Last Saturday I kicked off a new storytime/preschool offering: Family Dance and Learn. I started this program, to be held the first Saturday of every month, as part of my leap into more diverse offerings for families. Throughout the year, in all our branches, only one kind of storytime was being offered: a mixed-age, ECRR storytime. It kept life simple for me as someone who was doing three each week, because I could simply repeat the same storytime in my different sessions.
Before the summer began, I decided I needed to make a change for my patrons. Toddlers and active children were not able to contain themselves in my family storytime, and often parents and grandparents of these children left early, embarrassed.
There’s nothing that makes me sadder than having parents and grandparents wonder aloud to me about why their children can’t behave in storytime. I do not believe that one storytime model can reach every child in a certain age range, and it’s extremely difficult when you have birth through age five or six in a room together. I believe that when adults try to help their children fit into a program that’s not working for them, it leads to frustration and doubt and I’ve seen this affect the self-esteem of some kids.
Instead of being a source of disappointment for these families, I want to be able to offer different options for different learning styles and developmental stages. I want to set up kids to succeed with programs that work for their needs.
So Dance and Learn was born as a way to reach all my wiggly, rowdy kids. I studied other examples, most of all Amy Koester’s. I borrowed a lot of ideas, but I also had a couple goals of my own. I wanted this to encompass the whole family, not just preschoolers. For that, the music needed to be very well known and super infectious. I wanted kids to have an opportunity to really learn. I decided I would add in a nonfiction title that related to the sing-along books I selected and include songs to sing with sign language. I also wanted to be sure to repeat again and again that singing together is great for phonological awareness and growing a sense of community and family. Dancing, for that matter, can be important to developing motor skills in little ones.
Since I’m on a mission to promote library resources, too, I used music that could all be found on Hoopla. Mostly what I found was Disney music–but hey! Disney music is very well known and all ages love it. Here’s the plan I laid out:
Let it Go- Frozen soundtrack
Blow bubbles to this song and let the kids pop them. (Popping requires hand-eye coordination. Yay, motor skills!)
I Just Can’t Wait to Be King- The Lion King soundtrack
Pull out the scarves and wave them as we walk around the room–stopping to shake our fingers at the sassy part (“No one saying do this, no saying be there…”) and waving in circles during the chorus.
Croaky Pokey by Ethan Long
Talk about left and right before this book.
Hip Hip Hippety Hop (check it out on Jbrary)
Talk about sign language–what it is and why people use it. Demonstrate stop sign.
Frogs by Gail Gibbons
Explain that this is a book of true things about frogs and paraphrase text, pointing out pictures.
Happy by Pharrell
Use shakers and free dance.
See the Little Bunnies Sleeping (again, Jbrary it)
So much impulse control! I love this song and game.
If You’re Hoppy by April Sayre
Only if the group seemed up for another book.
Under the Sea- Disney’s Greatest vol. 2
Have parents help me hold the parachute and wave it gently (like the sea!) while the kids played underneath.
Here’s what actually happened.
On the day of the program, the weather was just nasty. Still, we had a couple kids in the library (a toddler and a preschooler), so I asked their parents if they’d like to participate.
My “you know you want to” face:
Of course they hadn’t planned to stay for a storytime, but they were gracious and decided they could stay for a few minutes.
We got through the first two songs and Croaky Pokey. It wasn’t much, but let me just tell you…it was DELIGHTFUL. I can already tell this is going to be a favorite program for me. The moms were laughing hysterically at us (in a good way) and recorded everything.
I can’t wait to do more of this.