Toddler Storytime Books: Authors to Know

One of the most common questions I get asked by people new to storytime is what to read to toddlers. Toddlers are a tricky group.  They can go from being engaged to running around the room in a matter of seconds.  I’ve written before about toddler language acquisition and how we can support it through our pacing.  Today I want to share a group of authors whose books meet the language development needs of toddlers and that work well in a storytime setting. I chose authors that have at least three books that fit within these parameters. I’m hoping this post can serve as a guide for those looking to get familiar with what makes a good toddler storytime book.

If I missed one of your favourites, please let me know in the comments! For even more toddler storytime read alouds, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of my toddler storytime series and my annual storytime favourites booklists.

Keith Baker

Baker’s books often showcase an appreciation for nature.  He’s got a few nursery rhyme adaptations too.

My Picks:

  • Big Fat Hen
  • No Two Alike
  • Little Green

Byron Barton

I think I’ve referred to Barton as king of toddler books before. He just gets them.  His books feature everyday objects.

My Picks:

  • My House
  • My Bike
  • My Bus

Karen Beaumont

You can sing two of these which toddlers love.

I Ain't Gonna Paint No More!

My Picks:

  • I Like Myself!; illustrated by David Catrow
  • I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More!; illustrated by David Catrow
  • Who Ate All the Cookie Dough?; illustrated by Eugene Yelchin

John Butler

Butler’s books combine adorable animals, animal sounds, and guessing games. A classic author to know.

My Picks:

  • If You See a Kitten
  • Whose Nose and Toes?
  • Whose Baby Am I?
  • Ten in the Den

Jane Cabrera

Known for her singable books, Cabrera has an array nursery rhymes and classic songs in book format. Her illustrations are oh-so-cute.

My Picks:

  • Peek-a-boo Zoo!
  • The Wheels on the Bus
  • If You’re Happy and You Know It!
  • Old MacDonald Had a Farm

Eric Carle

One of the most well-known authors for children. If you can snag a pop-up version of any of his books they are well worth it!

My Picks:

  • From Head to Toe
  • The Very Busy Spider
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse

David A. Carter

A smart choice for pop-up singable books.  Though his books are smaller in size, they still captivate a toddler audience. Thank you to Gina (in the comments) for reminding me of these gems.

My Picks:

  • If You’re Happy and You Know It
  • If You’re a Robot and You Know It
  • Old MacDonald Had a Farm

Marie Torres Cimarusti

Your go-to lift-the-flap author!  Fun and filled with animal sounds.

My Picks:

  • Peek-a-Moo!
  • Peek-a-Pet!
  • Peek-a-Choo Choo!

Lucy Cousins

Best known for her Maisy the mouse character, these three books have big pages perfect for large toddler groups.

hooray for birds

My Picks:

  • Hooray for Birds!
  • Hooray for Fish!
  • Maisy’s Rainbow Dream

Linda Davick

Her diverse set of round-headed kids are the perfect addition to a toddler storytime.

My Picks:

  • Say Hello!
  • We Love You, Rosie!
  • I Love You, Nose! I Love You, Toes!

Emma Dodd

Dodd’s books feature simple sentence structure and unique vocabulary.  Many of her books feature common household pets.

My Picks:

  • I Love Bugs!
  • Dog’s Colorful Day
  • I Don’t Want a Posh Dog!
  • I Don’t Want a Cool Cat!

Ed Emberley

If you need a monster book that doesn’t scare kids, Emberley is your author!

Go Away, Big Green Monster!

My Picks:

  • Go Away, Big Green Monster!
  • Nighty Night Little Green Monster
  • If You’re a Monster and You Know It; written with his daughter Rebecca Emberley

Denise Fleming

Fleming has a distinctive art style and most of her books feature sparse phrases filled with wonderful unique vocabulary.

5 little ducks

My Picks:

  • Five Little Ducks
  • Maggie and Michael Get Dressed
  • Lunch
  • Underground

Mem Fox

Fox has many books that are baby focused but most of them work really well for those just-toddlers who wobble around and explore everything.

My Picks:

  • Baby Bedtime; illustrated by Emma Quay
  • Hello Baby!; illustrated by Steve Jenkins
  • Two Little Monkeys; illustrated by Jill Barton

Emma Garcia

Garcia’s books are perfect for the transportation or construction work enthusiast. Repetition and sounds effects included.

chugga chugga choo choo

My Picks:

  • Chugga Chugga Choo Choo
  • Toot Toot Beep Beep
  • Tap Tap Bang Bang
  • Tip Tip Dig Dig

Edward Gibbs

These books straddle the toddler/preschool line, but they can work great in a toddler storytime when everyone repeats the phrase, “I spy with my little eye” all together.

My Picks:

  • I Spy With My Little Eye
  • I Spy Pets
  • I Spy Under the Sea
  • I Spy on the Farm

Emily Gravett

Gravett’s books have a great rhythm without rhyming. A few have a twist ending which caregivers and older children enjoy.

My picks:

  • Blue Chameleon
  • Monkey and Me
  • Dogs

Kevin Henkes

A master of gentle nature themed books. Great for seasonal reads.

My Picks:

  • When Spring Comes
  • A Good Day
  • Little White Rabbit

Petr Horáček

If you need a great pop-up concept book look no further. These capture the attention of wriggly toddlers and show off a wide array of animals.

My Picks:

  • Butterfly, Butterfly: A Book of Colors
  • One Spotted Giraffe: A Counting Pop-up Book
  • Animal Opposites: A Pop-up Book

Eric Litwin

Litwin’s books feature predictable text patterns with short songs interspersed. Great for preschoolers too, the key to getting them to work with toddlers is getting the caregivers to sing along with you. They make great felt stories too.

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons

My Picks:

  • Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes; illustrated by James Dean
  • Pete the Cat: My Four Groovy Buttons; illustrated by James Dean
  • Groovy Joe: Ice Cream and Dinosaurs; illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Jonathan London

Known for his Froggy books, London also has a collection of transportation themed picture books perfect for toddlers. And don’t forget his animal walking sounds book!

My Picks:

  • A Train Goes Clickety-Clack; illustrated by Denis Roche
  • A Truck Goes Rattley-Bumpa; illustrated by Denis Roche
  • A Plane Goes Ka-zoom!; illustrated by Denis Roche
  • Wiggle Waggle; illustrated by Michael Rex

Bill Martin Jr.

You may recognize these from your own childhood. The repetitive structure is perfect for toddlers. Bonus tip: You can sing them to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

My Picks:

  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?; illustrated by Eric Carle
  • Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?; illustrated by Eric Carle
  • Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?; illustrated by Eric Carle
  • Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?; illustrated by Eric Carle

Flora McDonnell

Simple text and big pages make these books perfect for toddlers. These may be out of print, so grab a copy if you see one!

My Picks:

  • I Love Animals
  • Splash!
  • Giddy-up! Let’s Ride!

Mary Murphy

Murphy’s books are great for promoting a loving, positive relationship between toddler and caregiver. They’ve also got great animal sounds.

My Picks:

  • Say Hello Like This!
  • A Kiss Like This
  • Good Night Like This

Il Sung Na

Dreamy illustrations fill these wonderful books about animals.

My Picks:

  • Welcome Home, Bear
  • The Opposite Zoo
  • A Book of Babies

Leslie Patricelli

Known for her adorable board books, Patriceclli also has some picture books that are perfect for toddlers.

My Picks:

  • The Birthday Box
  • Higher! Higher!
  • Faster! Faster!

Michael Rosen

Rosen has all sorts of different stories for little ones. Try reading one of his poems to highlight poetry even for toddlers.

My Picks:

  • The Bus is for Us!; illustrated by Gillian Tyler
  • Tiny Little Fly; illustrated by Kevin Waldron
  • A Great Big Cuddle: Poems for the Very Young; illustrated by Chris Riddell

Ellie Sandall

Sandall only has two toddler storytime gems so far but I’m including her here because I just know she’s bound to another soon! Her third book, Everybunny Count! comes out this year so I’ll update this page after I’ve read it.

everybunny dance

My Picks:

  • Everybunny Dance!
  • Follow Me!

April Pulley Sayre

Sayre is a prolific writer and has tons of storytime gems. Her non-fiction ones are top notch featuring wondeful vocabulary and stunning photographs of nature.

full of fall

My Picks:

  • Full of Fall
  • Best in Snow
  • Raindrops Roll
  • If You’re Hoppy; illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic

Bob Shea

Shea’s dinosaur series is great for those little ones who just need to roar!

My Picks:

  • Dinosaur vs. Bedtime
  • Dinosaur vs. The Library
  • Dinosaur vs. The Potty

Nicola Smee

Join Smee’s group of animal friends for different adventures. You can act out these books or have toddler jump in a lap for some bouncing or rocking while you read. Thank you to Gina (in the comments) for reminding me of these!

My Picks:

  • Clip-Clop
  • Splish- Splash
  • Jingle-Jingle

Philemon Sturges

Sturges’s books are great for celebrating a child’s love of different things. Short, simple sentences paired with boldly coloured illustrations are a great combo.

My Picks:

  • I Love Bugs!; illustrated by Shari Halpern
  • I Love Trains!; illustrated by Shari Halpern
  • I Love Trucks!; illustrated by Shari Halpern

Simms Taback

In Taback’s series readers guess the animals hiding behind the flaps. Fold out pages make for a lovely surprise for toddlers.

My Picks:

  • Simms Taback’s City Animals
  • Simms Taback’s Farm Animals
  • Simms Taback’s Dinosaurs

Nancy Tafuri

Tafuri’s books feature repetition, short sentences, and lots of farm animals.

My Picks:

  • All Kinds of Kisses
  • The Busy Little Squirrel
  • Spots, Feathers, and Curly Tails
  • This is the Farmer

Jan Thomas

Thomas has a great sense of humour and even if the toddlers don’t completely get the jokes the caregivers will.

My Picks:

  • Is Everyone Ready for Fun?
  • Pumpkin Trouble
  • Rhyming Dust Bunnies

Those are my picks for toddler storytime authors to know. Did I miss one of your favourites? Let me know in the comments!

Pacing a Toddler Storytime

You all know I have a soft spot in my heart for toddler storytime.  I encourage you to check out the posts on our storytime resources page to learn more about how I plan, what books I read, what felt stories work, what songs I sing, and how I incorporate props.  But recently something about how I do toddler storytime has changed and it has everything to do with pacing.

Awhile ago I read a book by Megan Dowd Lambert called Reading Picture Books with Kids. That link will take you to my review of the book and why I think every person doing storytime should read it.  It taught me how to read picture books with kids and the value of slowing down while reading. Over the past year I’ve taken that philosophy and applied it to toddler storytime in general. If there is one thing I could teach my former storytime self it would be to SLOW DOWN.

I think there is an unspoken pressure to try and cram as many components into a storytime as possible. Read three books! Sing 10 songs! Do two felt stories! Bust out the puppets and the egg shakers and the scarves! And don’t forget the bubbles! While all of those things are great to feature in storytime, we do our toddlers a disservice when our pace quickens in order to get it all in.  When you look at toddler brain development and language acquisition, you find that toddlers need:

  • Repetition: They learn through repeated singing and reading of the same songs, rhymes, and stories.
  • Time to Think Before Responding: When you ask a toddler a question you need to give them time to process the question and then form an answer. I like asking yes or no questions or questions with two choices in toddler storytime because those are the first types of questions toddlers learn to answer.  You may not get a chorus of yeses, but adding in an extra 10 seconds to your wait time will help you slow down.
  • Serve and Return Conversations and Sentence Elongation: Babies begin learning language through the conversations adults have with them. We ask a question, pause, listen to them gurgle and coo, and then respond back. This encourages them to keep making an effort at language. Toddlers also benefit from this serve and return model. You can add in sentence elognation to build their vocabulary. For example, if they point to something and say, “bird!” then you can say, “Yes, it’s a bird. A big blue bird.” This helps build their vocabulary and understanding of how language works.

I’ve found that these things can’t all occur when I’m jumping from one song to the next without hardly a breathe in between.  Sometimes it feels like the only way to control the chaos is to just keep plowing through the material. Not only does that have the potential to further lose the attention of the toddlers, it also makes it hard for any newcomers or ESL attendees to follow along.

I’ve had a few people ask me to film my storytimes so they could see what slowing down really looks like. Unfortunately I am unable to film due to the privacy of my storytime attendees at the library. But I can provide a toddler storytime outline that describes where I take moments to pause and engage.  I didn’t include any props besides puppets in this storytime.  These 10 things take us 30 minutes.  Of course, this is just one way to do a toddler storytime and I am by no means an expert! This is just what has worked for me.

  1. Welcome Songs
    I’ve got big storytimes (60+ people), so I usually come into the room, walk around and say hello to everyone, and then start singing “Well Hello Everybody, Can You Touch Your Nose?” as a gathering song. It signals to caregivers that it’s time to start and it gets the kids engaged. We do at least five verses: touch your nose, clap your hands, stomp your feet, jump up high, sit back down. A few of them are always action-oriented.  If people are still coming in the door I’ll add a few more verses. Once we’re finished I do my welcome message (a modified version of #2 in this blog post) every single week – you never know who is new! Then we sing Hello, Friends and end by turning to the person sitting next to us and introducing ourselves with our names. Before we sing Hello, Friends I go over the signs for hello and friends every single week. I don’t rush this part. Because we’re a big group and can’t do songs that use people’s names, I really want to build in a chance for people to get to know each other.  It also helps slow down the pace of the storytime and gives caregivers a chance to get settled if they came in a few minutes late.
  2. Roly Poly
    At this point I used to jump right into my first book and with smaller groups that still works. But when I’ve got a big group I find that caregivers are still coming in at this point.  It makes it really hard for the toddlers to focus on a story when people are trying to find a seat. I do not blame caregivers at all! In fact, I always smile and welcome them in. It just means I sneak in another song before reading the first book. One way to slow down the pace of your storytime is to break down a song before singing it. With Roly Poly, first I have everyone hold up their hands, then we squeeze our hands and make a fist, then we put one hand over the other, and then we roll our hands. Toddlers get really excited because they know we are about to sing their favourite song.  Adding this step scaffolds the song in a developmentally appropriate way that makes it more accessible for toddlers.  We sing it at least two times through.
  3. Read a Book
    Don’t know what to read at toddler storytime? I’ve got you covered. Here’s part 1 and part 2 of my favourite read alouds for toddler storytime.  Here’s where I try really hard to consciously make an effort to slow down. Before we read we look at the cover and talk about what we see. I say the author and illustrator’s name and say something like, “She wrote the words and she drew the pictures.” When reading I keep my pace slow and steady and ask only a few questions as  I read.  Toddlers are at a language acquisition stage where pointing and labeling is key. So I point and label a lot of the images in the book. It’s also a great chance to use sentence elognation. You can ask what they see and then expand on the word they provide.  My favourite part is getting everybody to say, “The End!” together when we finish the book. I also love to hug the book when I’m done and say something about how much I love stories.  A really easy way to incorporate an early literacy tip in storytime is simply telling caregivers why you picked the book to read.
  4. Song with Felt Pieces
    To help toddlers match words with objects I put up pictures or felt pieces that match the songs we sing.  There are so many to choose from. Some of my favourites are Baby SharkSlippery Fish, Bananas Unite, or Knife, Fork, Spoon Spatula.  Rather than jump right into singing, I’ll pull out one of the felt pieces and say, “We’re going to sing a song now. And it’s a song about a….shark!” When we do Baby Shark I then take a moment to put the shark on the felt board, ask what colour it is, ask if they like sharks, etc. Here’s where it’s important to build in that wait time when you ask questions.  Once the song has been introduced then we start singing. If it’s a longer song like Baby Shark I’ll probably only do it once through, but for shorter songs I do them 2-3 times. I repeat these songs every week because that’s how toddlers learn.
  5. Felt Story
    My preference is to do a felt story version of the book we read. I’ve written about how to do one story many ways before and believe it offers toddlers a chance to practice the language and internalize the story featured in the book. If I can’t find a felt story version of the book then I’ll try to pick something thematically related to the book. Again, just as a way to build the vocabulary around a certain topic.  As with reading a book, I’ve tried hard to slow down my pacing with felt stories. I try to pick ones that have audience participation elements or repetitive phrases caregivers can say with me. Here are my favourite felt stories to use: Part 1 and Part 2.
  6. Zoom, Zoom, Zoom
    At this point we need to get up and move!  I like doing Zoom, Zoom, Zoom for multiple reasons. Firstly, toddlers love it.  Secondly, you can do multiple verses that encourage caregivers to play with lyrics. I made a felt set that helps me slow down my pacing.  Before we start singing I pull out the rocketship felt and say, “Wow, what is this? It’s a rocketship!  Where should we go in our rocketship?”  Then I pull out the moon piece and say, “The moon! It’s a big, round, yellow moon. Let’s go to the moon. First we need to warm up our engines.”  Then we rub our hands together and start singing.  We go to the stars and the sun. Before going to the sun we put on sunblock and sometimes our spacesuit. Adding in these elements slows down the pace naturally and allows toddlers a chance to process the language before you sing.
  7. My Two Hands
    This is my go-to transition song. I like it because the first part still has lots of action in it.  I use this one every week and once the toddlers learn it they are so into it.
  8. Farm Animal Puppet Song
    At this point I sometimes pull out scarves or shakers, but most of the time I feature some puppets. Puppets grab a toddler’s attention unlike a song itself.  I try to stick with familiar tunes like Old MacDonald or The Cows on the Farm Go Moo, Moo, Moo (Tune: Wheels on the Bus).  Then I rotate through different animals. I like throwing in an oddball animal like an octopus because it’s fun and gets the kids to help me think of the sound. To slow down my pace, I’ll pause between each verse and do a reveal game. Try pulling the puppet’s leg or tail out of your bag and asking what animal it could be. They love to guess and it gets caregivers to help their toddler focus their attention.
  9. Rain is Falling Down
    At this point we are nearing the end of storytime and the focus is on calming and settling.  Any lullaby or gentle song will do. I like Rain is Falling Down because you can have caregivers move their fingers down their child’s back or arms and then play peek-a-boo on the second verse. I’ve added a third verse about snow which goes, “Snow is falling down, shhhh.” Before singing this song I’ll put up the felt pieces that match the song and we’ll talk about making rain with our hands. After the song I put my hand on my heart and say, “My body is feeling nice and calm now. I feel very peaceful. How do you feel?” Build in some wait time to see if toddlers will answer.
  10. Goodbye Song
    And that brings us to the end!  We sing Goodbye, Friends three times through and then the kids come up to get their stamp. We’ve got lots of ideas for goodbye songs though.  In an attempt to get to know the kids I’ll ask them to say their name when they get a stamp, but realistically this doesn’t always happen with such big groups. Of course I walk around afterwards and talk to kids and caregivers one-on-one. I like to take the book we read with me and ask them if they liked it or just point to the cover and say, “We read a book about dinosaurs today. Big, green dinosaurs!” I’m all about modeling to caregivers.

And that fills 30 minutes. Sometimes I can get a second short or singable book in there, but usually not. And that’s okay! The focus for me is on strategies that cater to a toddler’s language development, enjoyment of stories, and caregiver participation.  In terms of repetition I will switch out the book and felt story from week to week but I keep all the songs the same for an 8-10 week session.

How do you pace your toddler storytimes? Any tips for slowing down? Please leave a comment with any thoughts!

Toddler Storytime: Favourite Felt Stories, Part 2

Using felt stories with toddlers has been an ever evolving adventure.  I started off pretty hesitant but have grown more confident as I’ve found ones that work well for this age group.  The little ones really love felt stories and songs.  I’m always amazed when a rambunctious toddler pauses and gives their attention to the felt board when I pull out the colourful pieces.  So here is my second round of felt stories I use in toddler storytime.

If you missed the other posts in this series, including Part 1 of my favourite felt stories, get caught up here:

Little Mouse, Little Mouse

I got on the Little Mouse train last year and it’s been full steam ahead. I’m not joking when I say this is the toddlers’ favourite part of storytime.  The link takes you to a post I wrote aggregating all the different versions I could find.  I’ve also done a ladybug version in the spring and summer to much delight.

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes

pete the cat felt story
Courtesy of Library Village

The book is storytime gold, so it’s no surprise that the felt story is too.  With toddlers, I teach them a little dance to accompany the refrain which makes it more interactive.  Because most of them have read the book it’s a great chance to talk about telling stories in multiple ways.  You can get the template here, but I also love these versions by Library Village, Libraryland, and Miss Mary Liberry.

Monster Stories

tickle monster

I love using monster felt stories in the fall around Halloween time.  My favourites are Tickle Monster, Go Away, Big Green Monster, and Nighty Night, Little Green Monster.  All three of these stories are based on simple shapes, making them a cinch to whip up even if you’re a novice felt story maker like me.  If my library did a craft after storytime I’d definitely do some sort of open-ended shape project to compliment these felts.

Hooray for Hat!

hooray for hat felt story
Courtesy of Library Lalaland
hooray for hat
Very simple hats and a present I made!

Before we do this story we practice cheering, “Hooray for Hat!” so the repetition is more engaging.  Laura’s version is detailed and beautiful! One way to adapt this story is to grab any assortment of animals from other felt stories, make five simple hats and viola! I’ve read the book one week and then shared the felt story the second week with different animals to encourage caregivers to play with the stories they read.

I Spy With My Little Eye

I spyI spy felt

Based on the book series by Edward Gibbs, this felt story has a similar appeal to Little Mouse.  With toddlers, I tend to make up my own hints rather than strictly follow the text of the book so we can move at our own pace.  I place each sea creature behind the black screen so just a little bit shows through.  Caregivers are encouraged to help their toddlers guess, and I mention how great these books are for developing the early literacy skill of talking.  Email me for the pattern!

The Great, Big, Enormous Turnip

great big enormous turnip
Courtesy of Storytime with Ms. Jenna

This Russian folktale is short enough for my wiggly toddlers.  Sometimes I’ll tell caregivers to plop their toddlers in their laps and then we all pretend to pull the turnip out together.  It’s more interactive and encourages shared storytelling.  Storytime with Ms. Jenna shared her beautiful version!  You can get the template here.

It Looked Like Spilt Milk

it looked like spilt milk felt story
Courtesy of Storytime Katie

This is an oldie and a goodie by Charles G. Shaw.  I love the repetition of the phrases, and I encourage caregivers to help their toddlers make guesses about each piece.  Visit Storytime Katie to learn how she tells it and to get a link to the pattern.  One of my co-workers came to my storytime where I did this felt story and she said that night her two-year-old daughter was retelling the story with her washcloth in the bathtub. Heart.Melted.

Bark, George

bark george felt story
Courtesy of Miss Mary Liberry

This story can be a little long for toddlers, but getting them involved in making all the animal sounds helps hold their attention.  Miss Mary Liberry makes a pocket inside George where you can store all the animals.  I also love this foam board version on Libraryland!

Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear?

polar bear felt story
Courtesy of Libraryland

This is the sequel to Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?  It’s another great one for talking about animal sounds.  It works well for toddlers because you can start and stop at any point in the story.  If I’ve got a rambunctious group, I may only do a few animals or split them into groups and pull them out at different times during storytime. Kids especially love playing with these after storytime. Check out Lisa’s version and all her amazing extensions activities! You can also get the patterns here.

Food Songs

bananas unite

I’ve made a bigger effort these past few months to put up felt pieces for the songs we sing too.  Check out some of my favourites.  I find it a great chance to practice the vocabulary in the songs before we start singing.  With toddlers, the extra visual cue helps them make the connection between the words and the objects.

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom

zoom zoom zoom

So many different verses to sing!  I put up the moon and rocketship first and ask the kids if they know where we’re going.  Then we warm up our engines (rub our hands together) and get zooming.  For each verse I add a new piece to the felt board.  This has slowed down the song but it’s working – we have more time for conversations about what we need to go to the moon, stars, and sun.

Do you have a favourite felt story or song to use with toddlers?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Toddler Storytime: Favourite Read Alouds, Part 2

The last time I wrote about my favourite picture books to read in toddler storytime was three years ago!  This updated list features a blend of newer publications with older titles I didn’t include in the first round.  I’ve included a short note about why they make a great choice for toddler storytime or how I use them with this age group.

Want to see the other posts in my toddler storytime series? Here they are:


bear countsBear Counts by Karma Wilson; illustrated by Jane Chapman.  Before reading this book I have caregivers practice the refrain with me: “Number, numbers everywhere. Can you count along with Bear?” I don’t read every single word – the focus is on practicing counting to 5.  I encourage the toddlers to practice using their fingers to count while we read.

big bugBig Bug by Henry Cole.  Perfect for teaching opposites.  Only a few words on each page allow you to compare and contrast things based on size and distance.  Follow up with your favourite opposites song.

boats goBoats Go by Steve Light.  This one is part of a transportation-themed sound extravaganza.  As large board books, they are perfect for those babies who are just walking.  I encourage everyone to make the different sounds with me.

breatheBreathe by Scott Magoon.  Toddlers are notorious for being little balls of emotion.  When I read this one we practice taking deep breaths together.  I mention to caregivers that modeling deep breathing to kids is one way they learn how to calm themselves.

the bus is for usThe Bus is for Us by Michael Rosen; illustrated Gillian Tyler.  The pages are nice and big for your larger toddler crowds. We have lots of fun chanting, “The bus is for us!”  I love the diverse array of children and the rhyming text.  When I’m done reading, we always do a transportation song.

butterflyButterfly, Butterfly: A Book of Colors by Petr Horacek.  One of my favourite springtime reads for toddlers.  Only one short sentence per page and you can talk about the different colours Lucy observes. The pop-out page at the end always delights the little ones. I follow it up with my favourite butterfly song.

dinosaurDinosaur vs. Bedtime by Bob Shea.  Before I read this book we practice making claws and roaring our terrible roars.  I also like pointing out the letters while we read – R-O-A-R.  Never to early to promote print awareness.

familiesFamilies, Families, Families! by Suzanne Lang and Max Lang.  I’ve found that the toddlers love seeing all the different animals, while caregivers appreciate seeing a diversity of families.  If it gets too long you can always skip a few pages.

hooray for fishHooray for Fish! by Lucy Cousins.  Big, bold illustrations hold a toddler’s attention.  I truly believe Cousins is one of the masters of books for toddlers and this one explores all sorts of imaginative fish.

hooray for hatHooray for Hat! by Brian Won.  I love reading this one to a mixed-age storytime group.  With toddlers, practice making a grumpy face and cheering, “Hooray for hat!” before you begin reading.  Caregivers always ask for a copy to take home.

hello airplaneHello, Airplane! by Bill Cotter.  I like reading this one in the summer when many families go on holiday.  The sentences are short and sweet and you can sneak in a STEAM early literacy tip about prepositions such as above, over, and under.

i got the rhtyhmI Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison; illustrated by Frank Morrison.   With toddlers you can encourage them to point to the different body parts mentioned as the little girl walks through her neighbourhood. Perfect for getting out some energy while reading.

i love bugsI Love Bugs! by Philemon Sturges; illustrated by Shari Halpern.  Super simple sentences allow you to read this one quickly or spend time talking about each insect if your toddlers have the attention span. I like to read it in the spring and summer.

if youre a robotIf You’re a Robot and You Know It by David A. Carter.  My new favourite pop-up book!  The movable parts keep toddlers engaged, and the funny new verses are a refreshing twist to the classic song. Perfect for when you need to get up and move.

im a dirty dinosaurI’m a Dirty Dinosaur by Janeen Brian; illustrated by Ann James.  My co-worker Elizabeth taught me how to sing this book to the tune of “I’m a Little Teapot” and it’s been magical ever since.  I have the the toddlers mimic the actions while I read – sniff, shake, tap, and stamp about.  Could work well with scarves or egg shakers!

jumpJump! by Scott M. Fischer.  Lots of great rhyming in this one.  I either stand up and have the toddlers jump with me or I hand out scarves and they make their scarves jump as I read.  I’ve also done a felt and puppet version that the kids love.

little mouseLittle Mouse by Alison Murray.  This is another fun one to act out.  We practice waddling like a penguin and playing a trumpet like an elephant.  You can also make the animal noises.  The ending is sweet and you can encourage caregivers to read it again and find all the animals on the last page.

my busMy Bus and My Bike by Byron Barton.

say helloSay Hello! by Linda Davick.  One of my new favourite books to read at the beginning of toddler storytime.  I actually think you could read it every week and practice making all the different motions.  Love the diversity of kids and the diversity of greetings.

snowballsSnowballs by Lois Ehlert.  My favourite winter read aloud!  Also works great with a mixed-age group because the older kids will notice all the different items Ehlert uses to create the snow family. If you’ve just got toddlers though, the pages are nice and big and you can quickly scan through the snow people.

supertruckSupertruck by Stephen Savage.

this little chickThis Little Chick by John Lawrence.

what a wonderful worldWhat a Wonderful World by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss; illustrated by Tim Hopgood.  This entire list could be singable books, but I thought I’d just mention a recent discovery.  I had to practice this one a few times before reading it in a storytime, but once you get the tune down it’s quite a gentle song to sing and read.

where is babyWhere is Baby? by Kathryn O. Galbraith; illustrated by John Butler.

What are your favourite books to read in toddler storytime?  Let me know in the comments!

Toddler Storytime: Songs to Get the Wiggles Out, Part 2

I’m updating my toddler storytime series, yay! This week is all about moving, grooving, and putting all that squirmy toddler energy to good use.  To read more about toddler storytime, check out the links below:

A toddler’s physical development is closely tied to their literacy development.  It’s unfair of us to expect them to sit still for a 30-minute storytime, and I always let caregivers know it’s okay if their toddler moves around as long as the caregiver keeps them clear of my storytime supplies.  Here are some of my recent favourite ways of making movement fun at storytime.

My mom takes my 2-year-old nephew to storytime every week down in Southern California, and they play this one every week.  My nephew loves it!  I knew it would be perfect for toddler storytime – you just need some room to stretch and march.

Before I sing this one I tell caregivers that one of the ways you can make learning to stop fun is by practicing it in a song.  I do three verses: walking, tip toe, and marching.  Get creative and ask the kids for other actions you can do.

Oh, I really love this one!  Being able to follow three simple directions by the time they start kindergarten helps kids do better in school, and this song helps them practice that skill.  I sing it very, very slowly the first time and then get faster and faster.  We always joke about being ducks and not even knowing it.

If you’re like me and do Zoom, Zoom, Zoom every single week for fear of a toddler riot, then you’ll love this pirate themed version.  Pair it with our ocean themed version of The Elevator Song and you’re halfway to a pirate themed storytime.  One of the things I tell caregivers is that even if a toddler can’t get both feet off the ground when jumping at the end, they are still practicing their gross motor skills.

Get ready to shake your booty!  Probably most appropriate for the autumn season, I’ve also been using this squirrel song to practice colours.  It also works perfectly as a scarf song because you can use the colours of the scarves as inspiration for the lyrics.

My toddlers adore Bananas Unite, so when I learned these new verses with verbs like shuck, slice, peel, pop, and squeeze I was sold.  I use this one often when I visit preschools right before lunchtime because they can connect the song to something they are about to do – eat!

Start with your thumbs, move to your hands, then your arms, then your legs, then your hips, then your whole body.  You will *literally* get the wiggles out!  I like doing this one with toddlers because you can extend the song as much as you’d like or just do a few verses depending on their levels of wiggles.

Another great one for teaching the power of stopping.  Mix it up with actions such as wiggling, bouncing, jumping, tapping, waving, spinning, clapping, and stomping.  This makes a fun prop song too if you want to add in some shakers, scarves, or rhythm sticks.

This right here is my go-to, all time favourite way of getting toddlers to sit down.  It starts with actions – clapping hands, jumping – but it ends with a quiet, gentle instruction to get seated. I don’t know why it works so well, but this song never fails me.  We get one last chance to move before settling down for a story.

What are your favourite songs to help toddlers express their energy?  Let me know in the comments!

Toddler Storytime: Favourite Songs and Rhymes, Part 2

To this day, toddlers remain one of my favourite age groups to work with.   I thought I’d take some time to update the series I started two years ago that featured all the components of my toddler storytimes.  This week I’m sharing the songs and rhymes my toddlers have been loving recently.  If you’d like to read more, here are the links to my other posts:


I only recently learned new verses to this weekly jam.  Caregivers  especially appreciate seeing how to adapt and change a song to keep it fresh.  I like doing this song because it helps kids practice fine motor skills such as creeping their fingers up their arms which helps develop coordination.

This is a classic English song, but I had no idea it existed until a preschool group asked me to sing it during an outreach storytime.  It reminds me of “Open, Shut Them” and is great for getting hands back in laps.

We know that singing the alphabet song helps children learn the names of letters.  But singing it to a different tune breaks the letters down in different ways, and helps them hear strands such as “LMNOP” more clearly.  I’ve been doing the “Mary Had a Little Lamb” tune the most because it’s the easiest for me to remember.

I’ve been using this one when I have big groups that take awhile to settle back down after we’ve been up and moving.  I like to pat it out on my legs so the kids can hear the rhythm.

It’s rain season here in Vancouver, so this has been a seasonal hit.  I’ve changed it a bit from the video – we start with snapping, then clapping, then stomping. This way we move from smaller movements to bigger, whole body movements.  You can also change up the adjectives – giant raindrops, humongous raindrops, enormous raindrops!

I made super simple felt pieces to go along with this song.  It’s great for reviewing colours and counting, and the kids have lots of fun with the “pop!” at the end.  This song is also super easy to learn – new caregivers catch on after only the first verse.

I use this in babytime too, but it’s great for those one and two-year-olds who still like to sit in laps.  Rolling your hands takes so much coordination.  I tell caregivers to postiively encourage their toddlers even if they are just moving their hands by their sides like a choo-choo train.

Learning to count to five is a big deal for toddlers.  Before we start this rhyme we practice counting to five on our fingers.  You can also do it with scarves and have the kids throw them in the air when the pea pod pops.

Mel wrote this easy action rhyme that’s all about opposites.  We put it to a gentle tune in the video, but you can also just chant it.  Opposite songs are so popular in toddler storytime because they help children make distinctions and teach them how to describe different things.

This song has everything you need for toddler storytime – repetition, great vocabulary, gulping and gasping, and a chance to say, “oh no!” I love doing the sign language version and watching the kids master the signs over the course of a storytime session.

These are some of my recent favourite songs and rhymes to use with toddlers.  Let me know your favourites in the comments!

Toddler Storytime: Favourite Felt Stories

This is the last post in my Toddler Storytime series.  Did you miss any?  Here’s a recap:

This post features my favourite felt or flannel stories to use with ages 1-3 years old. If you are looking for a collection of outstanding felt patterns, be sure to visit Kiz Club.

Felt stories use to scare me. Caregivers don’t always keep the little ones from coming up and grabbing the felt pieces right off the board, which makes it hard to complete the story or rhyme.  And once one toddler grabs a felt piece, it’s like a green light signal for every other toddler and at that point there really isn’t any hope.  I’ve been lucky to be at a branch that has two felt boards – one large one that extends almost to the ground, and another smaller one that is high enough to be out of reach. I use the smaller one during storytime, then I bring out the larger one after storytime for the kids to play with. It’s been a win-win solution! Do you have an ingenious way to use felt stories with babies or toddlers?  I’d love to hear them!

So here are some of my favourite felt/flannel stories that are the right length, the right topic, the right amount of repetition – all that good stuff.

1. The Bus for Us

This is the felt story version of the book by Suzanne Bloom. Excellent repetition and rhyme – the parents join in after the first example in my experience. And I love how it builds transportation vocabulary. You can find the pattern here or check out this flannel game by In the Children’s Room.

2. Brown Bear, Brown Bear

This book by Bill Martin is a classic for a reason. Check out Libraryland’s version for some really cute puff paint animals. There are many versions of this story – try doing a shape themed version called Red Circle, Red Circle or a Halloween version called Black Cat, Black Cat. Here in the Northwest we have a version called Bald Eagle, Bald Eagle with a series of animals common in our part of the world.

3. Dear Zoo

This book by Rod Campbell is one of the best stories for teaching toddlers to make educated guesses and inferences.  Definitely check out Storytime Katie’s version for some artistic inspiration. When you’re ready to make your own, get the pattern here.

Continue reading “Toddler Storytime: Favourite Felt Stories”

Toddler Storytime: Using Puppets

So far I’ve covered how I plan, what I read, what I sing, and what I do to get the wiggles out for a toddler storytime.  Here’s a quick re-cap in case you missed any of the previous posts:

This week I’ll be talking about using puppets.  Now if you are like me, puppets are not your natural inclination. In fact, before I started performing regular storytimes the thought of using puppets every week terrified me.  But, the toddlers at my storytimes absolutely love puppets! Like there is an audible gasp when I pull one out of my storytime bag.

I was lucky enough in my MLIS program to have one teacher who was AMAZING with puppets, and I learned a lot from her, but I realized that I would also have to create a style that works for me. So that’s why I wanted to share some really easy ways to incorporate puppets into your storytime that are low prep and low pressure.  You won’t need an impressive vocal range or a degree in theater arts to try these out.  And if you’re toddlers are anything like mine, they will still go nuts when you bring them out at storytime.

1. Slippery Fish

Puppets Needed: Small Fish, Octopus, Large Fish (Tuna), Shark, and a Whale

I do this song with felts and with just my hands, so I thought why not try it with puppets? And it works – brilliantly!  You can even act out the “eating” part to the kids’ delight.  And honestly, if you don’t have those exact sea creature puppets, go with what you’ve got!  I’m sure you can fit a crab or a  turtle on the food chain somewhere.

2. When Cows Wake Up in the Morning

Puppets Needed: Any animal. Seriously.

My co-worker taught me this song and I’ve been using it ever since. It makes a nice welcome or hello song, and it goes great with a farm themed storytime.  Honestly you can use whatever animals you want, but sometimes I’ll throw in a dragon or a bunny and see what sounds we can think of together.

3. Little Bunny in a Hat

Puppets Needed: Any type of jack-in-box puppet

I do this rhyme with three different jack-in-box type puppets – a bunny in a hat, a creature in a can, and a bear in a tent. We say the rhyme two times for each puppet and by the last time, all the toddlers are yelling, “Yes, he will!” It’s a great chance to point out the importance of repetition to caregivers, and I like that it’s a rhyme instead of a song. And check out this super cute monkey in a barrel!

Continue reading “Toddler Storytime: Using Puppets”