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!

4. Mmm, Ahh Went the Little Green Frog

Puppets Needed: Frog, Fish, Bear, Owl, Squirrel, Turtle (But again, really any animal will work!)

All you need to do for this one is grab the puppet and sing!  We also have a Bear and Turtle verse and an Owl and Squirrel verse.  Feel free to change the verses to suit which puppets you have on hand.  So many people have shared verses with us that they’ve made up on their own – the options are pretty much endless!

5. A Fly is on My Knee

Puppets Needed: A fly

Using a puppet with this song help kids visualize the meaning of the words.  Just make the fly move around and land on different body parts.  If you want to get creative, you could substitute any one-syllable animal for the fly. I’ve always wanted to give every toddler a puppet and then sing a verse for each one, switching up the body parts.

6. The Itsy Bitsy Spider

Puppets Needed: Spider and any other insects

I love doing this classic song at toddler storytime because most of the toddlers already know it and will sing along.  To mix it up, I add different verses with whatever insect puppets I have on hand. So for example, we sing “The Itsy Bitsy Bee,” “The Itsy Bitsy Butterfly,” and “The Itsy Bitsy Firefly.”

7. Old MacDonald Had a Farm

Puppets Needed: Any animal

Old MacDonald, the old stand by. Sometimes I forget that you can add puppets to these classic songs which sort of rejuvenate them for the audience.  Like I mentioned before, sometimes I’ll throw in an oddball puppet like a lizard or elephant just to add variety and keep the caregivers on their toes.

8. Welcome Puppet

Puppets Needed: Just your favourite puppet

So, I actually haven’t done this one yet, but it gets suggested so often that I wanted to include it.  Many librarians have a special puppet they bring out at the beginning, and sometimes at the end, of their storytimes.  The puppet can serve many functions – lead the hello song, break the ice, introduce the rules, act silly.  I’m still on the lookout for the perfect welcome puppet, but here’s a video shot at the ALA Mid-Winter Guerrilla Storytime where youth services librarian talk about how they use welcome puppets in their storytimes.

So there you go – 8 easy ways to incorporate puppets into a storytime for toddlers. My next challenge is to try using them more with older kids during oral stories. If you haven’t done so already, check out Storytelling with Puppets to see a librarian demonstrate how to do it!

22 thoughts on “Toddler Storytime: Using Puppets

  1. Thanks for this! When I started my job not quite a year ago, I inherited a ton of stuffed animals and puppets. Mostly they just sit on shelves for the kids to play with, but now the wheels are turning in my head about how to use them in storytime…

  2. No problem! My goal was to present really simple ways to use puppets, especially if you’ve never done so before. And thanks for your comment – just discovered a new blog to add to our blogroll!

  3. Great post! I tried “Mmm Aah” this week with puppets and toddlers to great success! Having toddlers trying to do jazz hands was both adorable and hilarious. The grown ups in the group really responded to this song too. Thanks for all that you guys do!

    1. Toddlers and jazz hands makes me smile just thinking about it 🙂 Thanks for your comment!

  4. Thank you so much for such brilliant ideas.. my job starts today n I was really nervous for the story telling session coz it will be the first day of school for toddlers! but now I have got some fantastic ideas!:D also loved you both’s expressions!:) will try acting like that, adds even more fun to it!

    1. So glad we could help! Thank you for your lovely comment!

  5. When cows get up in the morning is a song by Pat Carfraralso known as the “Lullaby Lady” she has a number of CDs.

    1. Thanks, Linda! That must of been where Pia learned it.

  6. im puppeteer so i already do this with puppets.i love the songs with action.the fish song and animals sayin hello.great work teaching kids through songs.

  7. keep up great work singin to kids with puppets and actions.always teach with creativity.children learn through visual and sound music.every teacher abd educator should be creative when singing songs to kids using props finger hand puppets felt hats animal ears anything creative.learning should be fun.

  8. I love all your examples of ways to use puppets in the library. Do you ever do webinars on puppets and/or their uses and examples of how to use them? Please do. You two would be great and an inspiration to others .

  9. As a granddad, I’ve been looking for fun ways to interact with my 2 yo grandson when he comes to visit. You have given me so great ideas…thanks!

    1. Awww, that makes my day! I hope you have a great time reading and playing together.

  10. Hi! I thought I remembered that you did a video of “Slippery Fish” with some sign language, but I’m having trouble finding it. Did it get taken down?

    1. Hi Emily, yes we decided to take that video down along with many of our other sign language songs and rhymes. After working with the Deaf community I realized that we are not fluent in ASL and may be making mistakes or presenting the language in an unauthentic way. You could look up the signs individually on a website created by those fluent in ASL.

  11. Thank you, Lindsey! I completely understand and appreciate your striving to be as authentic as possible.

  12. Thank you so much for all these wonderful ideas on how to get started with puppets. I’m a brand new children’s librarian, so I’m excited to incorporate these ideas into my toddler story time!

    1. Yay! That’s so great to hear, Denise. Toddlers love puppets and I hope you have a fun time sharing them.

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