Ask a Storytime Ninja: Baby Storytime Opener

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The Question:


I need a new group action rhyme to use for the start of my baby storytime! Right now we march in a circle to “The Grand Ol’ Duke of York” (raising and lowering the babies, moving left and right, etc.) and I really enjoy this rhyme, but one caregiver has been very vocal about her dislike of the activity because she has a hard time getting the child in her care to hold still long enough for it. (The baby is around 16 months old and is one of my “very busy babies” who is constantly in motion.) I really enjoy having everyone move together to a rhyme or song at the start of the storytime, but I don’t want the caregiver to feel that I’m ignoring her comments about how difficult it is for her to participate. While the reality is that any rhyme I do in this method will probably have the same results for that particular baby, I would love another action rhyme for my arsenal that we could do together so that we could still get that sense of community and let the babies say hello to one another!


The Answers:


From Abby:


I do the Mother Goose on the Loose storytime for babies at my library and we start every week with a couple of simple rhymes:

Old Mother Goose
When she wanted to wander
Would FLY! through the air
On her very fine gander
(I encourage grownups to lift their baby or lift their arms up on the word “fly”.)


Goosey Goosey Gander
Where do you wander?
Upstairs and downstairs
And in my lady’s chamber
(I encourage grownups to lift their baby up and down or lift their arms up and down on “upstairs” and “downstairs”.)


I also make sure to let everyone know before we get started that kids this age are not going to sit still and it’s okay with me if they’re up and walking around. I set a couple of ground rules – if they are at the felt board when it’s not their turn or if they’re getting into my materials, I ask them to get up and take baby back to their seat. Even if you are already making an announcement to the entire group, it may be worth reassuring her one on one that it doesn’t bother you if her child is up and walking around and that her child is still absorbing information even if it doesn’t look like he/she is paying attention.


I wonder if an action song/rhyme that gets right into the action would work better for this little one? Maybe The Elevator Song * if you cut out the verse at the beginning and just do the elevator parts. 


Or this one, which we do at my baby storytime sometimes:
Come Along and March With Me
(To the tune of “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush”)
Come along and march with me
March with me, march with me
Come along and march with me
So early in the morning
(Repeat with hop, turn, clap, stomp, whatever you feel like doing!)


From Lindsay:


It sounds like you’ve established a good opening routine for the babies.  In addition to a rhyme, I like to start my baby storytimes with a song.  You could try “Alabama, Mississippi” by Jim Gill, a tradition I inherited at my first library.  We pat our knees then shake our hands as we sing along.  Or, you could give the babies shakers.  (I fade the song out after the third chorus.)  A song can sometimes work better than a rhyme because it allows for freer movement.  Some babies will follow along with the actions, and some babies will dance or walk around the room.  You could even introduce it as a transition song rather than your opening song.  “We do this song every week to let the babies know that storytime will be starting soon.”  Then, follow with your well-established “Grand Ol’ Duke of York.”  Then, also make it clear in your announcements that moving around is not only acceptable, but good! You could say, “We know that your baby might not sit still during storytime, and that’s totally fine with us because babies learn by moving, and we want them to move and to explore their world.”

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3 thoughts on “Ask a Storytime Ninja: Baby Storytime Opener

  1. Profile photo of KerenKeren

    I agree with starting off by reminding the adults to expect some developmentally appropriate wiggling. I also like to begin the program with something that gets us all moving together, but I save the large motor dancing/marching for later in the program. For my opening, I use an action song to the tune of “London Bridge”:

    Make your hands go clap, clap, clap,
    Clap, clap, clap,
    Clap, clap, clap.
    Make your hands go clap, clap, clap,
    My sweet baby.

    For additional verses, I add in other actions. Some actions I do almost every week (play peek-a-boo, shake your shaker). Others I choose because I see kids or families doing them already – “Hey, look, Johnny wants to jump! Everybody, make your legs go jump, jump, jump!” We end with “Make your arms go hug, hug, hug.” At this point, many kids will return to their adults, even if they’ve been wandering around.

    About halfway through the program, I play a CD and blow bubbles, which gives everyone the chance to get up and move around in a more free-form way.

  2. Profile photo of Julie CrabbJulie Crabb

    I have an opening routine and I think it works really well. Even for the wandering baby, they typically have one song they absolutely have to participate in!
    The More We Get Together (on the ukulele)
    Then I do the rules/intro/etc. speech
    Wake Up Feet
    Open, Shut Them (twice)
    Elevator Song (twice)

    I also think the trick is too transition as smoothly as possible. If they are wiggly, we will wiggle our hands on our….tummies, on our……toes…..and so on.

  3. Profile photo of Kalen JonesKalen Jones

    I always remind the caregivers in my baby storytime that, while I will be demonstrating one way of interacting with their baby, they should feel free to modify or change things based on what their child likes. I’ll also offer a few alternatives – if we’re bouncing, I’ll encourage them to rock or clap to the rhythm instead. Maybe this child would enjoy walking around in the circle with their caregiver instead of being held, or bouncing instead of lifting.

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