Storytime: Camping

I have a short break before my next set of storytimes, so I took a look at my old files and will start blogging some of the older themes I did pre-pandemic. Today’s is the very first theme I did on my own when I started as an early literacy librarian (I’d done some ad hoc before, but it wasn’t the main part of my job.) This is back in summer of 2019, and it’s kind of amazing to look and see how they’ve changed since then.

If I did these themes again, I probably would tweak, but I like getting them blogged as a record of what came before, and ideas, songs, rhymes, and props that I might reuse. I hope they may be helpful for you, too!

Back then, I had two storytimes: one for Babies & Toddlers ages 0-2, and a “Stories and More” preschool class for ages 3-5. I’ll indicate what was used in each program with a (B) for babies and a (P) for preschool. I also did not have a handout or do early literacy tips at this point. Cheers for the evolution and education I’ve achieved since then!

Welcome song: We Clap and Sing Hello* (B) (P)
*See lyrics for repeated songs on the Repeated Songs and Rhymes page

I read three books for the preschool class, which worked there, but I haven’t been able to do more than one with my current group of kids.
Read: Just Me & My Dad by Mercer Mayer (P)

Book cover

Action Song: I’m Going Camping (P)
(tune of I’m a Little Teapot)
I am going camping (point thumbs proudly to chest)
Time to pack (point to wrist)
My tent, my bedroll, and a snack (Make tent with hands; fold hands to cheek; pretend to eat)
I’ll sit by the campfire (warm hands over fire)
Its glow so bright (wiggle fingers like a fire)
Then snooze in my tent (pretend to snore)
‘Til the morning light! (arms circle over head)
Source: Lady Librarian’s Literacy, Lifestyle, and Lookbook Log

Counting Rhyme: Five Little Fireflies (B)
One little firefly shines very bright (hold up fingers)
Two little fireflies show their lights
Three little fireflies glimmer and glow
Four little fireflies watch them go!
Five little fireflies fly in the night
Blink! Blink! Blink! Blink! (open and close fingers)
My! What a sight!
Source: King County (WA) Library System

Read: Camping Day by Patricia Lakin (B) (P)

Book cover

Rhyme: Sleeping Bag (P)
I was lying in my sleeping bag
I couldn’t go to sleep
I looked at my watch and wanted to weep!
I rolled to my left
I rolled to my right
but all I could hear were noises in the night!
I hear an owl! Hoo hoo hoo!
(have the kids name some things you might hear in the middle of the night, out in the woods, in your backyard. Some good options include a dog, a bear, a wolf, etc)
Source: Sturgis Kids

I made cardstock paper props for this song and gave each family a packet with each item so they had something to put in the middle for each verse.
Action Song: The Campfire Pokey (B) (P)
You put your marshmallow in
You take your marshmallow out
You put your marshmallow in
And you shake it all about
You do the campfire pokey
And you turn yourself around
That’s what it’s all about: Yum, Yum!
Repeat with hot dog, potato, popcorn, or anything else that you can roast over the campfire.
Last verse:
You put your whole dinner in…
Source: What Happens in Storytime

Download a copy of the template here!

thumbnail of campfire pokey props, with a pan of popcorn, marshmallow on a stick, hot dog in a bun, and potato.

Read: Ruby’s Sleepover by Kathryn White & Miriam Latimer (P)

Book cover

Scarf Song: Popcorn Kernels (P)
(tune of Frère Jacques)
Popcorn kernels, popcorn kernels (wave overhead)
In the pot, in the pot (bunch up in fists)
Shake them, shake them, shake them / shake them, shake them, shake them (shake fists)
‘Til they POP, ‘til they POP (toss scarves up)
Source: Jbrary

This was a song my predecessor played at every single storytime program! It was well loved. We had a basket of unsharpened pencils in a bunch of different colors that they used as their sticks. The kids liked to find two of the same color.
Rhythm Stick Song: Tap Your Sticks by Hap Palmer (B) (P)
from the album Rhythms on Parade
see the video: https://youtu.be/M-UKTeWNgOk

cover of the Rhythms on Parade album

Craft: Campfire (P)
Red, orange, and yellow squares of construction paper were glued to a black piece of construction paper, with two (regular) craft sticks glued crisscross underneath. Simple, but I like that there are some different materials and a 3D element in the sticks. Inspired by this craft at Once Upon a (Story) Time (photo credit to her blog, since I don’t have mine anymore!)

Centers/Playtime (B) (P)
We spent 5-10 minutes in playtime and socialization each storytime. The babies and toddlers had a couple of baskets full of baby toys – stackers and sorters and pull toys, cars and rattles and toy phones, that sort of thing. I’m not sure where the library got them, whether they purchased them or had donations or looked at yard sales. The preschool group had more complex or interactive toys like puzzles, musical instruments, finger puppets, and toys that I’ve seen on the Lakeshore Learning site that require just a bit more sophistication.

Parachute Time (B) (P)
I honestly forget what I did during parachute time! I think we practiced holding it high, low, shaking fast and slow, and maybe did a song like the Itsy Bitsy Spider. It’s been a long time and when I get out the parachute again I’ll have to re-learn how to do it!

Closing Rhyme: Tickle the Stars* (B) (P)

This storytime was presented in person on 6/18/19 & 6/20/19.

Flannelboard: Five Cars So Squeaky Clean

I have a three week break between my last summer program and the next one in August, so I’m working ahead! Here’s a project I’ve had a lot of fun playing with.

Inspired by this post at Storytime in the Stacks, I’m planning to use this rhyme at an upcoming transportation storytime. Searching Canva for simple cartoon cars, I found an adorable series of art featuring animals driving cars. An idea was hatched.

Using simple shapes in the Canva app, I was able to alter the animals faces to give them all surprised looks to really emphasize a difference between the “clean” and “dirty” sides, and cover the cars and the animals with dirt splotches. Their faces crack me up!

Several of the cars in the series were red, so in order to have five different colors I worked some editing magic to put the mouse in a blue car instead of the original. And I wish the giraffe’s car was more green than teal, but that’s okay. The “clean” side had more of the original artwork, with the exception of the bear in the taxi, whose “surprised” face was the original, and I replaced the giraffe’s big eye with a small one for the clean side. Otherwise, I made eyes bigger and gave them open-mouthed expressions. I was liberal with the mud splotches, too!

Want to download your own copy? Find it here!

Notes on construction – I printed single-sided on cardstock and held the two sides up to the light to match up one car at a time (printing back-to-back will NOT line up the cars, sorry), then put a small piece of rolled tape between the two to keep them together while I cut around them. When each car was cut, I laminated and put a small adhesive velcro dot (or half a dot) on each side, hiding them on a white part.

Enjoy the rhyme!

Five Cars So Squeaky Clean
(tune of Five Green and Speckled Frogs)
Five cars so squeaky clean
Shiniest you’ve ever seen
Wanted to go out for a drive
BEEP, BEEP!
One drove into the mud
Spun out with a great big THUD!
Now there are four clean shiny cars

(count down)
last line:

…Now there are no clean shiny cars!
Source: Storytime in the Stacks

Summer Storytimes: Merbabies Play

The last summer reading storytime, wow. The summer went so quickly this year, probably since it seemed like the library was hopping after two years of interrupted/adjusted service. I’m so pleased with the turnout and response from my storytime families. I heard or overheard someone say every week: “Hey, let’s try this at home!” or “I wouldn’t have thought of this, but we could set this up at home!” That was the most gratifying part. I LOVE being able to spark ideas and inspire families to continue the learning and exploration on their own.

Another great benefit of outdoor storytimes was how welcoming they can be. I occasionally had families stop by who hadn’t registered, and/or had a child who was 4 or 5 (outside my age group), or who were able to bring older siblings. In addition, we didn’t have to worry about masking, and distancing was not a problem since we had lots of space in the outdoor lawn area. For all these situations, I could welcome these families with open arms, with no judgement that they “didn’t do it [registration] right” or worry that they had to find someone else to watch their older kids while they attended storytime with the younger one. These are usual and reasonable limitations when you’re presenting indoors, where space is also limited. But I love having a time of year where I don’t have to turn anyone away.

This week’s theme is “merpeople” and I’m glad that authors, illustrators, and publishers have started being more inclusive with their depictions. I didn’t have to look too far to find masculine presenting merfolk or merfolk of color! I do wish there were more merperson books that were simpler, with less text on the page, but I did some extensive paperclipping to make them work for the youngest group. I also had to do some scouting around to find masculine merkids as coloring pages (see below for links).

For a more in-depth explanation of the structure of this summer’s programs, read the intro to the first session, Ocean Life.

Early Learning Tip: “Down By the Bay” is a great song to exercise your creativity on. What silly rhymes can you and your child come up with together? Learning how to rhyme helps your child listen for and discern between the distinct sounds that make up words.

Welcome Song: Hello, Friends 
(tune of Goodnight, Ladies)
Hello, friends! Hello, friends!
Hello, friends, it’s time to say hello!
Hello, [name 1], hello, [name 2]!
Hello, [name 3], it’s time to say hello! (repeat as needed)
(ASL motions: salute for “hello,” then take the index fingers on each hand and you link them together as though they are hugging each other back and forth for “friends”)
Source: Glenside Public Library District

Warm-Up Rhyme: We Wiggle and Stop (repeated)
(Use the ASL sign for the word “stop” – one hand “chops” across the opposite hand)
We wiggle and we wiggle and we STOP
We wiggle and we wiggle and we STOP
We wiggle and we wiggle and we wiggle and we wiggle
And we wiggle and we wiggle and we STOP
(This week we also “marched” and, my favorite, “hugged.” I encouraged everyone to find someone to hug, even if it was themselves. I do two new motions in addition to “wiggle” each week to keep it interesting)
Source: Jbrary

Intro to Weekly Theme: Merpeople are legendary creatures that are half human and half fish. It’s fun to imagine what they might be like!

I had a lot of trouble finding a merfolk song that I liked this week. My second runner up was “Did you Ever See a Mermaid,” but I just wasn’t feeling it. I ended up with “Down By the Bay,” and I had fun coming up with lots of ocean-themed verses. I only actually used the merfolk ones, but it’s nice to have some extras in my back pocket for the future! It was also an opportunity to bring my ukulele, which I hadn’t done at all yet this summer.
Themed Ukulele Song: Down by the Bay
Down by the bay, where the watermelons grow
Back to my home I dare not go!
For if I do, my mother will say:
“Did you ever see a whale with a polka dot tail?”
Down by the bay!
Additional verses:
… a mermaid swimming in lemonade?
… a merman knitting an afghan?
… a merkid riding a squid?
… a merboy hugging his teddy bear toy?
… a mergirl playing catch with a pearl?
… a crab driving a taxicab?
… a shark eating ice cream in the park?
… a clam competing in a poetry slam?
… a pufferfish surfing on a dish?
… a sea star riding in a car?
… a seahorse playing on a golf course?
… an octopus singing to a platypus?
Did you ever have a time when you couldn’t make a rhyme?
Source: traditional, as popularized by Raffi on the album Singable Songs for the Very Young, all additional verses by Ms. Emily!

Download a ukulele songsheet for Down By the Bay!

Thumbnail of "Down By the Bay" ukulele song sheet

Themed Book:
Goodnight Mermaid by K. J. Oceanak & Allie Ogg
OR
Can I Give You a Squish? by Emily Neilson

I *highly* paperclipped Goodnight Mermaid to make it work for my youngest group. It was just way too long (and if I’m being honest, a little nonsensical, too.) But the pictures are fun and the shortened story is reminiscent of Goodnight Moon, which is a familiar structure. My oldest group did great with Can I Give You a Squish, but when I tried it again the next day with my more mixed group, I skipped several pages when they seemed to be losing interest. I’m learning to be very flexible with books!

I adapted the lyrics only slightly from Jbrary’s pirate themed song to be a little more generic ocean. I also let grownups know this could be a lifting song, but only if they’re feeling ambitious! I invite everyone else to do the up and down motions with me.
Repeated Song: The Ocean Song
(tune of The Elevator Song)
Oh, the ocean is great and the ocean is grand!
There are lots of big ships but very little land
And we sleep down deep in a hammock near the floor
And this is what we do when we go out to shore:

(ready?) We… ride… the…
waves going up, we ride the waves going down
we ride the waves going up, we ride the waves going down
we ride the waves going up, we ride the waves going down
And we turn… a-… round!
Source: Jbrary

After the Ocean Song, I’m invariably out of breath, so it’s time for a breathing break. I’d considered doing ocean wave breathing on the theme, but I decided that Five Finger Breathing is an easy one to teach and for kids to remember, which is my point in doing it.
Breathing Break: Five Finger Breathing
Whew, I could use a breathing break! Let’s get out our five fingers and spread our hands out wide. We’re going to breathe in deeply as we trace our fingers up, pause for just a moment at the top of our finger, then breathe out as we trace down. Ready?

I like to mention that this song was adapted by an occupational therapist as a reminder of ways to self-soothe.
Repeated Movement Song: Big Sea Star
(tune of A Ram Sam Sam)
A big sea star, a big sea star
Little cuddle clam and a big sea star
A big sea star, a big sea star
Little cuddle clam and a big sea star
A pufferfish! A pufferfish!
Little cuddle clam and a big sea star
A pufferfish! A pufferfish!
Little cuddle clam and a big sea star
Source: Jbrary

Release to Stations
I have seven stations each week, which involve a mixture of dry, wet, and an action station. We spend about 20 minutes in free play.

Repeated Stations:
Kinetic Sand (Dry)
I bought some kinetic sand and added it to two plastic bins. In the recycling bin I found some fruit cup containers that had fun shapes and added them plus some plastic shovels. I keep a sheet underneath this station to catch any stray sand that escapes the bins. I didn’t realize until after I planned this station that kinetic sand should not be put in mouths, so I do warn the parents that if their kiddo is still exploring with their mouth, they may want to skip this one.

Kinetic sand station outside - two bins set on a blue sheet, with small plastic containers, plastic shovels, and sand in them

Pouring Station (Wet)
I asked coworkers to collect clean plastic recyclables with wide openings for this station and visited Goodwill for some additional pitchers. We had measuring cups and funnels in our materials, as well as a baby pool, which is the perfect container. I fill the pool with plastic bins and fill them randomly with water from the hose each week. (Also, I must have had some sunscreen on my lens taking pictures outdoors – there’s a weird blur!)

Pouring station, with a faded red baby pool filled with various plastic containers of all shapes and sizes

Rotating Stations:
Pompom Sort (Dry)
A really easy station to put together: I just saved a couple of egg cartons, then poured a handful or two of different colored/sized pompoms into them. Provide some plastic tongs and you’re done. (And again, weird blur)

Pompom Sorting station: two shoebox sized plastic bins hold two natural cardboard egg cartons with various shaped and colored pompoms and plastic tongs.

Colored Ball Sort and Drop (Dry)
This was inspired by a Pinterest post from Taming Little Monsters. I made two, from our ubiquitous Baker & Taylor boxes, but oriented them different ways so one was tall and skinny and one was low and squat.

Ball sort and drop station: two cardboard book boxes hold plastic "ball pit" balls.  Both have holes cut into the top with an open space below for the balls to be retrieved.

Dodge the Seaweed (Action)
We had some small cones in our action set, so I duct taped a paint stirrer to the tops of them, then haphazardly added green crepe paper to look like seaweed. For the amount of time it took me, I think they look pretty good! I was fully expecting them to get kind of torn up after the first week of use, but they held up. I’m amazed that I didn’t need to repair them once over the summer! 

Dodge the seaweed station, with green and blue cones topped by green crepe paper "seaweed"

Unique Stations: UNIQUE-ISH – I had two other stations planned, but decided to actually repeat two previous stations instead. My other plans were to do a “paint with water” on dry concrete, but the only concrete we have near our storytime area is a sidewalk RIGHT next to the street. It made me nervous to bring everyone that close to speeding cars, so I nixed it. For the art station, I had a vague idea of using pinecones to stamp merfolk tails with paint, then draw in the details, but A) that was a little advanced for my group, and B) I was too tired to think about cleaning up lots of paint at the end of the summer. I went the easy route and redid these instead:

Sponge Play (Wet)
Based on this Pinterest idea from Little Lifelong Learners, I just had sponges in bins of water for little ones to play with. Of course, I have to do some theme stuff, so in addition to simple shapes (sticks, triangles, circles), I cut out some ocean animals as well. These sponges were reused in a sponge painting craft in week two.

Picture of two bins with multicolored sponges in them.  Shapes include seahorses, fish, sea stars, clamshells, dolphins, triangles, sticks, and circles.

Dot Painting (Art/Messy)
So as I was planning this week and thinking about how I’d make the pinecone painting as easy as possible, I got a blog post in my email from The Artisan Life that had mermaid dot painting sheets. Well, let’s just make things easy on myself. Plus, the kids seemed to like doing the dot painters when we did them a couple weeks ago, a and it’s a more “unusual” craft supply that not everyone has at home. BUT – I was a little unhappy that there were no merboys (and that all the mermaids looked kind of the same, with the same kinds of hair.) I did a search for merboy coloring sheets and found this lovely set (which also includes different hair types, yay!) by Simple Everyday Mom. Did you know you can make any coloring sheet into a dot marker sheet? I used Canva, but you could certainly do the same thing in Publisher. Just add .75 inch dots to the sheet on blocks of color (avoiding faces and slender limbs like arms). Easy peasy.

After about 20 minutes exploring stations, I rang the bell to call everyone back to the storytime area. 20 minutes felt like a good time – kids had generally found their way to all the stations and were winding down.

Everybody loves bubbles! The trick to doing bubbles outside, I’m finding, is to figure out which way the wind is blowing and get upwind of your group!
Recorded Bubble Song: Pop, Pop, Pop by Nathalia
From the album “Dream a Little,” available on Spotify

CD cover of Nathalia's "Dream A Little" album.

Goodbye Song: See You Later, Alligator
(tune of Clementine)
See you later, alligator (wave with one hand, then the other)
In a while, crocodile (open and shut arms like a croc’s mouth)
Give a hug, ladybug (hug yourself or a loved one)
Blow a kiss, jellyfish! MWAH! (move hand like a jellyfish then blow a kiss!)
Source: King County Library System

Other books I had available for families to browse (and may work for you on this theme)
The Ocean Calls: A Haenyeo Mermaid Story by Tina Cho & Jess X. Snow
Oona
by Kelly DiPucchio & Raissa Figueroa
Oona and the Shark
by Kelly DiPucchio & Raissa Figueroa
Pearl
by Molly Idle
Julián Is a Mermaid
by Jessica Love
The Little Mermaid
by Jerry Pinkney
Mermaids Fast Asleep
by Robin Riding & Zoe Persico
Mermaid and Me
by Soosh
How to Catch a Mermaid
by Adam Wallace & Andy Elkerton
You Are My Sparkly Mermaid
by Joyce Wan
Mabel: A Mermaid Fable
by Rowboat Watkins

This storytime was presented in-person on 7/18, 7/19, & 7/20/22.

Summer Storytimes: Pirates

Oh, Pirates. You’re so complicated. You did horrible things. You probably (on average) lived a fairly short and brutal life, with lots of disease, injury, and discomfort. But you also seem so freewheeling, wear awesome clothes, say fun phrases in a fun accent, keep amazing pets, and have been romanticized into something almost unrecognizable from your historical form. (Not to mention modern-day pirates, who have so many of the negative features without much of the fun ones).

But who am I to over-analyze!? We got to do the Pirate version of Zoom, Zoom, Zoom (the space version has been a regular and favorite in my regular school-year storytimes) and hunt for gold doubloons hidden in our kinetic sand and mystery water stations. The pirate books are pretty fun, too.

For a more in-depth explanation of the structure of this summer’s programs, read the intro to the first session, Ocean Life.

Early Learning Tip: Books about unusual topics like pirates or dinosaurs are wonderful for building vocabulary! These books use words that aren’t usually said in common conversation, so your child will be hearing lots of new words and phrases. Feel free to explain what new concepts mean – like when pirates say “Shiver me timbers,” they’re comparing a feeling of surprise like being up on the ship’s mast when a wind blows through.

Welcome Song: Hello, Friends 
(tune of Goodnight, Ladies)
Hello, friends! Hello, friends!
Hello, friends, it’s time to say hello!
Hello, [name 1], hello, [name 2]!
Hello, [name 3], it’s time to say hello! (repeat as needed)
(ASL motions: salute for “hello,” then take the index fingers on each hand and you link them together as though they are hugging each other back and forth for “friends”)
Source: Glenside Public Library District

Warm-Up Rhyme: We Wiggle and Stop (repeated)
(Use the ASL sign for the word “stop” – one hand “chops” across the opposite hand)
We wiggle and we wiggle and we STOP
We wiggle and we wiggle and we STOP
We wiggle and we wiggle and we wiggle and we wiggle
And we wiggle and we wiggle and we STOP
(This week we also “climbed” imaginary pirate ship rigging and “swayed” as if we were up in the crow’s nest – I’ll do two new motions in addition to wiggle each week to keep it interesting)
Source: Jbrary

Intro to Weekly Theme: Arr, mateys! Today’s theme is pirates! Pirates liked to sail the ocean, look for treasure like these special gold coins called “doubloons,” and get into trouble. Does anyone know what a pirate’s favorite letterrrrrr is? (Hopefully a grownup will say “R!”) Oh, ye’d think it’d be “R,” but it’s really the “C” a pirate loves!

As mentioned above, Zoom Zoom Zoom is a song I would repeat almost weekly at indoor programs this spring. We hadn’t done it at all this summer until this week, so there was a lot of excitement from regulars!
Themed Song: Pirate Zoom, Zoom, Zoom
Zoom, zoom, zoom
We’re hunting for doubloons!
Zoom, zoom, zoom
We’re hunting for doubloons!
If you want to take a trip
Climb aboard my pirate ship
Zoom, zoom, zoom
We’re hunting for doubloons
In 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 – AHOY!
Source: Jbrary

Themed Book:
Bubble Bath Pirates by Jarrett J. Krosoczoska
OR
Pirate Jack Gets Dressed by Nancy Raines Day & Allison Black

I adapted the lyrics only slightly from Jbrary’s pirate themed song to be a little more generic ocean. I also let grownups know this could be a lifting song, but only if they’re feeling ambitious! I invite everyone else to do the up and down motions with me.
Repeated Song: The Ocean Song
(tune of The Elevator Song)
Oh, the ocean is great and the ocean is grand!
There are lots of big ships but very little land
And we sleep down deep in a hammock near the floor
And this is what we do when we go out to shore:

(ready?) We… ride… the…
waves going up, we ride the waves going down
we ride the waves going up, we ride the waves going down
we ride the waves going up, we ride the waves going down
And we turn… a-… round!
Source: Jbrary

After the Ocean Song, I’m invariably out of breath, so it’s time for a breathing break. I’d considered doing ocean wave breathing on the theme, but I decided that Five Finger Breathing is an easy one to teach and for kids to remember, which is my point in doing it.
Breathing Break: Five Finger Breathing
Whew, I could use a breathing break! Let’s get out our five fingers and spread our hands out wide. We’re going to breathe in deeply as we trace our fingers up, pause for just a moment at the top of our finger, then breathe out as we trace down. Ready?

I like to mention that this song was adapted by an occupational therapist as a reminder of ways to self-soothe.
Repeated Movement Song: Big Sea Star
(tune of A Ram Sam Sam)
A big sea star, a big sea star
Little cuddle clam and a big sea star
A big sea star, a big sea star
Little cuddle clam and a big sea star
A pufferfish! A pufferfish!
Little cuddle clam and a big sea star
A pufferfish! A pufferfish!
Little cuddle clam and a big sea star
Source: Jbrary

Release to Stations
I have seven stations each week, which involve a mixture of dry, wet, and an action station. We spend about 20 minutes in free play.

Repeated Stations:
Kinetic Sand (Dry)
I bought some kinetic sand and added it to two plastic bins. In the recycling bin I found some fruit cup containers that had fun shapes and added them plus some plastic shovels. I keep a sheet underneath this station to catch any stray sand that escapes the bins. I didn’t realize until after I planned this station that kinetic sand should not be put in mouths, so I do warn the parents that if their kiddo is still exploring with their mouth, they may want to skip this one.

Kinetic sand station outside - two bins set on a blue sheet, with small plastic containers, plastic shovels, and sand in them

Pouring Station (Wet)
I asked coworkers to collect clean plastic recyclables with wide openings for this station and visited Goodwill for some additional pitchers. We had measuring cups and funnels in our materials, as well as a baby pool, which is the perfect container. I fill the pool with plastic bins and fill them randomly with water from the hose each week. (Also, I must have had some sunscreen on my lens taking pictures outdoors – there’s a weird blur!)

Pouring station, with a faded red baby pool filled with various plastic containers of all shapes and sizes

Rotating Stations:
Craft Stick Sort (Dry)
I noticed in my storage bin that I had these boxes of dot painters that have small holes already in the top. I colored a ring around each hole a different rainbow color and added colored craft sticks for a fine motor and color identification station.

Craft stick sort station with small cardboard boxes with eight small holes in each, ringed in color, and a pile of colored craft sticks in front of them

Beanbag Sort (Dry)
We had these beanbags from Lakeshore Learning that are different colors and shapes. They’re a super easy station where kids can play and sort with them in several ways.

Beanbag sort station, with shiny plastic beanbags in cube, sphere, and pyramid shapes in rainbow colors.

Walk the Plank (Action)
Rather than capital punishment, I framed this walk the plank activity as going between two ships. But the “waters” are definitely shark-infested! I used the rubber dots I had from Ocean Boulder Leap to attach shark fins to, and there is a sturdy rubber balance beam in the same active play set my library has. This one looks cool from across the yard, when the shark fins really look like they’re swimming in the grass!

Unique Stations:
Mystery Water (Wet)
Inspired by this Pinterest pin from bright_little_brains, I used some plastic cookie cutters we had in storage, traced their shapes on a large sheet of paper, and laminated. The water was mixed with a few tablespoons of cornstarch and several drops of food coloring to make the water murky. I also added some of my toy pirate gold to each bin. Unfortunately, the cookie cutters weren’t very heavy and kind of floated to the top, but it wasn’t a disaster and the kids enjoyed the activity anyway.

Three bins are shown with murky green or blue water, in which different brightly colored plastic cookie cutters are floating.  Next to each bin is a laminated sheet with the outline of each cookie cutter.

Chalk Art (Art/Messy)
This summer, crafts were all about the process. I tried to mix up some different crafting materials that we had laying around and just let the kids do with them what they would. This week I put out black construction paper and sidewalk chalk for them to draw with.

Art station on a picnic table, with messy trays set on the bench and art supplies on the table.  Includes black paper and sidewalk chalk, as well as a sign explaining the station.

After about 20 minutes exploring stations, I rang the bell to call everyone back to the storytime area. 20 minutes felt like a good time – kids had generally found their way to all the stations and were winding down.

Everybody loves bubbles! The trick to doing bubbles outside, I’m finding, is to figure out which way the wind is blowing and get upwind of your group!
Recorded Bubble Song: Pop, Pop, Pop by Nathalia
From the album “Dream a Little,” available on Spotify

CD cover of Nathalia's "Dream A Little" album.

Goodbye Song: See You Later, Alligator
(tune of Clementine)
See you later, alligator (wave with one hand, then the other)
In a while, crocodile (open and shut arms like a croc’s mouth)
Give a hug, ladybug (hug yourself or a loved one)
Blow a kiss, jellyfish! MWAH! (move hand like a jellyfish then blow a kiss!)
Source: King County Library System

Other books I had available for families to browse (and may work for you on this theme)
On a Pirate Ship
by Sarah Courtauld & Benjie Davies
The Grumpy Pirate
by Corinne Demas, Artemis Roehrig, & Ashlyn Anstee
Pirate’s Perfect Pet
by Beth Ferry & Matthew Myers
Roger, the Jolly Pirate
by Brett Helquist
Pirate Pete
by Kim Kennedy & Doug Kennedy
How I Became a Pirate
by Melinda Long & David Shannon
Give Me Back My Bones!
by Kim Norman & Bob Kolar
Pirates Don’t Go to Kindergarten
by Lisa Robinson & Eda Kaban
Port Side Pirates!
by Oscar Seaworthy & Debbie Harter
Sheep on a Ship
by Nancy Shaw & Margot Apple
The Pirate Jamboree
by Mark Teague
Captain Cat and the Pirate Lunch
by Emma J. Virján

This storytime was presented in-person on 7/11, 7/12, & 7/13/22.

Summer Storytimes: Sharks!

Sharks are beloved by kids, even the littlest, even though they’re known for death and destruction! I had at least one kid dress in some kind of shark attire (hats, shirts, even shoes!) each of my storytime days. So fun when the parents get into the theme, too.

This was the first week that I did a different song and themed book for my littlest age group, Book Babies (0-2), than for my older groups (up to 3.5). The Shark Song seems to require more interaction to enjoy, whereas I suggested that babies and their caregivers “sway” during the majority of Slippery Fish, then do some bounces or tickles for the “Gulp, gulp, gulp” part to let the babies be involved without having to do hand motions. The book I’m a Shark is really great for the 2.5-3.5 crowd, but it feels like it’s just too much for the younger ones, so I went with Swallow the Leader in Book Babies. It’s been really difficult for me to engage the babies in books, especially in the outdoor setting, so this was another instance of me modelling page skipping is okay if your kiddo is losing interest. I wonder if other librarians are having trouble with the book portions of their storytimes. Chime in the comments if you have, or if you’ve been finding good ways to keep kids’ attention.

For a more in-depth explanation of the structure of this summer’s programs, read the intro to the first session, Ocean Life.

Early Learning Tip: Did you notice the colorful fish in Swallow the Leader? They have different colors and shapes, and although none are exactly the same, there are some that are alike.  Seeing patterns and trying to recognize things that are alike and different is fun, but also helps develop mathematical concepts of patterns and relationships. 

Welcome Song: Hello, Friends 
(tune of Goodnight, Ladies)
Hello, friends! Hello, friends!
Hello, friends, it’s time to say hello!
Hello, [name 1], hello, [name 2]!
Hello, [name 3], it’s time to say hello! (repeat as needed)
(ASL motions: salute for “hello,” then take the index fingers on each hand and you link them together as though they are hugging each other back and forth for “friends”)
Source: Glenside Public Library District

Warm-Up Rhyme: We Wiggle and Stop (repeated)
(Use the ASL sign for the word “stop” – one hand “chops” across the opposite hand)
We wiggle and we wiggle and we STOP
We wiggle and we wiggle and we STOP
We wiggle and we wiggle and we wiggle and we wiggle
And we wiggle and we wiggle and we STOP
(This week we also “stretched” and “stomped” – I’ll do two new motions in addition to wiggle each week to keep it interesting)
Source: Jbrary

Intro to Weekly Theme: Some of the most interesting (and a little scary) animals in the ocean are sharks! Let’s do a song about some sharks doing what they do best – eating fish!

As a self-confessed pedantic, I had to see if this song was true to life. And yes! Google tells me that indeed some jellyfish eat small fish, some octopuses eat jellyfish, mako sharks have been found with octopus in their bellies, and sperm whales have been found with sharks in theirs! (Also, orca whales will attack and eat sharks, too). I feel better about singing this song.
Themed Song for Book Babies: Slippery Fish
Slippery fish, slippery fish, sliding through the water,
Slippery fish, slippery fish, Gulp, Gulp, Gulp!
Oh, no! It’s been eaten by a …

Additional verses:
Jellyfish, jellyfish, squirting through the water…
Octopus, octopus, squiggling in the water…
Mako shark, mako shark, lurking in the water…
Humongous whale, humongous whale, spouting in the water…
… BURP!
(Cover your mouth.) Excuse me!
Source: Jbrary

I took great pleasure in telling the families that we were going to be doing a song about a shark family, but it wasn’t THAT shark family!
Themed Song for Teddy Bears & Family Time: The Shark Song
Oh, there’s a shark, do-do, do-do-do
A baby shark, do-do, do-do-do
Lives in the ocean, do-do, do-do-do
He eats fish, CHOMP-CHOMP, CHOMP, CHOMP!
He’s got a fin, do-do, do-do-do
A dorsal fin, do-do, do-do-do
And that’s the end, do-do, do-do-do
(but that’s not the end! What other kind of shark might there be?)
Mommy, Daddy, Grandma

Source: The Ooey Gooey Lady

Themed book:
I’m a Shark by Bob Shea
OR
Swallow the Leader by Deanna Smith & Kevin Sherry

I adapted the lyrics only slightly from Jbrary’s pirate themed song to be a little more generic ocean. I also let grownups know this could be a lifting song, but only if they’re feeling ambitious! I invite everyone else to do the up and down motions with me.
Repeated Song: The Ocean Song
(tune of The Elevator Song)
Oh, the ocean is great and the ocean is grand!
There are lots of big ships but very little land
And we sleep down deep in a hammock near the floor
And this is what we do when we go out to shore:

(ready?) We… ride… the…
waves going up, we ride the waves going down
we ride the waves going up, we ride the waves going down
we ride the waves going up, we ride the waves going down
And we turn… a-… round!
Source: Jbrary

After the Ocean Song, I’m invariably out of breath, so it’s time for a breathing break. I’d considered doing ocean wave breathing on the theme, but I decided that Five Finger Breathing is an easy one to teach and for kids to remember, which is my point in doing it.
Breathing Break: Five Finger Breathing
Whew, I could use a breathing break! Let’s get out our five fingers and spread our hands out wide. We’re going to breathe in deeply as we trace our fingers up, pause for just a moment at the top of our finger, then breathe out as we trace down. Ready?

I like to mention that this song was adapted by an occupational therapist as a reminder of ways to self-soothe.
Repeated Movement Song: Big Sea Star
(tune of A Ram Sam Sam)
A big sea star, a big sea star
Little cuddle clam and a big sea star
A big sea star, a big sea star
Little cuddle clam and a big sea star
A pufferfish! A pufferfish!
Little cuddle clam and a big sea star
A pufferfish! A pufferfish!
Little cuddle clam and a big sea star
Source: Jbrary

Release to Stations
I have seven stations each week, which involve a mixture of dry, wet, and an action station. We spend about 20 minutes in free play.

Repeated Stations:
Kinetic Sand (Dry)
I bought some kinetic sand and added it to two plastic bins. In the recycling bin I found some fruit cup containers that had fun shapes and added them plus some plastic shovels. I keep a sheet underneath this station to catch any stray sand that escapes the bins. I didn’t realize until after I planned this station that kinetic sand should not be put in mouths, so I do warn the parents that if their kiddo is still exploring with their mouth, they may want to skip this one.

Kinetic sand station outside - two bins set on a blue sheet, with small plastic containers, plastic shovels, and sand in them

Pouring Station (Wet)
I asked coworkers to collect clean plastic recyclables with wide openings for this station and visited Goodwill for some additional pitchers. We had measuring cups and funnels in our materials, as well as a baby pool, which is the perfect container. I fill the pool with plastic bins and fill them randomly with water from the hose each week. (Also, I must have had some sunscreen on my lens taking pictures outdoors – there’s a weird blur!)

Pouring station, with a faded red baby pool filled with various plastic containers of all shapes and sizes

Rotating Stations:
Pompom Sort (Dry)
A really easy station to put together: I just saved a couple of egg cartons, then poured a handful or two of different colored/sized pompoms into them. Provide some plastic tongs and you’re done. (And again, weird blur)

Pompom Sorting station: two shoebox sized plastic bins hold two natural cardboard egg cartons with various shaped and colored pompoms and plastic tongs.

Colored Ball Sort and Drop (Dry)
This was inspired by a Pinterest post from Taming Little Monsters. I made two, from our ubiquitous Baker & Taylor boxes, but oriented them different ways so one was tall and skinny and one was low and squat.

Ball sort and drop station: two cardboard book boxes hold plastic "ball pit" balls.  Both have holes cut into the top with an open space below for the balls to be retrieved.

Walk the Plank (Action)
Rather than capital punishment, I framed this walk the plank activity as going between two ships. But the “waters” are definitely shark-infested! I used the rubber dots I had from Ocean Boulder Leap to attach shark fins to, and there is a sturdy rubber balance beam in the same active play set my library has. This one looks cool from across the yard, when the shark fins really look like they’re swimming in the grass!

Walk the plank sign: "Get your wiggles out!  Balance on the plank and don't fall into the ocean!"  Shows two ship decks with barrels, a small pile of gold, and a cartoony bomb with the jolly roger on them.  A seagull dressed as a sailor and a pirate sits on each deck's rail.

Unique Stations:
Ice Rescue (Wet)
Inspired by this blog post from Teaching Mama, I used the plastic ocean animals previously used with the Animal Washing Station two weeks ago to freeze into some large containers. The first one was a quart sized container, and the second a wide square bowl. With both containers, I realized that the animals would float, so it took some doing to keep them at the bottom of the container. For the quart sized one, the opening was narrow enough that a few medium sized rocks kept the animals down.

Quart sized ice block showing sharks, an orange sea star, and rocks trapped in ice.

However, the wider bowl was much trickier. I ended up freezing them in shallow layers. Of course, the ice didn’t stick to the bowl very well so IT floated to the top when I added some layers, but since it was all one big chunk, adding rocks to the top was easier to keep it down. When it was a lot of little items floating in water, the rocks slipped between them to the bottom. So, trial and error and eventually it worked.

Two ice blocks inside their containers sitting on the grass - one a tall skinny quart sized container, the other a pink square bowl.  Both have rocks and plastic shark fins sticking out of the ice.

I filled the big trays with just an inch or two of water from the hose, then provided the orange pails and squeeze bottles filled with water as hot as I could get it from the tap. By the time we released to stations 20 minutes into the program, the water was warm but not too warm. The kids really worked diligently to get the animals out, and they had fun playing with them once they were released.

Dot Painting (Art/Messy)
In an effort to keep the crafts this summer simple and minimal, I put out our basket of dot painters (that has been sitting lonely on the supply shelf since 2020) and some ocean animal dot coloring sheets from The Artisan Life blog.

After about 20 minutes exploring stations, I rang the bell to call everyone back to the storytime area. 20 minutes felt like a good time – kids had generally found their way to all the stations and were winding down.

Everybody loves bubbles! The trick to doing bubbles outside, I’m finding, is to figure out which way the wind is blowing and get upwind of your group!
Recorded Bubble Song: Pop, Pop, Pop by Nathalia
From the album “Dream a Little,” available on Spotify

CD cover of Nathalia's "Dream A Little" album.

Goodbye Song: See You Later, Alligator
(tune of Clementine)
See you later, alligator (wave with one hand, then the other)
In a while, crocodile (open and shut arms like a croc’s mouth)
Give a hug, ladybug (hug yourself or a loved one)
Blow a kiss, jellyfish! MWAH! (move hand like a jellyfish then blow a kiss!)
Source: King County Library System

My second group wiped out almost all of my books (yay!), so I had to try and find some more for the third group, who ended up not taking any (boo!)
Other books I had available for families to browse (and may work for you on this theme)

Shark Dog! by Ged Adamson
Gilbert the Great
by Jane Clarke & Charles Fuge
Surprising Sharks
by Nicola Davies & James Croft
Misunderstood Shark
by Ame Dyckman & Scott Magoon
Clark the Shark
(series) by Bruce Hale and Guy Francis
Hide!
by Steve Henry
I Am the Shark
by Joan Holub & Laurie Keller
The Shark Who Was Afraid of Everything
by Brian James & Bruce McNally
Sharko and Hippo
by Elliott Kalan & Andrea Tsurumi
Big Shark, Little Shark
(series) by Anna Membrino & Tim Budgen
Dude!
by Aaron Reynolds & Dan Santat
Nugget & Fang
by Tammi Sauer & Michael H. Slack
Chomp: A Shark Romp
by Michael-Paul Terranova
Shark and Lobster’s Amazing Undersea Adventure
by Viviane Schwarz & Joel Stewart
Meet the Shark Family and Friends
by Alexandra West

This storytime was presented in-person on 6/27, 6/28, & 6/29/22.

Summer Storytimes: Arctic & Antarctic

It’s summer, and we all want a little chill, right? What better way than to imagine ourselves in the ice and cold of the earth’s poles, and to play with ice water?

Last summer, I did an outreach to the local parks camp where they chose the themes and I presented a story, song, and craft for it. One of their themes was the Arctic, which I also coopted for one of my regular storytimes. This year, I wanted to revisit that theme (adding the Antarctic) and use it as an excuse to integrate ice play into our summer stations.

I bought an inflatable globe to point out where the Arctic and Antarctic are in relation to us, which was a bonus toy to play with during the unstructured station time. I’m always frustrated when polar bears and penguins get lumped together when they live so far away from each other!

view of my storytime cart, with the speaker, my water, a stack of books (If You Were a Penguin on top) and an inflatable globe showing NASA images of the earth (land, sea, and clouds)
The globe!

This week my two unique stations were ice play and painting with ice. I had a new action station as well – dodge the seaweed!

For a more in-depth explanation of the structure of this summer’s programs, read the intro to the first session, Ocean Life.

Early Literacy Tip: One way of learning is with movement, which is called kinesthetic learning. When we act out what is happening on the pages of a book, it can more concretely connect new vocabulary words with their meanings. When we use meaningful gestures to explain words, we help build your child’s vocabulary.

Welcome Song: Hello, Friends 
(tune of Goodnight, Ladies)
Hello, friends! Hello, friends!
Hello, friends, it’s time to say hello!
Hello, [name 1], hello, [name 2]!
Hello, [name 3], it’s time to say hello! (repeat as needed)
(ASL motions: salute for “hello,” then take the index fingers on each hand and you link them together as though they are hugging each other back and forth for “friends”)
Source: Glenside Public Library District

Warm-Up Rhyme: We Wiggle and Stop (repeated)
(Use the ASL sign for the word “stop” – one hand “chops” across the opposite hand)
We wiggle and we wiggle and we STOP
We wiggle and we wiggle and we STOP
We wiggle and we wiggle and we wiggle and we wiggle
And we wiggle and we wiggle and we STOP
(This week we also “waddled” like a penguin and used our flippers to “swim” like a walrus – I’ll do two new motions in addition to wiggle each week to keep it interesting)
Source: Jbrary

Intro to Weekly Theme: It’s time to chill! Let’s explore some animals that live in places that are cold. [Show the globe.] Here’s where we live, in Indiana. Way up here is the north pole, or the Arctic. That’s where animals like polar bears, caribou (also known as reindeer), and walruses live. Here’s a silly song about the walrus.

I recently saw Reading Rena’s video of this song, and really liked how she does the ending. I didn’t do different articles of clothes like she did, but that’s a good option. I wanted to keep it to two verses, so I just did “shakes” and “turns.” It is, of course, a perfect song for a scarf or shaker prop, but for these outdoor sessions I’m streamlining.
Themed Song: The Walrus Washes His Winter Coat
Oh, the walrus washes his winter coat (rub hands together)
Down by the wavy ocean (make a waving motion)
He adds some water and he adds some soap (pretend to pour)
and he waits…and he waits…and he waits. (point to wrist)

Then the laundry shakes, shakes, shakes (shake arms)
The laundry shakes and shakes and shakes
The laundry shakes, shakes, shakes
until it’s clean. (repeat)

Additional verses:
The laundry turns … until it’s clean (roll arms)
Last time:
Well, the walrus washed his winter coat
Down by the wavy ocean
He shakes it out (shake out your coats!)
And he hangs it up to dry (hang it on the clothesline!)
And now his coat is clean!
Source: Brytani Fraser via Jbrary and Reading Rena

Now let’s travel all the way to the other end of the earth, the south pole, or Antarctica, where a lot of penguins live!

Themed book:
If You Were a Penguin by Wendell & Florence Minor
OR
Walrus Song by Janet Lawler & Timothy Basil Ering

Obviously to get to to the south pole, we’d need to do a penguin story, but the Walrus Song book is very cool as well. If you stayed in the Arctic, that would be a great choice. If You Were a Penguin was the shortest and most interactive penguin book I could find, which I’m learning is really a requirement for my group.

I adapted the lyrics only slightly from Jbrary’s pirate themed song to be a little more generic ocean. I also let grownups know this could be a lifting song, but only if they’re feeling ambitious! I invite everyone else to do the up and down motions with me.
Repeated Song: The Ocean Song
(tune of The Elevator Song)
Oh, the ocean is great and the ocean is grand!
There are lots of big ships but very little land
And we sleep down deep in a hammock near the floor
And this is what we do when we go out to shore:

(ready?) We… ride… the…
waves going up, we ride the waves going down
we ride the waves going up, we ride the waves going down
we ride the waves going up, we ride the waves going down
And we turn… a-… round!
Source: Jbrary

After the Ocean Song, I’m invariably out of breath, so it’s time for a breathing break. I’d considered doing ocean wave breathing on the theme, but I decided that Five Finger Breathing is an easy one to teach and for kids to remember, which is my point in doing it.
Breathing Break: Five Finger Breathing
Whew, I could use a breathing break! Let’s get out our five fingers and spread our hands out wide. We’re going to breathe in deeply as we trace our fingers up, pause for just a moment at the top of our finger, then breathe out as we trace down. Ready?

I like to mention that this song was adapted by an occupational therapist as a reminder of ways to self-soothe.
Repeated Movement Song: Big Sea Star
(tune of A Ram Sam Sam)
A big sea star, a big sea star
Little cuddle clam and a big sea star
A big sea star, a big sea star
Little cuddle clam and a big sea star
A pufferfish! A pufferfish!
Little cuddle clam and a big sea star
A pufferfish! A pufferfish!
Little cuddle clam and a big sea star
Source: Jbrary

Release to Stations
I have seven stations each week, which involve a mixture of dry, wet, and an action station. We spend about 20 minutes in free play.

Repeated Stations:
Kinetic Sand (Dry)
I bought some kinetic sand and added it to two plastic bins. In the recycling bin I found some fruit cup containers that had fun shapes and added them plus some plastic shovels. I keep a sheet underneath this station to catch any stray sand that escapes the bins. I didn’t realize until after I planned this station that kinetic sand should not be put in mouths, so I do warn the parents that if their kiddo is still exploring with their mouth, they may want to skip this one.

Kinetic sand station outside - two bins set on a blue sheet, with small plastic containers, plastic shovels, and sand in them

Pouring Station (Wet)
I asked coworkers to collect clean plastic recyclables with wide openings for this station and visited Goodwill for some additional pitchers. We had measuring cups and funnels in our materials, as well as a baby pool, which is the perfect container. I fill the pool with plastic bins and fill them randomly with water from the hose each week. (Also, I must have had some sunscreen on my lens taking pictures outdoors – there’s a weird blur!)

Pouring station, with a faded red baby pool filled with various plastic containers of all shapes and sizes

Rotating Stations:
Craft Stick Sort (Dry)
I noticed in my storage bin that I had these boxes of dot painters that have small holes already in the top. I colored a ring around each hole a different rainbow color and added colored craft sticks for a fine motor and color identification station.

Craft stick sort station with small cardboard boxes with eight small holes in each, ringed in color, and a pile of colored craft sticks in front of them

Beanbag Sort (Dry)
We had these beanbags from Lakeshore Learning that are different colors and shapes. They’re a super easy station where kids can play and sort with them in several ways.

Beanbag sort station, with shiny plastic beanbags in cube, sphere, and pyramid shapes in rainbow colors.

Dodge the Seaweed (Action)
We had some small cones in our action set, so I duct taped a paint stirrer to the tops of them, then haphazardly added green crepe paper to look like seaweed. For the amount of time it took me, I think they look pretty good! I was fully expecting them to get kind of torn up after the first week of use, but they held up. That might partly be because it was pretty hot out and I’m not sure a lot of kids were running around, though. 🙂

Dodge the seaweed station, with green and blue cones topped by green crepe paper "seaweed"

Unique Stations:
Ice Play (Wet)
I filled a medium sized bin with water, a bowl or colander, a few plastic animals like orcas, seals, and a whale shark, scoops and slotted spoons. I kept a 20 lb bag of ice in a cooler in the shade nearby, then when we released to stations I emptied the ice into the bins. This was a popular station since it was pretty hot all three days. This picture was taken at the end of the program, so almost all of the ice had melted by that time! Nevertheless, the kids seemed to enjoy scooping and feeling the ice.

Ice play station with two plastic bins half filled with water and ice.  a teal colander is in one and a pink bowl is in another, with various slotted spoons, scoopers, and plastic whales and seals.

Ice Painting (Art/Messy)
Darn, I didn’t get a picture of this. I made the ice “paints” using some liquid watercolor we have, mixed with water in ice cube trays and with one of the mini-craft sticks in each cube for a handle. I made two trays, thinking I might have to make more each day, but they actually lasted me through all three days. I had a second cooler and put some ice in the bottom of it, then put the ice cube trays on top. I got the cooler out when we released to stations and kept the trays in the cooler in between uses. Outside of a few kids wanting to eat them (nontoxic paint, but still yucky), this was fun. Several grownups said how neat an idea it was and asked how I made the cubes (and I let them know that they could probably also use food coloring) and I overheard one say they were going to do this at a birthday party later that summer!

Ice painting sign:
"Get creative: use an ice cube to paint!  Let the watercolor paint melt on your paper.  Use the stick to hold the cube (or not!) Enjoy the process and see what your child makes!

After about 20 minutes exploring stations, I rang the bell to call everyone back to the storytime area. 20 minutes felt like a good time – kids had generally found their way to all the stations and were winding down.

Everybody loves bubbles! The trick to doing bubbles outside, I’m finding, is to figure out which way the wind is blowing and get upwind of your group!
Recorded Bubble Song: Pop, Pop, Pop by Nathalia
From the album “Dream a Little,” available on Spotify

CD cover of Nathalia's "Dream A Little" album.

Goodbye Song: See You Later, Alligator
(tune of Clementine)
See you later, alligator (wave with one hand, then the other)
In a while, crocodile (open and shut arms like a croc’s mouth)
Give a hug, ladybug (hug yourself or a loved one)
Blow a kiss, jellyfish! MWAH! (move hand like a jellyfish then blow a kiss!)
Source: King County Library System

Other books I had available for families to browse (and may work for you on this theme)
Penguin Problems by Jory John & Lane Smith
If Wendell Had a Walrus by Lori Mortensen & Matt Phelan
A Penguin Story by Antoinette Portis
Polar Bear Morning by Lauren Thompson & Stephen Savage
Polar Bear Night by Lauren Thompson & Stephen Savage
Poles Apart by Jeanne Willis & Jarvis
Don’t Be Afraid, Little Pip by Karma Wilson & Jane Chapman
What’s in the Egg, Little Pip? by Karma Wilson & Jane Chapman

This storytime was presented in-person on 6/20, 6/21, & 6/22/22.

Summer Storytimes: At the Beach

Another sub-theme for Summer Reading 2022 Oceans of Possibilities! Going to the beach is one of the most common and enjoyable ways that humans get to experience the ocean, so it seemed like a natural theme. Several of the kids in this week’s programs had been to the beach or would be going later this summer.

This week we were outside on Monday, but had a heat advisory for the Tuesday and Wednesday classes. With the heat index above 90 and the humidity brutal, I moved my outdoor session into our two large meeting rooms. It was another curveball, but I had the rooms booked all summer in case of rain or heat, so I’m glad the space was available. The rooms I used are separated by a collapsible wall, so I opened it only about 5 feet and put my storytime table in front of the opening. We did the storytime portion of the program in one room, then I wheeled my table out of the way so they could get to the stations room. It was a great way to keep their interest from getting distracted by the stations until we were ready to play with them. (Outdoors, I cover the stations with sheets until we release to them. So far I haven’t had any kids peeking, which is nice while it lasts!)

view of the grassy storytime area with the library building in the background, with a cart to the left with a speaker and other supplies, and four sheet-covered stations shown on the ground around the perimeter.

Psst: wanna know a secret? I structured my summer storytimes around the idea for outdoor free play stations, and minimized the planning I’d need to do for the actual storytime part. In fact, I’m changing only two aspects of each storytime from week to week/theme to theme in order to keep myself sane. Repetition is not a bad thing. Kids and grownups are enjoying knowing the repeated songs and what comes next, while I still get to have one song and one book set to the theme. Setting up the stations each week takes a lot of my brain (and muscle) power, so it feels nice to know that I’ve got a handle on the storytime portion and don’t need to worry about it.

For a more in-depth explanation of the structure of this summer’s programs, read the intro to the first session, Ocean Life.

Early Literacy Tip: Sometimes we think in order to read a book to a child, we must read all the words, in order, front to back. But really, there’s lots of ways to experience reading, and young children may not have the attention span to listen to a book all the way through. It’s okay to skip pages, just “read” the pictures, or start and stop as needed. Make it a positive experience, and your child will develop the staying power to eventually listen to a whole book when they’re ready.

I originally debated doing a song with names over summer – would it take too long? Could I get them right? I decided to go with it and I’m so glad I did. The smiles on the kids and caregivers when they hear their name is worth it!
Welcome Song: Hello, Friends 
(tune of Goodnight, Ladies)
Hello, friends! Hello, friends!
Hello, friends, it’s time to say hello!
Hello, [name 1], hello, [name 2]!
Hello, [name 3], it’s time to say hello! (repeat as needed)
(ASL motions: salute for “hello,” then take the index fingers on each hand and you link them together as though they are hugging each other back and forth for “friends”)
Source: Glenside Public Library District

Warm-Up Rhyme: We Wiggle and Stop (repeated)
(Use the ASL sign for the word “stop” – one hand “chops” across the opposite hand)
We wiggle and we wiggle and we STOP
We wiggle and we wiggle and we STOP
We wiggle and we wiggle and we wiggle and we wiggle
And we wiggle and we wiggle and we STOP
(This week we also “ran” across the sand (in place) and “splashed” – I’ll do two new motions in addition to wiggle each week to keep it interesting)
Source: Jbrary

Intro to Weekly Theme: One way to enjoy the ocean is to go to the beach. Has anyone been? What do you remember? If you have more time to play with a discussion, I loved Jessica’s idea of unpacking a beach tote on her blog.

Themed Song: The Waves on the Beach
(tune of The Wheels on the Bus)
The waves on the beach go in and out (arms swoop back and forth in front of you)
In and out, in and out
The waves on the beach go in and out
All day long!

Additional verses:
The crabs on the beach go pinch, pinch, pinch… (pinch fingers and thumbs together)
The clams on the beach go open and shut… (hands cup together vertically and open/shut on a hinge)
The kids on the beach go splash, splash, splash… (slap hands downward)
Source: adapted from Storytime in the Stacks

Transition Song: If You’re Ready for a Story
(tune of If You’re Happy and You Know It)
If you’re ready for a story, clap your hands (clap, clap)
If you’re ready for a story, clap your hands (clap, clap)
If you’re ready for a story, if you’re ready for a story,
If you’re ready for a story, clap your hands (clap, clap)
Source: Miss Keithia (my predecessor)

Themed book:
Jules Vs. the Ocean by Jesse Sima
OR
Little Hoo Goes to the Beach by Brenda Ponnay
I used Little Hoo for my baby program, as it is extremely simple (and I even skipped the seaweed pages to shorten it). Jules worked best for my 2-3.5 group, but we were indoors so it was much easier for them to see the pictures, which are brilliant and help tell this story really well. I’ve used books like Hello, Ocean and I also considered My Ocean is Blue, but I’ve been noticing that my group just can’t handle longer picture books. I don’t know if it’s because I’m more used to preschoolers, or if it has something to do with the pandemic, but the little ones just don’t seem interested in books with more than a sentence per page. I’m still figuring this out and experimenting, so it was good to see that Jules worked, at least in the indoor setting.

I adapted the lyrics only slightly from Jbrary’s pirate themed song to be a little more generic ocean. I also let grownups know this could be a lifting song, but only if they’re feeling ambitious! I invite everyone else to do the up and down motions with me.
Repeated Song: The Ocean Song
(tune of The Elevator Song)
Oh, the ocean is great and the ocean is grand!
There are lots of big ships but very little land
And we sleep down deep in a hammock near the floor
And this is what we do when we go out to shore:

(ready?) We… ride… the…
waves going up, we ride the waves going down
we ride the waves going up, we ride the waves going down
we ride the waves going up, we ride the waves going down
And we turn… a-… round!
Source: Jbrary

After the Ocean Song, I’m invariably out of breath, so it’s time for a breathing break. I’d considered doing ocean wave breathing on the theme, but I decided that Five Finger Breathing is an easy one to teach and for kids to remember, which is my point in doing it.
Breathing Break: Five Finger Breathing
Whew, I could use a breathing break! Let’s get out our five fingers and spread our hands out wide. We’re going to breathe in deeply as we trace our fingers up, pause for just a moment at the top of our finger, then breathe out as we trace down. Ready?

I like to mention that this song was adapted by an occupational therapist as a reminder of ways to self-soothe.
Repeated Movement Song: Big Sea Star
(tune of A Ram Sam Sam)
A big sea star, a big sea star
Little cuddle clam and a big sea star
A big sea star, a big sea star
Little cuddle clam and a big sea star
A pufferfish! A pufferfish!
Little cuddle clam and a big sea star
A pufferfish! A pufferfish!
Little cuddle clam and a big sea star
Source: Jbrary

Release to Stations
I have seven stations each week, which involve a mixture of dry, wet, and an action station. This week I was indoors, so used old flannel sheets for under the “wet” stations. They worked pretty well, absorbing spilled water enough that I didn’t have to mop the floor after.

Repeated Stations:
Kinetic Sand (Dry)
I bought some kinetic sand and added it to two plastic bins. In the recycling bin I found some fruit cup containers that had fun shapes and added them plus some plastic shovels. I keep a sheet underneath this station to catch any stray sand that escapes the bins. I didn’t realize until after I planned this station that kinetic sand should not be put in mouths, so I do warn the parents that if their kiddo is still exploring with their mouth, they may want to skip this one.

Pouring Station (Wet)
I asked coworkers to collect clean plastic recyclables with wide openings for this station and visited Goodwill for some additional pitchers. We had measuring cups and funnels in our materials, as well as a baby pool, which is the perfect container. I fill the pool with plastic bins and fill them randomly with water from the hose each week. (Also, I must have had some sunscreen on my lens taking pictures outdoors – there’s a weird blur!)

Rotating Stations:
Pompom Sort (Dry)
A really easy station to put together: I just saved a couple of egg cartons, then poured a handful or two of different colored/sized pompoms into them. Provide some plastic tongs and you’re done. (And again, weird blur on the outdoor one)

Colored Ball Sort and Drop (Dry)
This was inspired by a Pinterest post from Taming Little Monsters. I made two, from our ubiquitous Baker & Taylor boxes, but oriented them different ways so one was tall and skinny and one was low and squat.

Ocean Boulder Leap (Action)
This started out in my head as a lily pad leap, but adapted to the ocean theme. We had the rubber dots from an active play set and I cut out some crab graphics to tape on for flavor.

Unique Stations:
Animal Washing (Wet)
Based on another Pinterest idea from Coffee Cups and Crayons, I bought some plastic ocean animals and stuck them in a bin of dirt. (I had trouble finding dirt at the store that didn’t have fertilizer mixed in with it, so had to get this organic coconut husk dirt, which isn’t as “dirt-y” as real dirt, but it worked.) A second bin was filled with clean water and had toothbrushes and dish brushes in it for washing. I meant to put a little detergent in to make bubbles, but it didn’t happen, and it was fine.

Sponge Painting (Art/Messy)
I reused the ocean animal shaped sponges I made from last week’s sponge play station and put out small trays of tempera paint (recycled Lean Cuisine trays work great). Kids could stamp the shapes onto plain white construction paper in our messy trays for the simple craft. Our rinse station was set up to one side with a couple buckets of water and towels for cleaning up hands. All of my craft stations this summer are simple process-focused art with different media.

sponge painting and rinse station in the indoor setting, with painting supplies set on a square table and two chairs facing outward on each side.  Six chairs hold a messy tray and paper on them, and two hold buckets of water and towels for rinsing.

After about 20 minutes exploring stations, I rang the bell to call everyone back to the storytime area. 20 minutes felt like a good time – kids had generally found their way to all the stations and were winding down.

Everybody loves bubbles! The trick to doing bubbles outside, I’m finding, is to figure out which way the wind is blowing and get upwind of your group!
Recorded Bubble Song: Pop, Pop, Pop by Nathalia
From the album “Dream a Little,” available on Spotify

CD cover of Nathalia's "Dream A Little" album.

Goodbye Song: See You Later, Alligator
(tune of Clementine)
See you later, alligator (wave with one hand, then the other)
In a while, crocodile (open and shut arms like a croc’s mouth)
Give a hug, ladybug (hug yourself or a loved one)
Blow a kiss, jellyfish! MWAH! (move hand like a jellyfish then blow a kiss!)
Source: King County Library System

Table with a display of the books listed below.

Other books I had available for families to browse (and may work for you on this theme)
Surf’s Up by Kwame Alexander & Daniel Miyares
Bea by the Sea by Jo Byatt
This Beach Is Loud! by Samantha Cotterill
At the Beach by Shira Evans
Here Comes Ocean by Meg Fleming & Paola Zakimi
Beach Day! by Patricia Lakin & Scott Nash
My Ocean Is Blue by Darren Lebeuf & Ashley Barron
Noah’s Seal by Layn Marlow
Hum and Swish by Matt Myers
Hello Ocean/Hola mar by Pam Muñoz Ryan & Mark Astrella
What If? by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
A Beach Tail by Karen Lynn Williams & Floyd Cooper
Harry by the Sea by Gene Zion & Margaret Bloy Graham

This storytime was presented in-person on 6/13, 6/14, & 6/15/22.

Summer Storytimes: Ocean Life

We’re back doing outdoor summer programming! I love outdoor programming. It’s novel and fun and just seems more sensory than indoor programs. I started doing outdoor programs in 2013, when our regular indoor summer storytimes always seemed to be full, and we were getting interest from daycares bringing 5-10 kids. That would have wiped out most of one class’s registered openings, so we decided to offer a once a week outdoor class with no registration and no limit to accommodate them. The regular programmers were super busy, so I took that on as the manager. It was my first foray into programming for little ones (previously I’d been the Teen Services Librarian), and I really fell in love with it. Of course, I came back to it after a break when the pandemic hit and the safest way to offer programs was outdoors in 2021.

Oceans of Possibilities logo with two kids riding on a fish, one reading a book and one holding a banner that says "Read More!"

This year we’re all about the CSLP 2022 theme, Oceans of Possibilities. I have a weekly sub-theme and am presenting an outdoor program for the littles three days a week. Monday is Book Babies, for ages 0-2 (which we didn’t have the first week since our big Kick-Off party was Monday). Tuesday is Teddy Bears, ages 2-3.5, and Wednesday is Family Time, for ages 0-3.5. I’m welcoming siblings as well, so we’ve had a few older kids join us, too. The program is basically the same for each age group, but I might adjust my book selection for the older or younger group.

For each session, we’re doing about 15-20 minutes of storytime rhymes, songs, and a book, then there is 20 minutes of free play at our seven sensory stations. We end with bubbles and a goodbye song. I’ve never done stations like this before, so it was a lot of planning (and anxiety – “will this work!?”). My goal is to give kids and grownups some ideas of things they could do at home, plus give the kids (and caregivers) an opportunity to socialize with others. Many of them were born during or right before the pandemic started and have not had a chance at “normal” socialization. They’re very much still learning about sharing, appropriate interactions, friendship. I’m happy to report that stations were a total hit our first week, with lots of “This is such a great idea!” “You’re so well organized!” “I could totally do this at home” comments from caregivers. So gratifying!

Sign that says "Storytime Area.  Gather here at 10 AM for storytime.  We will release to stations during the program. Thank you to grown-ups for keeping stations clear until the time is right!" and the Oceans of Possibilities icon

Our first week is all about Ocean Life – fish, crabs, sea turtles, octopuses, etc. I’d planned a “paint with water” activity as one of the stations, but we had overcast skies and that works best on a hot, sunny day to dry out the concrete, so I switched it with a sponge play activity I’d originally planned for later in the summer.

I’m relying heavily on repetition this year, with only one themed song and a themed book changing each week. Our other songs and rhymes will be repeated, to ground us in consistency. Additionally, two stations are repeated each week, with three others rotating and two additional ones unique each week. I’ll indicate each below.

Early Literacy Tip: My goal is for your children to have positive experiences and thoughts about the library and reading, so if you’re having a rough day or not having fun, it’s completely okay to step away for a bit to calm yourself and come back when you’re ready. If you need to leave early for any reason, that’s fine, too. That goes for reading at home, too. It’s better to take breaks and come back when the mood is right rather than force a child to sit through a book when they’re not enjoying it.

In our winter/spring indoor programs, I’d been doing a song where each child was named in a verse of the song. Due to spacing and distancing concerns, I only had 7 kids then. Now that we’re outside, I’m having 15-20 kids, so this welcome song, which lets me do three names each verse, goes a little faster!
Welcome Song: Hello, Friends (repeated)
(tune of Goodnight, Ladies)
Hello, friends! Hello, friends!
Hello, friends, it’s time to say hello!
Hello, [name 1], hello, [name 2]!
Hello, [name 3], it’s time to say hello! (repeat as needed)
(ASL motions: salute for “hello,” then take the index fingers on each hand and you link them together as though they are hugging each other back and forth for “friends”)
Source: Glenside Public Library District

Warm-Up Rhyme: We Wiggle and Stop (repeated)
(Use the ASL sign for the word “stop” – one hand “chops” across the opposite hand)
We wiggle and we wiggle and we STOP
We wiggle and we wiggle and we STOP
We wiggle and we wiggle and we wiggle and we wiggle
And we wiggle and we wiggle and we STOP
(This week we also “jumped” and “twirled” – I’ll do two new motions in addition to wiggle each week to keep it interesting)
Source: Jbrary

Intro to Weekly Theme:
Our summer theme this year is “Oceans of Possibilities!” This week we’re looking at what lives in the ocean. Can anyone think of something that lives in the ocean? (hopefully “fish” is mentioned!) Here’s a song about some of those animals!

Every single time I try to sing this melody the way Caspar Babypants does, but it always seems to come out more like Michael Finnigan (the way Jbrary does it). I keep trying!
Themed Song: All the Fish
All the fish are swimming in the water, (hands zig-zag in front of you)
Swimming in the water, swimming in the water
All the fish are swimming in the water,
Bubble, bubble, bubble, POP! (corkscrew fingers up then CLAP)

Additional verses:
All the crabs are snapping in the water… (pinch with hands as pincers)
All the sharks are chomping in the water… (arms snap together vertically like jaws)
Source: adapted from Jbrary, Caspar Babypants, from the album “I Found You”

CD album cover of Caspar Babypants I Found You.

Transition Song: If You’re Ready for a Story
(tune of If You’re Happy and You Know It)
If you’re ready for a story, clap your hands (clap, clap)
If you’re ready for a story, clap your hands (clap, clap)
If you’re ready for a story, if you’re ready for a story,
If you’re ready for a story, clap your hands (clap, clap)
Source: Miss Keithia (my predecessor)

Themed Book:
Little White Fish by Guido van Genechten
OR
Hooray For Fish by Lucy Cousins
I ended up only doing Little White Fish, but had Hooray for Fish as a backup.

I adapted the lyrics only slightly from Jbrary’s pirate themed song to be a little more generic ocean. I also let grownups know this could be a lifting song, but only if they’re feeling ambitious! I invite everyone else to do the up and down motions with me.
Repeated Song: The Ocean Song
(tune of The Elevator Song)
Oh, the ocean is great and the ocean is grand!
There are lots of big ships but very little land
And we sleep down deep in a hammock near the floor
And this is what we do when we go out to shore:

(ready?) We… ride… the…
waves going up, we ride the waves going down
we ride the waves going up, we ride the waves going down
we ride the waves going up, we ride the waves going down
And we turn… a-… round!
Source: Jbrary

After the Ocean Song, I’m invariably out of breath, so it’s time for a breathing break. I’d considered doing ocean wave breathing on the theme, but I decided that Five Finger Breathing is an easy one to teach and for kids to remember, which is my point in doing it.
Breathing Break: Five Finger Breathing
Whew, I could use a breathing break! Let’s get out our five fingers and spread our hands out wide. We’re going to breathe in deeply as we trace our fingers up, pause for just a moment at the top of our finger, then breathe out as we trace down. Ready?

I like to mention that this song was adapted by an occupational therapist as a reminder of ways to self-soothe.
Repeated Movement Song: Big Sea Star
(tune of A Ram Sam Sam)
A big sea star, a big sea star
Little cuddle clam and a big sea star
A big sea star, a big sea star
Little cuddle clam and a big sea star
A pufferfish! A pufferfish!
Little cuddle clam and a big sea star
A pufferfish! A pufferfish!
Little cuddle clam and a big sea star
Source: Jbrary

Release to Stations
I have seven stations each week, which involve a mixture of dry, wet, and an action station.

Repeated Stations:
Kinetic Sand (Dry)
I bought some kinetic sand and added it to two plastic bins. In the recycling bin I found some fruit cup containers that had fun shapes and added them plus some plastic shovels. I keep a sheet underneath this station to catch any stray sand that escapes the bins. I didn’t realize until after that this one should not be put in mouths, so I do warn the parents that if their kiddo is still exploring with their mouth, they may want to skip this station.

Kinetic Sand sign.
"Feel it! Mold it! Can you build a sand castle? What sea creature can you sculpt? Can you write your name or draw a picture in the sand? Please dry off before playing with the sand to prevent mold."



Pouring Station (Wet)
I asked coworkers to collect clean plastic recyclables with wide openings for this station and visited Goodwill for some additional pitchers. We had measuring cups and funnels in our materials, as well as a baby pool, which is the perfect container. I fill the pool with plastic bins and fill them randomly with water from the hose each week.

Pouring Station Sign:
"Simply pour water from one container to another! Do some containers sound different? Can you guess how much water you need to fill a particular one? Is it easier to pour from a round lip or one with a spout? How many containers have a handle?"

Rotating Stations:
Craft Stick Sort (Dry)
I noticed in my storage bin that I had these boxes of dot painters that have small holes already in the top. I colored a ring around each hole a different rainbow color and added colored craft sticks for a fine motor and color identification station.

Craft Stick Sort sign:
"Sort the craft sticks! Can you insert the colored sticks into the holes that match? Please dry off before playing at this station."



Beanbag Sort (Dry)
We had these beanbags from Lakeshore Learning that are different colors and shapes. They’re a super easy station where kids can play and sort with them in several ways.

Beanbag Sort sign:
"Sort the beanbags! Create piles for different colors or shapes.  Try tossing or rolling the beanbags to a friend. Please dry off before playing at this station."



Ocean Boulder Leap (Action)
This started out in my head as a lily pad leap, but adapted to the ocean theme. We had the rubber dots from an active play set and I cut out some crab graphics to tape on for flavor.

Ocean Boulder Leap sign:
"Get your wiggles out! Leap from one boulder to another and don't fall in!"

Unique Stations:
Sponge Play (Wet)
Based on this Pinterest idea from Little Lifelong Learners, I just had sponges in bins of water for little ones to play with. Of course, I have to do some theme stuff, so in addition to simple shapes (sticks, triangles, circles), I cut out some ocean animals as well. These sponges will be reused in a craft later in the summer. This was the only station I snapped a picture of outdoors – but I’ll be sure to do more pictures in upcoming posts.



Finger Painting (Art/Messy)
I simply put out pieces of paper in our messy trays with finger paints in recycled plastic containers. There was a rinse station nearby with a couple buckets of water and towels for cleaning up hands. All of my craft stations this summer are simple process-focused art with different media.

After about 20 minutes exploring stations, I rang the bell to call everyone back to the storytime area. 20 minutes felt like a good time – kids had generally found their way to all the stations and were winding down.

Everybody loves bubbles! The trick to doing bubbles outside, I’m finding, is to figure out which way the wind is blowing and get upwind of your group!
Recorded Bubble Song: Pop, Pop, Pop by Nathalia
From the album “Dream a Little,” available on Spotify

CD album cover for Nathalia's Dream a Little

Goodbye Song: See You Later, Alligator
(tune of Clementine)
See you later, alligator (wave with one hand, then the other)
In a while, crocodile (open and shut arms like a croc’s mouth)
Give a hug, ladybug (hug yourself or a loved one)
Blow a kiss, jellyfish! MWAH! (move hand like a jellyfish then blow a kiss!)
Source: King County Library System

Sign:
"Books are available to look at here OR take home, in which case they MUST be CHECKED OUT INSIDE the library. Please dry off before looking at books."

Other books I had available for families to browse (and may work for you on this theme)
In the Sea
by David Elliott & Holly Meade
The Old Boat
by Jarrett & Jerome Pumphrey
Secret Seahorse
by Stella Blackstone & Clare Beaton
Ocean Counting
by Janet Lawler & Brian Skerry
Little White Fish Deep Beneath the Sea
by Guido van Genechten
Little White Fish and His Daddy
by Guido van Genechten
Oscar the Octopus
by Matthew Van Fleet
Dolphin Baby!
by Nicola Davies & Brita Granström

This storytime was presented in-person on 6/7/22 & 6/8/22.

Flannelboard: Pirate Jack Gets Dressed

If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading Pirate Jack Gets Dressed by Nancy Raines Day & Allison Black, check him out! This swashbuckler takes us through his morning dress routine, which consists of a long list of clothing items in a variety of colors, all in charming rhyme that begs to be read with a jaunty pirate-y accent. I love that there are some more unusual clothes, like a vest and sash, as well as colors often overlooked in books that focus on the rainbow, like gold and silver and brown. Hello, vocabulary!

A picture of the Pirate Jack Gets Dressed book cover.

Adding one clothing piece after another is a perfect fit for flannel adaptation. I first blogged about this set in a What We Wear/Clothing themed storytime and was inspired by a resource my state library put together on nominees for their Early Literacy Firefly Award (you can find their template in the 2020 program guide). I changed the set quite a bit, giving Jack his distinctive features from the book and lengthening his body so his sock and boot actually fit on his leg.

Photo of all the separate pieces of the Pirate Jack felt set, including gray long johns, a white shirt, yellow pants, a blue vest, a pink sock, a brown boot and brown peg leg, a red waist sash, an orange head sash, a silver (gray) hook, a purple coat, gold earrings, and a green parrot.

Thanks to reader Jennifer who asked about a template for this flannel set! I didn’t initially make a template, but scanned my finished pieces so you could recreate it if you wish. There are notes on the template that indicate where pieces might be layered, and a scan of a few of the back pieces to see how a couple of the trickier pieces are put together. One more note – my pieces are a little small. I think if I were doing this again, I would enlarge it a bit just to make it easier to see and work with. You should be able to use your printer dialog box to enlarge (probably anywhere from 20-50% might be good) and print on tablet (11×17) sized paper instead of the default letter (8.5×11).

Photo of Pirate Jack flannel with all the pieces put together so he is "dressed"

Pirate Jack is a great multi-use flannel. You could use this one for a Clothing theme, as I did, one for Pirates or the Ocean, or, of course, Colors. It’s a great fit for the Collaborative Summer Library Program’s Oceans of Possibilities theme for summer 2022. Enjoy!

Download the Pirate Jack template here!

thumbnail of 2 of 4 pages of the Pirate Jack template

A Library Life Story

Hello, Readers! Apologies that I’ve been MIA. I started a “new” job in December 2021.

tl;dr
I worked at a library for 14 years. I left to do storytime programming at a new library and stayed there for 2+ years. The original library had an opening for a storytime programmer. I’m back and it’s wonderful!

Story time!  Not “storytime” but time for me to share my story.  I suppose I could begin in 2004, when Ms. Emily was graduating from college with an English/French double major.  I’d had vague thoughts about becoming an editor in a publishing company.  There were actually quite a few where I lived in the Midwest, but after learning they were all technical/textbook publishers, I was less interested and feeling a bit lost.  I had strong family and fiancé ties to the area and wasn’t really looking to move.  Then, my college’s English department hosted a panel discussion: “What to Do with your English Major!”  One of the panelists was a librarian, and everything fell into place.  I started looking and applying for any library position in the area and was eventually hired at a mid-sized single-branch library in a bedroom community to Indianapolis.  The position I kind of randomly fell into was their Young Adult librarian – but I’d always loved to read and was fairly okay with teenagers so it worked out.  I was super-lucky that they also had a tuition reimbursement program.  I enrolled in library school and started work. 

2005-2009, including Halloweens (Cinderella Skeleton and Coraline’s Other Mother), Deathly Hallows release party, Teen Book Buddies, Twilight Party, and Life-Sized Monopoly.

I learned a ton in the years I spent as the teen services librarian – how to plan, budget, and present programs to a sometimes reluctant, sometimes super-engaged audience.  How to build trust and rapport.  Teen programming was a lot of fun.  I learned how to do the Thriller dance and zombie makeup.  We did lock-ins, LAN parties, D&D, poetry slams, pizza taste tests, and all the crafts I could come up with.  I worked with teens on grant-writing and leadership.  I wrote letters of recommendation and saw kids turn into adults.  And of course, provided food at every program!  In those years I also learned how to develop a diverse and inclusive collection of books to serve youth.  How to interact with adults and children working a reference desk and a children’s reference desk.  To become part of a team of coworkers and build a work ethic.  I took on some new responsibilities, like managing our page department, first with a colleague and then on my own.  Hiring, training, difficult conversations.  For many of these employees, this was their first ever job.

2011-2014, including, Thrill the World 2011, Live Clue (Peacock & Scarlett!), Teen Lock-In, Summer Water Party, another Halloween as Lark Trent, Giant Twister, and the READ domino for an SRP School Video

I loved teens, but after eight years I was looking for something new.  When my supervisor’s position opened, I applied to run our ten-person Information Services department, which covered adult, teen, and children’s services.  In our medium library, we did a lot – all programming, all collection development and management, all reference desk hours.  We needed to be able to help patrons with technology and reader’s advisory and couldn’t forget to be engaged in community outreach.  It was exciting to work with a great team of people to serve all these roles.  To work with our equally great administration team to shape policy and a vision for the future of the library. 

2012-2018, including animal programs (skunk and fennec fox), Halloweens (Fern from Charlotte’s Web, incarcerated HP witch), Thrill the World 2012, World Book Night, and two SRP kickoffs

After six years or so in management, though, I started feeling another itch for change.  Summer Reading was stressful – figuring out prizes, sponsors, how it would work from year to year.  Being responsible for ten people’s work rather than just my own.  The push-pull of middle management – trying to interpret and stand up for the needs of your staff as well as implementing new ideas and policies from admin.  Not to mention the eye-crossing work of scheduling, time cards, board reports, performance reviews, annual statistics.  What was once an exciting challenge was becoming a slog.  One thing that I always enjoyed, though, was filling in for coworkers’ children’s programs and offering a weekly outdoor storytime in the summer.  [We’d had problems with preschools and daycares taking up all of the spaces in our registered storytimes in the summer, so we decided to offer an extra one that required no registration and could accommodate everyone, geared for 0-5.  The regular programmers were already doing a lot of their own programs and scheduling was difficult, so I took it on, and I LOVED doing it.]  After lots of thought and reflection, I decided it was time to switch gears yet again.

In May of 2019, I took a part-time job in an even smaller community doing youth programming and desk time exclusively.  Youth services consisted of one other part-time person doing only desk, a full-time teen librarian who spent half her time in a job-share at the local middle school, and my supervisor.  I did two storytimes a week for kids ages 0-5 and collaborated with the teen librarian on weekly programs for school age kids.  My boss was someone I had hired and trained at my old library and really liked, and I was really enjoying the fun and creativity of programming.

Unfortunately, two months later, my supervisor moved to a new job.  We did a lot of interviewing (the director involved the whole department in the hiring process), but struggled to find someone.  When we did, one month later the pandemic started and they quit soon after.  I adapted, as the whole library world did, to quarantine.  The week after we closed, I missed my storytime friends so much I started offering virtual storytime and book club for elementary kids from home, learning as I went about virtual programs, Facebook Live, YouTube, and, of course, Zoom.  We slowly came back to the building in May, but continued to only offer virtual programs until June of 2021, when I started doing outdoor storytime.  Since we wanted everyone spread out, I learned more about speakers and wireless hands-free microphones and how to connect our MP3 player to play music!  I find it exciting to figure out new ways of working and serving the public. 

Outdoor storytimes, summer 2021

Even after we opened the doors to the public again, this new library was quiet.  I could go a full morning seeing only one or two families.  On my night shift, we’d see people come in after school from about 3-5:30, then I might not see anyone until we closed at 8.  The part-time person who had only done desk had gone to another job in 2020, so the youth department consisted of our teen librarian and me.  This library was also a little more compartmentalized, so I didn’t interact with other staff members very often.  It was lonely and isolating – my weekly bright spots were programming and the occasional visit from one of our regular families.  The director did the best she could, but with limited staff and budget, a library that wasn’t bustling, and difficulty filling the positions we did have open, not much was changing.  Even so, I hadn’t yet made the decision to move on.  I liked the schedule and the fact I was responsible for my own work.  I had a lot of control over how the children’s department was run day-to-day, and complete creative license in my own programming, plus a healthy book and programming budget due to an endowment (which couldn’t be used for anything else like personnel.)

Fate can be funny, though.  I just happened to see an employment ad through our state library listserv for the “Itty Bitty” programming position at my old library, and everything seemed clear.  I applied, interviewed, and was hired in the next week.  My old library felt like home, and with this new position, I felt like I could do the exact job I really wanted to do there.  I am enjoying the transition back to a “new-old” library, as they underwent major renovations right before I left.  (The admin and management team I was on worked hard on the design and picking out all the furniture, so it’s weird to see it all in place kind of suddenly!)  These past few months, I’ve been adapting to programming for a narrower audience, just 0-3½.  I’ve been reusing a lot of my old program plans, and adjusting them to fit a younger group.  I’ve also been figuring out in-person indoor storytime for myself, and have been working hard to make it safe and fun.  I’ll be working on updating my program plans in upcoming blog posts, and I’m really looking forward to my summer plans, which are very different from what I’ve done before.

If you read this far, thanks! Even if no one is interested, it was kind of fun for me to reminisce and lay it out.  Next post will come sooner than this one, and will be more program focused!