Get the Beat! With Allison

Allison is our guest today with some great ideas for using music in storytime. Thanks, Allison! What can you add to her list? 


In my last Storytime Underground post I talked about why singing in your storytime program is so important. Today I’m going to delve into how to use songs, music, props, and puppets. Hopefully you’ll come away with some concrete examples that help spice up your storytime!

Music can, and should, be used differently for different age groups. Here’s an idea of how to use music with different ages and interesting props.


Baby songs and activities


Babies love rhymes that incorporate bouncing, lifting, and rocking. Have you tried “Go In and Out the Window” with your little ones? It is absolutely magical! Caregivers stand in a circle and hold their babies facing into the center. As you sing the song together, they “fly” the babies in and out, all while they are peeking at their little neighbors’ faces.


Toddler songs and activities


Toddlers are just learning how to hold things in their chubby fists and waddle to the music. Try marching in a circle to “We’re All Marching in the Same Parade” (Les Julian) or the fun band instrumentals in “Inst-ChickenFat” (Laura Johnson). Pass out some instruments before you start to march and you’ll have own marching band!   Model moving in one direction, then another, as well as marching fast or slow.


Preschool themes


Music with preschoolers can round out a theme in storytime. Insert a song or finger play in between each book you read in storytime. For a “Bears” theme, try singing and acting out “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” and have the group stand up for “Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Turn Around”. Music with the preschool set can also teach concepts, such as fast/slow and up/down.


School age silliness


The beat doesn’t have to stop with the school age crowd! Kids in elementary school love anything silly, particularly traditional camp songs like “Peanut Butter and Jelly” and song rounds (“Row, Row, Row Your Boat”), where you’ll get the whole crowd participating. Try an online search of camp songs and you’ll get a ton of tunes.


Books can be sung


There are loads of books that can be sung as well as read. Some of my favorites include I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More (Beaumont), If You’re Happy and You Know It (Carter), The Wheels on the Bus (Zelinsky), or I Love My Hat (Florian). There are lots of other great ideas at the Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy (CLEL) Bell Awards page. Singing a book showcases it in a different way, and shows parents that there are all kinds of ways to share a book.


Scarves, eggs, puppets, and parachutes, oh my!


Using props with music is not just fun, it helps kids get the beat. Shaky eggs are fun to use with recorded music like “I Know a Chicken” (Laurie Berkner), “Goin’ to Kentucky” (Miss Carole), or “The Milkshake Song” (Wiggleworms). If baby is too young to hold the egg herself, roll the egg on her body so she’ll feel the smooth, round texture. A child needs to know concepts about shapes so that they can begin to identify the differences in letters.


Scarves are a colorful and inexpensive purchase for storytime. Reinforce different colors and learn about up and down as you play “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” (Mary Poppins) or “If I Could Have a Windmill” (Sharon, Lois, and Bram). Some librarians have told me that they would never use a parachute in their program. If you have the room, give it a try! If your group is small, kids can sit on the parachute while caregivers hold onto the handles, walk the parachute in a circle, while singing “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush”. You can pretend it’s raining and have the children go underneath while you sing “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring” or “Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun” (Raffi). For a real kick, shake the ‘chute and put some beach balls on top while Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” plays!


And don’t forget about all the fun you can have with puppets. If there’s a puppet that can be used with a song, I’ll try it. A monkey is perfect for “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed” (Go Fish) or “Mommy’s Taking Us to the Zoo Tomorrow” (Raffi). You could inexpensively make frog finger puppets for “Three Green and Speckled Frogs” or ducks for “Three Little Ducks Went Out to Play”. Children love seeing what you’re singing about.


So, shake, dance, hop, sing, flutter your scarves and have a marvelous, musical storytime!


Allison has taught second grade, and travelled around the country with Clifford the Big Red Dog, but next to being a mom, she’s found her favorite job is as a Children’s Librarian. You can find her shaking her sillies out in story time or blowing something up in a school-age science program at Wallingford Public Library in Wallingford, CT.

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