Read Sing Play

Adventures in early literacy

Tiny Tots and Toddlers: Going Digital


Got brave and decided to introduce some technology in storytime last week. For toddlers. One year olds and two year olds. For those of you gasping, (thanks Anna and Sara for the gif lessons-it’s super addictive) just hold on to your hats and let me explain WHY I made this decision:

First, I love this information sheet from the Fred Rogers Center titled “Advice for Parents of Young Children in the Digital Age” and wish every parent read it. We KNOW parents are letting their one year olds watch TV and play with their iPads. They will expose their kids to screens. Why not give them tips for using their media tools appropriately with their children? We do this with books already. We are not likely to suggest Weslandia to a mom of a 12 month old, but instead steer her towards some of our favorite board books, maybe some lift the flaps, or Karen Katz. We wouldn’t tell her Weslandia is bad for her child, just that it’s not written with her child in mind. Why should apps and dvd’s be any different? They are are going to check them out, why shouldn’t we at least steer them towards the ones which are the most appropriate for their child? Storytime gives us an excellent opportunity to do this! We have a captive audience who expects us to give them early literacy tips already.

This doesn’t mean I’ll be advocating for parents to let their tiny ones spend MORE time on the screen. I’m simply hoping to model some ways to share digital media with their children in way which may be beneficial to them. This passage from a NAEYC publication pretty much sums up what I’m trying to say:

“For infants and toddlers, responsive interactions between adults and children are essential to early brain development and to cognitive, social, emotional, physical, and linguistic development. NAEYC and the Fred Rogers Center join the public health community in discouraging the use of screen media for children under the age of 2 in early childhood programs.  Recognizing that there may be appropriate uses of technology for infants and toddlers in some contexts (for example, viewing digital photos, participating in Skype interactions with loved ones, co-viewing e-books, and engaging with some interactive apps), educators should limit the amount of screen time and, as with all other experiences and activities with infants and toddlers, ensure that any use of technology and media serves as away to strengthen adult-child relationships.”
So there you have it. As an “educator” in this context, I’m certainly limiting their screen time use-the book is only 3 minutes for goodness sake-but am also acknowledging that co-viewing a Tumblebook may strengthen a parent’s relationship with their child as well as their relationship with me. Just like a regular old print book would. Plus, this way, when there are 70 people crammed in one room they can all see the pictures a lot better than with the smaller version of the book.
*This just in from Cen at Little eLit
Now for the logisitics:
After my normal introduction and opening songs my volunteer dimmed the lights. I told parents what we were about to do: “Today we are going to read a digital book together and I’m asking you to be even more participative than usual. Why? Because while you should certainly limit your child’s screen time, when you do find yourself and your child in front of a screen the experience should be interactive between you and the child and the screen. So, if you decide to read a book online together at home, have just as much fun with it as you would in storytime. It’s important that children view screens WITH you, not alone, so that their experience will be more valuable.”
Knowing me, I did NOT say it so eloquently, but that’s what I had “rehearsed” to say. And was met with about 30 head nods and looks of “oh, huh, ok”.
The first storytime I just let the book run on auto. It was WAY faster than I liked so for the second storytime I put it on manual so we could really take our time stretching and doing the motions along with the dog. Let me tell you, I have NEVER seen these grown ups get so in to a book. Maybe it was the dark, maybe it was my speech, I don’t know, but the kids and grown ups were having a great time.
The book was Stretch by Doreen Cronin. Here’s the screen I had up on pause while we did our opening rhymes.


Reach for that apple! Yum!


After the book was over I invited parents to ask me about Tumblebooks after storytime (added bonus is getting the word out about a database!) and moved on to our next activity, which was Head Shoulders Knees and Toes.

Aside from the digital book, storytime went on as usual, ending with this fabulous, no mess, finger painting activity. Finger paint in a ziploc baggy stuck to the windows. They squished, wrote, and talked to their parents for a very long time with those bags.



So, I count that a huge success (got a lot of positive parent feedback as well) and hope to repeat it monthly. Next is figuring out the best way to get a flannel board up there…


Author: Kendra

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

13 thoughts on “Tiny Tots and Toddlers: Going Digital

  1. Awesome use of technology in storytime! I’ll definitely be looking into this some more. Thanks for all the great advice!

  2. Reblogged this on Little eLit and commented:
    GREAT post from Kendra! Normalization of digital books in storytime.

  3. Great use of Tumblebooks! And I love that craft, I may be borrowing that idea soon. During summer reading, we do all our storytimes on the big screen (PowerPoint slides). To me, storytime isn’t storytime without flannels, so last summer, I used the PowerPoint to recreate flannels for a large audience. That cheesy animation actually can be used to great advantage in storytime. Hope this makes some kind of sense, feel fee to tweet me if I can explain further!

    • Do you just scan the books and put them into power point?
      Glad to hear about the power point! That’s the direction I was leaning but wondered about how it would look. Thanks!

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  5. You have inspired me once again! This is an awesome way to integrate appropriate screen time into storytime! Our children’s staff is so excited to try this, this summer! Thanks for all the helpful ideas you post once again! 🙂
    P.S. I am finally trying out the song cube on my baby rhyme time next week, hooray!

  6. Pingback: iPads in Storytime: Primary Time+ (Part II) by Bradley Jones | Little eLit

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