Baby Storytime: Using a Parachute

In this post I’ll explain how and why I use a parachute in my baby storytimes.  I’ve written about it a little bit before, but I wanted to do a more in depth post.  Don’t forget to check out the other posts in our babytime series:

When I first started doing baby storytime, the idea of introducing a parachute was quite intimidating. Would the caregivers even like it? Would they be able to hold the edges and help me maneuver it? How would the babies respond? Do I even have time for it? I am happy to say that although using a parachute in baby storytime takes practice and patience,  I find it a very fun experience that’s been well received by my community.  Here’s the breakdown of how I do it.

Rationale
My babytimes run for 30 minutes. The last 10 minutes are spent playing.  I think it’s really important to talk to caregivers about the importance of play and give them ideas for ways to play with their babies.  I rotate through egg shakers, puppets, scarves, and the parachute as the “play” part of babytime.  I talk about ways to recreate the parachute at home – with a towel, a blanket, sheets, etc.  I want the parachute to be a chance for them and their babies to explore something new and hopefully get ideas for how to do it at home.  I also use it simply because the caregivers and babies love it.

Logistics
I’ve only used the parachute with a small to medium sized group.  Usually I get around 10-12 caregivers (+ their babies) at my babytimes and that number has been working well.  I don’t have the space or parachute to accommodate a bigger group, so if you’ve got big numbers you’ll have to access whether it is even plausible to use one. I think it would be, but I don’t have the experience to speak to larger groups.

For my group, I use a 12 foot parachute I purchased from Oriental Trading. I wish I had gone with the 20 foot one though because it can accommodate a growing storytime audience.

The Setup
The picture below shows how I like to set up the babytime when I use the parachute. The mats are for caregivers to sit on, but I also pull some chairs around for those who prefer to sit. I choose a circle layout so that when we start using the parachute we’re already sitting in the right positions.

parachute

It’s perfectly fine for babies to crawl on the parachute during the first half of the storytime. In fact, I encourage caregivers to point out the colours and texture the babies see and feel. When we are ready to start using the parachute, I offer these suggestions for ways to participate:

  • Sit baby in your lap and have them try to grab the parachute with you
  • Lay a blanket under the parachute and lay baby on his or her back
  • If baby can sit on their own, have them sit under the parachute
  • Place all babies in the middle of the parachute (works well with small groups and large parachute)

Here’s a video I found showing how to use a parachute with babies:


Unfortunately I can’t take videos or photos of my storytimes, so here are some pictures I found that illustrate what it can look like.

parachute1
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babies parachute
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babies parachute 2
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Parachute Activities

Once we’re all settled and caregivers have had a chance to get comfortable, we sing some songs and rhymes. Just figuring out how to use the parachute will be a challenge enough at first, so I use familiar songs and nursery rhymes. Just have the parachute mimic the actions in the songs. Check out our Parachute Pinterest board for more ideas, but here are some of my favourites:

  • If You’re Happy and You Know It, Give a Shake (shake it fast/shake it slow/shake it high/shake it low)
  • Itsy Bitsy Spider
  • London Bridge is Falling Down
  • The Elevator Song
  • Hickory Dickory Dock
  • Grand Old Duke of York

I have not used recorded music in my babytimes yet, but my friend Laura says Hap Palmer’s “Slow and Fast” works great with the 6-16 months crowd.  There are also so many song suggestions in the resource links below – go read their blog posts!

I also love playing peek-a-boo with the parachute. We sing Rain is Falling Down and Peek-a-Boo, I See You to end storytime.

parachute babies
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Resources
Check out these great blog posts for more ideas on how to incorporate a parachute into your baby storytime or other library programs:

Do you use a parachute in your baby storytimes? I would love to hear about your experience!  Please leave a comment with any thoughts or questions.

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10 thoughts on “Baby Storytime: Using a Parachute

  1. I use Jim Gill’s “Alabama Mississippi” with the babies and their grown-ups. It give them the opportunity to work on grasping something with their hands and feeling the air on their face and hair. The also get to hear the sound of the parachute, when we change from slowly moving the parachute to shaking it.
    This can be done for all age storytimes too.

    1. I love this idea! Thank you so much for sharing. I am always looking for new recorded songs to try out with the parachute.

    1. Oh darn, looks like the user changed it to private. I’ve taken it out and replaced it with a different video that shows parents using a parachute with babies.

  2. It’s off CD called Five Little Monkeys–the song is called “Boa Constrictor.” We begin with the parachute on the ground and raise them up until we are swallowed by it! We usually have to do this two or three times.

    BTW I love this site–you both do an excellent job with it! I recommend it to all our new Children’s Librarians. Sometimes we run out of ideas or just need another insight and you guys are

    1. My library doesn’t carry that CD, darn! I’ll take your word for it though – sounds like a super fun parachute activity. Thanks so much for your kind words 🙂

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