Blogger Abby Johnson

Using Scarves in Storytime

Scarves are one of my favorite props to use in storytime because:

  • They’re colorful!
  • They’re fun to wave around and something that most of our kids probably don’t have at home.
  • We ordered a ton of them so they’re a good choice when we’ll have large storytime crowds.
  • They’re lightweight and pack down very small, so they’re easy to take on the road to outreach visits.

Lately, I’ve been collecting lots of ways to use scarves in my storytimes because I love them so much, and I’m here today to pass on what I have learned.

  1. How do you pass out scarves? 

They’re hard to smoosh down into a basket, so how do you pass them out? One of my colleagues showed me this way:

Photo by Abby Johnson
Photo by Abby Johnson

Lay out your scarves and then tie them into a bundle. Hold the bundle by the knot as you’re going around and each child can select the color he or she wants and gently tug it out of the bundle. I like the give the kids a choice of color whenever possible, to let them know that I value their preferences. But if I have an unruly crowd, I can also take my bundle around and hand them out.

2. What do you do with scarves?

I always start with a few little “warm up” activities to add some motor skills practice and because if I take the time to pass out the scarves, I want to spend a little time on doing scarf activities and not just take them up again after one song. I do these with everyone, babies through preschoolers.

  • We wave our scarves high and low.
  • We wave our scarves fast and slow.
  • We scrunch up our scarves and then throw them up into the air on the count of three.

Each of these activities helps kids practice listening and following directions, concepts like opposites and counting, and motor skills.

Then, we’ll sing a song or two with the scarves. I usually have at least one thematic song if I’m using them in preschool storytime and then I might throw in a general song just to extend our scarf play a little bit.

3. How do you put scarves away?

Since they’re so light, it can be difficult for kids to put scarves back into a basket or bag. With the babies, I go around the circle and collect each scarf and just hold them in my hand. With the preschoolers, I love to use scarves to practice colors and another activity that helps them learn to listen and follow direction.

I ask everyone to look at their scarf and notice what color they have (they will start shouting out what color they have, it’s okay). Then I tell them they’ll need to listen for their color and when I call their color, bring the scarf back up to me. And I sing this song:

(Tune: Do You Know the Muffin Man? [but this can also be sung to many different tunes])

If you have a red scarf, a red scarf, a red scarf,
If you have a red scarf, please bring it up to me.

Repeat with different colors until everything’s been brought up. If you have any stragglers that missed their colors, you can also add a last verse “If you have any more scarves, any more scarves, any more scarves…”

With this activity, we’re practicing color knowledge, listening/following directions, taking turns, and encouraging children to approach an adult who’s not a member of their family. These are all great school readiness skills!

4. Where can you find more scarf songs and rhymes to use in your storytime?

There are tons of great resources out there for scarf songs! Once you have started using scarves in your storytime, you may also find it pretty easy to adapt other songs & rhymes with movements for your scarves (anything with waving, flying, falling, up & down, fast & slow). Of course, you can also just wave scarves to any nursery rhyme, song, or recorded music!

Get started with these great resources:

5. Where can you get scarves?

Many stores that carry storytime or early childhood supplies will carry scarves. Our scarves (pictured above) came from Lakeshore Learning, but you can also find them at Constructive Playthings and there are many choices available from If buying sets of scarves is not in your budget, you can also do any of these activities with small squares of fabric or something like washcloths (they would be thicker, but have much the same effect).

What are your favorite songs or rhymes to use with scarves? Do you have a special way you like to distribute or collect scarves in storytime?

— Abby Johnson, Youth Services Manager
New Albany-Floyd County Public Library
New Albany, IN


  1. Renee Perron

    JLbrary is my go-to source for learning new scarf rhymes and songs! I love their videos. My favorite songs to use scarves with include: Jack in the Box, Popcorn Kernals, and Little Bo Peep.
    I’ve also tried some traditional nursery rhymes like The Grand Old Duke of Yorke. We shake the scarf to the beat and then move the scarf up and down to “march them up to the top of the hill and marched them down again” and so forth.
    I also like to do a creative movement activity with the scarves. I start the activity off by telling the kids that we are going to move however the music tells our bodies to move. We stand and have scarves in our hands. I play about 20 seconds of an instrumental piece of music – we dance to it however we feel the music tells us too. Then the music stops and then another different type of instrumental music comes on. We do this for about 6-8 songs and I change up the music from slow and gentle
    music to songs with a fast beat and tempo.

    I have 2 cloth draw-string bags that I keep our scarves in. It makes it easy for storage and I just pull one out at a time to pass them out. When it is clean up time, we can stuff them back into the bags. When I first started with scarves, I tried to let kids pick their color but that got messy when some kids didn’t get the color they wanted. So I started to tell the kids that the color I pick out of the bag for them is a surprise and “you get what you get and you don’t get upset.” I tell them they can trade with other kids if they want. It has seemed to work out okay.

    I have purchased my scarves from West Music and am very happy with the quality of the scarves.

    I like the way you use the song to have the kids bring up certain color scarves to you when it is time to put them away. I’m going to borrow that idea for next week!

    Thanks for this great post. I’m excited to check out the other resources you listed.

  2. Christina Stuck

    I learned a little rhyme ditty when I took my son to an early childhood music class at the University of North Texas (info: Personally, I learned a whole lot that I incorporate into my baby and preschool story times. This scarf rhyme is so much fun, assists in building motor skills, and helps to teach the rewards of waiting. I don’t even tell them to wait; a lot of the kids just follow along.

    Firecracker, firecracker (begin to wad up the scarf in hand)
    What do you do?
    You burst and you pop
    And you just won’t stop
    Woooooo (Lift up hands with scarf hidden)
    PAUSE (Don’t say, just pause until you are ready)
    Boom! (Release the hands and let the scarf shoot up)

    The other thing I learned while taking the courses is to just dance to the rhythm of the song, bobbing the scarf along. It helps to build rhythm or to discover how words break up when you bob along. I’m going to actually use scarves next week for dancing. I’m hoping parents/caregivers will, too.

  3. Laura Simeon

    For those who enjoy storytelling, “Drawing stories from around the world : and a sampling of European handkerchief stories” by Anne Pellowski has some fun ideas for things you can do!

  4. Kelley

    Yay! I LOVE the ‘color’ method of collection the scarves. It gets really savage and crazy when they’re returning their scarves and someone always gets knocked down – can’t wait to try out the collecting song! Thank you!

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