Five Little Monkeys at iTots Storytime

I’m always looking for ways to expand my repertoire, and this idea is one that I had discounted and revisited several times. A digital felt board story is a natural fit for a digital storytime, and I was interested in using the Felt Board iPad app to do it, but I disliked the inexact controls and the difficulty of placing new items on the screen – I thought it would be distracting for the kids and difficult for me. Luckily, when I thought of doing Five Little Monkeys Swingin’ From a Tree, the whole thing came together!

flannel photo

As I sang 5 Little Monkeys, I would move Mr. Crocodile along the ground and mime a big swinging action with my upper body. I kept the iPad turned toward me the whole time, but the kids saw the action up on the projector screen. Since all the pieces are there at the beginning of the song, all I had to do was tap the trash icon (all your pieces will start to gently wiggle) and then tap a monkey to make it disappear. Then I tapped the trash icon again (to turn off the delete feature) so I could manipulate Mr. Crocodile during the next verse without making him disappear, too.

Where I used it: iTots storytime, for an audience age 2-6. August and December 2014.

What I like: The children were absorbed and listening intently, which is the whole point! Also, I can make the background, tree, and other details look different every time, so the song won’t feel as stale as it does with my regular monkey magnets and Mr. Croc hand puppet.

What I don’t like: It requires practice runs – if you tap wildly and make the wrong thing disappear (the leaves on the tree, for example) it derails the song quite a bit. If you know how to handle that, it shouldn’t be a problem.


iTots Storytime

This week I did two sessions of iTots Storytime, 10:00 and 1:30 on Thursday. At 1:30, I had my best session yet; at 10:00, by far my worst. Here’s what happened.



  1. Arrival time: Little Mouse, Little Mouse (velcro prop)
  2. Welcome song (Hello Friends)
  3. Warm up song: Zoom Zoom Zoom
  4. iPad Story: Another Monster at the End of This Book
  5. Egg Shakers
  6. Itsy Bitsy Spider (velcro prop)
  7. Dead Tree Story: I Broke My Trunk! by Mo Willems (velcro prop)
  8. Pin the Snout on Piggie
  9. Craft and Playtime: iPads, Flannel Board, and Paint with Water


There were 12 children and 10 adults at this session. Everything went fine up until the iPad story. A parent took it on themselves to move my flannel board/easel out of the way (even though I’d intentionally placed it off to the side) so I had to pause and pick up a bunch of things that fell as she slid it into the carpet. I didn’t foresee a problem with AMatEoTB, but it is not as good for sharing as the original “The Monster at the End of This Book.” I suspect two reasons – this group was bigger by 4 kids than my other iTots classes have averaged, and the biggest one I’ve had (we only register ten children for this class because of the messy, involved craft and the mechanics of sharing stories and free play on the iPads). Additionally, the page with the steel door was just too hard for the children to help me with. I ended up getting mobbed by excited little hands and I struggled to get order back after that, even though we worked out our energy with some energetic shaker songs and a rousing quadruple chorus of Itsy-Bitsy Spider. Pin the Snout on Piggie was a disaster – the kids were too excited and eager to take turns, and didn’t quite understand the game, and it just didn’t work at all. I got a lot of positive feedback from the parents; what I saw as uncontrolled, frantic, challenging, and barely-educational, they saw as different, innovative, and fun. No harm done, but I knew I could do better.


After a restorative lunch break and over an hour of re-planning, I came back with this:

  1. Arrival time: Little Mouse, Little Mouse (velcro prop)
  2. Welcome song (Hello Friends)
  3. Warm up song: Zoom Zoom Zoom
  4. iPad story: Goodnight Safari
  5. iPad group game: Animal Sounds
  6. Egg Shakers
  7. Itsy Bitsy Spider (velcro prop)
  8. Dead Tree Story: I Broke My Trunk! by Mo Willems (velcro prop)
  9. Five Little Monkeys (digital felt prop using Flannel Board)
  10. Craft and Playtime: iPads, Flannel Board, and Paint with Water

I knew the iPad story had to change. After a bit of scrambling, I landed on Goodnight Safari. This app needs some manipulation from you as the presenter to make it fun for older kids, but that’s easy: I encouraged them to make animal noises, predict the story, and help me tap to move it along. The more quiet, somber mood of this app let me control the room a lot more while the kids were still having fun. It’s a short story, so I paired it with Animal Sounds. Truly one of my favorite apps, this $.99 wonder lets you tap the image of an animal and hear its sound. I had the kids “use their listening ears” to guess what the animal was, then turned the iPad around to show the photo. There were some easy ones – cow, bird, lion – and some hard ones too: goat and dolphin both stumped them, but they loved it. This is a great app because it’s so very flexible. You can do dozens of animals for minutes on end, or just one or two for a super-quick game.  The other big change I made was to nix Pin the Snout on Piggie and replace it with a digital felt story. I used Felt Board to set the scene ahead of time and then manipulated it as I sang the rhyme. It went really well; I’ll explain it in detail in its own post.flannel photo

What did I learn today? That I’m a flexible programmer. That I learn from my mistakes. And that preschoolers can’t pin the tail on anything.