Parachute ideas for all kinds of programs!

Stumped for ideas for using the parachute at storytime?

Think outside the picture books stacks!

Here are some great ideas for incorporating material from other areas of your collection.

Want to make your own clip art?

Here are a few tips and tricks to get you started!

Some easy ways to spice up your site!

Be sure to suggest your favorites in the comments!

Ideas for incorporating factual materials into storytime

There is lots of great nonfiction for kids out there. If I missed your favorite, leave a comment!

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Blanket for the Princess

A Mother's Day/love theme was requested for this week's Flannel Friday, so here is "A Blanket for the Princess" from Storytime Magic by Kathy MacMillan and Christine Kirker, which is one of my all-time favorite storytime planning books. I used this story as part of a Fairy Tale theme, but there are lots of others you could use it for (babies, quilts, Mother's Day/Father's Day, love, etc.). It also seemed appropriate for today, given that it is Royal Wedding Day.

The gist of the story is that the King and Queen have a newborn baby girl. They decide the princess must have the world's most beautiful baby blanket, inspired by the yellow sun blue sky, orange flowers, etc. The servants are unable to find such a blanket, until an old woman comes forth with a faded quilt.
It is a quiet, old-fashioned story.

Here's your royal family:

Here are the natural things that inspire their baby blanket:

And here is the quilt (make your life easy and hot glue the squares to the quilt!):

You can download the patterns' PDF from the ALA Editions website, but I should warn you that my felt figures are more inspired by the patterns than exact duplicates. I have simplified them a lot! Also, the ALA Website is a little temperamental so try on a different computer/browser if it doesn't work the first time.

The exact words aren't necessary for this story, and I simplify them a lot when I tell it. 

Other great love themed felt board stories are Moose in Love and The Big Hearted Elephant (a Valentine's Day poem).

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Preschool Storytime Overview

I noticed that others have been posting overviews of their storytime programs, so I thought I would share ours as well. I do one weekly storytime for preschoolers Tuesday mornings at 11 during the school year at my main branch and also Friday mornings at our other branch. We do 6-week sessions in fall (October-Thanksgiving), winter (January and February), and spring (March-April). We also have a 6-week storytime session during our summer reading program.

During the summer, I do five storytimes each week at different locations: a city park on the river, 2 elementary school lawns, in the library, at our other branch. Down by the river is my favorite (don't worry, we're actually quite a lot further than this where we do our storytime):

We don't have a program room at either branch so both storytimes are in the children's section. In my main branch, that requires moving a lot of furniture. We also have steps to look out for (which lead up to a stage that houses our picture book collection). Generally, I put my felt board easel on the stage and either stand or sit to read to the kids, depending on how many kids there are or what I feel like that day.

We usually have about 30 people for storytimes during the school year. The summer varies a lot more--anywhere from one family to about 60 people at a storytime. I am partial to the summer ones because we are outside and we often have a good sized-crowd so we can get a little more rowdy.

All of our storytime programs are unregistered. The only time we register for a program is if a performer requests the crowd size be kept to a certain limit. This usually only happens with live animal programs. Since we don't have a seperate storytime room, it would be difficult to keep people away anyway. And it is my philosophy to tell people "YES!" as much as possible.

For opening activities, I usually start by saying "Good morning" and waiting for someone to say it back. Often this is less than enthusiastically met so sometimes I have everyone repeat it a few times. We should probably start providing coffee.

After everyone has been sufficiently loud at wishing me a good morning, I have the kids stand up and we do "Jump Up, Turn Around" by Jim Gill. We usually have a much smaller crowd at the other branch so I use "Open Them, Shut Them" instead. (That's also how I begin my toddler storytimes.)

This is my version of "Open Them, Shut Them":
Open them, shut them.
Open them, shut them.
Give a little clap, clap, clap.
Open them, shut them.
Open them, shut them.
Put them in your lap, lap, lap.

Creep them, crawl them.
Creep them, crawl them.
Right up to your chin, chin, chin.
Open up your little mouth,
But do not let them in!

After we've danced, we play Little Mouse, Little Mouse.

Then we do an action rhyme called "Let's Hear You Roar Like a Lion" by Diane Briggs. It goes like this:

Let's hear you roar like a lion!
Let's see you jump like a frog!
Let's see you snap your jaws like a crocodile!

Let's hear you howl like a dog!
Pretend you're an elephant with a big, looooong, truck.
Pretend you're a monkey. Let's see you jump, jump, jump!
And now you're a mouse. Just let me see
How very, very quiet you can be.

Then I read some books. If I notice the kids are particularly wound up, I'll have them do another dance like "Silly Dance Contest" by Jim Gill. I usually play music off my iPhone--in airplane mode so I don't get a phone call-- (connected to a portable speaker set) so I can sub different things in very easily.

After I'm done reading, we sometimes do a game or activity. The most popular one is our parachute. It is tricky in our space because we have a lower ceiling and the aforementioned steps. But the kids really love it.

Then, we either do a simple craft activity or a coloring sheet. I'm thinking we will most likely switch to take-home crafts because of space concerns. Our storytime has grown in attendance tremendously since I started and we are running out of room. For staffing purposes, we can't easily add another one.

I'd show you some pictures of my storytime area/youth department, but we are hopefully going to be repainting it soon, so I will save that for a future makeover post.

Friday, April 22, 2011

"5 Little Flowers"

Five Little Flowers (from

One little flower had nothing much to do,
Out popped another one, then there were ________.

Two little flowers were smiling at the bee,
Out popped another one, then there were _________.

Three little flowers were growing by the door,
Out popped another one, then there were __________.

Four little flowers were glad to be alive,
Out popped another one, then there were __________.

This one was super-easy! I had some pre-cut felt shapes (the "petals") and then I cut out some stems out of felt scraps.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Storytelling "How Bear Lost his Tale"

It seems people are enjoying the draw-and-tell (also known as "chalk talk") stories I've been posting, so here is a more advanced one. It is a little trickier than Catching a Pest or Bingo. It's "How Bear Lost His Tail" from More Tell and Draw Stories by Margaret Jean Oldfield and is a porqui tale.

We begin by drawing a dot (which becomes the eye in the finished drawing):

And slowly, but surely, you wind your way to this:

This is an older book (copyright 1969), so it might be difficult for you to track down a copy. Please also remember the era when reading some of the stories as they might contain aspects that will be considered politically incorrect (or downright racist, etc.).

Saturday, April 16, 2011

5 Reasons You Should Participate in Flannel Friday

I added a new page to my blog today called "Flannel Friday" and as I was writing it, I was so impressed with all the amazing flannel ideas that have been posted over the past few weeks.I wanted to write 5 reasons why you (all 3 of my readers!) should join in.

1. First and most important, it is super fun to read everyone else's posts. But there wouldn't be any posts to share, if no one joined in. And I want to see your ideas. So show them off. Please cave to peer pressure and join us. There. I said please. And I'm told that is the magic word.

2. Youth librarians are brave. Really brave. If you can read a book while pretending to sob or throw a fake temper tantrum in front of 30 or more strangers, that is a special kind of brave. And also, we are awesome. And a good way to meet other awesome youth librarians is by blogging. But sometimes it is hard to think of something to write about. But it isn't too hard to snap a quick picture and write a quick explanation of a flannel board story. And it is also brave.

3. You will probably get a slight increase in traffic. My blog is not very popular. It is a sporadic labor of love for me, and I don't do a lot to promote it. Most posts only get a small number of hits. But my posts on Flannel Friday get lots more. Hundreds sometimes. And that's pretty awesome too.

4. Inspiration & education. I hope my blog inspires a librarian (new or an old pro) to try a new story or even a new storytelling technique. If it does, please report back! Or send me an email. I'd love to hear about it or see your version of a story I recommended. Reading blogs is a big part of my personal professional development and I'd love to know that others feel the same way about mine (check out the Recommended Reading tab on the righthand column of this blog if you'd like to see my favorite blogs. If I missed yours, let me know and I'll add it).

5. Don't make me beg. It will not be pretty.

Oh, p.s. I finally joined goodreads, so add me as a friend!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Birthday Rhymes

In honor of a certain blogging youth librarian's birthday coming up (*cough*), here is a BONUS #FlannelFriday post(!!) perfect for baby, toddler, or preschool storytimes. I free-hand cut all of these so no patterns exist (sorry!)

"Birthday Candles" by Mary Marshall and "Five Candles" by Roberts can both be done like so:

 Someday I hope to redo the candles as they look like creepy witch fingers to me. But today is not that day!

"A Cat Had a Birthday" from Sesame Street

Birthday rhymes available at Addison Library's Children's Department's Story Totes page. (PDF)

Time for cake! Party on, dudes!

"The Great, Big, Enormous Turnip"

Since many libraries are using the "One World, Many Stories" theme for summer reading this year, I thought I would share a#flannelfriday idea that fits this theme. It's "The Great, Big, Enormous Turnip" from The Flannelboard Storytelling Book by Judy Sierra. It's a traditional Russian tale about a group of people and animals who band together to unearth a giant turnip and is an awesome one for group participation! The kids really get into "he PULLED and he PULLED and he PULLED!"

Oh, look! A ginormous turnip!

Need some help, guys?


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Storytelling Country Crossing by Jim Aylesworth

Country Crossing by Jim Aylesworth is a little longer of a story than I would attempt in storytime, unless you perform it instead of simply reading it. The text is very evocative of a country railroad crossing on its own, but making it interactive and participatory will keep the kids' attention better. Here's what you'll need:
  • A copy of the book.
  • A volunteer (parent or staff member) to hit the lights at designated time (use the cue "And the warning lights flashed" if you're somewhere the lights can be turned on and off. Even better if you have a red flashlight or similar)
  • Train whistle (or improvise if you're a skilled whistler unlike me).
  • Triangle (for the warning bell). This can be farmed out to a volunteer whose cue will be "The crossing bell rang."
  • Egg shakers for the kids (they will be the rumbling train. Their cue is "choo choo" and they should shake quietly first and then louder and louder)

How well you can pull this off at a storytime depends on the audience you get. I plan to try it this summer with my family storytime group. There's always a couple school-age kids. Should be fun. Wish me luck! If anyone's done this one before, let me know if you have advice.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

The Biggest Fish in the Sea Puppet Sketch

As a one-person youth department, I often feel a little bummed that I don't have another children's librarian to team up with to do joint storytelling efforts. So I am always thrilled to find stories that I can perform creatively by myself.

"The Biggest Fish in the Sea" is from the 2010 Collaborative Summer Library Program manual and can be found on chapter 4 (pages 113-114, and the patterns for making the fish are on page 123). It is credited to Mary Marks.

Here's what you'll need:
-Fisherman (or woman) puppet
-Fishing rod (this one is improvised from an old cat toy's wand and some string)
-Misc. props for the fisherman to catch (examples: old pop can, underwear, etc.)
-Hot glue gun & glue
-Puppet stage
-Fish puppets (there is a pattern on page 123 of the manual to make cardstock ones, but I had cute finger puppets from IKEA and used those instead).

I hot glued a magnet onto the end of the fishing line and one inside or on each of the props we used. The fishing rod is also hot glued to the hands of our poor fisherman puppet. Hot glue and magnets are my secret puppetry weapons. I record all the audio for my puppet shows (details) and play it off my iPhone (on airplane mode in case someone tries to call me!) so I can concentrate on the puppet's actions. It easier for me than trying to read lines and manipulate puppets and props. You might be a more natural actor!

Bunny Storytime

I don't usually do themed storytimes, but I wound up with a theme quite accidentally for the last week of storytime (didn't even notice it until I was trying to find a craft to go with it!) and all the books went over quite well with my group.

You're Finally Here by Melanie Watts. I jumped up and down while reading this and pulled out my cell phone at the end. The parents were very amused.
If You're Hoppy by April Pulley Sayre. I thought this would be a bigger hit, but I think the group that came Tuesday was a little young to fully appreciate this version of "If You're Happy and You Know It." Oh well.
Little White Rabbit by Kevin Henkes

I wanted to play "Pin the Tail on the Bunny" with a felt bunny and spots I had made, but I didn't have time to make enough so we couldn't play. Bummer!

I was able to give out Knuffle Bunny headbands that our book distributor gave us from the publisher after Knuffle Bunny Free came out. Thanks, E-P!

Friday, April 08, 2011

"Flip-Flap Jack"

This week's #FlannelFriday, "Flip-Flap Jack," was introduced to me on the Preschool Storytime Facebook page. I love this song so much! It is sung to the tune of the song Aiken Drum.

Here is the beginning:
There was a man made of food, made of food, made of food.
There was a man made  of food,
And his name was Flip-Flap Jack.
And he danced upon the table, the table, the table.
He danced upon the table.
And his name was Flip-Flap Jack!

Heeerreeeee's Jack!

And a close-up of his face:

The rest of the words (and the patterns for Flip-Flap Jack) are found in Ready to Go Storytimes: Fingerplays, Scripts, Patterns, Music and More by Gail Benton and Trisha Waichulaitis.

#FlannelFriday was started by Melissa and Mary and I shamelessly copied her idea. If you're a blogger and also want to join the #FlannelFriday party, let one of us know. (The three of us are also the admins of the Preschool Storytime and Baby Storytime Facebook pages.)

Thursday, April 07, 2011

"A Salty Tale" Puppet Show

I have shared some posts about my library's puppet shows, but I thought it would be fun to share the entire process so you can put one on too!You know you want to! We do puppet shows for spring and winter breaks. I have also done them to kick-off summer reading and we did a Halloween one this year. Our puppet shows are some of our most popular programs (second only to paid performers during summer reading and our big Carnival in the fall).

The basis for the puppet show's script is from Puppetry and the Art of Story Creation by Nancy Renfro. It is really a sketch that you can lengthen and embellish. Sometimes it helps to have the kernel of an idea to encourage you to be creative without being overwhelmed. In this script, two cooks argue over a soup recipe (hence the title "A Salty Tale.")

This is a fun puppet show because it has different special effects. The script is written to use bubbles (as the soup boils), baby powder (for steam), and a squirt gun (the fish in the soup squirts water at the chefs). It was easier for us to just use the squirt gun because we only had two puppeteers and limited room. The squirt gun is the only effect that the plot depends on, but you could rewrite that portion easily if you opted out of using one. Ours leaked all over the place also, so be warned about that.

You can't have a puppet show without a few puppets, so meet our stars: Joe and Leo:

The script also calls for a fish (homemade with cotton ball stuffing and a felt body) and boss (vintage w/ homemade felt apron) for our two wacky chefs: 

For props, we assembled some play kitchen accessories: a toy mixer, wooden spoons, play food, etc. to decorate the stage and add ambiance. The toy mixer we found at the local dollar store for $5!

We purchased play food from Small World Living Toys and I highly recommend it. The pieces are just the right size to be viewable (and can be grabbed with puppet hands although I cheated and hot glued magnets to them) and are very attractive. I don't have kids of my own but you might have some toys lying around you can use as props also.

Here are some script adaptations and other general tips:
1-Changing references to the "boss" to the King/Queen, if you already have a royal puppet handy. We didn't do this, but it might save you a lot of trouble of trying to figure out how the heck to make a boss puppet!

2-Where the script calls for an odd assortment of items (jewelry is suggested) to be added to the soup, just use underwear. It will help if you add a line of dialogue spelling it out as underwear. Underwear is comic gold, I tell you. Comic gold.

3-With the puppets we used, I had to figure out a way to get the smaller puppet to be able to drop food items into the soup pot. What I wound up having success with was ho tgluing magnets onto all the food and placing them into a small bowl which I velcroed (more secure than hot glue in this case) to a paint stirrer which was painted black. Then I was able to use my left hand to hold the weight of the bowl while my right hand was acting out the puppet who was "carrying" the bowl. This worked really nicely and proved that, indeed, the simplest solution is the best one.

Here is how it looks to the audience: 

4-If you have a handy husband like the one I am blessed with (or are handy yourself), beg and plead for him to add a shelf to the back of your puppet stage. We should have done this years ago! It would have saved me so much trouble. Ours folds down so the stage doors can be closed for easier transport. (Our stage is huge. Massive. And has already been made even smaller in my tenure--my husband cut some of the width off the sides to make it more portable about a year ago.)

5- Pro Tip: Eat a good breakfast before you do this puppet show as all the food talk makes you hungry!

I also read The Very Hungry Caterpillar before the show so that the kids wouldn't get restless and latecomers wouldn't miss half the show. After the show, the kids get to come up and play with the puppets behind the big stage which is very exciting for them.

So there you have our version of "A Salty Tale!" Patron feedback was really excellent on this and attendance was off the charts (146 people at 3 shows). I'm going to go take a nap now!

Storytelling "Catching a Pest" by Dianne de Las Casas

Today I am thrilled to bring you the very first drawing tale that I ever learned, "Catching a Pest" by Dianne de Las Casas from Handmade Tales: Stories to Make and Take (p.21-22). This is still one of my favorites and is a great one for those of us who don't feel that we have as much artistic ability.

You only need to be able to write the numbers 1-7 to successfully tell this tale! So, if you can do this:

Then you can finish the tale with a picture that looks like this:

Friday, April 01, 2011

"Moose in Love" by Diane Briggs

This week's #FlannelFriday is the poem "Moose in Love" from Preschool Favorites by Diane Briggs (page 131). According to the author's note, Briggs was inspired to write the poem by the book A Moose for Jessica.

I'm no preschooler, but this is hands-down my favorite flannelboard story. It is silly and romantic. Great for a Valentine's Day, wedding, animals, or love-themed story.

Here is the first stanza:
A moose came out of the woods one day
And into a pasture of cows
He spied a young cow named Jessica
and all he could say was, "WOW!"

 And after a brief courtship, they marry:

You can download Briggs's patterns for this story here.  The moose pictured is from a different pattern, for If You Give a Moose a Muffin from Storytime Magic by Kathy MacMillan.

If you don't like the text for Briggs's rhyme, I spotted a similar poem called "A Moosetake" in Bear Hugs by Karma Wilson. Unfortunately, the pages aren't numbered, but I'd say it's about half-way through the book.