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Preparing Yourself for Storytime Activities

Storytime and activities go hand in hand, but finding a suitable activity is often the challenge. Here are a few simple tips on how to find a storytime activity and make sure it goes off without a hitch.

1. Use What You Know

Without much knowledge of art, my previous position allowed for me to hone my creative skills. During a recent storytime I decided to call upon these skills, racking my brain for activities and crafts I’ve done in the past.

My books included the popular Hervè Tullet titles, Mix It Up! and Press Here.

Cover of the book, Press Here by Herve Tullet.

Instead of doing an individualized activity (hello, time constraints), I decided upon a group activity that everyone in storytime could enjoy. It was simple, just mix colors. I brought along water, food coloring and lots of plastic containers. Voila, one simple activity, one happy and amazed group, one relieved Brittany.

This activity stemmed from outreach and programs that I’ve done in the past. It was tried, tested and because I had done it before I had an idea about how the storytime activity would go. I used what I knew and it worked perfectly.

2. Bigger is Not Always Better

The saying “go big or go home” isn’t always the case with a storytime. Simple often equals better. The coloring mixing worked because it was easy. The steps involved mixing one primary color into another, a couple of children holding the plastic container and me hoping no water would get on the floor. Often, storytimes have a time limit and 30 minutes isn’t always enough to do a spectacular activity. If you are like me and visit centers and schools to conduct storytimes, carrying materials with you also becomes another constraint. Don’t be afraid to provide a take away instead of doing an elaborate activity. During a recent animal storytime a volunteer helped to cut out animal shapes from cardstock. During the storytime we played with these shapes, then the children were able to take them home to decorate.

Puppets were made using craft sticks and paper.

3. Test it Out

With the weather in Pittsburgh having a mind of its own, a weather theme seemed to be the perfect fit. Various iPad weather apps happen to be my go to, but I always want to do something a little outside of the box. Looking up weather activities I came across a homemade tornado (in a bottle of course). Eureka, I thought! When I was younger I had a mini tornado in a bottle and I loved it. Before conducting the storytime I gathered a bottle, water, food coloring, glitter, marbles, and vinegar… all of the materials various websites told me to gather. Using one method I added water, food coloring, vinegar and glitter. All went into the bottle, the lid was screwed on, I then shook the bottle as I was instructed to. Nothing happened. Nothing. The water swirled but it DID NOT look like a tornado. I then decided to try out method two using water, marbles and food coloring. All went into the bottle, the lid was screwed on, I then shook the bottle as I was instructed to. Nothing happened. Nothing! Frustrated, I realized the bottle might just be the problem. Good thing I tried it out beforehand, trust me, it’s no fun conducting a storytime activity that does not work! So, if you have the time, take a few minutes to test it out, make a sample and be certain that the activity you have planned is actually going to work!

If you’re still in need of storytime activities, here are a few of my favorites…

  • Precut cardstock, tissue paper and glue makes for a simple activity for toddlers and preschoolers. Add an extra touch by painting or stamping the tissue paper first, let dry, then glue onto paper. This adds texture and dimension.
  • Precut cardstock into various shapes or animals. Attach a Popsicle stick. Voila, a simple puppet. Have the children decorate with crayons, markers, paint, etc.
  • Demonstrate color mixing by prearranging empty bottles filled with primary colors. Mix one color into the other. Watch as the children become amazed while learning about how colors mix.
  • If you have a salad spinner then you have your very own spin art. Precut cardstock into the shape you desire. Have children add their colors and assist them with spinning. Stop spinner, take out and enjoy!
  • Have older children (Preschool and up) create marbled paper by rolling marbles on top of paper in a crate or box. Add various colors of paint to create a beautiful design.

No matter what your storytime activity or how it goes, remember the wise words of Pete the Cat, “It’s all good.”

Brittany is a Library Assistant in the Children’s Department at CLP – Main where she enjoys reading stories, singing songs and ending her storytimes in a multitude of bubbles. Reading isn’t her only love, she also enjoys writing for children and adults alike.

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