Storytime Transitions

Overlooked and undervalued, transitions are the secret superhero of any great storytime. Or heck, anytime you’re trying to help kidlets move from one activity to the next! I for one had no idea how important transitions were until I started doing Toddler Storytimes on the regular and now I collect and admire them like gemstones. Think I’m crazy? You only need one koala or kid to give you this look before you wise up to the ways of the transition song, rhyme or activity.

Upset Koala

So let’s jump right in, first I’d like to share some of my favourite songs and rhymes which can be used when transitioning between parts of your storytime. Many of these have been picked up from other librarians, early childhood educators, and daycare workers. In case you’ve never noticed, anyone who deals with toddlers and preschoolers on a daily basis basically becomes a professional transitionalist. For an example of this check out Teaching Mama’s awesome list of ideas!

My Two Hands

Walking, Walking

If You’re Ready for a Story

Toddler Stretching Rhymes: Reach for the Ceiling and First You Stretch High

I’m in the Mood for Singing (or whatever!)

Open, Shut Them

I’m an Airplane

Put Your Wiggles in the Bag

Put Your Hands up High

Everybody Count One


One of the best parts of blogging is when people comment and share their brilliant ideas. The lovely Naomi shared this version of Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear which ends in sit down please:

Teddy bear, teddy bear turn around
Teddy bear, teddy bear touch the ground
Teddy bear, teddy bear touch the sky
Teddy bear, teddy bear wink one eye
Teddy bear, teddy bear touch your nose
Teddy bear, teddy bear touch your toes
Teddy bear, teddy bear touch your knees
Teddy bear, teddy bear sit down please!

The other type of transition comes with its own meme and came up lately in response to our post about rhythm sticks. And this transition is: we’re so excited to being using scarves, shakers and sticks but how do we mitigate the chaos which is handing out and collecting play items when a bazillion little grabby hands are involved?!

Shaker Baby

We’re so glad to have our colleagues over at Storytime Underground for tricky questions just like this! The Ninjas give some great and varied ideas for techniques, language (“You get what you get and you don’t get upset!”) and even games to get play items out to your folks and back again without tears being shed. We asked our wonderful friends on Twitter and they came up with using a container by the door with a sign that says “Please take one as you come in”, leaving piles around your storytime space so folks can help themselves and/or passing around a container or two so families can take one and pass it on. In our comment section Lisa suggested the song “Goodbye shakers, goodbye shakers, goodbye shakers, I’m glad you came to play OR I’m glad you came today” OR singing “Shakers away, shakers away, time to put our shakers away!” Yay for sharing!

And going beyond storytime there are lots of fun games and songs to use with school age kids too. My personal favourite is playing “Would You Rather,” using lots of characters, settings and animals from books they might be enjoying or the old classic arrange yourselves by height without saying a word challenge. Sigh! When all else fails (with any age!) my newest transition is as simple as it gets: take a deeeeeep breath in, let it out slowly and take a seat on the floor.

What do you guys use for moving between activities with tweens? What songs and rhymes work for settling down your storytime crowd? Do you have any great tips for ensuring smooth programs where scarves, shakers and sticks go out and come back in without a fuss? Please share below!


19 thoughts on “Storytime Transitions

  1. I do a regular family story time, which is essentially a toddler time with a few preschoolers here and there, so I’m all about the transitions. I love songs that have built-in transition opportunities – with the Elevator Song I always finish with “and we sit back down” as the final line. I use it as the final song in my program, and it helps get the kids sitting down again for the goodbye song and hand stamp. “If you’re happy and you know it” is another great transition song, because you can sing “If you’re happy and you know it sit back down” or something to that effect, while “Everyone can march, march, march” can include “everyone can sit back down” as a line. Instructions always sound more appealing when they’re in the form of a song, right? 😉 It can also help to maintain a similar story time structure from week to week. I’ve been doing family story time since September, and the kids have gradually come to recognize the significance of different songs – they know what’s coming and what to expect, and that can sometimes help with behavior and transitions. Of course, they are toddlers, so expect the unexpected! 🙂

    1. Jane, your comments are so on point! I’ve never thought about it that way: we think transition songs are great because of their clear instructions but it takes a certain amount of getting used to on the kids end. And thank you of course for sharing all of your go-to’s because yes, an instruction is definitely more appealing when we sing it 🙂

  2. Thanks Jbrary for some great new ideas! I’m always looking for transitions to share with my little kiddos – I’ll definitely be using these in the future. Do either of you rock a ukulele? I’m just starting to learn, hopefully I’ll be able to pull off a few songs for storytime!

    1. Hey Laura- thanks for stopping by as per usual 🙂 We both technically OWN ukuleles but have not busted them out just yet. Maybe you’ll be our inspiration- promise to blog about it?

  3. I use shakers every week, and I must admit I was scared at first that it would result in PANDEMONIUM. I’ve found, though, that as long as you have enough scarves or shakers or whatever for everyone to get one, there is surprisingly little drama about it – even if you have different colors and instruments. I do feel very okay with telling kids “you get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit!” The moms usually finish it with me.

    I also anticipated more tears when it was time to put the shakers away, but I found that telling each kid “thank you!” and bringing the basket to each straggler prevented so much of it. Plus, we start ’em early – the babies usually seem reluctant to give up the shakers, but if the mom gently takes it out of the babies hand and puts it right in the basket, they get the idea so fast! I also do the favorite song last, and tell them “you know what happens after we get the shakers put away!”

    1. Hi Ariel! Thanks for sharing your experiences – I agree that at first it seems impossible but that as long as everyone gets SOMETHING folks don’t mind waiting or getting a bell instead of a shaker. These are some great ideas too for making sure the returning of items go smoothly, saving a favourite song is genius!

      1. I use a great song that I learned somewhere: Goodbye shakers, goodbye shakers, goodbye shakers, I’m glad you came to play OR Goodbye shakers, goodbye shakers, goodbye shakers, I’m glad you came today OR Shakers away, shakers away, time to put our shakers away. They can be used for just about anything – scarves, bells, whatever you need to get back from them.

        1. Lisa, thanks so much for sharing this song! The best ones can truly be adapted to whatever you need them for 🙂 I am going to add it to the post above so it gets shared with everyone. Thanks again!

  4. I use Teddy Bear Teddy Bear almost once a week towards the end of toddler time for a transition –here is my version:
    Teddy bear, teddy bear turn around
    …, touch the ground
    …..touch the sky
    …..wink one eye
    …..touch your nose
    ….touch your toes
    ….touch your knees
    …….sit down please!

    Gets them to sit and you can change teddy bear to any other animal to suit the theme.
    I don’t have big crowds, so shaker management usually isn’t a problem. But I’ve found with toddlers I’ve known, including mine, that really overt politeness often gets a response. So, like Ariel, I make a point of saying please and also thank you to each kid by name as they put their shaker in (if possible).

    1. Naomi, same for you- I am going to add this song to the post above. Thanks so much for sharing your version and stopping by 🙂

  5. I always sing the “Shakers Away, Shakers Away” (or scarves, etc.) as I walk around to collect the props. It usually takes me awhile, so I also add the “Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere” song, as well, “Goodbye Shakers, goodbye shakers, goodbye shakers, we’ll play with you next week.”

    However, the thing that REALLY helps is to immediately jump into “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” as soon as I put down the box of props. It’s a song that all of my parents and children feel comfortable singing and love, and it immediately distracts the children who were sad to hand over the prop.

    I also have found it really helpful to have a quiet transitional song that I use before we read the book. We do a lot of fun bounces and action songs at the beginning, so it can be hard for the caregivers and children to quiet down. I try to switch these out seasonally. For instance, this spring I’m doing your “The Rain is Falling Down” song. I sing it very, very quietly which immediately gets everyone’s attention, and it definitely helps to regulate the energy!

    1. Hi Katy, thanks for taking the time to share your storytime transitions. I love the idea of an upbeat familiar song to transition away from all the excitement of scarves/shakers and then a quiet song to transition to a book. I hope some of the ones we chatted about on Twitter work!

  6. I will love the words to “put your hands up high”. I would love to try it with my toddler group.
    thank you.

  7. These are great ideas! I find for cleanup, repetition is key. I always play This Little Light of Mine while collecting manipulatives and at this point the kids know that when that song starts it is time to bring up your scarf/shaker/bean bag. I usually have everything back by the second verse and then we sing and clap together and it flows perfectly into our goodbye song.

    1. Don’t you love it when the kids learn that certain songs mean certain things? Brains at work! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

  8. This might not be a popular opinion, but I don’t agree with using the adage “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset” or other variations. The biggest problem I have with the phrase is the message to the child that getting upset is wrong and therefore their emotions are wrong. There are times they will not have a choice in what they get, but they should feel freedom to feel upset. Do we adults not get upset when something disappoints us?
    With my own kids, there are always parameters about getting upset: no violence, no destruction, etc. But you can feel the big emotions of disappointment and sadness if you need to. It won’t change the situation, but the emotions are okay.
    It is okay for children to feel negative emotions. It is our job as the adults in their lives to give them the space to feel them and not shut them down because it is difficult for us.

    1. Hi Rachel, I’m replying even though this is Dana’s blog post 🙂 I agree with you! I never felt comfortable with that phrase and steer clear of it. Some people have modified to leave off the second half and just say, “you get what you get.” It’s an interesting line to try to walk – balancing both kids real emotions and the fact that we have to learn to live in a community (even if the community is the storytime group with shared scarves).

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