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!

Fingerplays

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.

Tickles

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.

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6 thoughts on “Baby Storytime: Favourite Fingerplays and Tickles

  1. You two are THE. BEST. From a professional standpoint, I don’t know how I’d plan my baby storytimes without your. Your songs and early literacy tips are priceless. On a personal note, my 11-month-old niece, who has been coming to my storytimes since she was about four months old, LOVES your songs. We have a great time singing “The Elevator Song,” and many more, at home.

    1. Aww, thanks so much, Mary! That really makes us feel good knowing we’ve helped in some way. My niece is 5 now and I sure do miss the days of getting to lift and bounce her on my lap. I mean, I could still do that it would just be much more of a workout 🙂

  2. Hello
    I will start my first experience with story-time. I am so excited about that. I have been reading all your ideas and planning. they are amazing and too helpful! Thank you so much for sharing.
    I have some questions for you.
    Do you sing all the time without playing music?
    Isn’t advisable to play music?
    When should I play music? with lyrics? without lyrics?
    Do you provide parents with the lyrics we will be using through the storytime sessions.
    Thank you so much
    Important thing that you can advise to introduce myself the first time

    1. Hi Lariza, thank you for your kind words! To answer your questions: Yes, I do sing all of the songs in my storytime. This is partly because I don’t have the equipment (iPod/speakers) to play a recorded song and partly because I want to model to caregivers the importance of singing with their children themselves. While recorded music is great, I hesitate to use it solely because I do want caregivers to feel comfortable learning the songs and singing them at home like we do in storytime. But I know lots of children’s librarians who use recorded music and it can be especially fun to use with scarves and egg shakers. I used to have a CD player and sometimes I would play a recorded song towards the end of storytime when we played with props. For lyrics, I have a flipchart with large hanging paper where I’ve written out the lyrics. I can easily flip through these during babytime so caregivers can see the lyrics. This is especially helpful to ESL families who attend. I know other librarians who post the lyrics on the walls of the room they hold storytime. Other librarians put the lyrics on bookmarks and give them out either weekly or at the end of the storytime session. I think if you repeat the songs week to week there is less of a need to provide the lyrics on paper. There’s no one right way to do these things. Hopefully you find what works for you 🙂

  3. 25 Jul 17
    Good Morning Dana and Lindsey,
    I just love you both. You are so much fun!
    I am a new grandmother, and I get to spend a lot of precious time with my granddaughter, so your site is beyond helpful to me.
    Do you have a list of all the rhymes, songs and finger plays that you have posted on You Tube? If I had a check off list, I could be sure I’m not missing any.
    Again, I so appreciate all you do for everyone who loves kids!! Thank you very much!!
    Helen

    1. Hi Helen, thank you so, so much for your kind words! You really made our day! We don’t have a written list of all our songs, but you can view them all here: https://www.youtube.com/user/Jbrary/videos. Once you scroll to the bottom you will need to click the “Load More” tab to continue seeing them. We have around 370 videos so there’s a lot to listen to! You may find it easier to browse one of our playlists. If your granddaughter is a baby we recommend our Babytime Songs and Rhymes playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLcw3Y8sV0xptiwjCuPS-UxXaR_7Vel8y5. We are so happy we’ve been able to help you! All the best to you and your little one 🙂

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