Tuesday, April 23, 2013

How To Do A Substitute Storytime For Toddlers

This post could also be titled, "What To Do When Storytime Parents Rebel". It wasn't quite that dramatic, but this week the librarian who traditionally does toddler storytime was out sick. I absolutely adore toddler storytime, and this week has made me realize how much I miss planning them. However, our storyteller who does them every week is loved by all. I had a few parents who were quite upset with the change in their routine, and they definitely didn't keep it a secret. It was very hard to get them to buy into my storytime style. I just let it roll off my shoulders though because I don't like to invite negativity into my life.

All the parents looked like this.

Every librarian has their own way of handling a substitute storytime. Some try to mimic what their coworker does exactly (same songs, dances, etc). While I have done this before, I decided to go a different route this time. Personally, when I try to mimic someone storytime style, I feel like I'm setting myself up for failure. I do the hokey pokey differently, I sing faster, I didn't make the right funny faces, I didn't give all the kids high fives after every story, or my hair is too bright. (Two of those have actually happened to me while filling in for a coworker. Can you guess which ones?) To hopefully avoid the past, I set my own guidelines for parents and children as soon as we all sat down.

"Hello everyone! My name is Miss Brooke and this is toddler storytime. Miss S is feeling sick today, so I am so excited because I get to do storytime with you! My storytime is going to be a little different than Miss S's but that's ok, because you're awesome, I'm awesome, and we're going to have a wonderful time! So today I'm going to read some great books and sing lots of songs. I love when parents sing with me so the words to all of my songs are on the wall. Is everyone ready?"

The quick mention of my coworker acknowledged that there was a change, but didn't allow for conversation. Things like "why is she sick, what's wrong with her, when will she be back"- are none of the patron's business, but they will always ask if you give them a chance to.

Once I finished my spiel I immediately went into my storytime routine. I stick to pretty traditional songs and rhymes, so while they were new songs to storytime, most parents and kids had heard them before. For the ones that were unique I made sure I explained them in detail before we attempted them.

All the words to my songs and rhymes can be found here.

Opening Song
Welcome Song

Opening Rhyme/Movement
Hands Are Clapping

Brown Bear, Brown Bear
Singing a book is always a great way to break the ice in a new storytime setting.

Itsy-Bitsy Spider

Tip Tip Dig Dig by Emma Garcia
This book works for babies or toddlers. By this point, most of my parents were participating with me.

Row, Row, Row Your Boat 


Tuck Me In! by Dean Hacohen
I used this book because I wanted to include a craft in my storytime. I made the mistake of trying to let everyone tuck in a baby animal. This has worked for me in the past, but this group definitely couldn't handle it. I think it was a mixture of newness and just general wiggles.

Clap, Clap, Clap Your Hands

This is Big

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom

I ended this storytime earlier than I usually would. Most of my group was still with me, but I didn't want to push it. Since this was the last storytime in the session, I also brought a craft for the toddlers. This helped ease any guilt over ending early.

Craft Time

I did have one older sibling immediately
call out that I was not wearing a polka-
 dot shirt in real life. 
I convinced him my pajamas
 were polka-dotted.

I wanted a quick, easy, and cheap craft for this storytime. I decided to have the kids color their own gingerbread person and then tuck them in. I simply printed off gingerbread cutouts on cardstock  and cut different color paper to use as sheets. The parents helped tape the sheet on when they were done coloring their person. Since crafts aren't usually done at this storytime, I had some parents who didn't understand that they had to help give their little toddlers some direction to understand what was happening.

Overall, once the parents got over their initial discomfort and really started participating and interacting with their children, it was a pretty lovely storytime.


  1. Sometimes parents are ridiculous. (Great photo choice btw!)

    1. Yes they are, but without them we wouldn't have a reason to come to work :)

  2. Replies
    1. You are too sweet! I miss working with you!



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