zookeeper came and said he needs a [C] scrub.
And he asked in quite a rush,
If you’d [F] give his teeth a brush…
Never [C] mind, I’m only [G7] kidding,
April [C] Fools’!

April Fools’! April Fools’!
It’s the day when silly pranks don’t break the rules.
If your orange juice is gray,
Then before you run away,
You might wonder if today
Is April Fools’!

I’m afraid your birthday cake is full of ants,
They came crawling up the side and did a dance.
If you don’t mind extra spice,
I can cut you off a slice…
Happy Birthday, and above all
April Fools’!

April Fools’! April Fools’!
It’s the day when silly pranks don’t break the rules.
If your orange juice is white,
And it gives you quite a fright,
Then remember it just might be
April Fools!
APRIL FOOLS!

Stay and Play: Crayon Resist Surprise!

Crayon resist art is one of my favorite things to do with kids, and this interactive twist turned out really well.

Before I put out the watercolor paints, white crayons, paper, cups of water, and paintbrushes, I explained that if you draw or write with a white crayon on white paper, you won’t be able see what you draw at first. But when you paint over the crayon marks with watercolors, it will appear like magic. I encouraged the grown-ups to draw or write something for the kids to “find” with the paint, and they were all really engaged in the process.

What are your favorite stories, songs, or pranks for April Fools’ Day? Please share them in the comments.

Spring Fever: A Storytime About Springtime

Today was a beautiful day for our Outdoor Storytime, and perfect for our Spring theme. Here is what we did:

BOOKS:

When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes; illustrated by Laura Dronzek

This large, colorful picture book describes the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings of Spring. There are lots of opportunities to ask the kids about things they see in the pictures: baby birds, bees, kittens, etc. We practiced “melting” together like snowmen, and even talked about a couple of letter sounds on the pages describing things that start with the letters “B” and “W.”

Spring is Here by Will Hillenbrand

Sweet, funny story about Mole trying to wake up his very sleepy friend, Bear. For this one, I used a tactic I learned from a coworker, where you give the kids a visual cue, like putting your hand by your ear, to tell them to say a certain word or make a certain sound. In this case, I had them snore like a bear, which happened on every page. The ending got lots of laughs.

Abracadabra! It’s Spring! by Anne Sibley O’Brien; illustrated by Susan Gal

Every page of this book features a magic word (like “Abracadabra”) and opens up into an extra-long two page spread to reveal a magical change that happens in spring: flowers blooming, eggs hatching, butterflies coming out of cocoons, etc. I had the kids wave their index fingers like magic wands and say the magic words with me. On the page about “confetti trees,” my coworker, Claire, threw pink flower petals into the crowd.

SONGS:

Oh, Mister Sun

This was one of the first storytime songs I ever learned. I usually do the Raffi version (here’s a link to the video):

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!

Here is the Beehive

This is another favorite storytime rhyme that’s always a hit:

Here is the beehive (make a fist with one hand)

Where are the bees?

Hiding away where nobody sees.

Watch, and they’ll all come out of their hive…

One, Two, Three, Four, Five… (hold up each finger as you count)

They’re alive! (Fly your fingers around. I told the crowd they were “tickle bees” so they tickled themselves and their grown-ups)

The Little Bunnies

One of the day care providers who comes to storytime uses this song with her kids, and I have always wanted to try it. We sang it three times, and the kids LOVED it! Claire and I both held up bunny puppets, but also did the motions along with the kids. The motions are pretty self-explanatory, but you can either have the kids physically pretend to sleep and then hop around, or you can have them make bunny ears with their fingers. There are different versions of the song, but the tune I used is the same as in this video by Little Baby Bums Nursery Rhymes for Babies:

See the little bunnies sleeping

‘Till it’s nearly noon.

Shall we wake them with a merry tune?

They’re so still.

Are they ill?

NO! Wake up little bunnies!

Hop little bunnies, hop, hop, hop!

Hop little bunnies, hop, hop, hop!

Hop little bunnies, hop, hop, hop!

Hop little bunnies, hop and stop!

When the Red, Red, Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along by Harry Woods

This was a song that my Dad sang a lot when I was little. It was written in 1926. There were a number of robins depicted in the books I read today, and I had been pointing them out whenever they appeared. I also explained that in many places seeing a robin means that it’s the beginning of Spring. Here’s a version performed by Bing Crosby.

When the [C] red, red, robin comes [G7] bob, bob, bobbin’ [C] along, along,

There’ll be no more sobbin’ when [G7] he starts throbbin’ his [C] old sweet [C7] song:

[F] “Wake up! Wake up, you Sleepyhead! [C] Get up, Get up, Get out of bed!

[D] Cheer up, Cheer up, Cheer up, the sun is red.

[G7] Live, love, laugh and be happy.”

[C] What if I’ve been blue?

[G7] Now I’m walkin’ through [C] fields of flowers.

Rain may glisten, but [G7] still I listen for [C] hours, and hours.

[F] I’m just a kid again, [Fm6] doin’ what I did again,

[C] Singin’ a [Am] song.

When the [C] red, red, robin comes [G7] bob, bob, bobbin’ [C] along, along.

STAY AND PLAY: BUTTERFLIES

This was a really simple project, but it worked well, even for the toddlers. I printed out butterfly templates on cardstock (there are lots of options online, but I used this one from Cliparts.co). I put out shredded tissue paper in different colors, along with craft gemstones, and glue sticks. Some of the kids (and grown-ups) got really into decorating their butterflies.

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

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.

Love Stories: A Storytime for Valentine’s Day

We had a fun Valentine’s Day storytime this morning at the park. Here’s what we did:

Books:

Love Monster and the Last Chocolate by Rachel Bright

Although this isn’t specifically a Valentine’s story, it is a funny, sweet friendship story that revolves around chocolate. When Love Monster arrives home from vacation, he is thrilled to find a box of chocolate waiting on his front doorstep. Before he opens it though, he wonders if he should share the chocolates with his friends. This leads him to worry about what would happen if there weren’t enough chocolates for everyone, or if someone else might eat his favorite chocolate, and he almost decides not to share them. In the end, he rushes out to share with his friends before he can change his mind, only to learn that they have already shared the chocolates from the box, and saved Love Monster’s favorite one just for him.

Click, Clack, Moo, I Love You! by Doreen Cronin; illustrated by Betsy Lewin

In this cute addition to the Click, Clack, Moo series, the animals on the farm are getting ready for the big Valentine’s Dance. Little Duck has decorated with streamers, and balloons, and made Valentine’s for everyone. When Little Fox follows the decorations down the hill to the party, all the animals stop dancing…until Little Duck gives Little Fox a Valentine, and they all dance together. Full of lots of opportunities for kids to join in on the “quack, quack, quack’s” and “yip, yip, yips.” Plus, the mice do The Hustle several times, so I invited the kids to join me for a few seconds of the Travolta Move while we sang part of The Hustle.

Be Mine, Be Mine, Sweet Valentine by Sarah Weeks; illustrated by Fumi Kosaka

Very cute rhyming Valentine’s book, which invites the kids to guess which Valentine gift would be best for each animal, with flaps that open to reveal the answer. The dog gets a bone, the cat gets cream, etc. The kids had fun guessing.

Songs:

If All the Raindrops

We sang this song after reading Love Monster and the Last Chocolate. After singing the first verse together, I asked the kids to suggest favorite foods to sing about for the next two verses. We sang “If all the raindrops were pizza and mac and cheese,” and “If all the raindrops were chocolate and ice cream.” Here are the lyrics and chords, and a YouTube link for the melody:

[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!

Skiddamarink-A-Dink-A-Dink

This song is always a favorite with both kids and caregivers. I go over the sign language for “I Love You” before we sing the song together. Here’s a link to a YouTube video from Super Simple Songs with the tune:

Skidamarink a-dink, a-dink
Skidamarink a-doo
I love you.
Skidamarink a-dink, a-dink
Skidamarink a-doo
I love you.
I love you in the morning
And in the afternoon.
I love you in the evening
And underneath the moon.
Oh, skidamarink a-dink, a-dink
Skidamarink a-doo
I love you.

Six Little Ducks

I sang this one after we read Click, Clack, Moo, I Love You, which featured lots of quacking. I invited the kids to waddle and quack with me. Click on the triangle below for the tune:

C                                  G7
Six little ducks that I once knew,
C
Fat ones, skinny ones, fair ones too.
G7
But the one little duck with the feather on his back.
C
He led the others with his “Quack! Quack! Quack!”

Chorus:
G7                                         C
“Quack! Quack! Quack! Quack! Quack! Quack!”
G7                                              C
He led the others with his “Quack! Quack! Quack!”

Down to the river they would go,
Wibble-wobble, wibble-wobble, to and fro.
But the one little duck with the feather on his back,
He led the others with his “Quack! Quack! Quack!”

Chorus

Home from the river they would come,
Wibble-wobble, wibble-wobble, ho hum hum.
But the one little duck with the feather on his back,
He led the others with his “Quack! Quack! Quack!”

Chorus

Old MacDonald

Claire held up the Monkey Mitt with the Old MacDonald animal set while we all sang the song together:

[C] Old MacDonald [F] had a [C] farm,

E-I- [G7] E-I- [C] O!

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

E-I- [G7] E-I- [C] O!

With a cluck-cluck here, and a cluck-cluck there,

Here a cluck, there a cluck,

Everywhere a cluck-cluck.

[C] Old MacDonald [F] had a [C] farm,

E-I- [G7] E-I- [C] O!

Stay and Play: Dot Resist Hearts

Paper heart taped onto blank cardstock, then decorated with Dot Markers

This was such an easy, fun activity. I adapted it from this Thumbprint Craft from A Dab of Glue Will Do, only instead of using thumbprints, we gave the kids Dot Markers. I cut hearts out of cardstock ahead of time, then taped them with removable tape onto blank cardstock. For some kids, I taped the outline of the heart to the paper instead.

The kids loved covering the pages with colored dots, and then peeling the top layer off to reveal the heart underneath.

What are your favorite picture books, songs, or crafts for Valentine’s Day? Please share them in the comments below.

Gung Hay Fat Choy: A Storytime for Lunar New Year

A beautiful Chinese dog marionette my coworker Angela loaned to me for storytime

It was a beautiful day in the park today, and also the first day of the Lunar New Year. Since 2022 is the Year of the Tiger, we did a mix of stories and activities about tigers and New Year’s celebrations.

Here’s what we did:

Books:

Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin

I started by introducing the idea of Lunar New Year, and explaining about how it celebrated in many Asian countries on the first new moon of their calendar year. I held up a picture of a new moon, so the kids could see what it looked like. I also explained very briefly about the different animals that make up the Chinese zodiac, and that this is the Year of the Tiger. Before we read the book, we handed out small squares of bubble wrap, and told the kids to listen for the page that talks about firecrackers. The book is colorful and simple, and does a beautiful job of capturing the excitement of the New Year celebration, while describing several of the common traditions (sweeping, getting a hair cut, watching the parade). When we got to the firecracker page, we told the kids to pop their bubble wrap. They had a great time!

When a Tiger Comes to Dinner by Jessica Olien

This funny, interactive story provides advice on what to do when a tiger is coming to dinner: roar hello, hold up your claws and bare your teeth, and be sure to serve peanut butter sandwiches. The problem: all of the roaring scares your tiger guest. Luckily she likes the peanut butter sandwiches. The kids loved joining in on all of the roaring.

Little Tigers by Jo Weaver

Beautifully illustrated story about a mother tiger and her two cubs, who are looking for a safe place to live. They try a spot behind a waterfall (too wet), and at the top of a tree (too high), find a hole that’s already home to a python, and a cave full of biting insects, before they finally find a new home in an abandoned temple. The kids and adults both exclaimed over the illustrations.

Songs & Rhymes:

Going on a Tiger Hunt

I did a tiger version of the Going on a Bear Hunt chant, asking the families to repeat each line after me:

We’re going on a tiger hunt!
(We’re going on a tiger hunt!)
It’s a beautiful day!
(It’s a beautiful day!)
We’re not scared!
(We’re not scared!)

We’re coming to some grass.
(We’re coming to some grass).
Can’t go over it.
(Can’t go over it.)
Can’t go under it.
(Can’t go under it.)
Have to go through it.
(Have to go through it.)
Swish! Swish! Swish! Swish! (Rubbing hands together)

We’re coming to some mud.
(We’re coming to some mud.)
Can’t go over it.
(Can’t go over it.)
Can’t go under it.
(Can’t go under it.)
Have to go through it.
(Have to go through it).
Squilch! Squelch! Squilch! Squelch! (Clapping hands together).

We’re coming to a lake.
(We’re coming to a lake.)
Can’t go over it.
(Can’t go over it.)
Can’t go under it.
(Can’t go under it.)
Have to swim across it.
(Have to swim across it.)
Splish! Splash! Splish! Splash!

We’re coming to a cave.
(We’re coming to a cave.)
Can’t go over it.
(Can’t go over it.)
Can’t go under it.
(Can’t go under it.)
Have to go inside.
(Have to go inside.)
Tiptoe…tiptoe…tiptoe…tiptoe…
It’s dark in here…
(It’s dark in here…)
It’s cold in here…
(It’s cold in here…)
Two yellow eyes…it’s a tiger!

Run!
Swim across the lake!
Run through the mud!
Run through the grass!
Into the house!
Slam the door!
Lock it!
We’re never going on a tiger hunt again!

Five Green Dragons

I explained that dragons are a symbol of good luck. Then my coworker Claire held up five green paper dragons on popsicle sticks, while the rest of us did the rhyme with our fingers:

Five green dragons making such a roar.
One danced away and then there were four.
Four green dragons dancing around a tree.
One danced away and then there were three.
Three green dragons dancing around you.
One danced away and then there were two.
Two green dragons dancing in the sun.
One danced away and then there was one.
One green dragon having lots of fun
She danced away and then there were none.

Dragon Dance

I adapted this song from PerpetualPreschool.com. We did it as an instrument play-along, and Claire did the motions the dog marionette pictured above. The song is to the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb:

[C] See the dragon hop, hop, hop,

[G7] Hop, hop, hop, [C] hop, hop, hop.

See the dragon hop, hop, hop,

[G7] On New Year’s [C] Day!

See the dragon shake its tail…

See the dragon dance around…

See the dragon stomp its feet…

See the dragon jump up and down…

See the dragon go to sleep…

Stay and Play: Painted Dragons

I found this activity on Learning and Exploring Through Play, and it was so much fun! We gave the kids cardstock, which the parents helped them fold in half, then passed out tempera paint and brushes. They could either paint with brushes or just squirt the paint on one half of the paper, then fold it in half to spread the paint onto the other side, making a symmetrical shape. I also put out googly eyes and gluesticks. Some of the paintings looked more like dragons than others (some looked like moose or butterflies), but it was a great process art activity, and fun to watch as the kids opened up their papers to reveal the designs.

The Giving Tree

I’ve written a few songs inspired by children’s books, mostly because it helps me understand my feelings about them, and why certain books have stuck with me. For years I’ve wanted to write one based on Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, but I never found a melody I liked until now.

As a kid, I was mildly obsessed with The Giving Tree, probably because on some level it disturbed me. On the surface, it’s a simple love story about a boy and a tree. Except, as with many of Silverstein’s poems and books, he takes the premise to a grotesque extreme, until the tree is left a limbless stump, and the boy a stooped and desolate old man.

I’ve heard the book described as a Christian parable, an allegory about parenthood, a metaphor about environmental devastation, and a commentary on society’s expectations of women. I can see arguments for all of these possibilities, but what did Silverstein intend for it to be? Is the tree supposed to be a role model? If so, she seems to get the bad end of the deal. Is it a cautionary tale about giving too much? Or taking too much? Or is it just a bittersweet story about unconditional love?

In any case, reflecting on the book as an adult, I wanted to give a voice to the tree. I ended up making her bitter but also empowered.

I am the Giving Tree,
I once loved a boy
Who said he loved me.

I gave him my leaves
To make him a crown.
I lifted him up,
But he just cut me down.

Is this really love,
And is this really living?
His constantly taking,
My constant forgiving.

He took the best of me,
For his wants and his needs,
And his restless misery.

And then he abandoned me
With nothing but dreams
Of what I used to be.

Is this really love
And is this really living?
His constantly taking,
My constant forgiving.

Waiting silent in the snow,
With a tiny seed
Of hope I can regrow.

And that new life will come again,
This time for me
Not for some old broken man.

I will be all I can.
I won’t twist my life
Into someone else’s plan.
Because this isn’t love
And this isn’t living,
And I can be loving
Without always giving,
And I can be faithful
While still being free
And I am forgiving me.

What is your take on The Giving Tree? How would you give voice to those characters? And what books troubled you as a child? Please reply in the comments.

A Song for Calvin and Hobbes

The Hobbes I made for one of my kids years ago. It’s based on this Instructables pattern, which is pretty easy to follow.

I’ve written other posts about how grateful I am for comic books, which motivated both of my own kids to start reading on their own. Since then, graphic novels, the extended version of comic books, have really taken off. We have whole sections of the library dedicated to them, both fiction and nonfiction, and geared for every age group. My daughter’s own bookshelf is overflowing with the rebooted Babysitter’s Club series, and books by Raina Telgemeier and Svetlana Chmakova. And lately my husband has been reading the science fiction graphic novel series Aldebaran in French, as a fun way to learn new French vocabulary. (The ESL book club I co-lead is planning to read a graphic novel soon for the same reason. It’s a great way to learn common idioms and spoken language, without a lot of overwhelming descriptive text).

But in addition to graphic novels, we have an enormous collection of comic strip books, including Garfield, Fox Trot, and Baby Blues. These are books that my kids both pored over as they learned to read, and still can’t bear to part with. My tween still happily brings them along for car rides, and laughs just as hard at them as she did when she was 8 or 9. Among them are most of the Calvin and Hobbes books, which my husband and I bought for ourselves as adults, and which we love every bit as much as our kids do.

There’s something so timeless and universal about Calvin and Hobbes. It’s humbling to read the strips as an adult (and especially as a parent), because Bill Watterson shines such a painfully bright light on how dull the world of grown-ups can be, compared to the limitless and ever-questioning world of childhood, with all of its many terrors, injustices, and adventures.

So I wrote this song in honor of Calvin and Hobbes. I hope you enjoy it.

Me and the Tiger

We pack every day,

With questions and battles,

Adventures and play.





And all of of the grown-ups

They can’t understand,

That life’s so much more

Than the routines they’ve planned.



They just see a toy

And they think it’s pretend.

They don’t know the magic

You find with a friend.





But me and the Tiger

We make our own rules,

Our world’s more than homework,

And bedtime, and schools.


And when we don’t like things,

We simply defy them,

Or build new inventions

To transmogrify them.


My Mom and Dad think

That it’s all in my head,

They can’t see the monster

That’s under my bed.


But I will sleep soundly,

My best friend beside me,

To laugh with, and argue,

And comfort, and guide me


Through all the adventures

And wonders we’ll see,

When a new day arrives

For my Tiger and me.


What books do you and your family treasure? Please let me know in the comments.

Uke Can Play (Virtually)

Musician Julie Stepanek, who offers a variety of ukulele programs online

One of the many casualties of the pandemic was my drop-in ukulele class for adults, which I held on the first Monday evening of each month at the Sanchez Library. We had a small, but dedicated group of regulars, who were always welcoming of newcomers, even though it meant going back to playing the one and two chord songs they had played so many times before. I always looked forward to seeing and playing with them, and I thought about them a lot during the early days of the shut-down. Our library system was still in the process of figuring out how to offer virtual programs, with storytimes being the first priority, but I wished there were a way to offer a virtual ukulele class.

So I was thrilled to see a Facebook post from the Jones Library in Amherst, Massachusetts (the place where I had my first library job) about a virtual ukulele play-along. I tried it out, and was immediately hooked.

The instructor, Julie Stepanek, led the play-along over Zoom, with Powerpoint slides that clearly displayed the song lyrics and chord charts for each song. Since playing or singing in sync over Zoom is difficult, all of the participants were muted. The beauty of this was that you really felt like you were playing with a group, and you were, but nobody could hear any mistakes that you or anyone else were making. You could even turn off your video. It was a wonderful way to make music with people, with absolutely no pressure, and I learned so many new songs that soon became favorites. Even now, when I hear those songs, they instantly bring me back to those eerie early days of the pandemic, and how it felt to be isolated with my family in my own house, while sharing this musical experience with people on the other side of the country.

At the time, Julie was actually offering free play-alongs every day of the week, and twice on Sundays, and I started tuning in whenever I could. I emailed all of the regulars from my own ukulele group, and soon there they were on the Zoom with me. It was funny to be connected with them online via a program from Massachusetts, when we were all just miles away from each other in our houses in Pacifica, California, but it was so great to see and play with them again. As our libraries reopened for curbside pick-up and other services, I could only attend occasionally, but whenever I did, my regulars were still there, having a great time.

We recently booked Julie for a series of ukulele workshops for the San Mateo County Library system, and she has done a wonderful job of guiding our participants through all of the basics of playing: tuning, reading a chord chart, understanding tablature, basic chord progressions, and standard strumming patterns. Patrons can borrow ukuleles from our libraries so it was natural fit for our library system, and the response has been very enthusiastic. One participant wrote “Great opportunity to learn a musical instrument, and even better to be able to borrow one too! Fantastic.”

I don’t usually write plugs for performers, but I wanted to write a post about this program because I had never considered the benefits of teaching ukulele (or any other instrument) over Zoom. It really makes a lot of sense. One of the greatest hesitations many people have about taking music lessons (especially in a group setting), is having to perform or sing in front of others, but this format takes all of that stress away. Even a virtual play-along, like the ones that Julie still offers weekly out of libraries in Massachusetts and Connecticut, allows new players to learn at their own pace. They might start out only playing the C chords, and then add in others as they get more used to them, but they still get the thrill of playing and singing with a group, which is addictive!

If you’d like to check out one of Julie’s classes, either to learn ukulele yourself, attend a play-along, get an idea of how to lead music lessons online, or book her for a program, you can visit her web site at: https://calamine.com/ukulele She also has a YouTube video of Absolute Basics for ukulele, and some other tutorials.

Have you attended or hosted any virtual programs this past year that you thought were especially impactful? Please share them in the comments below.