Blogger Katie Salo

Shaking Up Storytime!

While we all love books and reading to children, let’s face it — storytime is not just about the books! I use everything and anything at my disposal to grab my audience’s attention, and I’m willing to bet that you do too.

Here are some of my favorites:

1. Flannelboards

I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean flannelboard

Flannelboards are what really got me into storytime when I took over the preschool programming at my library. For my patrons, flannelboards are a very effective tool to practice vocabulary, and the interactivity allows the kids a chance to really participate and have a discussion in-between books. I often have kids ask me when we’re doing the “magic board” again. Even though I have a limited budget, felt only costs about a quarter per sheet and I really enjoy making my own flannels instead of purchasing them. Need more flannelboard ideas? A group of librarians (me included) post ideas and pictures on Fridays via Twitter — you can find us by searching #flannelfriday!

2. Finger Puppets
As a short person (I’m only 5’3″!), I feel like big puppets dwarf me. But finger puppets? I love finger puppets! I love hiding them in my pocket, or under the cushion on the rocking chair, or in the shelf that’s behind my flannelboard. The only downside to finger puppets is that they won’t work with a large storytime crowd. But for my library that averages around 14-16 kids for storytime, it’s a perfect alternative.

3. Prop Sticks

I got this idea from Mel at Mel’s Desk while I was searching for a sheep storytime activity. This set of prop sticks is just clip art attached to a popsicle stick; double-sided to go along with the rhyme. This was a great twist on an old favorite, and my kids were really into it. Since then I’ve made a set to go with a truck-themed “Where Is Thumbkin?” remix and my kids loved that set even more! I definitely plan to make some more prop stick sets when I get my next great idea.

4. Egg Shakers
Having just recently brought out the egg shakers for another storytime this past week, I was reminded on how simple things can be to make storytime and the library a fun place for kids! The minute the egg shakers were out and being used, instant smiles and peals of laughter filled my room. And also the sounds of the shakers, of course!

What are your favorite techniques for shaking up your storytimes? Let me know — I’d love to have some new ideas to try out!

– Katie Salo, Youth Services Manager
Melrose Park Library


  1. Mary Voors

    Love your ideas! I enjoy retelling stories – like Frank Asch’s Monkey Face – as Draw and Tell stories. Can you share the truck rhyme you use with the prop sticks?

    1. Katie Salo Post author

      I really want to try doing some Draw and Tell stories, but I would need a lot of practices — I’m horrible at drawing!

      As for the truck rhyme, here you go:

      Tune: “Where Is Thumbkin?”
      Where is fire truck? Where is fire truck?
      Here I am! (pull out one prop stick) Here I am! (pull out the other prop stick)
      How are you today, sir? Very well, I thank you!
      Drive away! (take away one stick) Drive away! (take away another)

      I think I used five different trucks, so I wound up making ten sticks.

      1. Mary Voors

        Thanks so much! And, as far as Draw and Tell stories go… give Monkey Face a try; I’m far from being an artist and the kids LOVE this rendition of the story.

  2. Amy

    Bubbles! I love to put on some fun music and let the kids dance around in the bubbles. When handing out bubbles for kids to handle, I recommend those party-favor sized bottles; less mess when one gets dumped over 🙂 Be sure to have enough for parents and caregivers– everyone wants to get into the action!

    Parachutes– not just for outdoor use! I tend to have pretty manageable storytime crowds (15-20) so everyone is able to find some space around the chute. Kimbo has some CDs for really directed play. I’ve also selected a lively classical piece and just made up my own directions. Go Fish has a version of “Five Little Monkeys” on their Party Like a Preschooler cd that is really fun to use with parachutes. I have some monkey finger puppets I toss into the middle for the kids to bounce around.

    Milk jug puppets– I stumbled across this idea in Mary Jo Huff’s book Fall Frolic. She has patterns for turning half-gallon and gallon sized plastic containers into puppets. I have a set of five penguins that are fun to use as props for rhymes.

    I saw this post on Made By Joel: that inspired me to make a bunch of sets to use in baby storytime. The babies (and their caregivers) had a great time exploring the different shapes, feeling the soft felt, and figuring out how it worked.

    Your flannelboards are so cute– you should open an Etsy store for those of us with too little patience for such detailed felt work! 🙂

  3. Janet Packer

    Do tell us some more about how you use your shakers in story times.

  4. Lisa

    Katie, here’s a link to a drawing story that I adapted from one that I learned from Judy Freeman. I also have a really cool cut-and-tell crocodile story at work. Feel free to email me if you’d like me to pass it along to you.

  5. Tanvi R

    Yes, please share your ideas for how to use shakers (and other instruments?) during storytime!

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