Kidding Around: A Storytime for El Día de los Niños

This Friday (April 30) is El día de los niños/El día de los libros, also known as Día. Author Pat Mora was inspired by the Mexican holiday known as Children’s Day, to create a holiday celebrating children and literacy around the world.

For my Outdoor Musical Storytime, I wanted to combine the idea of celebrating books about different cultures and languages, with the idea of children around the world. I considered a wide range of books, but this was what I ended up with:


I’m Hungry! / ¡Tengo hambre! by Angela Dominguez

Super cute bilingual book about a hungry Spanish-speaking T-Rex, and the English-speaking blue bird who tries to help him. The bird offers him a wide range of foods, including bananas, sandwiches, and cake, but the T-Rex only wants to eat…un pájaro azul (blue bird)! Luckily, the bird is able to convince him to enjoy some galletas (cookies) instead. What’s nice about this book is that the bird translates the dinosaur’s words for the reader in a seamless way that makes it read like an actual conversation.

The Wheels on the Tuk Tuk by Kabir Sehgal & Surishtha Sehgal; illustrated by Jess Golden

Clever take on the classic song The Wheels on the Bus, featuring a three-wheeled taxi (Tuk Tuk) in India. People in the street jump on and off, the riders on the tuk tuk go bobble bobble bobble, and (my favorite) the tuk tuk stops for Moo Moo Cow. The kids enjoyed joining in on the motions and singing along.

Remarkably You by Pat Zietlow Millow; illustrations by Patrice Barton

I included this one as a celebration of the uniqueness of every child. It’s a sweet rhyme about being proud of who you are, with beautiful illustrations.


Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes

We sang this in English three times, getting faster each time. Then I taught them the Spanish words. We used “pies” (feet), since in Spanish “toes” is “dedos de los pies,” which is kind of a mouthful:

Here’s a video by Super Simple Español – Canciones Infantiles Y Más with the pronunciation:

Cabeza, hombros, rodillas y pies, rodillas y pies.
Cabeza, hombros, rodillas y pies, rodillas y pies.
Ojos, orejas, boca y nariz,
Cabeza, hombros, rodillas y pies, rodillas y pies.

Juanito Cuando Baila by José-Luis Orozco

This song is so catchy! The lyrics basically mean “When Juanito dances,/dances, dances, dances./When Juanito dances,/he dances with his little finger./With his finger, finger, finger,/That’s how Juanito dances.” Here’s a video by Elementary Music Fun with the tune.

Juanito cuando baila,
baila, baila, baila.
Juanito cuando baila,
Baila con el dedito. (wiggle little finger)
Con el dedito, ito, ito,
Así baila Juanito.

Juanito cuando baila,
baila, baila, baila.
Juanito cuando baila,
Baila con el pie, (move your foot)
Con el pie, pie, pie,
Con el dedito, ito, ito, (wiggle little finger)
Así baila Juanito.

Repeat, adding a new body part each time. We did rodilla (knee) and cabeza (head).

Wheels on the Bus

The natural follow-up to The Wheels on the Tuk Tuk. I played it on the ukulele (it only has two chords). I usually throw in a surprise at the end, like a dinosaur going “Roar, Roar, Roar!” and then we sing the first verse again, and make our wheels (and the song) go as fast as we can:

[C]The wheels on the bus go round and round.

[G7]Round and round, [C] Round and round.

The wheels on the bus go round and round,

[G7]All over [C] town.

Freight Train


This is one of my favorite storytime songs, because I love hearing the kids’ suggestions for where they want to go, and it seemed to fit with both the transportation theme of Wheels on the Tuk Tuk and our celebration of kids around the world. The song (by Elizabeth Cotten) has an amazing history, although I do the more kid-friendly Elizabeth Mitchell version. Here are the lyrics and uke chords I use:

[C] Freight train, freight train, [G7] going so fast.

[G7] Freight train, freight train, [C] going so fast.

[E7]Please don’t tell what [F] train I’m on,

So they [C] won’t know [G7] where I’ve [C] gone.

Going to Mexico, going so fast!

Going to Mexico, going so fast!

Please don’t tell what train I’m on,

So they won’t know where I’ve gone.

No One Like You by Andrea Willis Muhoberac:

For years, my manager Thom Ball and I used this as an opening song for Musical Storytime, and we recorded it with two storytime volunteers (Ellen Ron and Sue Beckmeyer) on a CD we created to give away to families. It’s such a sweet and beautiful song.

I like your [C] eyes.

I like your [F] nose.

I like your [G] mouth.

Your ears, your hands, your [C] toes.

I like your face.

It’s really [F] you.

I [Dm] like the things you say and [G] do.

There’s not a [F] single [G] soul

Who [C] sees the [Am] skies

The [G] way you see them.

Through your [C] eyes.

[F] And aren’t you [G] glad.

[E]You should be [Am] glad.

There’s [C] no one, [G] no one

Exactly like [C] you.

Stay and Play: Paper People

I was happy to find these templates of people with different skin colors from Picklebums. They were designed so that kids could make clothes out of playdough, but I just had the kids use markers and stickers instead. It was a really simple project, but the kids were very engaged.

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

No Place Like Home: A Storytime for Earth Day

This Friday (April 22) is Earth Day, a holiday that’s heavily observed in our coastal community, especially by the Pacific Beach Coalition, who organizes community clean-ups all over the Bay Area. So today, we had a great time celebrating Earth Day at our Outdoor Musical Storytime.

Here’s what we did:


The Digger and the Flower by Joseph Kuefler

Sweet story about a digger who discovers a small blue flower on a construction site, and takes time to water and even sing to it each day. When one of the other construction vehicles digs the flower up, Digger finds some seeds on the ground, and finds a safe place to grow a whole new group of flowers.

Rocket Says Clean Up! by Nathan Bryon; illustrated by Dapo Adeola

Great story about a girl named Rocket who discovers a baby turtle caught in a plastic soda ring while visiting the beach near her grandparents’ house. Suddenly, she notices all of the plastic on the beach, and starts asking the other beach visitors to help clean it up. Soon, the whole beach is clean, and the baby turtle is recovered enough to release back into the wild.

Thank You, Earth by April Pulley Sayre

This book features large beautiful photos of animals, plants, patterns, and nature scenes. There were lots of opportunities for the kids to identify things in the pictures.


I’m a Little Seed

(To the tune of I’m a Little Teapot):

I’m a little seed down in the ground (crouching down)

Tiny, tiny, dark, and round (hold up two fingers as if you are holding a small seed).

With the April rain, and the warm sun’s glow,

I’ll pop right up, and grow, grow, grow! (jump up and stretch your arms high).

Rainbow ‘Round Me by Ruth Pelham

This song is always fun to do, especially because it gives the kids a chance to suggest things they would like to see outside their window. Today we had a red kitty, a rainbow rainbow (of course!), and a green tree.

When I [C] look outside my [G7] window,
There’s a world of color I [C] see.
Fiddle-dee-dee, [F] outside my [C] window 
There’s a [G7] world of color I [C] see.

[F] Rainbow, [C] rainbow, [G7] rainbow ’round [C] me. 
[F] Rainbow, [C] rainbow, [G7] rainbow ’round [C] me. 

The Waves at the Beach

This one was from It’s to the tune of The Wheels on the Bus:

The [C] waves at the beach go UP and DOWN,

[G7] UP and DOWN [C] UP and DOWN,

The waves at the beach go UP and DOWN,

[G7] All day [C]long.

The crabs at the beach crawl back and forth…

The clams at the beach go open and shut…

The lobsters at the beach go snap, snap, snap!

The kids at the beach yell “Yay, Yay, Yay!”…

This Land Is Your Land by Woody Guthrie

We did this one for our instrument play-along (where we hand out shakers for the kids). Here’s an old recording of Guthrie himself.


[C] This land is [F] your land, this land is [C] my land.
From [G7] California to the New York [C] island.
From the redwood [F] forest to the Gulf Stream [C] waters
[G7] This land was made for you and [C] me

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway.
I saw below me that golden valley,
This land was made for you and me.


I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps,
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts.
And all around me a voice was sounding
“This land was made for you and me.”


Stay & Play: Seed Bombs

I found this project on Little Bins For Little Hands. It’s a seed bomb made with different colors of construction paper. Basically, you cut the paper into small squares and soak them in water for at least twenty minutes, then shred them in a food processor (a process that sparked a lot of curiosity in my house over the weekend!).

For the storytime, I put out paper bowls of wildflower seed mix for our area for each child. Then I put bowls of shredded damp paper (a different color in each bowl) out on the tables. The kids had fun mushing the seeds into the wet paper, and mixing the colors together (some of them rolled it into balls, while others just made a colorful blend of paper and seeds in their bowls). I told them they could plant their seed bombs outside, or in a pot. (There were quite a few seeds spilled on the ground, so I’m also wondering how many flowers are going to be popping up at the park in a few weeks!).

What are your favorite books or projects for Earth Day? Please share them in the comments.

It’s a Breeze! A Storytime About the Wind

Today (April 12) is Big Wind Day, a day commemorating the strongest wind ever recorded on the Earth’s surface (231 mph on April 12, 1934 at Mount Washington Observatory in New Hampshire).

I love building storytimes around obscure holidays, and this one turned out to be so much fun. Coincidentally, we also had gale force winds here on the coast yesterday, so the wind was definitely on everyone’s minds.

Here’s what we did:


Kate, Who Tamed the Wind by Liz Garton Scanlon & Lee White

This is a sweet story about a man plagued by high winds in his house at the top of a very steep hill, and the little girl who helps him by planting trees. The kids enjoyed making wind noises whenever I said “the wind blew.”

Windblown by  Édouard Mansour

Cute, simple story about different animals (a chicken, a fish, a frog, a snail, and a bird) who find a collection of colorful shapes blown by the wind. All of the animals are composed of the same shapes, which could easily lead into a craft activity. The kids liked calling out the names of each animal.

The Wind Blew by Pat Hutchins

This is a classic picture book about the havoc wreaked on a small town by a mischievous wind that steals hats, umbrellas, kites, shirts, and even the mail from the letter carrier. The next time I do this one, I think it would be fun to print out pictures of each of the items and throw them in the air, or give the kids play scarves to toss in the air each time the wind grabs something in the story.

Songs & Rhymes:

I’m a Little Gum Nut (Pinecone)

I got this one from, although their version was about a pinecone. In the picnic area at the park where we do storytime, there are a lot of eucalyptus trees, which drop gum nuts all over the ground, so I adapted it. You could do the same for acorns/oak trees or any kind of fruit. The tune is I’m a Little Teapot:

I’m a little gum nut,

Brown and small, (crouch down)

Way up high, in the eucalyptus tall (stretch up tall)

When the cold wind blows,

I dance and hop,

Down to the ground (crouch down)

With a plop, plop, plop! (Clap hands)

Way Up High in the Apple Tree

I did both this rhyme and the gum nut song as a follow-up to Kate, Who Tamed the Wind. This rhyme is an old stand-by, and fun because you can ask the kids to suggest different types of trees. Today we did apples, bananas, and plums:

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)

Do You Know What Shape I Have?

We did this as a follow-up to Windblown. My coworker, Claire, held an envelope with four shapes cut out of different colored paper (circle, square, triangle, and diamond). Each time we sang the song, she would hold up one of the shapes, and we’d ask the kids to identify it. The song is to the tune of Do You Know the Muffin Man?

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!


To go along with the wind theme, I thought it would be fun to bring out the bubble machine, both because the machine itself uses air, and because the wind carried the bubbles all around the storytime area, which the kids loved. Years ago, I did a brief stint as a Kindermusik teacher, and I learned this cute Bubbles song from there. You can hear the tune in this YouTube video posted by Talita Feuerstein.

Bubbles, Bubbles, landing on your nose!

Bubbles, Bubbles, landing on your toes!

Bubbles, Bubbles, floating to the floor.

Pop them! Pop them! Now we’ll blow some more.

Let’s Go Fly a Kite by Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman

This song from Mary Poppins was the perfect lead-in for our Stay & Play Kite activity.  I handed out the shakers so the kids could play along while I sang.

With [G] tuppence for paper and strings,
You can have your own set of [C] wings.
With your [G] feet on the [G7] ground
You’re a [A] bird in [C] flight,
With your [G] fist holding [D] tight,
To the string of your [G] kite.

Oh, oh, oh,
[C] Let’s go fly a kite!
[G] Up to the highest height.
[D] Let’s go fly a kite,
And [G] send it soaring!
[C] Up through the atmosphere,
[G] Up where the air is clear,
[D] Oh, let’s go fly a [G] kite.

When you send it flying up there,
All at once you’re lighter than air.
You can dance on the breeze over houses and trees,
With your fist holding tight
To the string of your kite.

Oh, oh, oh
Let’s go fly a kite!
Up to the highest height.
Let’s go fly a kite,
And send it soaring.
Up through the atmosphere,
Up where the air is clear,
Oh, let’s go fly a kite!

Stay & Play: Paper Bag Kites

I found this kite idea on Everyday Chaos and Calm. It basically just a simple “kite,” made out of a paper bag, with a long piece of yarn taped to it to serve as a string.

I put out paper bags for each child, along with glue sticks, markers, dot paint, some random shapes I cut out of colored paper (along with kids scissors and paper scraps so they could cut their own), crepe paper streamers,  yarn, and tape to attach the yarn.

The kids had a great time decorating and then “flying” their kites while running and holding the yarn. Claire also turned on the bubble machine, so for a while there were bubbles and kites and kids all over the picnic area.

Happy Big Wind Day!

Check It Out! A Storytime for National Library Week

This week is National Library Week, and today is National Library Worker’s Day. So we had a fun library-themed storytime at the park today. Here’s what we did:


Book! Book! Book! by Deborah Bruss; illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke

When the kids go off to school, the farm animals are bored. They decide to go to town, and wander into the public library to find something to do. Each animal tries to talk to the librarian, who only hears neighs, moos, and baas, until the chicken comes up to ask for a “Book!” I had a great time reading this aloud. The kids enjoyed supplying the animal sounds, and everyone laughed at the final pun.

The Library Book by Tom Chapin and Michael Mark; illustrated by Chuck Groenink

This super catchy song by Tom Chapin has been stuck in my head for days! The book tells a story of a trip to the library, featuring famous book characters like Winnie the Pooh, Sleeping Beauty, and Madeline. My only complaint is that the librarian shushes people, which is a stereotype I try to avoid, but it does make sense in the context of the song. The kids were dancing, and many of the grown-ups were singing along.

Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library by Julie Gassman; illustrated by Andy Elkerton

A little boy really wants to bring his dragon to the library, but the librarian explains all of the reason why it would be a bad idea: dragons are very large, and tend to wander, and when they get too excited, they breathe fire. But she offers a solution that will allow the dragon to enjoy the books while staying safely at home. The large format of this book worked really for our storytime, and I love the diversity of people depicted in the colorful illustrations. The kids joined in on the repeated “Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library” refrain.


These Are My Glasses by Laurie Berkner

I love this song, and the kids always seem to enjoy it too. Laurie Berkner has a great YouTube video of the song and the motions.

The lyrics are:

These are my glasses,

This is my book.

I put on my glasses,

And open up my book.

Then I read, read, read,

And I look, look, look.

I put down my glasses and whoop! close up the book.

When Ducks Get Up in the Morning

I sang this one as a follow up to Book! Book! Book! It works really well for storytime because the kids can suggest different animals, and you only need to know two chords to play it on the ukulele or guitar. Today we sang about horses, cats, T-rexes, and kids:

[C] When ducks get up in the morning

They [G7] always say, “Good [C] day!”

[C] When ducks get up in the morning

They [G7] always say, “Good [C] day!”

[C] They say, “Quack! Quack! Quack! Quack!”

[G7] That is what they [C] say.

[C] They say, “Quack! Quack! Quack! Quack!”

[G7] That is what they [C] say.

Five Green and Speckled Frogs

This song worked really well as a follow-up to Book! Book! Book! too. One funny thing about outdoor storytime is that since the kids are usually sitting on a blanket, they sometimes seem hesitant to stand up. So for this one, I encouraged them to hop with me each time we sang the “Five Green and Speckled Frogs” line.

Five green and speckled frogs
Sat on a speckled log.
Eating the most delicious bugs! Yum Yum!
One jumped into the pool,
Where it was nice and cool,
Now there are four green speckled frogs!

Four green and speckled frogs…etc.

Fly, Fly, Dragon, Fly

I got this song from The Perpetual Preschool, and it was a great lead-in to Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library. It’s to the tune of Skip to My Lou:

Fly fly dragon fly
Fly fly dragon fly
Fly fly dragon fly
Way up in the sky.

Hop hop dragon hop
Hop hop dragon hop
Hop hop dragon hop
Dragon, dragon stop!

Stay and Play: Origami Bookmarks

For our Stay and Play, I had the kids decorate Origami Bookmarks (the kind that fits onto the corner of a page). They are very easy to fold, but since my crowd is largely toddlers and preschoolers, I folded a bunch in advance, and put out googly eyes, gluesticks, markers, scissors, foam shapes, some precut paper teeth, and scraps of paper. The kids really seem to enjoy projects that involve gluing things onto the paper, so this was a hit!

I printed out these instructions from the Jewish Community Relations Council and also put out pieces of origami paper, in case anyone wanted to try folding their own. There are also lots of video tutorials, including this one from Red Ted Art, if you need any help following the instructions.

Happy Library Worker’s Day!

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:


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)

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)

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)

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!

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!

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:


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.


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.


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 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.

Chasing Rainbows: A Storytime about Colors

Since there were two holidays related to color this week (Holi and St. Patrick’s Day), I decided to combine them both into a storytime about colors. Here’s what we did:


Rainbow Stew by Cathryn Falwell

This book worked perfectly because it was cloudy and damp in the park today, just like the weather in the book. This is a sweet, rhyming book about three children gathering a rainbow of veggies for their grandfather’s famous Rainbow Stew.

Festival of Colors by Kabir & Suristha Sehgal; illustrated by Vashti Harrison

This is a beautiful book about two kids gathering different types of flowers to crush into colored powders to celebrate the Indian holiday, Holi. When we got to the part where “Poof!” the kids start throwing different colors into the air, my coworker Claire threw colorful play scarves into the crowd. It was a big hit!

Good Luck, Bear by Greg Foley

This one was admittedly a bit of a stretch for St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s challenging to find St. Patrick’s Day books that are short enough for our storytime crowds. Before I read it, I talked a little bit about St. Patrick’s Day, and held up a picture of a shamrock. I pointed out that shamrocks look similar to clover, (which coincidentally grows all over the picnic area where we hold the storytime), and that many people think that it’s lucky to find a four leaf clover. This is a short cute, story about Bear’s unsuccessful hunt for a lucky clover.


Rainbow Round Me by Ruth Pelham

We sang this one after reading Rainbow Stew. I asked the kids to suggest things they might see outside their window. We had a purple dinosaur, a pink horse, a green bear, and a green dog:

When I [C] look outside my [G7] window,
There’s a world of color I [C] see.
Fiddle-dee-dee, [F] outside my [C] window 
There’s a [G7] world of color I [C] see.

[F] Rainbow, [C] rainbow, [G7] rainbow ’round [C] me. 
[F] Rainbow, [C] rainbow, [G7] rainbow ’round [C] me. 

If Your Clothes Have Any Red

It’s to the tune of If You’re Happy and You Know It. It’s fun to come up with your own verses:

[C] If your clothes have any red, any [G7] red,

If your clothes have any red, any [C] red,

If your [F] clothes have any red,

Put your [C] finger on your head!

If your [G7] clothes have any red, any [C] red.

If your clothes have any blue…put your finger on your shoe…

If your clothes have any green…make believe you can’t be seen… (cover your eyes with your hands, and then say, “Peekaboo!”

If your clothes have any black…put your finger on your back…

The Rattlin’ Bog

The harp is the national symbol of Ireland. Unfortunately, I didn’t have access to a harp, but a coworker gave me an autoharp a few years ago. It’s a little cumbersome for storytime usually, but the kids enjoyed seeing it (I gave them a chance to come up and strum it at the end). Anyway, I used it to strum this traditional Irish song, while the kids played along with the shakers. Here’s a YouTube video of a great version by The Wiggles. The word “rattlin” means splendid, or very good.

[C] O-ro the [F] rattlin’ bog, the [C] bog down in the [G7] valley-o
[C] O-ro the [F] rattlin’ bog, the [C] bog down in the [G7] valley- [C] o

[C] And in that bog there was a hole, a rare hole, a [G7] rattlin’ hole
With the [C] hole in the bog,
And the bog down in the [G7] valley- [C] o.

Now in that hole there was a tree, a rare tree, a rattlin’ tree.
With the tree in the hole and the hole in the bog
And the bog down in the valley-o.

Now on that tree there was a branch, a rare branch, a rattlin’ branch
With the branch on the tree and the tree in the hole,
And the bog down in the valley-o.

(Repeat, adding a line each time)
Now on that branch there was a nest, a rare nest, a rattlin’ nest…..

Now in that nest there was an egg , a rare egg, a rattlin’ egg…..

Now in that egg there was a bird, a rare bird, a rattlin’ bird…..

Game: Red Light/Green Light

It’s fun to have an excuse to throw in a quick game, like Simon Says, and our color theme gave us a great opportunity to play Red Light/Green Light. I was originally going to have the kids do different actions, like jumping or running in place, but since we had just given out play scarves after reading Festival of Colors, I had the kids wave the scarves instead. I had printed out pictures of red and green traffic lights, and I told them to wave their scarves when I held up the green light, and to stop when I held up the red light. Sometimes I would trick them by saying red light twice in a row, which always got big laughs.

Stay and Play: Flower Painting

I love this activity! It’s so simple, colorful, and tactile. Basically, all I did was put out paper, and a bunch of different types of flowers from my yard: nasturtiums, oxalis, geraniums, and borage (I tried to stick to edible plants). Then the kids used the petals to “paint.” Although the petals don’t last long, they create a lot of color.

A flower drawn with flowers

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:


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.


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.

Happy Pig Day! A Storytime About Pigs

Today is National Pig Day! Admittedly this is not a well-known holiday, at least here on the West Coast, but it was the perfect excuse to do a Pig Storytime. Here’s what we did:


My Lucky Day by Keiko Kasza

Keiko Kasza is one of my favorite authors, and this is my favorite book of hers. When a piglet knocks on the door of a hungry fox, the fox is delighted to have dinner show up right to his door. But, the piglet points out, he is pretty dirty. Shouldn’t the fox give him a bath first? By the end, the piglet has been treated to a bath, a nice meal, and a massage, while the fox collapses exhausted on the floor. The ending always gets a laugh.

The Book Hog by Greg Pizzoli

This book fit the theme perfectly! Not only is it about pigs, it’s also about storytime. The Book Hog loves everything about books: the way they smell, the way they feel, and the wonderful pictures inside. There’s just one problem: he doesn’t know how to read. Luckily, a helpful librarian offers to read him as many books as he likes, and soon the Book Hog learns to read on his own.

Happy Pig Day by Mo Willems

I could have done any of the Elephant and Piggie books, but this one was the best fit for the theme, and for our Pig Mask project at the end. My coworker Angela and I read it together. Piggie is excited because it is Happy Pig Day, the best day of the year. But her friend Gerald is worried that, as an elephant, he can’t join in the celebration. But Happy Pig Day isn’t just for pigs, Piggie says. It’s for anyone who loves pigs. The kids loved joining in on the “Oinky Oink Oinks.”


These Are My Glasses by Laurie Berkner

I sang this one as a follow-up to The Book Hog and it was a big hit. Laurie Berkner has a great YouTube video of the song and the motions.

The lyrics are:

These are my glasses,

This is my book.

I put on my glasses,

And open up my book.

Then I read, read, read,

And I look, look, look.

I put down my glasses and whoop! close up the book.

Five Little Piggies

I got this rhyme from Let’s Play Kids Music:

Five little piggies playing in the mud (hold up five fingers)

Squishy, Squashy, it felt good (pat your left hand on your right palm, then your right hand on your left).

The farmer took one piggy away (put one finger behind your back)

“Oink, Oink, Oink!” the piggies did say!

Repeat until there are no piggies left. At the end I said, “The farmers gave all the piggies a bath, and here they are again, all clean!”

Happy Pig Day

To the tune of Alouette. I started by teaching the ASL sign for Happy and the sign for Pig, and we did those signs whenever we said the words.

Happy Pig Day, Happy, Happy Pig Day! (do the signs for Happy and Pig)

Happy Pig Day!

Come and Oink with me!

We will eat a lot of slop, (pretend to eat and make slurping noises)

Then in the mud we will flop. (fall down)

Lots of slop, (pretend to eat)

Down we’ll flop. (fall down)

Lots of slop. (pretend to eat)

Down we’ll flop. (fall down)


Happy Pig Day, (do the signs for Happy and Pig)

It’s great to be a pig!

Old MacDonald

We did this for our instrument play-along at the end, and Angela held up the Monkey Mitt with the Old MacDonald animal set:

[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!


These was an easy craft, and a lot of fun. I pre-cut eye holes in paper plates, and also printed out noses and ears on pink paper (there are lots of templates online, but the one I used was here. I put out markers, glue sticks, popsicle sticks, and tape (to hold the popsicle sticks), and told the kids they were welcome to make their mask into anything they wanted, or use the pig noses and ears that I provided. Some of them made hybrid animals, like the cat/pig above.

Do you have any favorite books about pigs? Please share them in the comments.