Right As Rain: An Outdoor Storytime About the Weather

I had a fun time at our Toddler Outdoor Storytime yesterday. Lately, the weather here in the Bay Area has been interesting, to say the least. On top of the usual fog and rain, we now have bomb cyclones and atmospheric rivers. So it seemed like the perfect time to do a Weather theme.

Here are the books and songs that I did:

BOOKS:

Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems

This Elephant and Piggie book worked really well for my theme. Piggie is excited to play outside with Gerald, until it starts to rain. But a pair of playful worms convince the two friends that they can still have just as much fun in the rain. Some of the kids joined in on the running and jumping parts, and as a special surprise, I sprayed a tiny bit of water into the crowd with a water sprayer in the part of the book where the rain started.

Sometimes Rain by Meg Fleming; illustrated by Diana Sudyka

This simple rhyming book describes different types of weather and activities that sometimes happen as the seasons change (playing on the beach in the summer, jumping in leaves in the fall, etc.). I wish I had thought to bring some actual fall leaves to give out or scatter into the crowd. Unfortunately, my coworker who usually walks around with a second copy of the book was out sick, so it was a bit hard for the kids to see the illustrations, which are beautiful, but a little small for an outdoor setting.

It Looked Like Spilled Milk by Charles G. Shaw

I had the big book version of this wonderful book about cloud shapes. It was so much fun to read. For each page, I asked the kids what they saw, and got some really interesting answers (a boat instead of a birthday cake, a bat instead of an angel). I incorporated their ideas into the text, saying “But it wasn’t a boat OR a birthday cake,” etc.

SONGS AND RHYMES:

For this storytime, I usually open with Open and Shut Them and close with The More We Get Together (with sign language).

If All the Raindrops:

I did this one earlier this week for Musical Storytime, but I had to include it in my weather theme. Once again, I asked for the kids to tell me their favorite foods, and we sang it several times, with verses like “If all the raindrops were M&M’s and Ice Cream,” and “If all the raindrops were peanut butter and jam.”

[C] If all the raindrops were [G7] lemon drops and [C] gum drops,

Oh, what a rain it would [G7] be.

[C] I’d stand out- [G7] side with my [C] mouth open [G7] wide,

[C] “Ah, Ah, Ah, [G7] Ah, Ah, Ah, [C] Ah, Ah, Ah, [G7] Ah!”

[C] If all the raindrops were [G7] lemon drops and [C] gum drops,

Oh, what a [G7] rain it would [C] be!

Way Up High in the Apple Tree:

A simple, fun rhyme to go with the apple picking in Sometimes Rain. I asked the kids to suggest other fruits to pick from the tree, and we repeated it several times:

Way up high in the apple tree (stretch arms high in the air)

Two little apples smiled at me! (make circles with your index fingers and thumbs)

I shook that tree as hard as I could! (mime shaking the tree with your hands)

Down came the apples! Mmmm, they were good (lower arms, and rub tummy)

Five Little Snowmen:

One of my favorite storytime songs. After the first verse, I asked the kids what other things they could make out of snow, so we sang about four little snow kitties, and three little snow bunnies, two little snow giraffes, and (my favorite!) one little snow skunk:

Five little snowmen standing in a row, (hold up five fingers)
Each with a hat (touch head), and a brightly colored bow (adjust imaginary bowtie).
Five little snowmen dressed up all for show.
Now they are ready,`
Where will they go?

Wait! (hold out hands in a “Stop!” motion) Till the sun shines. (move hands in a circle)
Wait! Till the sun shines.
Then they will go
Down through the fields
With the melting, melting snow (“melt” all the way down to the floor, then pop up for the next four snowmen).

Rainbow ‘Round Me:

Another storytime favorite, composed by Ruth Pelham. I asked the kids for suggestions of things they might see outside their windows. By the end, we had purple unicorn, a white flag, and a green mountain lion.

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.

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

And the sky outside my window,
Is as blue as blue can be.
Fiddle-dee-dee, outside my window
It’s as blue as blue can be.

Chorus

And the grass outside my window,
Is as green as green can be.
Fiddle-dee-dee, outside my window
It’s as green and green can be,
And the sky is blue as blue can be.

Chorus

And the flowers outside my window,
Are as yellow as yellow can be.
Fiddle-dee-dee, outside my window
They’re as yellow as yellow can be.
And the grass is green as green can be.
And the sky is blue as blue can be.

Chorus

STAY AND PLAY: COTTON BALL CLOUDS AND CLOUD VIEWERS

Cotton Ball Clouds

For our Stay and Play activity, I put out cotton balls, blue paper, and glue sticks for the kids to make their own clouds. They could glue the cotton balls as they were, or stretch them out to make thinner clouds. The kids really enjoyed playing with the cotton balls, and sticking them to the page. I also gave them a cloud viewer to use in the park and at home.

I got the idea for the cloud viewer from The UCAR Center for Science Education, which offers a more detailed version here: https://scied.ucar.edu/activity/cloud-viewer. Basically, you cut out the center square so that kids can look through the hole and compare the clouds they see with the ones in the pictures. For my toddler storytime crowd, I wasn’t as worried about providing the names of the different types of clouds (although I included them for the caregivers). Mostly, I just wanted to offer families some ideas for ways to talk about clouds together, by describing their shapes and colors and textures, etc.

One of the programs our library system offers is LENA Start, which emphasizes the importance of talking with babies and toddlers. Each family is given a special recorder that tracks how many words the child hears throughout the day (without documenting what the actual words are), and how many times a caregiver responds to sounds and words the child says. Each week, the family receives a graph charting how many back and forth exchanges they’ve had with their child, even if it’s just naming something in the environment (a dog, a tree, etc.) and then reacting when the baby or child responds. The weekly classes provide topics for daily conversation (food, bathtime, etc.), and time to brainstorm how to talk with young children about them. This cloud viewer activity was intended to generate the same kind of inspiration by suggesting questions caregivers might ask, or things they might point out as they look at the sky together. (To learn more about LENA and the importance of early talk, you can visit the LENA website. Before the pandemic, I had the opportunity to lead a series of LENA Start classes for two different sets of families, many of whom are now regular attendees at my storytimes. It’s a fascinating program, and extremely rewarding.)

Here is the simplified cloud viewer I used:

What are your favorite books or songs about weather? Please share them in the comments below.

It’s Raining, It’s Pouring: Stories About Rain

Rain books by Jonas and Alyssa

Rain books by Jonas and Alyssa

I’ve lived in the Bay Area now for almost 15 years, and I still don’t understand the weather.  The only things I know for certain are that it’s good to bring a jacket, even when it’s seventy degrees outside, because ten minutes from now it might be twenty degrees colder.  September is often hot.  June is often cold.  And winter is always rainy.  Until now.  Now the reservoirs are so low that we’ve all been urged to cut our water usage by twenty percent, and many towns across the state are in danger of running out of water entirely.

So, in lieu of a rain dance, I did a rain storytime.  The weather report now says it’s going to rain all this weekend, so maybe it worked!  Here’s what we read:

rain

This is the Rain by Lola M. Schaefer; illustrated by Jane Wattenberg (Amazon.com link)

There’s a new goal in our library system to incorporate more nonfiction into storytimes, so I gave it a try tonight.  This book is actually a cumulative poem about the water cycle.  It starts with “This is the ocean, big and vast/that holds the rainwater from the past.”  Each page adds a new part of the cycle: water vapor, clouds, and then a depiction of water running down streams back into the ocean.  I had to explain some of the terminology, like “vapor,” and talk a bit about what was happening.  I don’t think it was the best book I could have chosen in terms of giving a clear explanation of what makes the rain, but the kids loved the illustrations!  Jane Wattenberg has filled the book with funny visual jokes: dinosaurs in the ocean (to represent the past); starfish in place of stars; birds holding umbrellas. The kids were all clambering around me, pointing and explaining over every page, and the book was quickly snatched up at the end.

ready

Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems (Amazon.com link)

Mo Willems makes my job so easy.  All of his books are so much fun to read aloud, but especially the Gerald and Piggie books.  They are written ostensibly as beginning readers, with very simple text, usually with a fair amount of repetition.  But they are also hilarious.  They are especially fun to read with a partner, and they would be perfect for small groups of kids to act out.  In this one, Piggie is upset when it starts raining, ruining her plans to play outside.  Then she and Gerald discover how much fun it can be to play in the rain… just as the rain stops.  Luckily, Gerald saves the day by creating a rain shower of his own.  I got lots of laughs over this one, and a small tugging match ensued at the end over who was going to get to check it out.

rainy

Rainy Day! by Patricia Lakin and Scott Nash (Amazon.com link)

This book also reads like a beginning reader, with simple, rhyming text.  Four crocodiles named Sam, Pam, Will and Jill are all bored on a rainy day.  They decide to go outside anyway, and wind up playing mini-golf and baseball (with hailstones!), finding a dog, and going to the library.  The kids liked the rabbit librarian, cowering in terror from the crocodiles.

patterson

The Patterson Puppies and the Rainy Day by Leslie Patricelli (Amazon.com link)

I brought this one out in my stack, but I hadn’t planned to read it because it was so similar to Rainy Day, but several of the kids spotted the cover and begged to hear it.  I was glad because it was a hit!  This book is about four puppies who are bored on a rainy day, who decide to pretend they are at the beach.  In the end, they pour water all over the living room floor, and have a wonderful time playing in the “ocean,” until their parents walk in the room…

SONGS AND ACTIVITIES:

If All the Raindrops

I used this song a lot when my daughter was a toddler, to get her to open her mouth for the toothbrush.  For storytime, I sang the first verse through normally, then asked the kids what they would like the snow and sunbeams to be.  We added their suggestions into the second and third verses, so we had sunbeams made of lemonade and butter (and hair!).   These are the original lyrics (click on the arrow above to hear the tune):

If all the raindrops
Were lemondrops and gumdrops
Oh, what a rain that would be!
Standing outside, with my mouth open wide
Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah!
If all the raindrops were lemondrops and gumdrops,
Oh, what a rain it would be!

If all the snowflakes
Were candy bars and milkshakes…

If all the sunbeams
Were bubblegum and ice cream…

Making a Rain Storm

This is such a simple activity, but always fun.  I ask the kids to do what I’m doing in order to make a rainstorm.  First we rub our hands together, then click our tongues (to sound like drops of rain), then clap our hands, then slap our knees, then stomp our feet.  Finally I have them all stand up, and we all jump at the same time to make a thunderclap, and then we do all of the actions in reverse to make the rain “stop.”

CRAFT: Rain on the Green Grass Book

photo (72)Rain book by May

Rain book by Olivia

Rain book by Olivia

I got the idea of making a book from my coworker, Reeba Lynn.  I was almost kicking myself for not doing one earlier.  In Kindergarten, my son was so proud of his “keep box,” a little collection of simple paper books he made throughout the year.  And my daughter has made several similar books in her preschool class that she loves to read to me.

The book Reeba showed me had a more complicated rain poem, but I decided to do the nursery rhyme Rain on the Green Grass (Rain on the green grass/Rain on the tree/Rain on the rooftops/But not on ME!).  I cut out Reeba’s umbrella picture (there are lots of other ones online), and printed out the words to go on each page (here’s a Word document for the text: Rain on the green grass).  For the rest of the illustrations I cut out basic shapes from colored construction paper: jagged green strips for the grass; lumpy round green shapes for the treetops; brown strips for the tree trunk; red squares for the house; and blue triangles for the roof.  It did take a fair amount of prep, but I was able to do a lot of the cutting with the paper cutter.

I folded two sheets of white paper to make each book, and stapled them along the side.  I had an example for the kids to follow, and for the most part, they did a good job (there were a couple of kids who accidentally made their books read from left to right, but I explained that’s how books are made in Japan, so they could either read it that way, or consider it a whole new rhyme).  If I had more time, I would have glued the text on ahead of time, so they could just add the pictures.  I had them glue the umbrella on the cover, along with the title, “RAIN! by ________.”   Then they glued the text and pictures on each page, and added rain with markers.  For the last page (“But not on ME!”), I asked them to draw a picture of themselves.  Each book turned out a little bit differently, and they all seemed engaged by the process of making them.

OTHER BOOKS ABOUT RAIN:

There were lots of other books I could have read (I had originally planned to read the new California Young Reader Medal nominees, but some of the books didn’t come in time, so I had to change topics, and work with the rain books that were available in our small local branches).  Anyway, here are a few others:

Down Comes the Rain by Franklin Branley; illustrated by James Graham Hale (Amazon.com link)

Franklin Branley writes wonderfully clear science books for early elementary school children.  This one explains every step of the water cycle with a few simple science experiments to illustrate some of the concepts.

Storm is Coming! by Heather Tekavec; illustrated by Margaret Spengler (Amazon.com link)

When the animals on a small farm hear there’s a storm coming, they all think Storm must be a scary monster.  They hide in the barn in terror, and then are happy when wind, rain, lightning and thunder apparently scare Storm away.  Cute story with colorful illustrations.

Umbrella by Taro Yashima (Amazon.com link)

Such a sweet story, I wish I had been able to get it in time to share.  A little girl can’t wait to wear her new red rain boots and carry the umbrella she receives for her birthday, but her parents insist she has to wait for a rainy day.  It’s not only a lovely story about rain, but about the small steps kids take towards growing up.

Red Truck by Kersten Hamilton; illustrated by Valeria Petrone (Amazon.com link)

Perfect for toddlers, this is about a red tow truck who pulls a school bus from a deep puddle.  There are lots of fun truck noises for the kisd to join in on.

Cloudette by Tom Lichtenfeld (Amazon.com link)

A little cloud worries that she is not big enough to make a difference, until she finds her own way to save the day.   I’ve read this one several times, and the kids always love it.  The illustrations are adorable.

Come On, Rain! by Karen Hesse; illustrated by Jon J. Muth (Amazon.com link)

This one was a little too long for my group, but it sums up how I’ve been feeling through this dry winter.  A little girl in a hot city neighborhood can’t wait for the rain.  When it finally comes, she and her friends go out dancing in their bathing suits, and so do their mothers!

Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco (Amazon.com link)

This one was also a little too long, but it’s one of my favorite picture books.  A little girl is afraid of the thunder, until her grandmother teaches her how to make thunder cake.  I’ve never tried the recipe on the last page, but it looks delicious.  The story also teaches kids how to count the seconds between the lightning and thunder to see how close the storm is.  We very rarely get thunder here (I actually miss it!), but this is a lovely story about overcoming your fears.

It’s Raining, It’s Pouring by Kin Eagle; illustrated by Rob Gilbert (Amazon.com link)

An extended version of the nursery rhyme, featuring an old man in a wide variety of weather and precarious situations.  The illustrations are colorful and funny.  I’ve used this many times for baby and toddler storytimes.

The Aunts Come Marching by Maurie J. Manning (Amazon.com link)

A clever parody of the Ants Go Marching song (which would also have been a good one to include for storytime).  This is a counting book about a little girl and her aunts who go marching through town in the rain.  Lots of great drum noises, and fun to sing.

What are your favorite books about rain?  Please share them in the comments.