Ask a Storytime Ninja: Baby and Toddler Chaos

Personally, I’m really excited about this post, as a presenter who deals with storytimes regularly at or over room capacity (66). I really appreciated the suggestions below and will certainly be acting on much of what was said. If you, or someone you know, has a baby and toddler infestation issue you’ve come to the right place.


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The Question:


I need some suggestions for running a very large infant storytime for about 30-40 infants 3-11 months. And, toddler storytime 70-80 toddlers ages 12-35 months. These are weekly programs. Right now I do a lot of music and movement activities and read 1 story using the Ipad for both groups. I also include early literacy tips. After storytime we have free play with 2 ball pits for the infants and 2 parachutes for the toddlers. It is getting too out of hand I really don’t know what to do. Help!


The Answers:


From Anne:


It is a rare and wonderful thing to have so many families interested in attending infant storytime! Kudos to you!


Having 30 – 40 infants and 70 – 80 toddlers seems chaotic and exhausting for you and probably your patrons. It’s time to open up more storytime sessions! These numbers should easily warrant increasing your sessions. That is, of course, assuming that’s even an option.


If you can’t open up more storytime sessions, consider changing the format of your program. You could offer early literacy drop-ins in which you have 3 – 4 stations of early literacy activities including a story nook where you can share books and rhymes. One drop-in could be for babies and the other for toddlers. Each station would have a specific activity described on a notecard so that the stations are self-guided.


Early literacy stations you could try:


• Write: Add paint to Ziploc bags and duct tape the openings. Little ones will have a blast tracing shapes and lines or just smashing the paint – with no mess. You can add one color or allow colors to combine to make new colors.

• Sing: Use a square shaped box to make a song cube by adding images of your favorite kid-friendly songs, like a star for Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Families can roll the cube to see what song they can sing.

• Play: Incorporate the parachute or the ball pit. You can also rotate in stacking toys, puzzles or sensory balls.

• Talk: Provide puzzles or puppets to use as props in stories. You could have specific stories in mind like three pigs and a wolf or you could add a variety of pieces for newly imagined stories.


For more early literacy activity ideas, check out my library’s pinterest page:


If neither of the above suggests work for your library, you may need to start registering your storytimes to make the programs more manageable and enjoyable for everyone.



From Tabin:


Isn’t it great to be loved? You probably feel like asking, “Can’t we just cuddle?” so I will not recommend doing more storytimes. Plus it doesn’t always help. I’ve gone from 36 storytimes and 20 performer events a year to about 160 programs on top of hosting around 50 others.


Instead of getting half the crowd at two events you end up with twice as many people, people who are not happy if you limit attendance, and as delicious as it sounds, you don’t want to start putting Kahlua in your coffee.


Obviously you’re doing fantabulous or else a gazillion people wouldn’t show up on a weekly basis. That said, you need to isolate why people attend. So, as much as I dread writing this because I hate paperwork like it owes me money, your best bet is to do a survey for 2-3 weeks before making changes. Let them know you are “improving storytime” (use those exact words) and their input will decide how you go from there. (Candy bribes help.) Ask questions such as:


—What do you like most about this program?

—Do you have suggestions on how to improve this program?

—Are you aware of the resources the library has to offer?

—On a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being “this sucks” and 5 being “everybody gets a car!” how would you rate the iPad stories, parachutes, literacy tips, social interaction, etc.


Once you have the surveys you’ll have a better idea of which components to drop, change, or turn into self-directed stations. You will be surprised at the feedback you get. I now play Motown and Van Morrison after storytime, provide preschool tours with database training, and print out literacy asides instead of state them because parents admitted they didn’t retain them during storytime sessions, and now I’m teaching parents how to host mini-storytimes at home.


Let your patrons tell you what they want, decide which wants will lead you away from the Pit of Cra-Cra and to the Land of Zen, and when you make the necessary changes it is a positive experience for all instead of a big shock to the system.


Ashley seconds these emotions!


That voice, those eyes. Sigh.

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One thought on “Ask a Storytime Ninja: Baby and Toddler Chaos

  1. Profile photo of MelodyMelody

    I had a similar situation with a Book Babies story time that attracted 30+ babies regularly. I second the emotion that adding an extra storytime will add more storytime families, but we took a different approach that didn’t diminish numbers, but did add more calm by splitting Book Babies into Pre-Walkers and Walkers. Our Book Babies had been for 0-24 months, with a Tales for Twos storytime serving 24+ months, so this may not be as suited to your situation.

    The big issue parents were having was the different needs and energy levels of the kids in the room. After a month of survey gathering and talking to families, we split the Book Babies into Pre-Walkers and Walkers. The Pre-Walkers storytime had a lot more lapsit songs and cuddle time, the Walkers was more music and action rhymes. I also shortened the Walkers storytime to 20 min (30 min originally) to give more time for BALLS, the Walker’s favorite part of storytime :)

    It didn’t lower our numbers, we actually attracted a lot more Pre-Walkers after word spread that there was a calmer, gentler storytime for them. But having 2 different storytimes with different expectations (and, yes, I introduced those expectations at the start of each) led to happier families and less chaos for me.

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