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Adventures in early literacy

Parachute Play: with babies and toddlers

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parachute

With all the talk on the listservs recently about using the parachute in storytime, I thought I should blog about my experiences with the parachute. I’ve been using the parachute in storytime for less than a year but had a lot of help from fellow bloggers and tweeps when I was getting started. This is me paying it forward.

I’ve briefly mentioned using the parachute in other posts herehere and here, if you’d like to see how it fits in to storytime, but thought it might be helpful to have all the activities I have used in one spot. Plus, I’ll talk more about set-up and adjusting for group mood.

Parachute Set Up:

Set up for prewalkers: invite parents to lay their babies on their backs so they will be able to see the bright colors as we lift and lower the chute. It’s very typical to have a baby or two NOT interested in being out of mom’s lap. That’s OK. They can sit in a lap and enjoy the parachute just as much.

Set up for wobblers: allow babies to crawl or lay under the chute and let grown ups know it’s ok for them to crawl under the chute and grab their baby if he or she is in distress, or for any reason at all. Alternatively, you can place wobblers on TOP of the parachute and ask grown ups to stand, pulling the side of the parachute up around the baby pile in the middle. This provides a barrier so if they stand up they will fall back on the soft wall of the parachute, not on the hard ground. This set up makes it possible to take the babies for a ride on the parachute. If you’d rather they not go for a ride you can still sings songs with babies crawling and walking on top of the parachute.

Set up for toddlers: With a small group you can do any of the same set ups mentioned previously. With a very large group I feel it is safer, and easier to manage, if children are on top of the chute. Ask grown ups to scoot back and spread the chute in the middle of the floor. This usually requires temporarily re-locating toddlers so I usually ask grownups to grab their children while we are spreading out the chute. I just move any stragglers myself. Once the chute is laid out, release the toddlers!

Modifications:

Any of the following songs and rhymes can be done with any age group, really, just judge your audience for how much they can handle. If there are children who seem nervous or you know have never experienced a parachute before you might try these adjustments:

-Ask parents to hold the chute high enough that adults can maintain eye contact with their child. While the chute is up you can ripple it gently while singing.  You will only want to do one, maybe two short songs this way as grown up arms will get tired fast. This works especially well for babies on their backs.

-Put kids on top of the chute. This is the easiest way to put nervous children at ease. This way they can walk or crawl back to their adult if they get nervous, or stay sitting on a grown ups lap without missing any of the action

-Go Slow. And avoid any loud parts of songs like Ten Little Bubbles (just don’t slap the floor on POP!)

Content:

These are songs I have used successfully in storytime (more will be added as they are discovered/used). Click the links for lyrics (and to hear me singing some of them-for educational purposes only).

Come Under My Umbrella (Thanks, Mollie, for this suggestion. Just used it with 2 year olds with great success-lots of squeals!)

The Elevator Song (Thanks, Jbrary for introducing me to this show stopper)

Go In and Out the Window

If You’re Happy and You Know It (shake the chute, lift the chute, shake it fast, shake it slow, shake it high, low, etc.)

Itsy Bitsy Spider (also in Spanish on the Rhymes page) Thanks, Kelly, for reminding me of this one. I’ve yet to meet a baby who doesn’t like this song and most people know it so it’s perfect for the parachute.

Merry Go Round This is a great one for taking them for a ride. Pull up the sides and walk in a circle while singing.

Mix a Pancake  A chant instead of a rhyme, but fun to build suspense to the toss (lift).

Noble Duke of York Instead of lifting a child to this song, lift the chute. Gently shake in between lifts.

Peek a Boo Self explanatory-try to lift on “Peek-a-Boo” if possible for extra fun.

Popcorn As Amanda mentioned on Facebook, this is a fun one to put something on the chute with (I’ve used scarves, and she mentioned crumpled paper)

Pop Goes the Weasel Another one for taking a ride. Could also just walk in a circle holding the chute.

Rain is Falling Start with the chute as high as possible (you can even start standing) and bring it down slowly until it covers the kids.

Roly Poly I really like to do this with kids who are used to the chute as you can make some pretty forceful wind by lifting and lowering the chute fairly quickly. Just be careful not to knock over walkers with a gust! I usually ask them to sit for this song.

Row Boat, Row Boat This came from the twitterverse (Thanks, Anna!) and works so well with the chute!

Ten Little Bubbles They LOVE this song. Something about bubbles while standing on a parachute really does it for toddlers. I ask the parents to sing this one for me while I blow bubbles. I sing it with them the first time, get them started the second time, and then they’re on their own! They’ve yet to let me down. On the Pop, pop, pop line we slap the chute with our hands to make ripples and a great loud noise.

These are the Colors Over You If they are standing on top of the chute change this to “under you”. This is a great introduction song as it’s both soothing and to a familiar tune. We sing this song every time I bring out the chute.

Wheels on the Bus This is a good one for standing so you can actually go round and round, open and shut (in and out), swish, swish (side to side) but you could do most those sitting as well. The up and down verse works especially well. Thanks, again Anne for this idea!

Where is Baby? Another fun peek-a-boo song!

What are your favorite songs/activities for the parachute with the under 3’s?

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Author: Kendra

Children's Librarian in the Northwest. Lover of toddlers, twitter, and TV (T's, too, apparently!).

18 thoughts on “Parachute Play: with babies and toddlers

  1. I use the parachute in every baby storytime and they LOVE it! The current favorite is the itsy bitsy spider, adapted to lift and lower the parachute. I have done it standing and sitting, and they love it either way. :)

  2. I’ve done Sally Go Round the Sun with the toddlers. We walk around the circle and then fall down on “boom.” Also, London Bridge works well with the toddlers. I let them go underneath and the parents lift the parachute up and down for “falling down” and move it back and forth for “lock ‘em up.”

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  4. Thank you for this informative, wonderful post! Thank you for sharing your ideas and experiences. Much obliged, Sue (children’s librarian)

  5. What a great idea. It’s nice to have a grasp on how parachute can be used for the littlest one. Kids mostly love the under, etc. but that is overwhelming for the smallest one.

  6. I just used a parachute for the first time today, in my baby storytime for ages 0-18mo, based on your post. It was awesome!! The kids loved it. I’m definitely going to incorporate it into more programs. Thanks for the great (and really thorough) information.

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  8. I used to teach a mom and tot music class (2 and older), and the favorite was the parachute. We would put colored pom-pons on top and then turn on the music and watch them bounce off! A big hit! Also, I’ve cut up foam pool noodles (sliced them like cutting bread) and let the kids bounce those. They are lightweight and easier to pick up than the pom-pons, although with everyones help it wasn’t ever a big deal to pick up and throw back onto the chute to start the fun over again. I would play music with a great beat like “Fun, Fun, Fun” by the Beach Boys, or “Who Let the Dogs Out.”

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  10. Thanks for this wonderful post!! I’m planning to do some of these activities at my daughter’s 2nd birthday party :)

  11. Two of my kids used to enjoy parachute play at our local free community centre; this post has reminded me to take my littlest now that the older two are at preschool. :-) Glad to have stumbled across your blog.

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