Sprouting Up: A Storytime About Growing Things

Today was the first Outdoor Musical Storytime I’ve been able to hold in a month, because it’s been so stormy every Tuesday for the past three weeks. So, in honor of the first day that actually LOOKED like spring anyway, we did a storytime about flowers, plants, and gardening.

Here’s what we did:


Plant the Tiny Seed by Christie Mathiesen

Like Tap the Magic Tree by the same author, this colorful picture book provides interactive motions for kids to do: counting to three to plant the seeds, tapping the cloud to make it rain (I just have them pretend, rather than actually touching the book), clapping to bring the sun, etc. The kids were thoroughly engaged.

First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Sweet, simple book with colorful cut-outs showing how different living things transform: an egg hatches into a chicken, a seed grows into a flower, a tadpole turns into a frog, etc. The kids enjoyed calling what each one was going to turn into on the next page.

My Garden by Kevin Henkes

This is a little longer than the books I typically read for this storytime audience, but it’s such an imaginative, whimsical book, and kids always seem to enjoy it. It describes a little girl’s dreams of having her own garden, where the rabbits are made of chocolate, jelly beans grow into jelly bean bushes, and flowers always bloom.


Ring Around the Rosy

This traditional nursery rhyme usually has kids hold hands and walk in a circle, but I just had them spin around in place. We did the song three times, and the kids loved it! I can’t remember who taught me the second verse years ago, but it’s nice for getting everyone back on their feet again. Here’s a video from Little Baby Bum with the tune:

Ring around the Rosy, (spin around in place)

A pocket full of posies, (spin around in place)

Ashes, Ashes,

We all fall DOWN! (drop to the ground).

Fishes in the water,

Fishes in the sea,

We all jump up with a

One, Two, Three! (jump up)

Oh, Mister Sun

A great song for welcoming the sun after all the rain we’ve been having. I do the Raffi version, which is shown here with the motions:

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!

Butterfly Song

My coworker Angela taught me this one. We handed out play scarves before we sang it, and had the kids bundle them up to be chrysalises and wave them in the air to be butterflies. My coworker Claire also showed the different stages of the butterfly lifecycle with this cool puppet. The song is to the tune of Up on the Housetop. Here’s a video by Colleen Niedermeyer:

First comes a butterfly (Wave scarf)

Who lays an egg. (Make a circle with your thumb and index finger).

Out comes a caterpillar (Wiggle your finger like a caterpillar)

With lots of legs.

Now see the caterpillar spin and spin (Spin the scarf),

A little chrysalis to sleep in (Bundle scarf up in a ball).

Oh, oh, oh, wait and see…

Oh, oh, oh, wait and see…

Out of the chrysalis, my, oh, my!

Out comes a beautiful butterfly! (Wave scarf).

Shoo Fly

One of the first songs I learned when I started out as a children’s librarian was this variation on the traditional Shoo Fly, Don’t Bother Me song, originally by Thomas Bishop. I had the kids wave their scarves for the “Shoo Fly” parts, and took suggestions for what animal the kids would like to be for the other verses. We ended up purring like a cat, and flying like a butterfly.

Here’s a recording of this version of this song, by Greg & Steve, who I think may have written it:

Shoo, Fly, don’t bother me! (Wave hands or scarf as if shooing a fly)

Shoo, Fly, don’t bother me!

Shoo, Fly, don’t bother me,

I’ll tell you what I want to be.

I wiggle, I wiggle,

I wiggle like a wiggling worm.

I wiggle, I wiggle,

I wiggle like a wiggling worm.

Oh, Shoo, Fly, don’t bother me…

The Lollipop Tree by Burl Ives

This song fit perfectly as a follow-up to My Garden, so we did it as our instrument play-along at the end. Here’s the recording by Burl Ives:

[C] One fine [G] day in
[C] early [G] Spring, I [C] played a [G] funny [C] trick.
[C] Right in the [G] yard
[C] behind our [G] house I [C] planted a [G] lollipop [C] stick.
[F] Then every day I watered it well,
And watched it [G] careful-[C]ly.
I [G] hoped one day that [C] stick would [C] grow
[F] To be a [G] lollipop [C] tree.

[C] Ha, Ha, Ha, [F] Ho, Ho, Ho!
[C] What a place to [G7] be!
[C] Under my lollipop, [F] lollipop, lollipop,
[C] Lolli-lolli-[G] lollipop [C] tree.
[C] Under my lollipop, [F] lollipop, lollipop,
[C] Lolli-lolli-[G] lollipop [C] tree!

[C] Then one [G] day I [C] woke to
[G] Find a [C] very [G] lovely [C] sight:
A tree all [G] full of [C] lollipops
Had [G] grown in the [C] dark of the night.
[F] I sat beneath that wonderful tree,
And looked up [G] with a [C] grin.
[C] And when I [G] opened up [Am] my [C] mouth,
[G] A pop would drop right [C] in!

[C] Ha, Ha, Ha, [F] Ho, Ho, Ho!
[C] What a place to [G7] be!
[C] Under my lollipop, [F] lollipop, lollipop,
[C] Lolli-lolli-[G] lollipop [C] tree.
Under my lollipop, [F] lollipop, lollipop,
[C] Lolli-lolli-[G] lollipop [C] tree!

[C]Winter came and days grew cold,
As Winter [G] days will [C] do.
On my tree, my [Am] lovely [C] tree,
Not [G] one little lollipop [C] grew.
[F] From every [C] branch an [F] icicle hung,
The twigs were bare as [C] bones.
But when I [G] broke the [Am] icicles [C] off,
They [F] turned to [G] ice cream [C] cones!

[C] Ha, Ha, Ha, [F] Ho, Ho, Ho!
[C] How I laughed with [G7] glee!
[C] Under my lollipop, [F] lollipop, lollipop,
[C] Lolli-lolli-[G] lollipop [C] tree.
Under my lollipop, [F] lollipop, lollipop,
[C] Lolli-lolli-[G] lollipop [C] tree!

Stay & Play: Flower Painting

I’ve posted about flower painting before, but it’s one of my favorite process art activities. This morning before storytime, I picked a bunch of flowers from my yard. I tried to stick to edible flowers, just in case anyone tried to sample one, so I had nasturtiums, geraniums, borage, oxalis (sour grass), lavender, and oregano leaves. For the Stay & Play, we just put the flowers out on the tables with some blank paper, and the kids smashed them to explore the different colors that they made. Always a hit, and so simple. There’s not even very much to clean up at the end.

Happy Spring! What are your favorite books about plants and growing things? Please share them in the comments below.


Spring Fever: A Storytime about Gardening

Dot Paint Flowers by Amelia

Dot Paint Flowers by Amelia

In honor of the first day of Spring, I did a storytime about gardening.


Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller; illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf (Amazon.com link)

Adorable story about Sophie and her friend Bernice, a butternut squash.  The two are inseparable until Bernice begins to get spotty and brown, and Sophie digs her a warm hole in the yard.  You can guess what happens next.  This was a longer picture book than I generally read, but the kids were enthralled.


Bob and Otto by Robert O. Bruel; illustrated by Nick Bruel (Amazon.com link)

This is one of my favorite picture books.  Bob, a caterpillar, and Otto, an earthworm, are best friends who love spending time together.  Then one day Bob decides to climb up into the big tree, while Otto digs down into the tree’s roots.  When the two friends are reunited, Otto is surprised to see that Bob has grown wings, and sad to think that if he had followed him into the tree, he might have been able to fly too.  But Bob assures him that by digging around the tree roots, he helped the tree grow leaves for Bob to eat, so that Bob owes his new wings to Otto.  A sweet story with bright, colorful illustrations, which is perfect for themes about friendship, nature, and life cycles.  The parents seemed to like this one as much as the kids did.


My Garden by Kevin Henkes (Amazon.com link)

I love this one too, and the kids always seem to enjoy it, even though it’s more of an imaginative wish than an actual story.  A little girl describes the type of garden she would like to have, where jelly beans would grow into jelly bean bushes, and the rabbits that eat their lettuce would all be made of chocolate, and she would eat THEM.  The storytime kids loved the whimsical illustrations, especially the sprouting seashell on the last page.


Flora’s Surprise by Debi Gliori (Amazon.com link)

This one appeals to the little sister in me.  When Flora’s family plants a garden full of flowers and vegetables, Flora plants a brick in a flowerpot, and says she is growing a house.  All summer long, her brothers and sisters grow beautiful flowers and yummy things to eat, but Flora’s house never grows.  Her siblings all make fun of her, until spring comes, and the family is surprised to see that Flora’s brick has become a house…for a mother bird.  This is a great read-loud, which large colorful illustrations, and a story that is short enough for toddlers on up.


Five Fat Peas Fingerplay

Five fat peas in a pea pod pressed (press your fists together)

One grew, two grew, and so did all the rest (extend your index fingers, then middle fingers, then ring, etc.)

They grew and they and they grew and they did not stop (spread hands wide apart)

Until one day the pod went “POP!” (clap hands together)



I did this song (by Frank Loesser) to go along with Bob and Otto.  I first described inchworms and how they moved, and had the kids crawl their fingers like worms as they sang along.  I like to add the last line “Seems to me you’d stop and see how beautiful you are,” at the end, an addition I stole from John Lithgow’s wonderful kids’ album Singin’ in the Bathtub. I found the uke chords from Ukegnome, although I simplified them a little.  I also didn’t sing the intro verse (“2 and 2 are 4, 4 and 4 are 8,” etc.), although I like it.  Click on the triangle for the tune:

Inchworm, Inchworm, (F Eb7)

Measuring the marigolds, (F Eb7)

You and your arithmetic (F Bb)

Will probably go far. (Bb C)

Inchworm, Inchworm, (F Eb7)

Measuring the marigolds, (F Eb7)

Seems to me you’d stop and see (F Bb)

How beautiful they are. (Bb C F)

Seems to me you’d stop and see (F Bb)

How beautiful you are. (Bb C F)


Dot Paint Flowers by Addy

Dot Paint Flowers by Addy

Confession time: I was originally going to do an entirely different craft.  Lately, the children’s librarians in our library system have been encouraged to pursue more open-ended, kid-directed art activities, rather than having the kids follow a set of instructions.  My coworker described a workshop she attended about the importance of allowing kids to express themselves creatively, but she was concerned that many of the activities were too messy for our craft space.  Before storytime, I was showing her my craft idea, where I was going to have the kids dip different shape “stamps” into fingerpaint, and mix the colors to make flowers or whatever they liked.  But as soon as I dipped my big circle stamp into the red paint, it slipped out of my hand, sliding all the way down the leg of my khaki pants and landing with a splat onto the workroom carpet.  Needless to say, I had to quickly rethink that activity (and spend the next half hour with a roll of paper towels, desperately trying to make myself look less like the librarian version of Carrie).

Instead, I pulled out my favorite craft supply–the dot markers.  I also gave the kids markers, gluesticks, and rhinestones, encouraging them to make flowers however they liked.  They had a great time, and the end results were wonderfully different (also far less messy than the fingerpaint!).  Some kids opted to make flowers just with markers and rhinestones, and others just went to town with the Dot Paint, making their own creations.  It was definitely open-ended, and lots of fun!

photo (7)


Here are some other favorites about gardening and plants:

Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson (Amazon.com link)

I love this interactive book where the kids get to make the tree flower and make apples by tapping different parts of the picture.

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown (Amazon.com link)

Beautiful story about a boy named Liam who cares for a small, sad collection of plants, which grow and thrive, and spread, until his entire city is transformed.

The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss; illustrated by Crockett Johnson (Amazon.com link)

A classic, simple story about a little boy who plants a carrot seed, and patiently waits for it to grow, and in spite of what everyone else says, it does.

What are your favorite books about gardening?