Everyone Counts: A Musical Storytime about Numbers

COVID cases are rising in the Bay Area due to Omicron, so last week our library administration made the painful decision to cancel indoor programs, including our toddler storytimes. I was happy to still be able to hold our Outdoor Musical Storytime today, especially since the weather was beautiful at San Pedro Valley Park. It all felt pretty safe, with families doing a great job of social distancing and masking, and we made an effort to spread the craft supplies out across many different picnic tables for the Stay and Play. It’s such a surreal time to be working in libraries right now, or really anywhere, but it was great to see my regular families for the first time since the holidays (we had to cancel last week due to rain).

Today I did a counting theme, which was a lot of fun. Here’s what we did:


Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin; illustrated by James Dean

This is my second favorite Pete the Cat book, after I Love My White Shoes. Pete loves his shirt with the four colorful, groovy buttons so much that he has to sing about it. The trouble is, the buttons keep popping off and rolling away. But not to worry, when all the buttons are gone, Pete has one button he can always count on: his belly button! I only had one copy of the book today, so I made a Pete the Cat out of paper, with big paper buttons that my coworker, Claire, could remove as she followed along with the story. The kids loved it!

One-osaurus, Two-osaurus by Kim Norman; illustrated by Pierre Collet-Derby

This is such a cute book! Nine dinosaurs are playing hide-and-seek, until Ten-osaurus Rex comes looking for them. The kids loved the ROAR! midway through, and the surprise at the end, when Ten-osaurus Rex turns out to be just a small yellow dinosaur. The book ends with the dinosaurs playing Simon Says, so I followed up the book with a quick round of Simon Says with the kids.

Sleep Train by Jonathan London; illustrated by Lauren Eldridge

This is a beautiful book about a young boy counting cars on a train to help him get to sleep. The kids especially liked the cattle car, and the “Mooooo-Mooooo! Chooooo-Choooooo!” page.



As usual, this was my opening song, but it worked especially well with the theme. I always do a verse that goes “Put your finger on your knee…Now can you count to three?” We count to three in English, and then I ask the participants what other languages they can count to three in. It’s always amazing how many different languages we get. Today we had Thai, Hindi, Cantonese, Italian, Russian, and Spanish. Here’s a link to a version performed by Miss Nina, which uses different lyrics, but the same tune. These are the lyrics I use:

[C] Put your finger in the air, in the air,
Put your finger in the air, in the [G7] air,
Put your [C] finger in the air,
And now [F] hide it in your hair,
[C] Put your finger in the [G7] air, in the [C] air.

Put your finger on your nose…
And now see how long it grows!…(mime making your nose grow long, and then short again)

Put your finger on your knee…
And now can you count to three?…1,2,3 (uno, dos, tres; un, deux, trois, etc.)

Point your finger at the ground…
And now make a spooky sound!…

Put your fingers all together, all together… (clap)
We we will all be friends forever!


This is a wonderful, easy song in Spanish about making hot chocolate. I usually do it two or three times, and we take time to pour the hot chocolate, add whipped cream or marshmallows, and then blow on it to cool it down (I usually make a big show about accidentally blowing whipped cream on one of the kids, which they think it hilarious). Here’s a YouTube video from Babelzone with the tune:

Uno, dos, tres, cho;
uno, dos, tres, co;
uno, dos, tres, la;
uno, dos, tres, te.
¡Chocolate! ¡Chocolate!

¡Bate! ¡Bate! ¡El chocolate!


I did this one with the Monkey Mitt, which came with five bright yellow ducks that stick to the glove with Velcro. The ducks got a big “Awww!” when I pulled them out. Most of the families already knew this song. I do the Raffi version, which you can find here.


I used this one as an instrument play-along, after reading Sleep Train. This is one of my favorite storytime songs, because I love hearing the kids’ suggestions about where they want to go. Today we went to Mexico, Disneyland, the zoo, and Granny’s house. 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.


For the Stay and Play, I printed out blank snowmen (template below) on cardstock, then put out markers, gluesticks, buttons, and googly eyes, for the kids to decorate (and hopefully count their buttons at home). This was a big hit, with parents as well as kids. Who doesn’t love buttons?

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


Books You Can Count On

Colorful spotted dog created by Claire

Colorful spotted dog created by Claire

Last night we read stories about numbers and counting.

I’m embarrassed to say that I originally chose this theme because of the book Five Little Monkeys Play Hide and Seek by Eileen Christelow, which my daughter absolutely loved.  It’s my favorite of the Five Little Monkeys series (with Don’t Wake Up Mama as a close second), and it features the five monkeys tricking their babysitter by hiding in the one place she would never think to look–in bed.  It also has lots of counting to different numbers, even 104 (I probably wouldn’t go that high for storytime, unless the group seemed really into it).  Anyway, in the end I went off to work and left the book beside my daughter’s bed–one of the perils of being both a children’s librarian and a mom.

Luckily, there are lots of other great counting books.  Here are the ones we read:


Doggies by Sandra Boynton

This simple board book involves counting dogs from 1 to 10, adding in a new doggie sound each time.  Even though it’s meant for toddlers, it works well for almost any age because the kids love joining in on the various barks and whines.  It made for a great opening book tonight.


Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin and James Dean

My second favorite Pete the Cat book (after I Love My White Shoes).  In this one Pete keeps losing his groovy buttons, but does he cry?  Goodness no!  The kids liked the clever twist at the end, when Pete discovers he still has a button, even after all the ones on his shirt have rolled away.  Always a hit.


Hippos Go Berserk by Sandra Boynton

Another book by Sandra Boynton.  This one’s a counting and rhyming book about a lonely hippo who invites forty-four friends to her house for a party.  The best page is where “All the hippos go berserk!”


Zero by Kathryn Otoshi

I was glad I had this book in the mix because there were several elementary school aged kids in the group, and the other books I had were primarily for younger children.  This is the sequel to Otoshi’s One, a powerful but remarkably simple picture book about bullying, with the message that everyone counts.  In Zero, the number zero worries that she has no value, until she realizes that if she works together with her friends, they can count to much higher numbers than they ever had before.  Like One, this book works on multiple levels.


Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma Dodd

A simple, vibrant counting story about a dog who gets covered in spots of different colors (orange juice, jam, mud) etc., throughout the day.  The kids get lots of opportunities to count and name the colors.  This one works really well as a flannel board.


B-I-N-G-O: To go along with the book Doggies, we barked the missing letters instead of clapping them.  I asked the kids to suggest different types of dogs for each verse, which got interesting.  We had a poodle (“oui, oui! woof woof!”), a puppy, a big dog, and a cat dog (meowff?!).

The Hippopotamus (I learned this one years ago from my friend Barbara B.)

The hip, the hip, the hippopotamus (clap or pat rhythm)
Got on, got on, got on the city bus
And all, and all, and all the people said
You’re squishing us! (squeeze cheeks together with your hands)

INSTRUMENT PLAY WITH A CD: Down Down Baby by Laurie Berkner from her Whaddaya Think of That album.

CRAFT: Colorful dog

To go along with Dog’s Colorful Day, I printed out a dog picture from Coloring Pages for Kids (in the process, I found this wonderful storytime web site called Public Library Program Ideas, which had suggested this activity as part of a Spots and Stripes theme.  The kids colored in the dog with crayons and then glued dots of different colors on it.


A new book I just discovered and absolutely LOVE is The Boy Who Loved Math by Deborah Heiligman and LeUyen Pham.  It describes the life of Paul Erdos, a Hungarian mathematician, who from early childhood had an astounding talent for and interest in math.  Like many geniuses, he was a bit eccentric.  For instance, until he was 21, he had never buttered his own bread (his mother and his nurse had always done everything for him).  The book briefly touches on prime numbers and negative numbers, not in depth, but enough to pique the interest of young math enthusiasts.  It’s an exuberant, fun, fascinating story, and it’s clear that the author loves math as much as Erdos did.  An excellent biography, especially for elementary school kids.   I’m looking forward to using it for class visits.

Any other favorite counting and number books?