Baby Storytime: Favourite Fingerplays and Tickles

Crazy about all the little babies? We are too! In fact, we get asked about running baby storytimes or babytimes (as we call them here in Vancouver) ALL THE TIME. For this reason Lindsey wrote her Baby Storytime Beginner’s Guide. But she didn’t stop there, a couple weeks ago Lindsey kicked off a series all about baby storytime! It’s our hope that this series will explore:

Before we begin, a quick word on fingerplays and tickles. What are they? And when do we use them? I like to think of fingerplays as a chance to encourage baby to play with their hands and fingers and for adults to model some neat-o things they’ll be able to do with them real soon. Tickles on the other hand (I went there!) are a special type of fingerplay which allow caregivers to engage in play with even the smallest infant as they touch and show affection and get sweet, sweet giggles and smiles in return. I use them throughout baby storytime, usually at the beginning to let parents know I mean business when I say this program is a time for them to play and connect with their child. I will use them again about halfway through to re-focus and re-engage caregivers which I explore more in this post. Now that you’ve all had your duckie kisses (stop and read Lindsey’s post if that went over your head) let’s get into our favourite fingerplays and tickles to use at baby storytime!


Counting rhymes and songs are often the easiest way to start incorporating fingerplays. We love this one because it’s a little more involved with a pop at the end and then feel free to try our Two Little Blackbirds rhyme and 1 Little, 2 Little, 3 Little Fingers for more counting goodness. One fingerplay which doesn’t really involve counting but we think fits this category is Come ‘a’ Look ‘a’ See. Use each finger to name a family member, sweet as can be! With these rhymes you can remind families that no matter what type of learner their child is, counting on their fingers catches their interest and employs both visual and kinetic learning.

We cannot get enough of this rhyme because it absolutely demands interaction between adults and their children. For others similar to this you could try classics Pat a Cake or Eensy Weensy Spider. We love Kristen B’s Early Literacy Reminder on the CLEL site when sharing these rhymes: “Building fine and gross motor skills is essential in your child’s development, and will eventually help them hold a pen or pencil when they learn to write. We do lots of movement rhymes and fingerplays in storytime to help build these motor skills. So let’s do ‘The Itsy Bitsy Spider’ one more time!”

This tune will surely get stuck in your head and is our favourite in the category I like to think of as pointing things out. For another one like this we also love Where Oh Where Are Baby’s Fingers. When you’re teaching this one to caregivers it’s a perfect time to mention that touch and actions help babies make meaning of the words you’re singing, yet another reason why fingerplays are so important! Saroj Ghoting and Betsy Diamant Cohen also taught us this lovely early literacy tip: “Babies love to look at faces. In fact, they will focus their attention on faces longer than they will focus on anything else. By 4 or 5 months old they are able to distinguish between different expressions on faces – anger, boredom, happiness. Helping children see similarities and differences in facial expressions will help them later to interpret how people are feeling.”

The final type of fingerplay and possibly the most serious business your hands can be involved with: playing peek-a-boo! This one is fun to do with scarves or just with hands but it’s always a hit. Another weather themed peek-a-boo to try is Rain is Falling Down. The early literacy tip which we like to share when playing peek-a-boo is that infants have not yet learned the concept of object permanence so when something “disappears” it’s truly gone for them, making their smile that much bigger when you return!  NPR also wrote a great article on why surprising your baby can lead to learning.


This is an awesome tickle for so many reasons: we love the counting and shrieking (gently of course…) THEY’RE ALIVE! While this might feel like a long rhyme for an infant we like to tell parents that when they do it at home their child will start to remember the rhyme and look forward to the tickle at the end. This ability to recognize and predict sets them up to be strong readers down the road.

This is a lovely hands-on rhyme, ending with a tickle in the armpit or under the chin. Another perfect opportunity to tell parents that children learn in different ways and feeling their touch slowly and then quickly helps to reinforce these concepts.  You can also sneak in an early literacy tip about phonological awareness – when we say the word”slowly” our voices change pitch, making it easier for babies to hear the sounds that make up our language.

We learned this one at our Guerrilla Storytime and have not looked back since. It’s both a diaper changing song and a tickle, making it indispensable to all parents!

This is a lovely tickle which parents can learn when their child is an infant and continue as they get older, making it more and more elaborate.

We’ve collected these songs and rhymes (and more!) in our Fingerplays and Tickles playlist but we’d love to hear more about your favourites. Which ones do you use? Please leave us comments below and stay tuned for the next post in our baby storytime series.

Canadian Libraries Spotlight: Canmore Public Library

In January we put a call out for Canadian Youth Services Library content and we have been overjoyed at the response! This post is the sixth in our guest post series highlighting the amazing work being done in Canadian libraries to serve children and families. Join us as guest blogger this week Rebecca Mastromattei, Library Clerk at Canmore Public Library describes her journey from Storytime Quiverer to Storytime Queen! For honest writing and useful tips, read on Dear Reader…


Canmore, Alberta has been described as a “special town” to me by more than one person who lives here. We are nestled in a valley, surrounded by towering mountains on either side; our town is particularly transient, especially being so close to Banff. The thing that strikes me the most about Canmore is the community. I see a few new faces occasionally at our storytime programs but mostly there is a core group that attends each week. They come and meet up with fellow moms and dads and kids because this time is ingrained into their schedules and when someone doesn’t come for a few weeks you are usually given a long apology and explanation as to why we didn’t see them. You begin to look forward to certain kids or parents and you miss them in a weird sort of way when they are suddenly gone. The library has recently moved from a much smaller facility to Elevation Place, a sort of all in one rec centre in town. The library shares this space with an art studio, a pool, climbing wall, gym and rooms that are rented out for everything from exercise classes, to business meetings, to children’s birthday parties. This has made the library a meet up place for people, a safe haven for some or even just a warm spot to sit and read on a dreary day. Since moving into Elevation Place the library went from a frequented establishment to a staple in the community.

Canmore Public Library

I’ve worked at this library for almost two years now and it is my first job out of school where I received my diploma in Library and Information Technology. I run the Preschool Storytime at the Canmore Public Library and this is the second storytime that I have ever been in charge of. My first stab at running a children’s storytime was Wiggletime, a program for kids who are just beginning to walk and their caregivers. I cannot even begin to explain how humiliating this experience was but in an effort to support other storytimers, I’m going to try. We run our programs for about 30 minutes and my first session was twelve minutes long. Twelve minutes!! I took over the program from another staff member who really needed a break from this age group (something I am sure many of you can relate to) which meant she really wasn’t too interested in talking logistics with me. When I spoke to other storytime leaders they all had very polarizing opinions on how to run my first storytime; to say I was nervous on my first day would be a huge understatement. My Assistant Director came into the storytime with me to sit and watch, when I left I heard her thanking everyone for their patience with me as I was just learning and promising that next week would be better. I cried as I cleaned the bubbles out of the bubble gun that day. But then I made myself go back into that room with the moms still in there and I chatted with them as I cleaned up the program. They were kind to me (as I probably had tears and bubble stains on my dress) and I decided to learn from the experience and move on. I wasn’t going to let this one storytime get the better of me.

The next week I began practicing the entire program with my Assistant Director (she very kindly let me do this for several weeks!) We would practice songs and their actions together, the stories I was going to read, even the little things I would say in-between songs and stories. I learned that, for me, this was what I had to do to be comfortable before Wiggletime. But I was still finding it tough; I was 22 and obviously much younger than the parents coming to my storytime (if not in age, then definitely in maturity- I was just out of school and do not have children of my own) and I could not get or keep the caregiver’s attention! I would ask them to stand up and they would sit and stare at me, they would chat over top of my program and they would complain to me if they felt I had gone too short. It became so uncomfortable; another parent came up to me and told me it was time to do something because it was starting to affect her experience. That was upsetting to hear because I thought only I noticed that I was floundering but to have a participant tell me I had to figure out a way to earn their respect made me feel less crazy, but mostly it just made me feel like a failure. I couldn’t even keep the attention of people who had chosen to come to the program. I enlisted the help of another co-worker who has done several of her own storytimes over the years to help me; she came to a program and when we were done she said to me “I’ve never seen it so bad before.” A part of me felt relief, while the other part was screaming into a pillow. I had been looking forward to having my own storytime all the way through school, I finally had one and I was trying to figure out how to get out of it! My co-worker continued to attend storytime for the rest of the session: she watched how I was performing and gave me incredible tips, she showed me how to stand, sit and speak in a way that showed everyone (including myself) that I was in control of the room and she helped me by speaking to the pesky chatters directly. What helped me the most was she showed me that what was happening wasn’t my fault.

CPL Storytime CPL Parachute Storytime

After the session ended I still asked to be taken off of Wiggletime but I wasn’t so desperate to stop storytimes altogether. My wonderful Assistant Director gave me the age group I desperately wanted: preschoolers and I took what I had learned from my Wiggletime fiasco (the only time ‘fiasco’ and the word ‘wiggle’ will be seen together) and I applied it to this new age group. I started to see why Wiggletime hadn’t worked for me and in large part it was my comfort and capability with younger kids. Although I originally went into libraries to work with children I found I didn’t know how best to interact with the much younger lot, something that I am seeing can only be truly learned with practice, which now I am getting a lot of.

Preschool Storytime has been incredible! I don’t dread storytime days anymore, I don’t have to practice everything I’m going to say anymore, I’ve learned more about the right and wrong ways to talk with kids and I have learned about “magic listening dust” which has been a lifesaver with kids and adults alike. Quick aside: you just tell them “it looks like we need some of our magic listening dust! Dig deep deeeeep into your pockets and sprinkle it on your head! Good job! Now make sure you scoop it up for later!” Its success rate is kind of crazy! I have now learned how to go with the flow so I can quickly opt out of a jumping song I had planned if I see they aren’t in the mood and replace it with something more appropriate. A lot of this comfort and flexibility came from creating a repertoire of songs and stories that I knew and liked, which we have to remind ourselves can take time. I can speak up now and say “I need you to stop talking please” with a lot more confidence (to the children, parents are my next battle to conquer) and I have learned how to have fun in a storytime in the way I always dreamed of when I was in school.

So despite the stress and sweat stains Wiggletime gave me, it also taught me a lot about programming, children, performing and most of all myself. I now look back on that time with a touch of relief it’s over but also a fondness because I have come so far since those early days of practicing my anecdotes in the mirror.

What I Learned:

1. Asking for help does not mean you don’t know how to do something

2. Find the best method that works for your prep and do that until it doesn’t work anymore. Like I said for me it was over preparing and a big part of that was sitting on the Jbrary site and YouTube page and singing the songs along with them.

3. Find your storytime voice! You are in charge in that room and you are the one dictating the next 30 minutes

4. Sometimes you get a group that challenges you to use a new set of skills; whether it’s speaking louder, having difficult conversations with people or literally just teaching you how to smile and get through the next few weeks of your program. Take this for what it is: a learning tool, you might not understand the purpose of this challenge now but one day you will be grateful for what you’ve learned and how you let it help you grow instead of letting it knock you down.

5. If you’re new to storytimes and a little nervous maybe request an older age group

6. If you are finding it tough I say talk it out with someone you are comfortable with (perhaps someone whose storytime style you admire) but stick with it. If you let it get the better of you, it will and you will never come to see what a hoot it really can be! OR ask someone to sit in on your storytime with you, it is always WAY more fun to be singing and playing with someone else and it’s a really simple way to get a bit of confidence without being the centre of attention for the entire program. I sat in on other people’s storytimes and I really attribute that to me finding my “storytime voice.”

7. Ultimately, have fun! The kids do NOT care if you mess up, the parents do NOT care if you forget the words to a song, they are there to have a good time and you should be too!


Baby Storytime: Welcoming Activities

Welcome to the first post in a new series I’m kicking off all about baby storytime! We get asked a lot about how we run a baby storytime, and my Baby Storytime Beginner’s Guide is still a great resource to check out. Two weeks ago, I switched to a new job where I get to do THREE BABYTIMES a week.  Cue excited dance! In this post I’ll talk about how I start a baby storytime. Future posts will include:

At my library, baby storytimes (lovingly referred to as babytimes) are advertised for ages 0 -18 months. Because babies vary so greatly in development, I often tell parents with super active 17-month-olds that they may enjoy a toddler or family storytime more.  The majority of the babies who attend can’t walk yet, and the focus is on helping caregivers develop a loving relationship with their child.

So what does the first 5-10 minutes of a babytime look like?  Here’s what I do:

1. Welcome Puppet Kisses

duckThis actually starts 5-10 minutes before babytime officially begins. It’s something I just started doing, but I’ve gotten such a great response that I’m definitely going to keep it up.  As caregivers and babies arrive and get settled, I personally greet them and give baby a kiss on the hand or cheek with my little duckie puppet.  If it’s one of my big babytimes with over 40 babies, then I reach as many as I can and catch the rest afterwards.  Why do I give welcome puppet kisses? It gives me a chance to learn each baby’s name. It makes me more approachable, and the babies seem to warm up to me sooner. It models play to the caregivers.  Last week one mom told me should would have never thought to use a puppet with her baby, but her baby laughed each time duckie kissed her and she was sold.

2. Opening Message for Caregivers

Though many of the caregivers who come to storytime are regulars, I try hard to include an opening message that welcomes new faces.  Just the basics – what we’ll be doing, why we do it, and any general rules.  I love Brooke’s introduction to babytime and have stolen some her wording.  Mine goes something like this:

“Welcome everyone to baby storytime! My name is Lindsey and I’m the children’s librarian at this branch.  I am so excited to see everyone! During babytime, we’re going to sing lots of songs and rhymes and read a book together.  This is a time for you and your baby to bond so please sing along with me and take this chance to play and cuddle with your baby. If your little one is having a rough day feel free to step out and come back if you can.  I promise I won’t be offended.  Before we sing our first song, let’s get to know each other first.”

3. Group Introductions

Unfortunately I have to cut this part out if the group gets too big just because it takes too much time. But if I have less than 15 babies, I have the caregivers go around and say their name, the baby’s name, and the age of the baby. If the group is really small, then I’ll also ask them to share something about their baby – a recent milestone, a like or dislike, etc.  Not only does this help solidify the baby’s name in my mind, it also helps create a sense of community for the caregivers. I often find them chatting after babytime about something someone mentioned during this part.

4. Welcoming Songs

Then we sing a few welcome and wake-up songs!  Here are my favourites:

This is a must-sing! We wake up our feet, hands, ears, and hair. I tell caregivers that this is a great song to sing in the morning when baby first wakes up or when they are changing their diaper.

Another one we do every single week.  My friend and co-worker Saara taught me this one and it is brilliant. Also works swell with toddlers!

For my smaller groups, I love singing this song and adding in each of the baby’s names.  You can sub in other actions for “clap” too such as bounce, jump, stomp, and hug.

An easy tune, lots of repetition, and another great song to teach caregivers for cranky baby mornings!

This last one is definitely more of a challenge, but it’s got such great sounds in it.  It works best if you sing it every single week and provide caregivers with the lyrics. If you’ve got a babytime group that’s ready for something new, this would be a great one to introduce.

So that’s how I start my baby storytime.  What do you do? Please let me know in the comments!

Engaging Caregivers in Storytime

It is a common and challenging part of our job and it’s not going away anytime soon: engaging caregivers during storytime. While it got a mention at our Guerrilla Storytime at BCLA 2014 we thought it’s enough of a challenge to warrant its very own post. So here we go, our strategies for welcoming parents and caregivers to storytime and ensuring they stay involved all program long!

Build in Time to Connect

Allowing time for caregivers to meet and chat before and after the program is one of the most important elements of storytime. It helps families connect to and support each other. It also means that folks (like the kids) get their chatter out before your program begins, which is always a good thing. And then after the program if possible continue to make the storytime space available to families who wish to stay and hang out.

Another way to connect with caregivers is by having them introduce their little ones. We love this post on Storytime Underground about how and why it’s great to get to know all members of your storytime crowd, big and small! If you have a large group try having people turn to the family closest to them, say hello and introduce themselves before turning back to you.

Finally, storytime can be alienating for families who’s first language is not English and it sometimes results in tuning out behaviour from adults. We’ve found that learning a few words, a verse or a song in another language earns major smiles and engagement from parents (and grandparents!) who normally check out. So, we’ve sung their praises before but we cannot say enough about Burnaby Public Library’s Embracing Diversity Project. Check them out for videos of songs and rhymes in 15 different languages!

Choose Content Wisely

Which brings us to content! As children’s library people we’re experts at choosing songs and rhymes that are developmentally appropriate and fun for little ones, but sometimes it’s tough to select storytime material that invites caregivers in too. Here is a quick list of our favourites in three very important academic categories…

Another method to involve parents is to hand them a scarf, shakey egg or set of rhythm sticks. We’re serious! Manipulatives are a sure fire way to get kids excited and to encourage caregivers to model and help their child participate. While they can invoke a certain level of chaos (we talk about handing out and collecting items in this post) they provide a great opportunity to engage caregivers. For more ideas about using egg shakers, scarves and rhythm sticks feel free to head over to our posts to read more.

Be Honest

This may seem super obvious but rather than get frustrated with caregivers when they’re not taking part in storytime invite them in with clear language and reasons. While I love me some passive aggression it’s only fair to give the (reasonable!) adults who bring their little ones to storytime the benefit of the doubt. At the beginning remind them that storytime is a time for them to spend with their children and empower them to be their child’s best teacher. Half way through kindly draw their attention to what you’re doing and say “adults, I’ll need your help with this one!” and at the end thank them for being involved all storytime long. Might take a little practice but with a little asking and a little explaining why we do what we do you’ll have the parents on your side in no time!

As I adjust to a new branch and new storytime crowd I am reminded of how tough it can be to not only win caregivers over but to get and keep them singing. These are a few ideas and strategies which are currently working for me and I would love to hear what works at your storytime, please leave ideas and comments below!