Mixing It Up with Tykes

Last week we had a group of 2-5 year olds in for a field trip adventure. My colleague Sara and I divided the group in two - she showed one group around the room while I shared stories, songs and storytelling with the other half - and then we switched the kids. Because timing is always a bit imprecise on this kind of thing, I had to be prepared to wrap up at a moment's notice as the touring group came back to the storyroom.

I ended up playing with the concept of clapping - asking kids to clap in sign language, clap like a penguin (with elbows); like a frog (with knees); like a hippo (opening and closing our mouths); like an elephant and so on. Kids started suggesting animals and characters - rabbits, aliens, monsters - and we had a great time playing and mixing it up.

It brought to mind a link from a couple years ago that spoke to this. Abby the Librarian had a delightful post about a song she keeps in her storytime arsenal that is ready in a second and can be used often. These fun and funny activities help stretch the time in a pinch and are fun and inventive for the kids.

Mixing it up happens when the creative muse pays a visit and inspires us to play. A friend taught me to do "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" as "Noggin, Shruggers, Benders, Tootsies" and it gets giggles every time. Other times, I use the fingerplay "Way Up High in the Apple Tree" (two little eyes looking at me/well I shook that tree as hard as I could/ down fell the apples/mmmmm, were they good) and do it a few times. Each time I let the kids suggest a new food. We always end up climbing pizza trees, candy trees and other nummy fauna.

Having a storybag at my side also helps to create fun and suspense and stretch out time. I keep some books, props, puppets inside relating to the stories I plan to do. Then I make a big production with much fanfare and hoohaw of groping for and finding the prop and bringing it out in triumph. The results: big-eyed kids, quiet and interest zeroed in on the story. Priceless!

What do you use to keep little kids interested and stretch out timing?

Image: 'Baby Kong' http://www.flickr.com/photos/45777632@N06/6300899555

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