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!

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21 thoughts on “Baby Storytime: Welcoming Activities

  1. I like to start mine with a song that introduces both parent and child, so I use: here are, here are [mama’s name] and [baby’s name] x3, here we are together!
    Can’t remember the name of the original tune, but it’s similar to bumpin up and down in my little red wagon, I think?

    1. Oh yes, I could totally see that working with Bumping Up and Down in My Little Red Wagon. I love it! Would you mind if we filmed it for our YouTube channel with a shout out to you? Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. I combine your puppet kiss with a rhyme that includes the child’s name. Each week I bring out a different puppet and have it say the rhyme “Hello, my friend. And how are you? Tell us your name and we’ll clap for you. ” Mom tells us the child’s name and every claps and cheers then I move on the the next child. Of course this only works when the group is small enough.

    1. I love it! I’m always looking for new rhymes – songs are easy to find, but rhymes can be tougher. Thanks so much for sharing – I can definitely try this one out with my small Wednesday group.

  3. I am so glad you will be talking about babytime. I have been doing the program for 1 year now, mine is bilingual but I am always looking for new material. I change the hello song every session. My favorite one is the ‘Oh the hello train is coming, here it is. Choo, choo!” I have giant Lego blocks in the shape of a train, and pass around while singing the song, in both languages. I like to match hello and goodbye songs, and got the goodbye one from you. ”The Goodbye Train is Leaving: Storytime Goodbye Song”. I just change the words a little for the hello and add a french version to match.

    1. Hi Karine, thanks so much for your comment! I love the idea of passing around a Lego train – that’s really brilliant. We’ve been trying to connect with people working in Canadian libraries who serve children and families. You may have already seen our Canadian Libraries Spotlight series. I’ll send you an email with more information, but we would absolutely love it if you would consider writing a guest post for us on your bilingual storytimes.

  4. I use a bumblebee puppet and the rhyme:
    Higgledy, piggledy bumblebee who cans say their name for me?
    The parent says the child’s name (Emma) and then the group repeats it back (EMMA), and repeats it again while clapping the syllables. (Em-MA!) Of course if the group is too big, this takes WAYYYY too long!

    1. Oh, I love that rhyme! We did a version on our YouTube channel that goes “Heckety Peckety Bumblebee.” I think we learned it at a Guerrilla Storytime. It’s perfect for a smaller group. Thanks for sharing!

  5. We sing a song to “London Bridge” that goes “We’re so glad you’re here today, here today, here today, we’re so glad you’re here today, our friend _____” then clap for each one who is here. I don’t usually use it in Storytime because sometimes with my crowds it would take way too long, but I do it at Babytimes.

    1. I LOVE this! I have a tambourine that I use with the babies but I have been looking for a new song to incorporate into storytime so they could tap out their names. This is perfect! Thank you so much for sharing!

  6. Thank you so much for sharing.
    I am looking for a position in youth services. Is it okay to use some of your ideas for my job interview.

    1. Yes, that is absolutely fine. You can always mention where you learned things from too during your interview – definitely shows you know where to look for help 🙂

  7. Thank you for all the nice tips from your story time blog.
    In our story time, we used to stick a label on the child’s dress with his/her name , so that we can read and call out their names during the singing time.

    1. I remember getting a name tag at my library when I was a kid. I think I’ve got too many kiddos who come to my storytime and too little space for it to be feasible, but it’s such a great way to get to know everyone.

  8. At our library we have moved away from the notion of pre-registration for most programs (unless there is a space issue or materials issue) because it seemed that parents would hesitate to sign up if they couldn’t come each week, like they were taking a place from someone else.
    So, since we don’t know from week to week who all will be there, I usually put out a shaped cutout of some kind, and ask kids to put their name on one. We then tape them to a wall, and each week they get to add a sticker to their name at the end of Story Time. And on the last day of the session I tell them they can take their “name tag” home. I leave them up on the wall for a couple of weeks afterwards too, in case someone didn’t make it and still wants theirs to keep.
    When I used to make necklace-style name tags I would also let the kids take them home on the last day. I would hear about all the collections of tags on their doors at home! 🙂

    1. That’s the same reason we don’t register for weekly programs – it became a barrier to participation. Some families don’t have home addresses or phone numbers to give either and we still want them to feel welcome. I absolutely love the shape cutout idea! What a great way to encourage the caregivers to come back each week and send them home with a little something at the end of the session. Thanks so much for sharing!

  9. Thank you for posting! Your tips and tricks are great! We do a large baby story time, called Baby Rock and have used a lot of your songs!! Question: In our baby groups, parents and caregivers, always try to sit in a half circle even if there are 60 people and there is no room! We have tried placing books or toys in the middle or asking them to move in but they will just dash in and then move back out to the edge of the circle. Any ideas on how to encourage them to break up the circle and sit in the middle?

    1. It sounds like you’re already doing everything you can to get them in the middle. I put out the parachute and then put little sitting mats on top of the parachute to encourage them to sit in the middle too. The other thing I do is as caregivers come in I verbally invite them to sit in the middle and mention how with such a large group we can’t all fit around the edge anymore. I try to say it positively – “Wow, we have such a big group now! Please come sit in the middle of the circle so everyone can fit.” Then if caregivers come in late I verbally invite them to come sit in the middle. Again I smile a lot and let them know through tone and body language that I’d love to have them join us and here’s a seat in the middle. So I guess my best piece of advice is to be direct and friendly 🙂

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