Shhh! by Julie Sykes and Tim Warnes is a cute and funny story about all Santa's noisy mishaps as he delivers presents on Christmas Eve. All the animals keep telling him, "Shhh, Santa! You musn't wake the children." The kids love the humor and often need little or no prompting to join in with the repeating line.
Children can relate to young Teddy's eager anticipation in Is It Christmas Yet? by Jane Chapman (illustrator of Karma Wilson's Bear books), and adults can relate to Big Bear's growing frustration with his constant asking, "Is it Christmas yet?". Children will be horrified when the Christmas tree breaks as they try to get it in the house, but it all works out in the end, and when Teddy wakes up it is finally Christmas.
Click, Clack, Ho! Ho! Ho! is the latest book by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin. It is a simple, purely silly story with the mischievous duck getting himself in trouble, which soon involves all the other animals. This has a simple story, with repeating lines that the kids can say, as well as a plot they can easily predict once they see the pattern. Until the very end, when they will undoubtedly predict Santa will get stuck, too, only to be told, "Don't be silly, Santa would never get stuck".
In Karma Wilson's Bear Stays Up - For Christmas (illustrated by Jane Chapman), Bear's friends are determined to keep the normally hibernating Bear from missing Christmas this year. Will he be able to stay awake? As you know, I love Bear books, and this one is no exception, and I can certainly relate to the over-tired, sleepy Bear.
Jingle-Jingle by Nicola Smee is basically a winter version of Clip-Clop, a known storytime hit. Jingle-Jingle has a short, simple, but funny story with repeating elements and sound effects that kids enjoy. This is particularly good for younger kids, or for a general winter theme as well.
When Cows Come Home For Christmas by Dori Chaconas and Lynne Chapman is a very funny story about a cow who gets her hooves stuck in the floor where the Christmas tree is supposed to go, and is unable to get out. Eventually, they decided to decorate her instead, spawning a new family tradition! This is a little long for the younger kids, but older ones will love it.
Mouse's First Christmas by Lauren Thompson is a cute little story with Little Mouse exploring around the house on Christmas Eve, leaving the children to guess what he finds. The one issue I have with this book is that a couple of the illustrations are ambiguous or misleading, and usually require extra hints for the kids to guess.
Of course, Clement Moore's 'Twas The Night Before Christmas is a classic, and I've always loved it; though it is a little long for many preschoolers. I hoped this version with more simple, modern illustrations by Daniel Kirk would be more appealing so I could read it with at least a couple of the older groups, for the sake of tradition, and it seemed to work pretty well.
The What Am I? lift-a-flap books are always good to use with younger or more restless kids that need something short, simple, and very interactive, so of course I included the Christmas one by Anne Margaret Lewis and Tom Mills.
And last but not least, I'm Not Santa by Jonathan Allen has a very confused Baby Hare mistaking fluffy Baby Owl in his red and white hat for Santa. When Baby Owl tries to explain he is not Santa, Baby Hare starts crying, so Baby Owl in desperation agrees he is Santa. This just makes Baby Hare cry harder, which then makes Baby Owl cry, too!
At Christmas, I like to stick with traditional and fun Christmas songs like "Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer", "Jingle Bells", "Frosty The Snowman", etc. For one, the kids usually know them, and we can add movements or bells and dance around a little. They always love it when you get out the bells! I'm guessing most people know these songs or could easily find them, so I'm not going to bother writing them all out.
I also made a great Rudolph flannel board activity that I saw last year, but too late to use. I saved the pattern provided by Library Quine and was sure to make it this year, and found the poem from Crafty Chic Mommy.
You can't guide Santa's sleigh if your nose is BLUE.
Rudolph, Rudolph, you're such a silly fellow.
Who will know it's you if your nose is YELLOW.
Rudolph, Rudolph, your way cannot be seen,
Through the wintry weather if your nose is GREEN.
Rudolph, Rudolph, Santa gave a wink.
But what will he say if your nose is PINK?
Rudolph, Rudolph, it's time to fly at night.
But you can't get through the snow if your nose is WHITE.
Rudolph, Rudolph, it's time to go to town.
But you can't help Santa if your nose is BROWN.
Rudolph, Rudolph, Santa has his sack.
But you're not ready if your nose is BLACK.
Rudolph, Rudolph, the children are in bed.
And now you can get on your way because your nose is RED!
I usually start by first putting the face on and see if the kids can guess what it is, and rarely will anyone get it (I get a lot of "turkey"s). Then I add the ears, and a few might guess then. But of course as soon as a start to put on the first antler, they all know it's a reindeer (though I did have one guess "moose"). Next, I ask them if they know any special reindeer, and after they come up with "Rudolph", I ask them what is special about Rudolph. When they say something about his nose, I then ask what is our Rudolph missing, and should we help him find it?
I read the poem, carefully putting on each nose without revealing it until the end of the line, and let them call out the color. I really ham it up, trying to convince them each color is good enough because it's bright, pretty, a Christmas-y color, made with a little red, etc., They think it's funny and of course insist we must keep trying until will get the right color. I keep telling them they are awfully picky, and "reluctantly" try another "if you insist". Then we finally get to red, and of course have to follow with a rousing round of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" with all the hand motions and shout-outs.
For really small groups of 7 or less, I pass out the noses to the kids and let them bring them up and put them on when the color is called.
How It Went
This rotation started off with a lot of improvising and "Plan B" followed by "Plan C"! The night before the first day, the driver for our RV/mobile storytime called in sick, and I have neither the desire nor capability to drive that thing. So I just planned on picking up the kit from the branch where we normally meet (they are taken to this location in advance for the volunteers to have a chance to review) and going to the daycares myself and having storytime in the classroom. My flannel board and bells were on the bus, which is stored in a secure location that I don't have access to (or even know exactly where it is), so I rigged one up with a flannel pillow case clamped tight around a memo board from home.
The next morning I got to the branch to grab my kit, only to find the custodian who is normally there to let us in was not there, and I don't have keys for that building! I knew I didn't have time to go to my building that I did have a key for, and likely anything good was checked out anyway. Fortunately, I did happen to have one Christmas book and a handful of winter books in my van, and I had just finished making the Rudolph felt pieces, so had them with me rather than in the kit. There was a Wal-Mart down the street, so I zipped over there and ran in and quickly bought a couple more Christmas books, and headed over to the preschool with my improvised flannel board and smaller-than-normal book selection.
But, though I was a little flustered at first, it all worked out great! Actually, I found I really like doing it that way better. I didn't have to worry about limiting the group size, had more space, and I felt more connected to the kids and teachers. The kids loved the Rudolph, Rudolph flannel, and were fine with what books I had. Though I felt bad they didn't get some of the great Christmas books I had planned, they didn't know what they were missing. We ended up having a great time.
The rest of the rotation all went well (up until today). There were so many good stories, but I would say that Shhh!, Click, Clack, Ho! Ho! Ho!, When The Cows Come Home For Christmas, and Jingle-Jingle were all big hits because of their humor. The younger ones also enjoyed Mouse's First Christmas and What Am I?. I don't think there was anything that I would say didn't work. Sometimes it was hard to decide what to read because they were all so good. The Rudolph, Rudolph flannel was a HUGE hit! They absolutely loved it, and so did the teachers and volunteers. And of course what kid doesn't like singing "Jingle Bells", especially when you get to have real bells!
As for today, I went in expecting another day of jolly good fun, but it didn't quite go that way. Almost every group I saw was just off somehow. The first one, the young ones, just seemed lifeless. Except of course for the two that were SO disruptive it was an exercise in futility. After the second story, I basically called it quits and did one last song and sent them on their way. They second group was overall slightly restless and just could not get them to engage in anything. The third group is usually one of my best, but their teacher was out and the sub got them there late, so they missed almost half their time slot. They were well-behaved, but not as enthusiastic as usual. Thankfully the fourth group were their usual wonderful selves and were well-behaved AND very enthusiastic.
Then we went to the next location for one last group, and they were completely out-of-control! Interrupting, banging heads on the wall, kicking feet on the floor, getting up walking around, trying to go behind us and snoop around in our stuff, just would not listen. The only thing that seemed to hold their attention fairly well was the Rudolph, Rudolph flannel activity. It was not an awful day, but it was frustrating and disappointing. I hate ending a theme on a sour note, especially Christmas. I chalk all the squirrely behavior up to (1) being too close to Christmas, and (2) to the unusual spring-like weather we've been having. I'm glad we are taking a break from storytime until after the holidays!
I hope everyone has a happy and safe holiday season, whatever you choose to celebrate (or not)!