Read Sing Play

Adventures in early literacy


Songs and Lyrics, Oh My!

By now, you should all know I love to sing, even if it’s not always so great. The majority of every one of my storytimes is singing. I can’t help it, it just has to happen that way for storytime to work. I feel good, grown ups feel good, the kids definitely feel good so it’s a total win situation.

Anyway, I’ve had some requests for tunes and lyrics to various songs used in storytime. May I humbly direct you to my Rhymes page? There I have written out the words to more than 60 rhymes and songs and have recorded myself singing several of them.  I’m working really hard to get them all recorded but for now I’ve picked the ones with the trickiest tunes.

The newest members of the recorded song family are:

Hi, Hello, and How Are You?

The Elevator Song (Jbrary has also done this one)

Wake Up! Quiet and Loud song. This probably has a real name, but I call it the wake up song. VERY popular in storytime.

Hello and Goodbye Bubbles 

Wake Up Toes

Bouncing, Bouncing

Let me know if you need the tunes to anything else and I’ll get on it, asap. In the meantime, check out Jbrary and KCLS Tell Me a Story for visuals to go with the sound (I’m too lazy to get out of my pjs to do a video, sorry).

And just because. Yes, yes, I do.




Storytime: Take a bath and paint with balloons!

Those of us who do storytimes for ones and twos decided to collaborate on the after storytime activity. Since storytimes are back to back with different presenters each time, this has helped immensely with set up each day. This week we all painted with balloons. This was one of my co-worker’s (soon to be former, WAAAAHHH!!) brilliant ideas and now I can’t wait to try variations. Like, not inflating the balloons and filling them with rice, buttons, marbles, cotton balls, whatever! Can we use other things besides paint? So many ideas!


Anyway, here’s Storytime for Twos!

Hello Bubbles

Hi, Hello and How Are You? with the ukulele

This is Big

Book: Animal Baths by Bob Barner

Ram Sam Sam

Head Shoulders Knees and Toes

Book: Dini Dinosaur by Karen Beaumont (awesome one to sing and the kids responded SO well to the entire thing, as did the parents)

Coconut Soap by Frank Leto with scarves (even though this is long, they stuck with me the whole time and LOVED scrubbing with their coconut soap scarves)

Itsy Bitsy Spider with scarves

This is Big

Closing Book: The Wheels on the Bus by Jane Cabrera

Goodbye Bubbles

Activity: balloon painting

balloon painting serious painter


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…


Tiny Tots and Toddler Storytime: Rhythm

It was all about music and rhythm in this week’s storytimes.

The first five activities were done with both groups. After that I’ve noted which activity went with each group. You will notice the Toddler group had an extra book and songs were shifted a little. The older kids can stay with me for a little longer than the one year olds so I could squeeze in that extra song book just fine.

Hello Bubbles

Hands Are Clapping (Hands, Feet, Bodies wiggling)

Two Little Blackbirds (This week they were sitting on a cloud being quiet and loud. I didn’t like ending on loud, so with the help of a co-worker we made it blackbirds sitting in a loft, one named loud and one named soft!)

Book: Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler

Cover Art for Jazz baby

Jump Like a Frog

Tiny Tots: If You’re Happy and You Know It (clap, stomp, tickle)

Tiny Tots: Itsy Bitsy Spider by Annie Kubler

Cover Art for Itsy bitsy spider

Toddlers: Hush Little Baby by Marla Frazee

Cover Art for Hush, little baby : a folk song with pictures

Toddlers: If You’re Happy and You Know It (clap, stomp, tickle)

Toddlers: Itsy Bitsy Spider by Annie Kubler

Both: Shakers: We’re Tapping by Kathy Reid-Naiman

Reaching For The Stars!

Both: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star by Jane Cabrera

Goodbye Bubbles

Splish Splash by Bobby Darin

Activity: Musical Instruments with Dance Party music playing

Parent message: At this age we’re really working on social and emotional development, so not only will we play and have fun with the instruments, but we will practice sharing and not hitting our neighbors over the head. 😉


Parachute Play: with babies and toddlers


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!


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 up’s 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!).


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.

Jack in the Box Props to my former co-worker, Elsbeth for discovering how great this would be with 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?


Toddler Storytime: Going to the Zoo

And we can stay all day!

Cover Art ImageCover Art ImageProduct Details


Hello Bubbles

Hands Are Clapping (now that they know this song it works really well to bring everyone back after bubbles)

Two Little Blackbirds (regular, high, quiet)

Book: Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett

Jump Like a Frog

Parent Message: proof that repetition works, Edith could have led us in that rhyme! When we do things over and over again your children are more likely to learn them.

(This girl is seriously ADORABLE. She’s been coming long enough to know have this wiggler down pat so she stands by me and does it facing the group. She uses all my “extras” like when I say “Jump like a Frog”, I follow by saying “jump, jump, jump”. The parents don’t usually say that part, but Edith does! She’s 20 months.)

Puppets: We Went to the Zoo One Day (with Leo the Lion, an elephant, giraffe, monkey, and octopus-I left out the giraffe in the one year old class)

The Elephants at the Zoo 

Book: Row, Row, Row Your Boat by Annie Kubler for Tiny Tots and From Head to Toe by Eric Carle for Toddlers

Note: the parents were super noisy in toddler time during From Head to Toe. To get their attention I asked the kids to find their grown up’s shoulders. We probably spent a minute finding shoulders but I could not have continued with the book without getting their attention back. Yeesh!

Shakers: We’re Tapping by Kathy Reid-Naiman

We’re Going Down to Portland (We’re Going to Kentucky), we’re going to the zoo, to look at all the animals and everything they do. (then finish w/ traditional words)

Book: Toddlers only Row, Row, Row Your Boat by Annie Kubler

Goodbye Bubbles

Splish Splash by Bobby Darin

Activity: drawing on the windows! Let’s strengthen those writing muscles and have some fun at the same time. If you’re child likes drawing on the walls (what child doesn’t?) you can put paper on your walls (or paint them with blackboard paint-comes in many colors), or use washable markers or tub crayons in bathtub.


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Toddler Storytime: Bodies and Two Year Olds

Almost the same as the one year old class, but I used two longer books this time. It is amazing the difference between groups. The one year olds would never have made it through both books but the two year olds did just fine.

Hello Bubbles

Hands Are Clapping

Two Little Blackbirds

Book: A Kiss Means I Love You by Kathyrn Madeline Allen I chose to do this for the 2 year olds because despite the beautiful pictures of real kids, it’s a little too long for the 1 year olds. Everyone really liked this one!


Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Book: Wake Up, Me by Marni McGee


Penny Pointers


These are the Colors Under You

If You’re Happy and You Know It (shake the chute, shake it slow, shake it fast)

Ten Little Bubbles (I have a great volunteer who blew bubbles in the back of the room during this song so that all the kids got some, not just the ones closest to me)

Song Book: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star by Jane Cabrera

Goodbye Bubbles and parachute clean up

Splish Splash by Bobby Darin while I blow more bubbles

Activity: stamp hand print art and scribbling


Toddler Storytime: Babies and Apple Cider Playdough

Apparently everyone is over their colds and back to storytime. We were over capacity by 10 in each storytime and had to turn at least 4 families away. Bummer.

I HAD AN ACTUAL THEME TODAY YOU GUYS!!!!! Just felt like talking about babies. Maybe because I got to play with a couple of super adorable ones this weekend (thanks, friends!).

Babies Galore Outline:

Hello Bubbles

Hands are Clapping

Two Little Blackbirds

Book: Please, Baby, Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee (LOVE THIS BOOK! Perfect for a full storytime as it keep the parents’ attention as well as the kids’.)

Cover Art Image

Have You Ever Seen a Baby?

Puppets: Row, Row Your Boat-this time we had to use the name for the babies of each kind of animal (chick, kitten, puppy, lamb, and piglet).

Parent Message: “Grownups, this is a great way to expand your child’s vocabulary. Instead of calling a lamb a baby sheep, call it a lamb and give them a new word. Where is my Baby by Harriet Ziefert is a great book for sharing at home for this exact reason!” The book was available for them to check out and someone did. Yay!

Book (Toddler Storytime only): Babies on the Go by Linda Ashman I skipped a few pages since they were getting kind of antsy, but they seemed to really like it!

Cover Art Image


Shakeable You by the Imagination Movers (free dance and some followed along with the music and me)

We’re Tapping by Kathy Reid-Naiman

Book: If You’re Happy and You Know It by Jane Cabrera

Cover Art Image

Goodbye Bubbles

Splish Splash by Bobby Darin

Activity: Playdough









Microwave Playdough Recipe:

1 c. water

1 c. flour

2 tsp cream of tartar

1 Tbsp cooking oil

1/2 cup salt

Food coloring, spices, glitter, or whatever you want to add to make it extra fun. We buy apple cider mix to add to ours occasionally. Smells so yummy!

Mix all ingredients together and microwave for about 2 minutes, then stir. Cook for 30 seconds more. Repeat until playdough is right consistency.

If you don’t have a microwave you can mix all the ingredients except the water and add boiling water (we do it in an electric tea kettle) to the mix. Stir it all up until it’s the right consistency.

Voila! Super easy, non-toxic, playdough.


Storytime in Action: Stand Up Rhymes

Your Valentine from me this year is another video! This shows three stand up rhymes we do pretty regularly. This was only the second time we’d done them. It works really well with a small group like this, but we’ve done them with very large groups as well and just have them spin in place or make several smaller circles with the parents around them. Lots of fun!


Tiny Tots and Toddler Storytimes: the show must go on

You know those times when something happens in storytime and you panic momentarily realizing there’s not a damn thing you can do but keep going? That happened so many times yesterday. Not only did I lose my voice halfway through the first storytime (and there were 65 people in the room so really NOT a good group for that to happen with-thank goodness the parents are so awesome and sang super loud for me!), but I choked on my cough drop in between storytimes which was supposed to ensure I wouldn’t lose my voice in the second storytime, AND then spilled water all down my front trying to stop the coughing. But, the show must go on. So, I mopped up the water, spit out the cough drop, drank more water (without spilling) and welcomed a second ginormous group of toddlers and their grown ups to storytime. None of the kids or parents seemed to mind at all that I sang like a bullfrog, I asked them to help me out by singing loud and they rose to the occasion. THANK YOU PARENTS! And THANK YOU to my amazing volunteer who helps me SO much every week. Don’t know what I’d do without her!


Hello Bubbles

Hands are Clapping

Penny Pointers (Tiny Tots, only)

Two Little Blackbirds (Toddlers only)

Book in Tiny Tots: Machines at Work by Barton Byron (Um, wow. Can we say mesmerized? They LOVED this book!)

Book in Toddler Storytime: Dinosaur Dig by Penny Dale (this was a little too much for this group today so I kind of glazed over a lot of it)

Jump Like a Frog

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes (Tiny Tots, only)

Wheels on the Bus (Tiny Tots, only)

Book in Toddler Storytime: Tip Tip, Dig Dig by Emma Garcia (Anne mentioned doing this in storytime recently and since I love it so much decided I needed to do it, too even though I hadn’t planned on it)

Parachute: We used the HUGE chute today (I don’t know, maybe 24 feet? It is SO BIG!) so I asked the parents to move to the far edges of the room to make room for the whole thing. The toddlers went on top of the chute today. There were so many, I didn’t want to risk injury with them under the chute not being able to see in front of them or their parents. Since I didn’t know how many kids we would have, I just prepared myself before storytime to pull out any songs that might work with them over or under. BE FLEXIBLE (and ready for anything-picture Rocky warming up with some punches) is my #1 storytime tip!

These are the Colors UNDER You

Mix a Pancake (I tickle attacked any little ones in arms reach much to their delight at “Catch it if you can” and saw many parents following my lead-we said the rhyme 3 times)

Ten Little Bubbles (tune of Michael Finnegan-because we seriously need to stop calling it 10 Little Indians)- another librarian helped me blow bubbles so all the kids would get some, plus this is when I lost my voice! Luckily the parents knew the song so were able to sing while I blew bubbles. It was perfect!

Book: If You’re Happy and You Know It by Jane Cabrera (Clap Your Hands, Go Kiss Kiss, and Jump Around)

Goodbye Bubbles

Splish Splash

Activity: Free play with foam puzzle blocks, plastic interlocking blocks, stacking cups and toy cars/trucks. I had to run to a Latino Mom’s group so chose to do a non-messy activity so there wouldn’t be a lot of clean up.