Happy Birthday, America! A Storytime for the Fourth of July

Today was a beautiful day in the park, and we had a lot of fun celebrating the Fourth of July a little early.

To be honest, I have a hard time finding Fourth of July books that work well for storytime, so instead I focused primarily on the theme of birthdays. After we sang our opening song (Put Your Finger in the Air), I asked if anyone had a birthday coming up. Two girls raised their hands (their moms said they were both in September, but we sang Happy Birthday to them anyway). And then I said that there was a big birthday coming up…America’s! And we sang Happy Birthday to America before reading our first book.

Here’s what we did:


This Bear’s Birthday by Alyssa Satin Capucilli; illustrated by Lorna Hussey

Sweet story about a little bear who wants to do things for himself on his birthday. He has trouble putting on his jacket, and picking apples high in the tree, but still finds ways to get things done with a little help from his family. Although it was a little on the long side for my audience (which is largely two and three year-olds), there were lots of opportunities for the kids to participate by stretching up high, or pretending to blow out candles, so it still held their interest.

A Birthday for Cow by Jan Thomas

Jan Thomas’ books are always fun for storytime, and this one was no exception. When Mouse and Pig decide to make a birthday cake for cow, they dismiss Duck’s suggestions of adding a turnip. But when it’s finally time to celebrate, it’s the turnip that excites Cow the most. The kids enjoyed pretending to stir the cake batter, and singing Happy Birthday to Cow.

Red, White, and Boom! by Lee Wardlaw; illustrated by Huy Voun Lee

Simple, colorful rhyming book about a Fourth of July celebration, with a parade, a picnic on the beach, and fireworks at the end. Before we started reading, we handed out small squares of bubble wrap (the kind with large bubbles), and told the kids we would pop them when we got to the page with the fireworks. They had a great time.

Songs & Rhymes:

Ten Candles on a Birthday Cake

Ten candles on a birthday cake (hold up ten fingers)
All lit up for me (point to yourself)
I make a wish and blow them out.
Watch and you will see! (blow on fingers and quickly close hands into fists)

After we did the rhyme with ten candles, I asked if there were any one year-olds in the group, and we did it again with one candle, then two, then three, then four.

This is the Way I Blow My Balloon

This is the way I blow my balloon: (mime holding a balloon in both hands)

Blow! (blow air out while spreading your hands apart)

Blow! (blow air out while spreading hands even wider)

Blow! (blow air out while spreading your hands as wide apart as you can)

This is the way I POP my balloon. Oh! Oh! No! (clap hands together)

Old MacDonald

We sang this one as a follow-up to A Birthday for Cow. I asked the kids to suggest animals and their sounds:

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!

Wave, Wave, Wave Your Flag

For this one, I held up an American flag, and asked the kids what colors they saw. Then we handed out play scarves and told the kids we were going to pretend the scarves were flags for the next song.

These were actually two separate songs that I found on PreschoolEducation.com, but they were both to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat, so I combined them. In between the second and third verses, I told the kids we were going to do some magic and turn our flags into fireworks, which we threw up into the air and caught over and over again in the third and fourth verses.

Wave, wave, wave the flag,
Hold it very high.
Watch the colors gently wave,
Way up in the sky.

March, march, march around,
Hold the flag up high.
Wave, wave, wave the flag,
Way up in the sky.

Boom, crack, whistle, pop!
Fireworks in the sky.
See them lighting up the night,
On the Fourth of July.

Red, blue, gold, and green,
With fireworks we say,
“Happy Birthday, America,
It’s Independence Day!”

You’re a Grand Old Flag by George M. Cohan

We sang this for our instrument play-along (after we handed out egg shakers).

[C] You’re a grand old flag, you’re a high-flying flag,
[G7] And forever in peace may you wave.
[C] You’re the emblem of the land I love,
The home of the [D7] free and the [C] brave.

[C] Every heart beats true ’neath the Red, White and Blue,
Where there’s [A7] never a boast or [Dm] brag.
But should [C] auld acquaintance [G7] be forgot,
Keep your [F] eye on the [G7] grand old [C] flag!

Stay & Play: Cardboard Tube Fireworks

I found this idea on TheBestIdeasforKids.com and it was a big hit. We had cut small slits in the bottom half of some toilet paper and paper towel rolls ahead of time, and flattened them out to make a flower shape.

For the Stay & Play, I put out the cut cardboard tubes, along with sheets of black paper, plates of red, white, and blue tempera paint, and glitter. The kids had fun dipping their cardboard tubes in the paint and stamping them on the paper, then sprinkling on the glitter. They turned out really well!

Happy Fourth of July!


Happy Birthday to US!

This week’s them was Birthday/Fourth of July books.

I have a secret phobia of holiday storytimes, because I hate almost all of the holiday books, except for Halloween (our holiday book section is right next to the storytime rug, and kids are always pulling Halloween books off the shelf and asking me to read them, no matter what time of year it is).  Halloween books are always fun, because they are usually just stories with creepy characters, and the kids love them.

But for the most part, I find that most holiday books are either: overly cutesy (Vixie’s Vexing Valentines–Vixie the adorable Vole is horrified to discover that her brother Vladimir has eaten all of the glitter for her class cards.  Whatever will Vixie do?);  dull (Egbert’s Eggcellent Easter–Egbert the Eel hunts for eggs, finds them all, eats a few, has dinner with his family, and goes to bed, all in badly-written rhymed text; or forced (Say Hooray for Saint Patrick’s Day!–Haley the Honey Badger asks why she has to wear green in the town parade, and learns all about the history and significance of the Irish saint in 32 excruciating pages.  Seriously, Saint Patrick’s Day books are the worst!).

Okay, I totally made up all of the examples I mentioned above, but they COULD be real.  There are Christmas books that I like personally, but many of them are too long for storytime, and religious holidays are especially tricky at a public library.  My favorite holiday picture book is actually The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming by Lemony Snicket, which somehow manages to explain the history of Hannukah and tell a compelling story, all with a lot of wry humor, a bit of social commentary, and a tremendous amount of screaming throughout (which the kids love).

Anyway, enough ranting about holiday books.  My only reason for bringing it up is that tonight I decided to do just one token honest-to-goodness Fourth of July book (of the Egbert the Eel variety, but with bubble wrap for the kids to pop, so they’d have to at least listen to know when it was time for the “fireworks.”)  The rest of the books were all about birthdays, because, I told the kids, the Fourth of July is the birthday of our country.  A bit of a stretch, but who doesn’t love birthdays?

Here were the books:


Moira’s Birthday by Robert Munsch

Moira’s parents tell her she can only invite 6 kids to her party.  Instead, she invites first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade, aaaaaannnndddd  Kindergarten…and doesn’t tell her parents.  The parents laughed at this one, and the kids had a great time chiming in on the “aaaaaannnnndddd Kindergartens.”


Happy Birthday, Moon by Frank Asch

I love all the Bear books by Frank Asch.  The kids always seem to enjoy knowing more than Bear, and realizing his mistake.  In this one, Bear thinks he is having a conversation with the moon, but it is really just an echo (the kids played the part of the echo).


Mouse’s Birthday by Jane Yolen; illustrated by Bruce Degen

Simple, funny rhyming story with adorable illustrations.   Lots of animals squeeze into Mouse’s very small house to bring him presents, with disastrous consequences (or not).


Henry’s Fourth of July by Holly Keller

My one token Fourth of July book.  It follows Henry the mouse(?) as he celebrates the Fourth of July with his family by competing in a sack race, having a picnic, and waiting impatiently for the fireworks.  (The kids were waiting impatiently for the fireworks too, since I handed out squares of bubble wrap for them to pop.  One tip: I used the big bubble wrap, and had them twist it).  In the middle of this book, I suddenly remembered Olivia Forms a Band by Ian Falconer, which I wish I had done instead.  It’s a funny story, with lots of great sound effects, and also has fireworks.


Ten Candles on a Birthday Cake

Ten candles on a birthday cake,
All lit up for me! (hold up 10 fingers)
I make a wish and blow them out.
Watch and you will see! (blow on fingers and close hands into fists)

This is the Way I Blow My Balloon

This is the way I blow my balloon (hold imaginary balloon)
Blow, Blow, Blow (spread arms wider as you blow)
This is way I pop my balloon
Oh, Oh No! (Clap hands together)


We did a very noisy, chaotic little parade with the instruments to This Land is Your Land from the 20 Great Kids Songs album.  It’s a wonderful, upbeat version of the song with several different singers, including a kids chorus and a verse performed by Willie Nelson.

CRAFT: Fourth of July S’Mores

I ripped this one off from my daughter’s preschool teacher (one of the perks of having a preschooler).  She called them Fruit S’Mores, and used bananas instead of blueberries.  They are surprisingly yummy (and messy!)

Basically, I cut up strawberries, and put out blueberries, graham crackers and whipped cream.  I manned the whipped cream can, spreading some on each child’s graham cracker.  Then they decorated them with strawberries and blueberries and devoured them on the spot.  I left the crackers open faced–otherwise they get very messy!  Plus, if you’re really patient, you can decorate them to look something like the American flag.

What are your favorite holiday or birthday books?


Fortunately by Remy Charlip (Recommended by Barbara B)

Another book I had completely forgotten, but I used to read it all the time (thank you for jogging my memory, Barbara!).  It tells the story of a VERY eventful journey: “Fortunately, Ned was invited to a surprise party. Unfortunately, the party was a thousand miles away.Fortunately, a friend loaned Ned an airplane. Unfortunately, the motor exploded.”  You get the picture…

Three Kind Mice by Vivian Sathre; illustrated by Rodger Wilson (suggested by Barbara B.)

I haven’t actually read this one, but if Barbara recommends it, it must be good, and I will have to order it immediately!

Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman; illustrated by Marla Frazee (suggested by Barbara B.)

Poor Mrs. Peters!  Her children (all seven of them) will each only eat one type of food, so she has to make seven separate dishes every day. Until one morning the kids decide to make all of their favorite foods for their mother’s birthday, with delicious consequences.  Funny, rhyming book for picky eaters (and their mothers).  It reminds me of another favorite of mine: Don’t Wake Up Mama! by Eileen Christelow, where five little monkeys try to surprise their mother with a cake and presents for her birthday.

The Elf on the Shelf by Carol V. Bell (suggested by Tina W.)

I’m embarrassed to admit I haven’t read this, although I definitely know about the Elf (and seriously wish I had thought of inventing it!).  Sadly I’m a lazy parent, and I’ve been intimidated by all the adorable montages my friends post at Christmas time.  But knowing that the book is actually good, I may have to break down and buy an Elf.

Any other book suggestions?  I love to get them!