‘Tis the Season: A Holiday Storytime

We’ve often cancelled storytime the last two weeks of December, but this year, we decided to keep it going. I’m always a little conflicted about how to approach the holidays. My storytime audiences include families from all different backgrounds, and while I want to acknowledge Christmas and Hanukkah for those who celebrate, I also want to be mindful of those who don’t, so those kids don’t end up feeling excluded. Also, it’s not always easy to find good holiday books (for any major holiday) that work well for very young kids. In the end, I decided to focus on the shared experiences of the holidays (decorations, food, gifts, and families), while sharing a Hanukkah song and a Christmas story.

Here’s what we did:

Books:

The Joyful Book by Todd Parr

I was so happy to discover this book, which does a wonderful job of describing all of the things people enjoying doing during the holidays, no matter which holiday they celebrate: storytelling, being with family, etc. Every page describes something that is “joyful,” like “Lighting candles is joyful,” “Playing outside is joyful,” etc. It includes imagery from Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa, as well as the Lunar New Year, and we talked a little bit about those traditions as we read. I told the kids to cheer and clap whenever I said the word “Joyful,” and they got really into it. Plus, I always love Todd Parr’s bright, colorful, whimsical illustrations.

Llama Llama, Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney

Part of the adorable, rhyming Llama Llama series, this book captures the frustration of waiting for the holidays to come, while everyone is busy shopping, baking, and decorating. It describes Christmas and Hanukkah traditions like gingerbread cookies, latkes, dreidels, and Christmas lights. Plus, it’s a sweet reminder for families to slow down and enjoy being together. The ending got lots of “Awwww’s.”

Merry Christmas, Big Hungry Bear by Don & Audrey Wood

In this sequel to the Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, & the Big Hungry Bear, the little mouse is happily preparing for Christmas, when the narrator reminds him about the Big Hungry Bear, who loves Christmas presents more than anything, but never gets any. The mouse goes from being scared of the bear taking his presents, to feeling sorry for the bear, and trekking through the snow to leave a present outside the bear’s cave. Much to his surprise, the bear has left a present for him too. This book got lots of “Awww’s” at the end too.

Songs:

If You’re Joyful and You Know It

We did this version of If You’re Happy and You Know It as a follow-up to The Joyful Book:

[C] If you’re joyful and you know it, clap your [G7] hands (clap, clap)

If you’re joyful and you know it, clap your [C] hands (clap, clap)

If you’re [F] joyful and you know it, and you [C] really want to show it,

If you’re [G7] joyful and you know it, clap your [C] hands! (clap, clap)

If you’re joyful and you know it, do a dance…

If you’re joyful and you know it, spin around…

If you’re joyful and you know it, shout “Hooray!”…

I Have a Little Dreidel

For my preschool visits this month, I’ve been reading (or singing) the book I Have a Little Dreidel by Maxie Baum, which does a wonderful job of describing the celebration of Hanukkah using the classic Dreidel song. But someone asked to check out my copy of the book after Toddler Storytime yesterday, so I reluctantly let it go. Instead, I held up a paper dreidel and explained a little about how the game is played. Then we sang the song, and spun around like dreidels during the Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel part. We also fell down on the word “drop,” which the kids liked a lot. Here’s a Kiboomers video of the song, in case you don’t know the tune.

I have a little dreidel,

I made it out of clay.

And when it’s dry and ready,

Then dreidel I shall play.

Oh, Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel, (spin around)

I made it out of clay,

Oh, Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel,

With dreidel I shall play!

It has a lovely body,

With leg so short and thin.

Oh, Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel,

It DROPS and then I win! (drop to the ground)

Oh, Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel, (spin around)

With leg so short and thin,

Oh, Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel,

It DROPS and then I win! (drop to the ground)

In the Holidays

A holiday version of The Wheels on the Bus:

The lights on the house go blink, blink, blink, (open and close your hands)

Blink, blink, blink,

Blink, blink, blink,

The lights on the house, go blink, blink, blink,

In the holidays!

The candles in the house go flicker, flicker, flicker… (wiggle your fingers)

The presents in the house go rattle, rattle, rattle… (shake an imaginary present)…

The children in the house say, “Yay! Yay! Yay!”…

Jingle Bells by James Lord Pierpont

We sang this as our instrument play-along at the end:

[C] Dashing through the snow,
In a one-horse open [F] sleigh,
[Dm] O’er the fields we [G7] go,
Laughing all the [C] way.
[C] Bells on bobtails ring,
Making spirits[F] bright,
What [Dm] fun it is to [G] ride and sing
A [G7] sleighing song [C] tonight!

Oh! [C] Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle [F] all the [C] way.
[F] Oh! What fun it [C] is to ride
In a [D7] one-horse open [G7] sleigh, hey!
[C] Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle [F] all the [C] way.
Oh! [F] What fun it [C] is to ride
In a [G7] one-horse open [C] sleigh!

Stay & Play: Jingle Bell Bracelets

I had originally planned to do a paper box craft, where the kids could decorate a paper box template and then assemble the box with gluesticks. I was going to give them each a jingle bell to put inside the box. But I was afraid that the box assembly might be too complicated, so I decided to just have them make jingle bell bracelets instead.

I put out pipe cleaners, jingle bells, and also some red string with scissors, so they had a choice of what to string their bells on. I was worried that this might not give them much of an opportunity to be creative, but they all made different things: necklaces, bracelets, and even crowns. They were all different, and they were soon making jingle bell jewelry for other family members, and taking materials home to make more.

Happy Holidays! If you have favorite holiday books, please share them in the comments below.