Ask a Storytime Ninja: Baby Storytime

The Question:


Hi everyone! I am getting ready to start my very first Baby Story Time/Lapsit and I am clueless as to where to begin. I know the format should include short stories, lots of fingerplays, movement songs, etc., but I would also like to include a simple craft at the end to illustrate how parents can incorporate stories and art at any age.

What are some good stories and rhymes?
What are some must have art supplies?
What is a good “schedule” of activities?

Thank you, thank you, thank you!


Today’s question is a big one, which has been discussed on many blogs in the past. Some that were not mentioned in the responses below, but that I thought might still be helpful to the asker and others developing baby storytime for the first time.


Baby Storytime: A Beginner’s Guide by Jbrary

Read Sing Play’s posts about Baby Storytime  and the Rhymes page (this is me, full disclosure)

My Baby Storytime at Reading with Red


And here are the responses from our featured ninjas. Very thorough! Please feel free to add comments yourself.



From Inma:
You are right to plan for short stories, fingerplays, and any action rhyme or song for this age group. I am not sure what is your age range, when I first started my baby group was 0 to 23 months and I found that it was difficult to plan for such a wide range of ages.  I have created two groups since then one for true babies (0-12 months) and one I called “Crawlers” even though almost everyone can walk for kids between 1-2 yeas old.


I usually try to read three books- short stories, lots of big pictures, white space, black bold letters or outlined illustrations. Books that you can incorporate movement, noise, action as you read them or even just engage the kids with the illustrations.   Some of my favorite authors are:
Leslie Patricelli,

Helen Oxenbury

Emma Garcia * just used one of her books Tip Tip Dig Dig perfect for this group. Big pictures, lots of colors, minimal text. You can motion the actions,you make the noise, you can talk about the colors.

Patricia Hubbell

Liesbet Slegers

Karen Katz

Rebecca O’Connell

Sandra Boynton

Mary Murphy

Mem Fox

Dawn Sirett


Again depending on your age range some of the fingerplays and movement will be easier for the older kids.  I repeat several of my rhymes every week- opening song, wiggles rhyme,  closing song.  I usually will repeat the same nursery rhyme, rhymes for 2-3 weeks, and then rotate new ones.  With babies it is fun to use rhymes or songs that lend themselves to touching body parts, to playing peek-a-boo.  Here are a few of my favorite songs:



Toddlers on Parade- Baby Grows

Sing It! Say It! Stamp It! Sway It! Vol. 3- Baby 1,2,3

Baby Face- It’s a Small World; Baby Face Peek-a-boo; Baby’s Hokey Pokey

Songs for Wiggleworms- Walking *excellent song for older babies/tots lots of action

More Singable Songs- Shake it

Stinky Cake



I bought some scarves (just remnant pieces) that we use for Shake It or playing Peek-a-Boo. I also created these wands for the moms/caregivers to play with the kids. The older kids, when I have a small group, love to shake them up as we dance.

I also made these little felt books with lots of tactile materials that babies could use during play time.

Whenever possible I use our musical instruments too- shakers, bells- babies like them, with older kids it can get a bit noisy but that is okay. Finger puppets are great with the babies, and flannels are perfect for the older kids especially if you can make extra pieces or repeat your rhyme to give everyone a chance to participate. They love putting the pieces up on the board.


My “schedule” looks something like this:


A few minutes of play time
Opening song
Nursery rhyme/song
Closing Song
Play time


I started using a bubble machine a year ago and it is the greatest thing ever, but you run the risk of becoming “the bubble lady”~ I think some of my kids see me and visualize bubbles 🙂


I tried doing a small craft with the toddler group (2-3 years old), it has worked out okay, however, it takes time away from the regular story time and play time. I suggest anything with a glue stick, tissue paper, cotton balls, paint can be tricky depending on your space, markers/ crayons are better.


I would also suggest to find your own style, when I first started I was intimidated and nervous, but soon I realized that the kids love anything you are doing. They love to listen to the stories, they don’t care if you can sing or not ( I can’t) as long as you are willing to do it with them. I dance around the room, I get down on my knees and play with them.  There are days when everything works beautifully~ the stories flow nicely,  the kids are engaged with the songs and rhymes, and then there are days when nothing works, the stories that you thought were great don’t seem to connect with the kids, kids are restless, bouncing around, no one is listening, and that is okay too. It is okay to stop reading a book and play a song and switch activities or try a different book.


I recommend checking amazing blogs like
Storytime Katie
Mel’s Desk
Abby the Librarian
Story Time Secrets
I have been trying to post my story times themes, rhymes, songs on my blog. Check them out at inspiredlibrarian.


From Karen:


I just started a Baby Storytime this winter at my library, so while I’m starting to find my footing, I’m still always on the lookout for new ideas of how to improve my storytime, too! I’ve already learned a lot about what works for me and what doesn’t. The best advice I have is to lay out your program how you feel comfortable, using books, songs, and rhymes that you like. If you’re not excited about what you’re doing, those attending won’t be excited either.


As I was planning, I found lots of great ideas at Mel’s Desk: She talks about how she lays out her program and why, and provides lots of examples of her programs, including lyrics to rhymes and songs. JBrary ( is an excellent resource for songs and rhymes!

Here’s a sample of one of my programs, which is modeled after Mel’s baby storytimes from Mel’s Desk:


Baby Storytime: February 2, 2015

OPENING SONG: Say Hello to Your Toes (Tune: London Bridge)

Say hello to your toes.

Hello, toes. Hello, toes.

Say hello to your toes.

Hello, toes!


Say hello to your knees…

Say hello to your tummy…

Say hello to your hands…

Say hello to your head…

Say hello to your friends…


BOOK: Say Hello like This by Mary Murphy

This is the way the baby goes clappity clap! Clappity clap! (Clap hands)

This is the way the baby goes peek-a-boo! I see you! (Cover eyes with hands, then take them away)

This is the way the baby goes creep, creep, creep, creep. (Creep fingers along floor — or baby’s tummy!)

This is the way the baby goes sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep. (Rest head on hands, pretending to sleep)


BOOK: Clip-Clop by Nicola Smee


SONG: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star



Cheek, chin, cheek, chin

Cheek, chin, nose.

Cheek, chin, cheek, chin

Cheek, chin, toes

Cheek, chin, cheek, chin,

Up baby goes!



This is big, big, big

And this is small, small, small

This is short, short, short

And this is tall, tall, tall


This is fast, fast, fast

And this is slow, slow, slow

This is yes, yes, yes

And this is no, no, no

You see with your eyes, touch your eyes.

You sneeze with your nose, touch your nose (achoo!).

You hear with your ears, touch your ears.

You kiss with your lips, kiss me here.


I welcome the families and invite them to get comfortable—take off shoes, sit on the blanket, etc. Let them know that it is okay to leave if the baby is crying and that they are welcome to come back if they’re able to. I keep the formal storytime to 15-20 minutes, but it’s flexible according to how the babies are doing that morning. Don’t be afraid to end early if the attention is just not there. I might add more songs or rhymes during the program if the babies are attentive.


I have to admit, I haven’t done crafts during baby storytime. I don’t know if you’ve considered bringing out toys after the formal program, but I am a firm believer in having playtime so that babies and parents can socialize. Of course, it comes down to budget or if you already have age-appropriate toys—I was lucky that we already had toys. They love bubbles, too! That’s also not to say that I will never do a craft or art activity. At some point, I would like to try letting babies play with paint in a Ziploc bag and I also found an idea for sticking paper/fabric/other lightweight items onto contact paper.


I hope this helps, and best of luck as you begin your storytime! I always have so much fun interacting with the babies and their caregivers!


From Polly:


Good for you! Baby Story Time/Lap Sit is so much fun!


The main thing you have to remember about story time for anyone under 2 years is that it’s almost all about the parents. Yes, the babies/toddlers should enjoy themselves, but most of what you’re doing is modeling for the parents. As such, to start, keep it really simple, repeat things all the time, have words available to take home if people want them, and don’t encourage them to go too far out of their comfort zone to start, especially not if baby activities are not so common in your community (if everyone’s taking baby yoga already however, you need not worry about that!).


Good stories: Moo, Baa, La La La (Boynton), Hello, Day (Lobel), Please Baby, Please (Lee), Todd Parr books, anything with photographs of babies, animal sounds, simple word-and-picture books, anything that makes the parents go “awww” (Bear of my Heart, by Ryder, is great for this)!


Good rhymes: Anything you can bounce or tickle to, I love “Jack be Nimble”, “I am Bouncing Everywhere”, “Trot-Trot to Boston”, and “This is the way the ladies ride” (if those are not all familiar to you, you can Google them or watch my current library’s videos for some of those and more I also love to do finger plays and finger songs, but you need to be sure the parents understand that you are not expecting baby to be able to act out “Where is Thumbkin”, that it’s the parent who is supposed to be doing this so baby can see! I do love Where is Thumbkin and Tommy Thumb, Five Fat Peas, Five Little anythings, and that sort of thing for babies; they like watching adults do cool things with their fingers!


I am somewhat wary of arts and crafts at baby story times, but I have occasionally used stickers and crayons just for a casual craft activity afterwards. Must-haves are lots of paper (newsprint is great, if you can get it in rolls you can just paper the floor with it and let everyone go crazy), chunky crayons, and great big stickers that little hands can grab and not lose! I have found that hands-on arts and crafts for the very young is usually best as its own program, when everyone can get really messy for as long as they want; story time arts and crafts often tend to be a bit rushed in my experience, and that doesn’t work so well for babies. On the other hand, if you can just let them play with finger paint or glue or something for 45 minutes, everyone has a (messy) blast and no one worries about the end result! You can get messy at a story time, but if you’re going to be handing out finger paint freely, it’s best to warn everyone in advance so they can dress for it, and that’s hard unless you’re story time is small and registered, whereas you can advertise a regular baby art program as an entire “come-in-your-old-clothes’ program!


Baby Story Time can be a terrific social occasion for parents who are stuck at home with babies, so if you can, providing social time afterwards is great; you don’t have to do anything, just make sure there’s a safe environment, maybe a few toys, and some time for babies to crawl around while their parents chat! Giant stuffed animals or pillows are always great for this!


Good luck and have fun!

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