Friday, January 19, 2024

My Basic Toddler Storytime Plan

Toddler storytimes are a relatively new thing for me. Previously, I almost exclusively did preschool storytimes, though I did sub a few times for toddler storytime. In my current position, when I first started in-person storytimes back up in 2022 I was only doing 1 family storytime per week, but then starting that summer I divided it into 1 toddler storytime and 1 preschool storytime. The toddler storytime is planned for ages 1-3, with the preschool storytime being for ages 3-5. However, those ages aren't strictly enforced, though I'm thinking of changing the toddler age range to 1-2 because I'm starting to get a lot of 3 year olds, which is taking away from the true toddlers, and many of them are ready for the preschool storytime.

I've played around with the format, and have finally settled on one that seems to be working pretty well for us, for now. There are some key differences between the toddler and preschool storytimes:

  • Shorter
  • More songs, fewer stories
  • More movement
  • Use shaker eggs, movement scarves, bells, or other "instrument" every time
  • More repetition - use all the same songs & rhymes for 4-6 weeks (I do occasionally add a new one that ties into the book), in addition to the welcome and ending songs being the same all of the time
  • Usually only 1 book
  • Very short, simple books, preferably with bold illustrations, interactive, and a really good rhythm
  • Always end with bubbles (before good-bye song and activities)
  • Activities afterward, some overlap with preschool storytime as I always have at least 1 or two older kids, but I always put out the foam blocks, sensory tubes, sensory balls, and stacking cups for the younger ones.

Basic Toddler Storytime Plan:  

  1. Open room and announce it's time for storytime (I found if I let them in early, they would get too restless and start running around and getting into stuff, better to let them stay in the play area and let entering the room signal it's time to settle down.).
  2. Greet families as they enter and hand them program sheet.
  3. Shut door after everyone is in to prevent escapees.
  4. Greet and welcome the group, briefly go over expectations.
  5. Sing short "Hello" song, then introduce myself and say hello to all the kids by name (I generally average 5-10, rarely more than 12.  I would not try that with a large group.)
  6. Warm-Up Song - Something with a little movement.
  7. Shaker Eggs/Scarves - With 2 songs or rhymes. I alternate; eggs one month, scarves the next usually. If doing scarves, I have them pick one up as they enter, if doing eggs I pass those out when we're ready to use them. I take things up afterward, before moving on, but I also tell parents it's not worth causing a meltdown if their child really doesn't want to part with them.
  8. Lead-in song - I use "If You're Ready for a Story"
  9. Read book - very short and simple!
  10. Song/rhyme
  11. On a very rare occasion, might attempt a second, very short book here
  12. Bubbles! Sing "Ten Little Bubbles" count up, then blow bubbles to pop, then sing again counting down. Bubbles are not only fun, but encourage tracking and reaching across midline. (Letting kids blow bubbles also works their oral musculature for speech, but that's best left as a home activity. I use a bubble machine or gun; no blowing in a group to reduce germ spread.)
  13. Good-bye song - first explain that there are optional activities after, but we're going to go ahead and sing our "Good-bye" song in case we don't get a chance to say good-bye to all of our friends later.
  14. Activities - usually  2 or 3 plus other toys, if larger group add more. I try to keep them developmentally appropriate, play-centered, and working on some developmental skill. Sometimes do a craft, but not often for this age as it isn't developmentally appropriate. Some examples:
    • Sensory bin, they LOVE this! I use a base such as water, sand, kinetic sand, shredded paper, rice, or water beads with manipulatives added (plastic animals, gold coins & jewels, figures, boats, ducks, measuring cups & spoons, fishing set, etc.)
    • Sensory tubes & balls (always put these out)
    • Paper & crayons
    • Play dough - great pre-writing activity! Rolling and smooshing dough strengthens little hands and fingers.
    • Dot painting - they loved these at first, but have gotten a little bored with it, so use infrequently
    • Play food
    • Counting & Sorting manipulatives
    • Building sets (foam blocks, star builders, bristle blocks, etc)
    • Toy cars & construction vehicles with activity mats
    • Flannel sets on large flannel board
    • Magnetic gears
    • Magnetic letters
    • Plastic animals
    • Puppets & Finger puppets
    The storytime part lasts about 20-25 minutes, and I do sometimes deviate from the above plan by throwing in an extra short song or rhyme or on rare occasions getting in a second book, and sometimes cutting it short. Some of the songs that I use can be found on the "Repeating Songs" tab above (even some possibly cringe-worthy videos of me singing them), or in the thematic storytime write-ups listed in the right-hand column. is a great source for songs and rhymes, with videos so you can hear the tunes and see the motions.

    The activities portion lasts anywhere from 15-30 minutes, depending on how many kids show up, their ages, and the activities. Occasionally I'll have a couple of families linger, but at 20-30 minutes I'll go ahead and put away anything they aren't using and go on out to the children's department, leaving the door open so I can keep an eye on things to be sure the room doesn't get wrecked and things don't "walk away" (sad, but true). Most families hang around in the children's department playing, socializing, and picking out books for a little while after storytime.

    *Note for Outreach Storytimes - When I do classroom visits to daycares and preschools, I do not do crafts or activities, just the basic storytime. When I first start with a new client, or at the beginning of the school year, I usually shorten it a bit the first time or two. but I generally find I can do 2 books easily with toddlers in this setting as circle time is part of their daily routine. I currently am only able make visits once per month due to lack of staff and all the demands on my time, but my preference would be to visit every other week.

    I'll add this plan to the "Storytime Plans" link above. If you'd like more detailed discussions of specific elements of storytime planning, check out all my posts tagged "Storytime Planning".

    What does your Toddler Storytime look like?

1 comment:

  1. We technically have toddler story times in my system but they're rarely offered - most branches offer a family story time (0-5 years) and a baby story time (0-18 months). Family story times tend to almost be toddler times anyway, since a lot of older kiddos are in preschool or daycare. They can be pretty madcap, with all that toddler energy, but I really do love them!