It's finally cooling down to a reasonable summer temperature here, which means more and more families are taking advantage of the great St. Louis Zoo. I decided to use that activity to inform my August Evening Family Story Time. Since this program can have attendees across a wide age range, I like to choose books and/or themes that are easily adaptable--that way I'm not stuck with all two-year-old books when the crowd is all age six. My program audience ended up being on the younger side, so the program plan below is what I shared with them:
"Open, Shut Them"
Story: We've All Got Bellybuttons! by David Martin
I love the action options in this book. Starting a story time with an interactive story (stretching your neck, stomping your feet, having your bellybutton tickled by mom or dad...) always gets things off on the right foot.
Song: "The Elephants at the Zoo"
This is a great interactive song to the tune of "The Wheels on the Bus." I found it on Erin's fabulous Falling Flannelboards blog.
Felt Story: Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell
When I was in library school, I interned at a great library where I observed a handful of preschool story times. At one of these story times, the librarian told Dear Zoo using flannelboard pieces that included cut manila folders to look like the animals' boxes. This story is one of the first felt stories I've made from scratch, and it is great for all sorts of story times. Perhaps best of all, you can leave out animals if you start to lose your audience--but in my experience, they love to come up and find out what's in each box from the zoo!
Story: Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Bill Martin
Usually kids are familiar with Brown Bear, Brown Bear, so this variation is a welcome addition to story time. The simple, bright illustrations introduce even more animals to the young readers, and the focus on sound leaves room to practice animal sounds.
Rhyme: "Five Little Monkeys Swinging in a Tree"
I love this rhyme, and I use my Five Little Monkeys finger puppets and alligator hand puppet to make it even more fun. For smaller groups, I'll hand out monkeys to the kiddos so that they can swing around with them. This particular group was so amused by Mr. Alligator eating the monkeys that they would throw the monkey finger puppets and then run to mom for protection from the hungry reptile.
Story: Monkey and Me by Katie Gravett
This is a fantastic story for calming everyone down. It has a great rhythm, and it asks for a lot of motion--enough to start to drain kids' energy. By the end of the book when Monkey and the child fall asleep following all their adventures, program-goers are reading for something quiet, too.
Making a zooscape can be as simple or as complicated as you want. I had sheets of blue construction paper at each child's seat, as well as a half sheet of green construction paper with its edge cut wavily. Kids used glue sticks to glue their rolling hills onto the sky background, providing a meadow for their animals. I had trays of stick-on foam animals for kids to add to their zooscapes, and I also set out crayons in case they wanted to add trees, the sun, or anything else. Some of the kids were into sticking as many foam animals on their page as possible, while others were more into coloring. Either way, everyone was engaged and enjoying their craft!
Other books I had on hand in case they were needed:
Zoo Ah-choooo by Peter Mandel
My Heart is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall