Best Recorded Songs for Storytime

Singing songs and playing music are one of my favorite parts of doing storytime. Children of all ages relate to music, and whatever your theme is, there is a song for you. That being said, I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, which is why I often gravitate towards using recorded music in storytime. These are my favorite recorded songs, the ones that I turn to time and again when planning storytime. I don’t always relate my storytime music to a theme, because often I just want a reliable favorite that will get the audience up and moving. Try one of these songs out; you’ll be glad you did!

Songs for Babies

When Cows Get Up in the Morning – Hugh Hanley (Circle of Songs)

Smooth Road to London – Kathy Reid-Nailman (A Smooth Road to London Town)

Horsey Rides – Carole Peterson (Sticky Bubble Gum)

Row, Row, Row Your Boat – Rob Newhouse (Songs for Wiggleworms)

Pop Goes the Weasel – Sue Schnitzer (Wiggle and Whirl, Clap and Nap)

Noble Duke of York – Sue Schnitzer (Wiggle and Whirl, Clap and Nap)

Bumping Up and Down – Raffi (Singable Songs for the Very Young)

Baby 1, 2, 3 – Peter Allard (Sing It! Say It! Stamp It! Sway It!) – this reminds me of a slower version of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”; it’s a lot of fun for parents to point to baby’s body parts during each part of the song.

Everybody Knows I Love My Toes – Peter Allard (Sing It! Say It! Stamp It! Sway It!)

Pat-A-Cake – MaryLee (Baby-O!)

Acka Backa Soda Cracker – MaryLee (Baby-O!)

Mother & Father & Uncle John – MaryLee (Baby-O!)

Elevator Song – MaryLee (Baby-O!)

This is the Way the Ladies Ride – MaryLee (Baby-O!)

Bounce Your Baby – Caspar Babypants (This is Fun!)

Run Baby Run – Caspar Babypants (More Please!)

Songs for Toddlers

Can You Clap – Sue Schnitzer (Wiggle and Whirl, Clap and Nap)

Milkshake Song – Wiggleworms (Songs for Wiggleworms) – use with bells or egg shakers for a participatory element!

Pig on Her Head – Laurie Berkner (Buzz Buzz) – use puppets to act out the song, or pass out die-cut shapes of animals to each caregiver. Invite the cargiver to place them on the toddlers’ heads as you sing the song.

Row, Row, Row Your Boat – Rob Newhouse (Songs for Wiggleworms) – a fun and innovative take on the traditional song, with plenty of interaction!

I Know a Chicken – Laurie Berkner (The Best of the Laurie Berkner Band) – use with egg shakers!

Shake Your Scarves – Johnette Downing (The Second Line)

Scarves on Your Laps – Johnette Downing (The Second Line)

Songs for Preschoolers and Older Children

Glad to See You – Peter Allard (Sing It! Say It! Stamp It! Sway It!)

Put Your Finger On – Parachute Express (Feel the Music)

Shakin’ It – Parachute Express (Shakin’ It)

Jump Up, Turn Around – Jim Gill (Moving Rhymes for Modern Times)

Shake My Sillies Out – Raffi (The Singable Songs Collection)

Jumping and Counting – Jim Gill (Irrational Anthem)

The Freeze – Greg & Steve (Kids in Motion)

Hands are for Clapping – Jim Gill (Jim Gill Sings the Sneezing Song and Other Contagious Tunes)

Spider on the Floor – Raffi (Singable Songs for the Very Young)

If You Feel Like Rockin’ – Greg & Steve (Holidays and Special Times)

Sticky Bubble Gum – Carole Peterson (Sticky Bubble Gum)

Riding in My Car – Ralph’s World (Ralph’s World)

For additional resources, check out this great SLJ article titled, “Why Your Library Needs Music“. And here’s another great list of other songs to use in storytime, put together by the Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy.

Riverwalk: Storytime Outside!

Each summer, our library puts on a summer storytime performance at the Riverwalk, an outdoor amphitheatre in the city’s downtown area, near the river and across the street from one of our libraries. It’s always so much fun to create a massive performance for our patrons, and we often have upwards of 600 people attend!

Riverwalk storytimes last for 45 minutes, and are loosely tied to a theme. They all end with a puppet play, which is usually the part of our performance that our patrons look forward to most. The stories that we read are us ually adapted to entertain a large audience, whether they be big books or prop stories. We include several participatory songs (Jim Gill is a favorite!), and action rhymes that the children can do along with us.

In case of inclement weather, we do reserve a large meeting room inside the downtown library for the Riverwalk performance to occur. We do Riverwalk storytimes twice a week during the summer, one on Tuesday nights and one on Wednesdays around lunch time. Patrons usually bring a lunch to enjoy during the Wednesday storytime, and we see many families plan to meet at the performance, and in other cases, meet each other for the first time at our event.

The Riverwalk storytimes are a chance for children’s staff from other buildings to come together and do a program. It’s a wonderful collaborative effort that we look forward each summer.

Storytime Behavior Management: Tips and Tricks

We’ve all been there… storytime begins, and a rambunctious child steers the attention away from the story you’re reading. Or, a group of adults are using storytime as a chance to chat with one another, thereby distracting the audience. What can you do to curb these (and other) distracting behaviors?

Use nametags. It’s easier to get a child’s attention when you can address them by name. This can also work for positive reinforcement, or with opening/closing songs that insert children’s names into their songs.

If the overall group noise becomes too loud, try whispering. This change in tempo will get the attention of the audience over time. Try the age old whisper game: “If you can hear my voice, touch your nose. If you can hear my voice, touch your knees, etc.” It takes several times of repeating whatever you’re saying, but it can be more effective than yelling.

Address your concerns at the beginning of storytime. If you’ve been having issues with parents conducting side conversations during your storytimes, emphasize at the beginning how important adult participation in storytime is. Let them know that you expect them to do the songs with their child so that they can be a role model for their child. If participants don’t know what’s expected of them, you can’t fault them for behaviors you’d rather not see.

Catch a bubble. I routinely do storytimes for a large audience (sometimes upwards of 100 people!). Overall volume can get out of hand quickly. To rein the audience back towards the story that I’m reading, I tell the audience to “catch a bubble” on the count of three. This means that everyone holds their breath at the exact same time, usually for only a few seconds. Then I tell the audience to take a deep breath out, and the result is silence and eyes on me. This has worked for me every time!

Read the longest story first. Audience attention will almost always wane towards the end of storytime, so be sure to read the longest story first. Save the more interactive books or activities for the end of storytime, to bring the audience back to your focus. Make sure you are alternating between books, songs, fingerplays, flannels so that the audience doesn’t lose interest.

Have a backup plan. If you’re doing an all-ages storytime with no advance registration, you really have no way to predict who is going to show up. If mostly toddlers show up, you don’t want to be stuck reading long stories or books with advanced humor which would fall flat. Always have a variety of books on hand so that you can adjust your stories to the audience that shows up that day.

Check out this great Q&A post on Storytime Underground for additional tips on behavior management.

What other tips do you have for storytime behavior management? I’d love to hear them!

Scratch Programming

Last fall, our library offered an introductory Scratch program for 3rd-5th graders. Scratch is a programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art – and share your creations on the web. We used a Powerpoint slide show to share step-by-step directions with the kids, as each of them simultaneously sat in front of a laptop to follow along.

Many of the kids had never used Scratch before this program, but they were quick learners. Because we only had one hour for the program, we mostly stuck to the script and used Scratch for planned activities, rather than giving them free time at the end. This made it easier for us to move around the room and offer assistance, since everyone was working on the same thing at the same time. We required registration for this event, and capped the maximum number at 20 participants (so we could ensure that every kid had a computer to use).

The Powerpoint I used as a framework was borrowed from another library, though I can’t seem to locate the original source anymore. We did make several large edits to the original version to make it fit our needs, but if I run across it, this post will be updated accordingly to give credit.

In a few months, we’ll be using Scratch to program our Lego WeDo Robotics, again with 3rd-5th graders. Stay tuned for information on how it goes!

Here’s a list of additional coding apps for kids, similar to Scratch.

Bedtime Math Pajama Party

Have you heard of this organization? Bedtime Math was created by a mom who wanted to encourage doing math nightly for fun, in the same way that reading a story before bed has become a regular bedtime routine.Bedtime Math

Libraries can partner with Bedtime Math to offer one of several math programs for different ages. We offered a pajama party for the big kids (ages 6-9), which had activities like “Terrifically Twisted Tangrams”, “Monster Dominoes”, and a word problem to introduce children to the use of a “Bedtime Math Calendar”. They give you all of the supplies for FREE; you only need to print out a few items to include in each child’s goody bag. The kit gives you enough supplies for 20 children to participate.

After giving a brief introduction to our group, we divided the participants into groups (based loosely on age), and had them begin with the tangrams. Some groups breezed right through making the tangram animals, and others took their time, but no one seemed to be so frustrated by the process that they couldn’t finish.

The next step were the word problems. These were, without a doubt, extremely easy for our patrons. And maybe that’s okay; just like we encourage recreational “beach reads” for patrons, perhaps we should also encourage recreational, or easy, math problems. We explained the purpose of the bedtime math calendar, a place where parents and children can keep track of their progress by placing a gold star on each date that they complete a math problem.

Our last activity were the “Monster Dominoes”. Children used the stickers provided to create their own dominoes, which we played with once everyone had finished decorating. I took the time to explain how to play dominoes, since many kids didn’t know and an equal amount of parents didn’t either.

We did this program on a weekday evening and scheduled it for an hour. This gave our patrons ample time to decorate their dominoes, which they REALLY enjoyed. We did most of our activities on the floor, which gave patrons the chance to spread out their tangrams and gave them plenty of room for their monster domino game. For more Bedtime Math ideas, check out PJ Puzzles by Bryce Don’t Play.

*Bedtime Math provided a free program kit to my library, as they will do for all U.S. public libraries per their website. I am not affiliated with them in any way.

Why Reading Books is Not Enough

Think of the storytimes that you do at your library; what do they include? Reading books aloud is probably the cornerstone of your storytime, and for good reason. You probably also include fingerplays, songs, rhymes, and flannel stories in your storytime.

But is it enough? In a day and age when patrons have access to a wealth of books, apps, and toys, what can we offer that is unique? One powerful tool that our storytimes provide is the group experience. While parents may be able to buy that Jim Gill CD you used or entertain their child with plenty of books and apps at home, they can’t offer the structure and interaction that our storytimes provide. In that sense, it is important for us to capitalize on the group experience. Try bringing out the parachute, egg shakers, or allowing children to take turns in other paticipatory activities. The group experience is one of our best assets!

For more ideas on group experiences that you can offer at your library, check out these slideshows from some of my favorite librarians.

Play, Baby, Play by Kendra Jones of Read Sing Play – Lots of unique and cost-effective ways to introduce play to babies

Storytime: Not Just Reading Aloud by Storytime Underground – Suggestions for ways to introduce the ‘Every Child Ready to Read’ skills

Do you have any unique group activities that you provide at your storytimes? I’d love to hear them!

Baby Art in a Bag

Lately I’ve been trying to come up with different activities to introduce during our Lapsit programs. Kendra, from Read Sing Play, had a wonderful idea to try “Baby Art in a Bag”, and I knew I had to try it out too!

This art activity is very simple; place a piece of cardstock inside a gallon-size ziploc bag, and put two squirts of paint on the cardstock. After sealing the ziploc bag shut, the babies can begin to squish and mix the paint blobs together. After the paint has been mixed, parents can take the bag home and let it dry, and then they have their child’s art to display at home. Here are a few pictures of the art activity that the babies created!

What unique activities have you introduced during Lapsit? I’d love to hear from you!