SmARTful Kids: Rainbow Jars

Newsletter description: SmARTful Kids, ages 2-3 with an adult: Play, draw, investigate, and explore new art styles and media in this process-oriented art class for Twos and Threes. Grown ups and kids should dress for a mess! Explore the way colors mix and combine and bring home your own Rainbow Jar, a soothing toy that keeps little hands occupied during quiet time.

This was a stellar event. I hosted 2 sessions, each with about 25 children (plus their adults and siblings). The focus of this series (other librarians here do sessions for 0-14 months and 15 – 23 months) is process-based artwork, so I led into our craft with a very short storytime:

Rainbow Jar

I bought a couple gigantic bags of pom-poms and clear plastic 8oz juice bottles from Amazon. I printed out these “rainbow jar” tags and set out all the supplies they needed: scissors, hole punches, pom-poms, and ribbons. These are the instructional handouts I gave to the adults. It was a huge success: kids really love these jars. It’s sometimes the simplest things that make the biggest impact!


Storytime Theme: Playing the Hits

At the tail end of 2014, I started a new job. My first solo program was a Saturday storytime – a low key drop in program for families, with content aimed at ages 2-7. I had new parents, new children, and new co-workers to impress, so I decided to just play the hits: Raffi, egg shakers, Zoom Zoom Zoom, Little Mouse, and a book. Here’s my outline:

  1. Soft opening with board books
  2. Housekeeping and welcome
  3. Hello Songs
    1. Hello Friends
    2. I’m in the Mood for Singing
  4. Little Mouse
  5. Nursery Rhyme: Hickory Dickory Dock
  6. Story: Hickory Dickory Dog by Alison Murray
  7. Egg Shaker Songs
    1. I Can Make My Egg … (credit to a coworker. lyrics in the PDF)
    2. Egg Shakers UP
  8. Zoom Zoom Zoom
  9. Goodbye Song: Goodbye Friends

hickorydickorydogHickory Dickory Dog was not a runaway hit, but it was quite serviceable, and I liked the way it connected to the nursery rhyme. I sang everything a capella and made handouts with all of the song lyrics for grown ups, which let me keep this session zero-tech (aka: zero-stress). If you’d like to use it, here’s a PDF: Saturday Stories Song Lyrics.

My new library doesn’t include crafts with storytimes, and doing a program without one was eye-opening. Planning this program was just me spending half an hour listing all my favorite storytime activities and then another half an hour flipping through New Library’s filing cabinet full of flannels to see what I had to choose from. Easy-peasy lemon-squeezy!

Storytime Theme: Dogs

Class: Toddler Time, summer 2014 – 9:30 and 11:00

Books: Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion, Digger Dog by William Bee

The plan:

  1. Welcome songs
  2. Story #1: Digger Dog
  3. Silly song: B-I-N-G-O
  4. Rhyme: 5 Fat Sausages
  5. Shaker Songs
  6. Story #2: Harry the Dirty Dog (pretty heavily abridged – I paperclipped some pages together and mostly told the story along with the pictures, rather than reading the words, as it’s quite long and complicated for toddlers)
  7. Weekly wiggle: Where is doggie hiding?
  8. Song cube
  9. Goodbye songs
  10. Craft and playtime

How it went: Both books were truly spectacular hits. Digger Dog’s large fold-out pages got oohs, aahs, and laughs. Both books inspired spontaneous applause from toddlers and caregivers. I thought Harry would be too complex and long for this group, but it has clearly has the kind of charm that explains its place as a kid lit classic. As always, I made sure the song cube landed on Zoom, Zoom, Zoom!

I took craft inspiration from the cover of Harry the Dirty Dog:

harry the dirty dog


I created the canvas by hand-cutting black and white Harrys and gluing them to oversize construction paper in a rainbow of colors. Then I set out white and black paint and q-tips as brushes. This craft went over very well with parents, who liked the connection to a famous storybook.

To make the Harry silhouette, I drew Harry freehand on cardstock and used that as a stencil on black and white construction paper. It could also be done by tracing the image on the front cover (with or without increasing its size on a copy machine first). This craft takes a lot of cutting and gluing, which means it’s great for a time (like summer reading) when you have volunteers to help you prep.

Storytime Theme: Squirrels

Class: Toddler Time, two sessions 10-23-14

Books: Frisky Brisky Hippity Hop by Lurie/Head/White; The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri

frisky brisky

busy little squirrel


  1. Board Books
  2. Starter Songs: Hello Friends and Open, Shut Them
  3. Discussion: What does a squirrel look like? 2 eyes, 2 ears, pointy fingers, bushy tail, etc
  4. Story #1: Frisky Brisky Hippity Hop
  5. I Wake Up My Hands
  6. Scarf Songs
  7. Five Little Squirrels rhyme
  8. Story #2: The Busy Little Squirrel
  9. Little Mouse
  10. Song Dice
  11. Goodbye Song
  12. Craft and Playtime: squirrels with S tails (adapted from this pin)

photo 5

Five Little Squirrels (Velcro/Flannel story): Credit to Mystery Former Employee, as this one was in the filing cabinet ready to go before I ever started here.

My photo turned out kind of blurry so it’s hard to read the text. I made some slight alterations to it, and this is the version I used in class:

Five little squirrels with acorns to store, one went to sleep and then there were FOUR. Four little squirrels playing in a tree, one fell down and then there were THREE. Three little squirrels wondering what to do, one went home for dinner, then there were TWO. Two little squirrels, tossing acorns for fun, one went to the pumpkin patch, then there was ONE. One little squirrel, playing in the sun, he ran away, then there were NONE!

squirrel craft

My squirrel on the top; a toddler’s below.

The Ss were done on the die cut machine (then I hand-trimmed off the serifs), the squirrels and acorns were printed out and cut by hand.

How it went: The morning class only heard one book – the Tafuri title. I did use Frisky to show them photos of squirrels, though, when we talked about what a squirrel looks like. The late morning class heard both books, but missed out on Little Mouse (cut for time, since they were rowdy and we did some extra wiggle songs). This was a normal storytime – the kids had fun, the parents participated, everyone left happy!

Pizza Dinosaurs

What food’s more fun and storytime-able than pizza? None. Pizza storytimes from Storytime Katie, Abby the Librarian, and the Perry Public Library prove that! But what’s an even better theme than pizza?

Mother. Effing. Dinosaurs. (roooooaaaaar!)

Class: Toddler Time (registered), October 30 2014. 2 sessions (total attendance 35)

The Plan:

  1. Board Books (soft opener)
  2. Welcome songs: Hello Friends and Open Shut Them
  3. Story #1: Hi, Pizza Man! by Virginia Walter
  4. Build a Pizza prop
    1. I showed the kids a tan circle: this is the crust! Then a smaller red circle: This is the sauce! What goes on top? Ice cream? Lettuce? Hot dogs? prompting them to answer, CHEESE! Then I put the pizza down on the carpet and passed out tiny handfuls of yellow and white yarn so the kids could each add a little cheese to our pizza. “There! now when your parents make pizza at home, you can say ‘Let me help! I learned how to make pizza at storytime!'”
  5. Scarf Songs (I learned all my scarf songs/rhymes from Jbrary, of course)
    1. Pat a Cake Pizza Man (adapted into a scarf activity from Storytime Katie’s fingerplay)
    2. Jack in the Box
    3. We Wave Our Scarves Together
    4. Popcorn Kernels
  6. Story #2: Dinosaur Parade by Shari Halpern
  7. Little Mouse: a very common storytime game. I first saw it done at a Lapsit Leaders prop-a-palooza.
  8. Song Dice: another common storytime idea; I first came across it at Mel’s Desk.
  9. Goodbye Song: Goodbye Friends
  10. Craft and Playtime: Pizza Dinosaurs! This was inspired by the ‘pizza dinosaur’ who delivers a pizza in Hi, Pizza Man! My library has an incredible 3D standup dinosaur die cut that I used for this activity. I cut the dinos out of various colors of poster board or card stock and put out pepperoni, olives, fancy hats, letter Ps, green peppers, and yarn cheese along with crayons and glue sticks. Grown ups helped with slotting the legs onto the body and voila! a super-silly toy to take home.

How did it go?

This storytime was a delight from start to finish. The kids really loved putting yarn cheese on our pretend pizza! They were also utterly entranced by Hi, Pizza Man! and were enthusiastic about making the animal noises and doorbell sounds on every page turn. I’m furious that this book is so hard to find – every library should have a copy. The silly craft was a giggle-making hit with toddlers, parents, and coworkers alike.

photo 1

Pizza Dinosaurs, Before

photo 2

Pizza Dinosaurs, After

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.

iTots Storytime Lesson Plan

iTots Storytime: Storytime is for making stories come alive in new ways: see how apps and digital books can enhance reading together! No siblings under 24 months, please. Registration limited to 10. Child must be age 2-5.

  1. Hello Song
  2. Wiggle
  3. Story #1: iPad story on projector
  4. Wiggle
  5. Wiggle
  6. Story #2: Interactive dead tree book
  7. Wiggle
  8. Story #3: iPad story on projector
  9. Goodbye song
  10. Craft and Playtime

I stick very loosely to this outline as I run iTots storytime. Ages can vary widely – a group of 4 year olds will sit through a 3rd story happily, but if they’re all under three there’s no way – so I adapt on the fly. I always make sure to share at least one iPad story and at least one interactive story book.

A “wiggle” is any activity other than listening to a storybook. Silly songs, nursery rhymes, and magnet/felt props are my usual wiggles.

Craft and playtime is special during iTots Storytime: I keep the group small for this reason. Our crafts are MESSY, sensory, special projects. Along with the blocks and ball tower, I also get out our 5 library iPads so the kids can play with the story apps I read aloud and with the other ECE apps I’ve installed on them. The idea with this playtime is to emphasize to caregivers how a balanced mix of real-life sensory activities and shared screen time is appropriate for children over two years old.