Friday, May 6, 2011

Toddler/Preschool Storytime Overview

One of my first posts on this blog was a copy of my format for toddler and preschool storytimes, but I'd like to explore my methods a bit more.

We have three storytimes a week at my branch. Wednesdays are for Wee Read, for ages birth to 18 months. Our toddlers (18 months to 3 years) and preschoolers (3 to 5 years) meet on Friday, at 10:00 and 11:00 respectively.

My library system does not require registration for storytime, something I am personally torn over. I admit that I can be a tad bit of a control freak, and knowing who is coming and how many to expect is something that I have had a hard time relinquishing. The system I previously worked for fostered that feeling with required sign-ups every session. I can, however, appreciate that family schedules change, and a mom might not be able to bring her child one month, but can the next, and vice-versa for other families.

Every child receives his own name tag when he comes to storytime, and he will keep his same name tag for the whole session. The name tags are made out of a die cut shape from construction paper, a different shape each session. Each tag is prepped by covering a section of the top with scotch tape, then punching a hole through the tape. Last but not least, comes the yarn to make it a necklace.

Summer Name Tag Example
As the children arrive, I greet them, and allow them time to look over the books I have displayed on the side of the room. The preschoolers are allowed to use the crayons and scrap paper I have set out for them. There are usually quite a few stragglers, so I don't start storytime until five minutes after the posted time.

We start with several welcoming songs, ones that they know by heart now. They're always cute when I ask them why they're here, and their answer is always, "For storytime!" I sing "Hello, How Are You?" and wave hello to each child, saying their name.

Next come stretches to get their wiggles out, and the obligatory "Open, Shut Them". The preschoolers laugh riotously when I drag out the last line of the second verse and surprise them with it. Now it's time for the first book of the program. With the toddlers, I jump right in, but the preschoolers are learning the difference between the jobs of the author and illustrator.

In between stories, I either do a felt board rhyme or we sing a song. Sometimes I will accompany the song with my keyboard. If the kids are especially wiggly, we might do another get-your-wiggles-out song before starting the next book.

Craft Bag
Craft time! The toddlers are invited up the front of the room to put their name tag on my chair and receive their craft bag. I usually do a simpler craft for this group, with a minimal amount of gluing and coloring. The preschoolers are called to the front of the room one by one to put their name tags on my chair and get their bag. I use gallon-sized Ziploc bags to store eight crayons (one of each color), a glue stick, and scotch tape, along with the materials for the week's craft. Occasionally I'll add in scissors for the preschoolers. I experimented with different methods of distributing craft supplies, and this seemed to work the best, so I've stuck with it. I used to make examples of the craft, but stopped doing so when I realized that the parents were trying to copy the example, instead of letting their child be creative. I only make a sample now when the craft is too hard to explain.

During the craft assembly, I make announcements about future programs, new materials available to parents, etc. When they seem to be almost finished, we sing "The More We Get Together", and the attendees are invited to check out the books from the displays.

And there you have it! To see an outline of my storytimes, complete with songs used, check out my entry here. Also check out the storytime overview round-up at Mel's Desk

My Children's Librarian mentor, Miss Lucy, always told me that there's no one way, no right way to do a storytime. Everyone has their own style, their own way of doing things that work for them. Find your own groove, by picking and choosing from the methods of others and adding your own touch. Different children respond to different styles, and if something doesn't work, keep trying.

And remember: always have fun!


  1. Do you have a limit on how many can attend your storytimes?

    We currently do registration, but I am so torn right now because I have more kids interested in attending than I have space/supplies for them. Drop-in might solve that problem or make it worse, I don't know.

    I'm playing it by ear right now.

  2. There's no limit, but I usually don't get more than 25 in each group. I always plan for more, though, just in case.

  3. You're absolutely right that there's no one right way to do storytime and everyone has a different style that works for them!

  4. Those words of advice made designing my own storytime so much less daunting. Now I give them to new children's librarians, and I can always see the relief in their eyes.