Art Attack: Suncatchers

This is a really popular idea that I first found on Pinterest, where there are pretty much endless variations. I’ve done this project twice: once for Mother’s Day with butterflies, and again for an Apple-themed fall storytime. I like this project because it has an interactive, sensory process, but also a really beautiful product that stands out from all the other glue-sticks-and-construction-paper stuff that toddlers can make. Some of the strongest positive reactions I’ve gotten from parents have been to this art project; both times, all my extras went home with them for siblings or friends to finish.

For the butterflies, I hand cut the frames out of colored paper (crazy, I know – after this I swore to stick to die-cuts). Next, I cut my contact paper into 8×10 rectangles – smaller than the edge of the frame, but bigger than the butterfly. I peeled off the backing, stuck the butterfly frame to the contact paper, and reapplied the backing for storage until it was time for the program. To make the colored ‘glass,’ I used multicolored cellophane. I crinkled it, then cut each sheet into small, semi-random shapes. The process was exactly the same for the apples, but with the use of my friendly die cut machine.

If you run out of contact paper like I did with just a few frames left to prep, packing tape works well – it’s just much harder to set up since you have to line up all those strips of tape and it doesn’t come with a built-in non-stick backing.


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.

Flannel Friday: Little Mouse

This is a hugely popular storytime game: I first saw it done at a Prop-a-Palooza meeting of Lapsit Leaders. Here’s a photo of the version I made:

photo 2

All you need to play this game are simple sleight of hand tricks. Stack up the houses and slip the mouse behind one of them, then hang them all up and have the kids “use your words, not your fingers,” to choose a color. Then call out “little mouse! little mouse! are you inside the (appropriate color here) house?” If the mouse isn’t home, say no one’s home and try again. If the mouse is there, the kids giggle and clap and we start all over!

I used this as our Fall session ‘weekly wiggle,’ meaning that we did this at every Toddler Time right before our closing songs. The 2 year olds absolutely love this game; I honestly think I could do ten minutes of this and ten minutes of Zoom Zoom Zoom and have the happiest toddlers ever! I like how you can expand vocabulary by including challenging colors like white, orange, and purple. I haven’t made these yet, but silver, gold, brown, gray, black, or multicolored patterns would be good vocabulary builders too.

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!

Flannel Friday: Five Giant Pumpkins

My version of this rhyme is adapted from the clever two-sided version at Read Rabbit Read. I rewrote a few of the lines and made the prop in a different style: I had a large pumpkin covering up a smaller image of what that pumpkin became, then took down the big pumpkin as I read each line. I used construction paper, the die cut machine, and the laminating machine, along with some yarn and sharpies.
5 pumpkins

pieFive giant pumpkins, sitting on the floor; one became a pumpkin pie, then there were four.




jack o lanternFour giant pumpkins, orange as can be; one became a jack-o-lantern, then there were three.




carriageThree giant pumpkins, bibiddy-bobiddy boo! One became a carriage, then there were two.






prize winner

Two giant pumpkins, underneath the sun; one got first prize, then there was one.





under the pumpkinsOne giant pumpkin, sitting all alone; I picked it up and carried it home!


On the last line, I didn’t have anything hiding behind the big pumpkin: I just mimed carrying it and put it away at “home” (behind the easel).

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

Toddler Time Lesson Plan

Toddler Time: Get your little one acquainted with the library at this two-riffic storytime, followed by a craft and socialization time. Registration limited to 15. Child must be 24-36 months on the first day of class. Class meets weekly in 8-week sessions (4 per year).

  1. Board Books
  2. Hello Song
  3. Silly Song or Nursery Rhyme
  4. Story #1
  5. Variable Wiggle
  6. Variable Wiggle
  7. Story #2
  8. Weekly Wiggle
  9. Song Cube
  10. Goodbye Song
  11. Craft and Playtime

This is the outline I work from when I plan Toddler Time. I keep the pattern of activities the same – toddlers pick up on these routines and they love knowing what comes next at storytime – but I switch things up as needed depending on their behavior and interest level. I don’t hesitate to skip or repeat an activity if it feels right in the moment.

1. Board Books: this is a great soft opener for storytime that encourages reading, sharing, and parent interaction. I bring a basket of board books to class, and as the children arrive, I offer them a book to read “while we wait for all your friends.” The caregiver and the toddler share the book together, and when they’re done reading, the child brings it back to me to trade it for a new one. This gives the child great practice interacting with me (an adult outside their own family) and sharing. I give them at least five, usually 8 minutes of Board Book Time before starting class, which means the hello song for a 9:30 session starts at about 9:38. It’s nice for caregivers who get a late start, too!

5. 6. & 8. Wiggles: a “wiggle” in my storytime is anything that isn’t sitting and listening to a storybook. Sometimes it’s an action rhyme or fingerplay; more often it is a magnet or felt board prop. I’ve done nursery rhymes, silly songs, games, stretches, and even iPad games. The “Weekly Wiggle” is a prop-based activity that I design to carry through a whole 8-week session.