I’ve noticed that while lots of children’s librarians love to do preschool and toddler storytime, for many folks baby storytime can be a bit intimidating. That’s totally natural – babies are fragile, they can’t laugh at your jokes, and they don’t understand what’s happening in We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.
But baby storytime is my favorite part of my week, so let’s sit back, enjoy a little cuddle, and demystify our youngest patrons.
Why do storytime for babies?
Babies might not seem like the ideal candidates for storytime at first. Babies under six months are still developing their eyesight, so they can’t focus on far away books. They haven’t yet developed a lot of communication skills, so it can be hard to tell if a baby is really getting anything from a storyime. Plus, there’s a lot of Baby Unpleasantness to deal with – from fussiness to spitting up to full-on diaper blow-outs, a lot can go wrong at a baby storytime.
But the flip side is that a lot can go right. Here are some reasons why Baby Storytime isn’t just a great storytime, but the most important storytime you can offer:
- you welcome new families to develop a life-long relationship with reading and the library
- you model for caregivers ways to read, sing, talk and play with baby
- you provide a time and place for caregivers to meet and commiserate
- you introduce caregivers to the idea that from day one, babies are little sponges soaking up everything around them
What does a baby storytime look like?
Here’s what a baby bounce looks like for me – but bear in mind that every library and situation is different! At my library, baby storytime is designed for kiddos 0-24 months and we can get upwards of 200 attendees. Smaller babytimes with more limited age ranges can be very different!
I always use a lot of props in baby bounce – I alternate between using shakers one week, and scarves the next. I also always do a flannel song, and a puppet song. In part, this helps break up the storytime since I only read one book. It also provides a wider range of developmentally appropriate activities, since my storytime suits such a wide age range. I used to include the parachute in my routine, but my crowd is too big. If you have a smaller group, however, I highly recommend it!
A sample Baby Bounce program:
Hello song: Hello, hello, hello and how are you? I’m fine, I’m fine, I hope that you are too! (repeat)
Ukulele song: If You’re Happy and You Know It (clap your hands, tap your nose, tickle your toes, give a big hug, blow a kiss!)
Welcome speech: “Good morning! Please feel free to set up however you would like – baby in your lap facing me, baby facing you, baby on the floor or doing tummy-time – it’s all good! Grown-ups, don’t worry if your kiddo gets a bit fussy and needs to go out and then come back in, or does a lot of wandering during storytime. That’s all normal at this age. Please, as much of the singing and clapping along that you can do the better – your kiddos only learn from storytime when you’re participating too!
Bilingual song: Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes / Cabesa, Hombros, Rodilla, Pies
Book: Please, Baby Please by Spike Lee
Movement song: The Wheels on the Bus
Opposites rhyme: This is big, big, big / this is small, small, small / this is short, short, short / this is tall, tall, tall / this is fast, fast, fast / this is sloooow, slow, slow / this is yes, yes, yes / this is no, no, no!
Flannel Board: Little Mouse
Puppet Song: Old MacDonald
- There Were Three in the Bed (there were three in the bed and the little one said / roll over, roll over / so they all rolled over and one fell out / whee! / there were two in the bed…)
- Smooth Road (a smooth road, a smooth road, a smooth road, a smooth road… a bumpy road a bumpy road a bumpy road a bumpy road… a ROUGH road a ROUGH road a ROUGH road a ROUGH road a HOLE! Whee!
- The Cuckoo Clock Song (tick-tock, tick-tock, I’m a little cuckoo clock, tick-tock, tick-tock, now I’m striking one o’clock… cuckoo!)
- Where Is Shaker?
- Shake Your Shakers Way Up High
Goodbye songs: The More We Get Together & Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
How do you pick books?
I look for books that are short, sweet, and with lots of interactive parts in them, like animal sounds to make, words to call out, body parts to point to. Photographs of real babies and big kids are also very eye-attracting for this age group, and anything the caregivers recognized can be a big hit and draw in participation. Books that make caregivers laugh, even if the babies don’t get it, can also be great – come for the animal sounds in Bark, George, stay for the jokes!
Some favorites include:
- Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett
- Peek-A-Moo and others in the series by Marie Torres Cimarusti
- I Spy on the Farm and others in the series by Edward Gibbs
- The Babies on the Bus and many more by Karen Katz
- Show Me Happy and I Am A Baby by Kathryn Allen
- Colors and others by Shelly Rotner
- I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry
- Moo, Baa, La La La by Sandra Boyton (this used to be printed in a big board book format if you can find it)
How do I know I’m doing a good job?
You’ll know. You’ll see the same caregivers coming in week to week, despite terrible missed naps and your off-key singing voice (I’m speaking from personal experience here). The babies will start to stare at you, watching your every move. Eventually, they’ll start to come over to you, sometimes shy, sometimes bold.
And the first time they start to cry when it’s time to say good-bye, you’ll feel both sad… and amazing.