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!



Baby Storytime – April 21, 2016

Hello Song

Hello, Friends

Tickles / Fingerplays

Round and round the garden

Head and shoulders

Roly poly

Book 1: I Can Roar


A Smooth Road

While driving down a bumpy road

A hippopotamus got on a city bus

Book 2: Tuck Me In

Movement Songs

He didn’t dance, dance, dance

Zoom Zoom Zoom

The Elevator Song

Cool Down Songs

Mm-ah went the little green frog

Good Bye Song

Goodbye, Friends

Lots of chatting today at babytime, which was lovely.  Parents commenting on the different songs and books that their babies enjoy, and getting to know each other. We didn’t cover as much material as I’d planned, but we had a smaller group (7 moms), so it was a casual, laid-back program.

We also talked about different ways to tell the rhymes or sing the songs we covered. One mother prefers to do Round and round the garden on her son’s palm, while other babies like to have a circle traced around their bellybuttons, or on their backs. There are also different ways to sing Head and Shoulders. These are great conversations to be having with caregivers, because the fact of the matter is that it doesn’t really matter what you sing or say with your baby, or how you sound. All that matters is that you are spending time bonding with your baby and exposing them to language!

Note: The babies were completely mesmerized by I Can Roar. I had 100% eye contact and 100% attention. It was incredible. I’m not sure if they were fascinated or terrified, but either way, it was pretty hilarious to watch their little faces follow me as I swept the book around the group. Highly, highly recommended!

To Theme or Not To Theme


When it comes to story time planning, do you theme, or do you freestyle?

The library technician at my branch plans beautiful family story times around themes like “firefighters” or “rabbits” or “spring”.

Themes have never really suited my style.

I don’t really like being tied to my outlines – I always plan my story times, but I don’t always stick to my plans. My groups can vary wildly from week to week, and I never really know who will be sitting on the carpet waiting for me when I arrive. I often change my plans around to suit the makeup and the mood of the day – if it seems that everyone’s feeling really bright and energetic we’ll do more movement songs, but if everyone seems sleepy or we’ve got a few kids who are feeling under the weather, we might keep things more low key. Sometimes I’ll have a big group show up, and sometimes I’ll just have a handful of parents and little ones. I like being able to switch things around at the last minute, without worrying about deviating from the day’s theme.

I know that some people do fantastic themed story times, and I really admire their creativity. I also know that there are different ways to use a theme – some people use the same songs and rhymes every week but just change up their books to suit their weekly theme, while other people follow a theme from hello song to goodbye song.


There are lots of different ways to plan a story time, and different approaches and styles suit different people’s skills and abilities. There’s no right or wrong way to do story time, as long as you’re always putting your families at the heart of your programs.

If you do children’s programming, how do you like to plan? Do you like to work around a theme, or do you freestyle your programs? I’d love to know!

Baby Story Time – April 14, 2016

Hello Song

Hello, Friends

Tickles / Fingerplays

Eyes, nose, cheeky cheeky chin

Head and shoulders

Slowly, slowly, very slowly

Book 1: This Little Chick


A Smooth Road

Up up up in the sky like this

A hippopotamus got on a city bus

Book 2: Peek a Moo

Movement Songs

London Bridge is Falling Down

Zoom Zoom Zoom

The Elevator Song

Cool Down Songs

Haru ga kita (where is spring?)

Good Bye Song

Goodbye, Friends

I had a mother with a one-month-old baby come to story time for the first time today – my youngest baby ever! We also had two mothers from Japan, so I pulled out one of the few Japanese children’s songs I know, and they helped me teach it to the group. The very new mother came to thank me afterwards – she’s been terribly homesick, and she was so thrilled to hear her own language being used in the library, even if we did sort of mangle most of the words…

I highly, highly recommend trying to include other languages in your story time programs whenever possible. Ask your families what languages they speak at home, and try to learn a simple, traditional children’s rhyme or song that the families who speak that language can help you share with the group. Baby time, more than any other program, is very much about supporting new parents, and when you’re far away from home, just being able to share a piece of your culture with new friends can really mean a lot.

Baby Storytime – April 7, 2016

The sun is shining. The birds are singing. The cherry trees are blossoming.


These are all very good reasons not the be in the library on a Thursday afternoon.

For our first baby time after spring break, we had a grand total of TWO mothers with their babies in attendance, making this the smallest baby time of my career.

But you know what? It was actually pretty awesome.

We threw the plan out of the window. We sat on the floor and explored board books together. We sang a few songs, shared a few finger plays.

We talked. We talked about mommy guilt, and about the challenges of being a new parent, or being a newcomer to this ridiculously expensive, frequently impersonal city.

We talked about babies and screen time, and about trying to read to a wiggly baby.

Both moms said they would tell their friends about the program, and stayed afterwards to socialize.

It wasn’t the baby time I’d planned, but I think it turned out quite nicely all the same.


Baby Story Time – July 28, 2015

Story times with a new crowd in a new neighborhood are always exciting.

A mother came up to me after the program to say that she was new to story times and had attended a program at a different library where the facilitator ran through the material quickly and without any repetition.  She felt lost and a bit embarrassed –  it felt like she was the only person in the room who didn’t know the words to every song. I always try to repeat the material in my story times because I understand the developmental importance of repetition. The patron really appreciated getting a chance to practice new material, and it was a good reminder for me to not race through my programs!

Here’s what we did:

Hello Song: Hello, Friends!


  • Slowly slowly
  • Wake up feet
  • Head and shoulders
  • Roly poly

Book : I Went Walking / Sue Williams



  • Here we go a bouncing
  • A hippopotamus got on a city bus
  • Giddyup horsey

Book 2: Jump! / Scott Fischer


Movement Songs:

  • Dancing with bears
  • Zoom zoom
  • Elevator song

Soothing Songs:

  • Orca whale