Storytime Songs with Crossover Appeal

Being a parent or caregiver can be a tough. Finding the time to memorize dozens of different songs, rhymes and bounces to share with your child as they grow up just isn’t always in the cards.

Fortunately for the families at my storytimes, I am all about the efficiency. Why learn 24 songs when you can learn 6 songs and learn how to adapt each of them in 4 different ways (woah, that’s enough math for one day…)?

In all seriousness, though, repetition is a vital part of supporting early literacy, and having an arsenal of multipurpose rhymes and songs at your disposal is always a good thing.

Here are a few of my favourite songs and rhymes with crossover appeal.

Zoom Zoom Zoom / The Elevator Song

Caregivers get an arm workout lifting their babies, and toddlers/preschoolers/kindergarteners get to work off some of that energy by jumping in these storytime classics. Everybody wins!

Sleeping Bunnies

I just tested this preschool classic out as a lap bounce with at the families my babytime, and it worked like a charm. We rocked the babies gently on our laps for the first part of the song, then hopped them up and down like like bunnies for the second part – lots of fun.

My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean

Now this one’s a real classic. When I was little we sang this song in school, and every time we sang a word that started with the letter “b”, we jumped! As you might imagine, the line “bring back my bonny to me” had us in stitches! It’s a great way to reinforce listening skills and letter sound recognition while burning off some energy. In a babytime, caregivers can lift babies into the air every time they sing the word Bonnie, making for another great arm workout.

Tick Tock Tick Tock / Toast in the Toaster

Have I mentioned that I’m a big fan of jumping in storytimes? I’m a big fan of jumping in storytimes. Kids will spend much of their school lives being asked to sit down and sit still, so why not let them express their natural exuberance while they still can? Both of these songs work brilliantly as lap bounces in babytimes, and as high energy movement songs for older children.

London Bridge is Falling Down

You get the picture – babies are lifted and lowered, kids drop themselves up and down. This song makes for a nice change from lifting songs, though, as it’s a lowering song, and you can take a walk around for the second verse.

Head and Shoulders

Sometimes songs become classics for a reason – this song works as beautifully with babies as it does with toddlers, preschoolers, and even kinders (especially when you pick up the pace). It’s also a fantastic song for introducing different languages into your programs, or for encouraging families to share their languages with a group. My partner taught me how to sing Head and Shoulders in Japanese so that I could share it at my storytime, and it works brilliantly in so many different languages.

Do you have any favourite all-purpose storytime songs? I’d love to hear them!



I Love Books Scavenger Hunt

I have a number of Kindergarten and Grade 1 classes coming into the library in the next few weeks, so I whipped up a simple scavenger hunt activity to use as an introduction to the children’s area.

These adorable animals will be hidden in different sections of the children’s area – picture books, graphics, DVDs, Chinese, etc.


Each child will get a worksheet where they can copy the corresponding letters as they find them, and decipher the secret message.


Once we’ve found all the animals, we can talk about the section in which each animal was hiding, and take a look at what kinds of materials live in the different section of the children’s area.

Just a sweet, simple little activity for little library patrons. 🙂

Builder Fest – August 5, 2015

Book dominoes and marshmallow construction, oh my!

This hour-long drop-in Summer Reading Club program for ages 6-12 was all about the building (and destroying).

The scene was barely controlled chaos, with 30+ kids (and various parents) squashed into a small children’s area in a small library.

The first activity was book dominoes – we gathered picture books and made a series of book dominoes (with varying degrees of success). Given the cramped space, this activity was less successful than it might’ve been, as we didn’t have a lot of room to build long book cascades.

The second activity was much more popular – marshmallow construction! We used miniature marshmallows and toothpicks to build marshmallow structures.


When attempting this craft, make sure you have more toothpicks on hand than you ever thought you could need. We barely had enough toothpicks to keep up with everyone’s impressive feats of confectionery construction. Also – consider handing out the supplies, rather than allowing the children to help themselves. This will help ensure that you don’t end up with any marshmallow or toothpick hoarders (which of course happened to me).


The marshmallow construction ran on a bit longer than anticipated, as the kids were deeply engrossed in the activity and I hated to interrupt their creativity.

Although the kids had a blast building their towers, the clean up process was a bit of a headache. We didn’t have tables to build on, so the kids built on the floor, which meant a lot of marshmallows ended up ground into the carpet…delicious souvenirs of our madcap afternoon…. 🙂

Rec and Read – July 23, 2015

Today’s theme was “under the sea”. We read The Three Little Fish and the Big Bad Shark – I’m not a huge fan of this book, but my depleted shelves meant my options were a bit limited. I tried to really ham it up, and the kids seemed to enjoy it.


I learned from the previous two weeks’ activities, and chose a craft that didn’t involve any glue or sparkles for easier clean up. A patron donated a ton of DVDs that we couldn’t end up selling in our book sale, so we turned them into DVD fish. I’m always looking for low-budget crafts that don’t require a lot of set up or clean up, so the kids can spend most of their time creating.

To make DVD fish, you need: paper (for the fins), colouring supplies (we used crayons), scissors, tape, Sharpies/permanent markers (to decorate the discs) and discarded discs. We had enough DVDs that we could give each child two discs, and make a double-sided fish that could be hung with string. There are a number of DVD fish templates on Pinterest, and it’s an easy project to put together. We spent about 30 minutes making the craft, and most of the kids were able to finish in that amount of time.

fishcollageIt was our last Rec and Read visit, but I’ll be doing a couple of middle years programs in August, so it was a great experience to work with these guys, as I typically work with a younger crowd.

Rec and Read – July 16, 2015

24 seven-year-olds descended on the library for the second of three “Rec and Read” summer camp visits.

The week’s theme was “Outer Space”. We started off by reading two stories – the kids really enjoyed the picture book we read last week, so I thought I would try my luck and read two stories back-to-back.

The first was Mousetronaut by astronaut Mark E. Kelly. It’s a pretty simple “small character becomes a hero through hard work and ingenuity” story about a little mouse that saves the day on a space mission. Space, cute animals, positive moral, check, check, check.


The next book isn’t really about space at all, but our weekly craft was alien-themed, so I turned the story’s little monster character into an alien. Don’t Push the Button! by Bill Cotter is an interactive picture book that the kids found pretty hilarious. Who doesn’t love doing what they’re not supposed to do?


For our craft, we made “namelians”. I found this craft online and it was perfect. The children wrote their names on folded pieces of construction paper, cut out around their names, then unfolded the paper to reveal their aliens  – it’s a twist on the familiar snowflake-making craft. The printing and cutting helped develop those fine motor skills.

To decorate, I collected an assortment of bits and pieces from around the workroom, including googly eyes, pipe cleaners, buttons, sparkly glue, and more construction paper, which helped keep the craft budget-friendly.

I wish I’d take pictures of the kids’ finished crafts because they were so creative, but here’s an idea of what the craft can look like (find the original image here).


Next week’s theme is “under the sea”, and it’s the final group visit!

Rec N Reading Week One – “Into the Wild”

Many researchers and educators agree that reading is the single summer activity most strongly and consistently related to achievement gains. Children who begin to develop literacy skills in Grade 1 can regress over the summer months without consistent and continuous reading instruction.

Rec N’ Reading is an early intervention literacy program for children at-risk in their reading development that balances literacy instruction with recreational activities.  Students are referred to the program by their Grade 1 teachers after they were found to be reading below grade level in the Developmental Reading Assessment test (DRA). – Vancouver School Board

For three weeks, 24 children will be attending weekly events at the library as part of Rec and Reading, a summer enrichment program for at-risk youngsters going into grade 2. The program intends to support literacy development in a fun, positive environment.

Each week has a theme, which is reflected in the stories and activities we share at the library. This week’s theme was “Into the Wild”.

We started with a hello song (“hello, friends), then read a story – “What to Do if an Elephant Stands on Your Foot” by Michelle Robinson.


This is a pretty hilarious story about what not to do in the jungle, and the kids really enjoyed its madcap sense of humour (“you ninny!”)

After the story it was time for a game! We did a brief tour of the library, followed by an animal-themed scavenger hunt. I taped different animal pictures around the library, and the children had to find them and record where they found them in the chart.

Library Scavenger Hunt-page-001

Following the scavenger hunt there was time for book exchange, and then it was time to go back to school.

What I learned: 24 seven-year-olds in a small children’s area = barely controlled chaos…. The kids had a blast, but there were more than a few disgruntled adult patrons who weren’t too thrilled with the exuberant scavengers scurrying around the library. I had been under the impression that there would be more supervisors coming with the group, but most of those supervisors turned out to be well-meaning but largely ineffective teenage volunteers, which meant I ended up doing most of the child wrangling myself.

Next week we’re going to spend most of the 1.5 hour program in the meeting room doing a craft activity, then venture into the library to do our book exchange. Since we have a large meeting room available, I’m going to try and take advantage of it to keep the kids somewhat contained!

Next week – “Outer Space”!

Spring break school visit scavenger hunt!

Last week a group of grade 5-6-7 kids from a local spring break day camp came for a quick visit, and I threw together a simple scavenger hunt game to help introduce them to the library. A number of the kids in the group were identified as being at risk, and there was a real range of language levels, so the group leaders suggested that we keep any program simple and approachable.

To sweeten the deal, and encourage the kids to fully participate in the scavenger hunt, we of course had to have prizes available for the taking! I love being able to offer books as prizes – unfortunately many children never get to experience the joy of having their own books, and being able to choose a book off the prize truck never fails to bring out smiles in even the most reluctant young patrons.

The kids were encouraged to work together, and the prize winners were determined by a draw, so kids could work at their own pace. I also encouraged the kids to use their imaginations and think outside the box – when it came to finding a book about the past, for example, I accepted information books as well as novels or picture books set in the past!

We were able to welcome the group into the branch before regular open hours, so we had the entire branch to ourselves – which really came in handy as the kids got more and more excited (and voluble) as they filled in more and more of the spaces!

Here’s the quick little library scavenger hunt I whipped up for the kids!

scavenger hunt-page-001