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Programs – Toddlers

Why We Do What We Dopreschool program

The goal of toddler programs is to introduce parents and toddlers (18-36 months) to enjoyable books, library experiences and develop early literacy skills.  This is an interactive storytime during which parents are shown how to read to their toddlers, shown age appropriate materials to use, and are introduced to more finger rhymes, stories, music and flannel board selections to enhance the learning experience.  The children are encouraged to participate through singing, responding, and moving.  Since they love repetition, old favorites can be used again and again and the child will feel very successful because the story is known.

How to Do it Well

Plan for session to run 6 – 8 weeks.  Due to the fact that this age group is very restless and full of energy, a typical storytime should last only about 20 -25 minutes.  Morning hours are usually most successful as the children are most attentive and relaxed at this time.  Also, afternoon program may conflict with nap times or carpool duties with older siblings.

Try to limit the group to a workable number, usually 10-12 children, with caregivers, depending on room size.  smaller group allows more contact between the librarian and group.

Each program should be full of movement, action games, and simple bright picture books…

It is also very important to establish an opening and closing routine, which will be used throughout the entire 6 – 8 week session.  This routine allows the participants to know what will happen next, which makes them feel successful.


Con – Once in a great while, a very simple craft can be included, such as a bag puppet, a paper flower, a friendly mask.  Much of the construction of these will be done beforehand, but they can be a reminder of the library and a reinforcement of the learning experience.

However, the craft instead of the books and the experience as a whole, can also quickly becomes the focus of the program.  Mothers may come to toddler time asking what craft they will be doing instead of what books will be read.

Preparing the elements of the craft and giving them to the children at the end of the program for them to take home is even more desirable as reinforcement.  Then they can share their experience with the family members who did not participate in storytime.

Pro – The key to using crafts in storytime is to keep it simple, fun and developmentally appropriate.  Children 18 to 36 months old are just beginning to scribble and make purposeful marks on paper.  Some children will still hold crayons in a fist while others will be seen using the pincher grip.  Any craft done needs to be simple.  Crumbling tissue paper and gluing it on paper item.  Making play dough in a plastic bag, finger painting with colored whip cream or shaving cream, using stickers to make a holiday card, multi colored streamer on a string, and gluing things.  The crafts help develop the children’s fine motor skills so the craft should be done by the child, with the parent help.   Craft time is also a time to encourage the adult and child to talk to each other.  To promote color recognition, and shape recognition.

Keep in Mind

boy with booksToddler Property Laws

If I like it, it’s mine.
If it’s in my hand, it’s mine.
If I can take from you, it’s mine.
If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine.
If it’s mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way.
If I’m doing or building something, all the pieces are mine.
If it look like mine, it’s mine.
If I think it’s mine, it’s mine.

Even in the best of circumstances, working with little ones can try your patience.  Keep it light, keep it fun.  Strictly following your outline for storytime is not the most important thing.  Your positive interaction with the children and their parents is.  Adapt storytime to the group in front of you.  Be prepared to “go with the flow” – and maintain your sense of humor.

Program Outline

A program outline, similar to a teacher’s lesson plan, enables you to see the overall organizations of your program and to plan the most effective arrangements of activities.  Below is a typical program outline.  If you decide to use a different format for your program, create a similar outline reflecting your chosen sequence of activities.  See also Planning your Enhanced Storytime and Storytime Checklist

You can also make notes about questions you want to ask or pertinent comments you want to remember to make.  Once everything is laid out on the outline, it is easy to see what books, and props you will need to gather before you practice and present your program.

The number of books you read and activities you do will depend on the length of all of them and the mood of your group.  You may play to use 3 to 4 books and 3 to 4 activities only to find out that your group is too restless to do everything you planned.  Cut your losses while everyone is still having fun and shorten the storytime session.

These can also help you plan programs in the future and share programs with others.

  • Opening/Greeting Activity – use the same opening at each session
  • Theme Discussion – Today we will meet some…
  • Book Sharing – Read a picture book with large, simple, colorful Illustrations
  • Activity – fingerplay, puppet, song or story with props
  • Activity – any of the above or movement activity
  • Book Sharing – read a medium length book
  • Activity – Movement activity using large muscles
  • Book sharing – read a short length book
  • Activity
  • Craft – if doing a craft make it a theme based reminder of the storytime experience
  • Closing – use the same closing activity at each session.

This above article is based on Children’s and Youth Services Staff Handbook et al Elaine M. McCraken published by Georgia Public Library Service in 2002.  Used with permission

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