Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Baby Story Time Plan for the Tiniest Ones

For this week's Bouncing Babies story time, I had just one child registered for my 11 o'clock session: a 5-week-old boy. A year ago, I might have been intimidated by the prospect of a baby story time consisting of only me, the mom, and a mostly-sleeping tiny baby. Instead, I took a deep breath, dug into my book basket for some age-appropriate books to share, and got down to business.

My basic Bouncing Babies program format is easily adaptable for the tiniest library visitors. I try to work a variety of rhymes and songs into every session, many of which work just as well for rocking a baby as for engaging a 20-month-old in fine motor skills. I did decide early on to scrap the interactive music and free play portions of the program for this particular program scenario; I didn't see loud bells or tactile balls going over too well with a drowsy newborn. Instead, I focused more heavily on book sharing after our rhymes. Even with a lightly sleeping baby, rhyming and rhythmic stories, as well as sung stories, are calming and comforting. I chose three from my book basket: Itsy Bitsy Spider, a pop-up book from Richard Egielski, which I sang slowly and quietly; Baby Cakes, written by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Sam Williams, which has great, simple rhythm and invites cuddling; and Sleepy Me! by Marni McGee and illustrated by Cee Biscoe, which has plenty of happy-sounding, calming rhymes. I read the books as I would to any audience of babies--only in this case, since the baby was dozing, my audience was being rocked in mamma's arms during my reading. The whole atmosphere felt calm, inviting, and pleasant. I would venture to guess that such an atmosphere is appreciated by the mother of a 5-week-old.

Perhaps one of the best things about a program with low attendance--in this case, just one caregiver and child!--is the fact that the attendees have your total attention. I love being able to tailor my program format to my audience, and I always take the opportunity to share an early literacy message specific to the child. In this instance, I emphasized the great impact songs and rhymes have on even the tiniest pre-readers. The mom and I chatted briefly about calming songs, fun rhymes and rhyming stories, and ways to promote bonding when sharing these songs and rhymes with the baby (rocking, eye contact, speaking softly and directly to the child, etc.). After securing her sleeping baby in his carrier, the mom left with some practical ideas for at-home activities as well as excitement to come back to future programs. What could have been a difficult or awkward program with a tiny library patron turned into one of my favorite program interactions yet.

Have you ever done a program for just a few really tiny library visitors? What did you do? How did it go?

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