Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I Spy: A Story Time for Toddlers

My colleague Miss Melanie usually presents programming for two-year-olds at my branch, but when she took a well-earned vacation last week, I stepped in to lead her program (Note: I like to plan my own content if I have advance notice, but I of course will follow a colleague's program plan if asked/in called-in-sick situations). Seeing a new face at the front of the story time room can be a bit jarring for many toddlers who grow accustomed to the way things usually run, so I packed my story time with tons of interactive activities to keep everyone engaged and happy. Here's what I did:

"I Spy" Story Time

Pre-program: As I am notoriously awful at names, I found some paper dessert-size plates and wrote on them the names of the children who were registered to attend. I asked kids and caregivers to find their nameplates as they came in. (Turns out, these kids held on tight to their nameplates the whole program. They loved them.)

Opening Greeting: Miss Melanie usually greets her kiddos with a sort of chant: "Hello, ______!" (Think "Let's go, Blackhawks!"). I replicated this greeting for each child, and I got all of the names correct because of the aforementioned pre-program nameplates.

Songs: These two-year-olds regularly sing a few songs in their program; the repetition from week to week is important for establishing a level of comfort and familiarity to story time, and it also gives two-year-olds the opportunity to actually learn a song instead of just miming the story time leader. We shared:
  • "Where is Thumbkin?"
  • "Head, Shoulders, Knees, & Toes"

Stories: I gauged the level of audience engagement to figure out the best time to share our stories. Both stories involve kids using their hands to create a spyglass (or telescope, or binoculars) so they can help spy items in the book's pages.
  • I Spy on the Farm by Edward Gibbs
  • Shark in the Park! by Nick Sharratt

  • I Spy What Animals Eat - Using green poster board, green cardstock, Velcro dots, and pieces from my library's assorted flannelboard collection, I put together bushes with foods hiding under the leaves; sometimes the foods were fruits, other times they were pizza or muffins. After demonstrating an elephant and a zebra hand puppet who like to find and eat fruit, I passed out puppets to let the kids help their animals spy what they wanted to eat. Kids would lift the leaf flaps to spy the foods in the bushes.
  • Parachute Time - With our good-sized group, caregivers helped me move the parachute over the kids' heads as they explored underneath. After one round of "Colors Over You," one child got it in his mind to try to use the parachute as a slip-n-slide. Thus it was time to put the parachute away.
  • I Spy Bottles - Using a model similar to Brooke's, I created I Spy bottles filled with beads for kids to turn and observe. I used bottles of craft sand for the container, and I mixed in beads that looked like animals as well as letter beads. I superglued those lids shut, and they've held up so far. Some of the kids were absolutely mesmerized by the activity of turning the bottles and looking at the different hidden items.

Craft: For our group process art craft, we focused on fine motor skills by sticking different colors and shapes of stickers on our own spyglasses (paper towel tubes).

Bubbles! It's a tradition in our twos programming to end with the bubble machine. The kids really look forward to seeing, playing in, and popping the bubbles, and the bubbles serve to gently signal that story time is ending.


  1. Sometimes I feel like the parents of our 2 and 3 year olds are wondering why the heck I do the same two or three songs (in addition to a few new ones), but this helps me to remember why I do it that way. Repetition, familiarity and song knowledge--all good things! I also really like to incorporate a few nursery rhymes too. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Great point, Jeana--sometimes caregivers don't get why we're doing the same songs again and again. I like to give a sound bite about how it builds familiarity with story time. I also ask caregivers how many of their children have sung the songs at home. Caregivers seem much more inclined to repeat songs if it's tied into "something cute" their kids do.

  2. I LOVE your "I spy what animals eat" activity!


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