So Many Fish in the Sea – Ocean Storytime


Fish/Ocean/Sea are all great themes to choose for storytime because they can be as specific or as broad as you like. There are lots of books that include ocean animals in and out of the water – so go for it!

A golden fish went swimming by.
He swam down low; he swam up high.
He wriggled his fins and shook his scales.
and swished his graceful golden tail.


Swimmy (Lionni)


Swimmy is an awesome book about working together. It has its dark moments – mass pescacide at the very beginning and sweet revenge at the end – but in between there are lots of ocean animals and a self-confident mind set. I usually read this to preschoolers because of length and concepts.

I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean (Sherry)


This book is hilarious on so many levels. The main character just keeps bragging about how big he is – until he meets someone SO much bigger. I read this with a lot of bravado mixed with matter-of-factness. He is bigger than all those other fish, after all. Be sure to read the back cover – the parents will laugh.

Hooray for Fish! (Cousins)


I love this book for both Toddlers and Preschoolers. The colors are vibrant and the illustrations are whimsical and visible from far away. Toddlers are lured in by the Maisie-like colors and Preschoolers will like all of the silly creatures. Be sure to count the page that asks how many there might be before reading it aloud. I read that page and a tired Dad-voice piped up from the middle of the room, “24.” Clearly, he’d read it many many times.

I Spy Under the Sea (Gibbs)


The parents and I talk through the animals in this book with Toddlers but Preschoolers can get it on their own. Gibbs does a nice job of playing I Spy with the kids – the animals are easy enough to guess and the artwork is beautiful. Kids get a peek at the animal he is describing through a hole in the center and each animal spread has varying numbers – so you can use it for counting, too. We’ve also enjoyed his I Spy on the Farm.

My Octopus Arms (Baker)


This octopus talks with a crab about all the different things his arms can do and kids relate to that. They are learning to swing bats and stir pots and of course they all know the best thing about arms – hugging! The book is written in rhyme and there are several stanzas so if you feel the need to shorten it for any reason, it could easily be done. (That is a topic for another blog post.)

Peanut Butter and Jellyfish (Krosoczka)


This title would be good for a young school-age read aloud as it deals with friendship and bullying behavior. The pictures are very colorful and easy to see but the content and the vocabulary are a bit advanced for the Preschool Storytime crowd. I do like how the friends work together to save Crab despite his earlier behavior.

Mister Seahorse (Carle)


I read this book to Preschoolers because of length. The illustrations are beautiful and the kids find the clear but painted pages fascinating. I love that the story is all about fathers taking care of their babies. This one, too, would be an easy one to abridge if needed.

The interstitials (the space fillers):


This is a silly action rhyme to do with the kids and you get a few stretches and some movement in, too!

Have You Ever Been Fishing?

Have you ever been fishing
On a bright sunny day (cast fishing rod)
With all the little fishies
Swimmin’ up and down the bay (wiggle hands)
With your hands in your pockets
And your pockets in your pants (put hands in pockets)
and all the little fishies do the
Hootchy-Kootchy dance! (wiggle hips and do a dance)

Flannel Play

5 Little Fishes

5 little fishes swimming in the sea
First one said, “Come swim with me!”
Second one said, “This sea is deep”
Third one said, “I want to sleep”
Fourth one said, “Let’s dive and float”
Fifth one said, “I see a boat!”

The fishing boat comes
The line goes splash
And away those 5 little fishes dash

5 Little Fish

5 Little Jellyfish

5 little jellyfish swimming by the shore, the purple one got lost and that left 4.
4 little jellyfish swimming in the sea, the blue one swam far far away and that left 3.
3 little jellyfish in the ocean so blue, the pink one took a seahorse ride and that left 2.
2 little jellyfish swimming in the sun, the orange one took a dive and that left 1.
1 little jellyfish swimming all alone, it was time for him to go home and the left none.

I got these little guys from a Flannel Friday post and the ribbons really do make them the cutest things ever. I used eye stickers but googly eyes look terrific, too.


5 Little Seahorses

5 little seahorses play on the ocean floor. One went to swim and that left 4.
4 little seahorses live in the sea. One went to be and that left 3.
3 little seahorses in the ocean blue. One went to play and that left 2.
2 little seahorses having some fun. One went home and that left 1.
1 little seahorse yes, just one. He swam away and that left none!

I found this in The GIANT Encyclopedia of Circle Time and Group Activities: For Children 3 to 6 (Charner) and used clip art on cardstock for the pieces.

5 Little Seahorses

Teasing Mr Shark

5 little fish swimming in the sea,
Teasing Mr. Shark, “You can’t catch me!”
Along come Mr. Shark as quiet as can be and
SNAPS that fish right out of the sea!

For the Toddlers, I usually have Mr. Shark sneeze and have all the fish be saved but Preschoolers get a little cautionary fish tale. 🙂

teasing mr shark


Row Row Row Your Boat

Row Row Row Your Boat
Gently down the stream
Merrily Merrily Merrily Merrily
Life is but a dream.

Alternate version:
Row Row Row Your Boat
Gently out to sea
If you see a great big shark
Don’t forget to scream – AHHHHHHHHHH!

(to the same tune)
Down down down we go
Into the deep blue sea
Deeper and deeper and deeper we go
What do you think we’ll see?

Use this last version to get them seated again and then dig into a bag of sea creature puppets, give clues to the animal, and let them guess what it is. For example: This animal has 8 legs…an octopus! This animal has a hard shell and moves sideways…a crab! etc.


Out to Sea

A goldfish went out to sea sea sea (wiggle hand)
To see what she could see see see (hand to forehead to look far away)
But all that she could see see see (shrug shoulders and put hand to forehead to look far away)
Was the bottom of the deep blue sea sea sea (wiggle hand down low)

My Goldfish

My darling little goldfish (wiggle finger)
hasn’t any toes (point to toes)
He swims around without a sound (swim with finger)
and bumps his hungry nose (point to nose)
He can’t get out to play with me (point to self)
Nor I get in to him (point to kids)
Although I say, “Come out and play!” (come here motion with hand)
He says, “Come in and swim!” (paddle arms)


Shark Head

Use large grey or blue rounded triangles for the head, a black half circle for the mouth and lots of little triangles for teeth and you have a pretty great shark head. The kids draw the eyes on. The sharks can be smiling or not.

The gluing and crayons work the fine motor skills. You can also encourage counting the teeth and using the head as a make-shift mask for imaginative play.

shark heads

Pet Goldfish

This craft is an easy way for kids to take home a pet! Well, sort of. You start with a hand drawn bowl copied on to colored paper. Then all you need are die cut fish or stickers. Stamps would work, too.  Let the kids decorate their fish and bowls in any way they want. No water to pour or spill.

They will be working their fine motor skills with the glue sticks and crayons.

fishbowl 2 fishbowl 1

Do you have any storytimes?

Go fish!

This week’s line up:

Toddler lineup:

Hooray for Fish! (Cousins)
ABCs song
5 Little Jellyfish flannel
I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean (Sherry)
Row Row Row Your Boat song
Zoom Zoom Zoom song
Ran Sam Sam
Mascot visit
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear

Preschool lineup:
Mr. Seahorse (Carle)
5 Little Jellyfish flannel
Hooray for Fish! (Cousins)
Row Row Row Your Boat song
Teasing Mr. Shark flannel
I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean (Sherry)
Ran Sam Sam
Mascot visit
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear


How Ya Gonna Keep ’em Down on the Farm Storytime


Oh, the farm. You and your animals have been so good to me over the years – and you have provided endless entertainment for the kids in my storytimes. Let’s never break up.

To the Farm

Horses, donkeys, cows that moo,
Chickens, kittens, piglets too,
Fish that swim down in the pond,
Ducklings quacking all day long.
All these animals you can see
If you go to the farm with me.


I Spy on the Farm (Gibbs)


Who doesn’t love a good game of I Spy?! This book has everything I love – great illustrations, clever word play, a guessing game, and an alternate purpose — all of the animal noises are included so the kids can practice. We get glimpses of the animals through a hole in the center of the book. The clues are straightforward enough to engage the Toddler crowd and easy enough for the Preschoolers to feel like the big kids they are when they guess it correctly.

Read about Gibb’s title I Spy Under the Sea in a previous post.

Horseplay (Wilson)


Why are the horses so tired during the day? Farmer decides to find out just what they are up to at night and boy is he surprised! I read this rhyming book to Preschoolers because of the length – and School Agers enjoy the silly pictures of horses playing cards and engaging in Leap Frog.

For a long time, picture books featuring horses were few and far between. This is a fun addition for our little horse aficionados out there.

Big Fat Hen (Baker)


One, two, buckle my shoe! What a fun way to read the traditional rhyme with little chicks and bugs helping out along the way. My favorite part are the illustrations – never have I seen such beautiful chickens. I love reading this book for Toddlers and Preschoolers alike and they all enjoy the big reveal from eggs to chicks at the very end. Confession: I usually show them the pages back and forth a couple of times and we revel in it with each replay.

Good for Counting, Birds, Eggs, and Chickens.

Duck on a Bike (Shannon)


Do you know me at all? Have we ever met? If yes, you probably know that this is my favorite picture book of all time because I can’t seem to stop telling people.

When presented with the opportunity, the cutest, bravest, cleverest duck ever decides that he can ride a bike. And guess what? He can!! He rides around the barnyard saying hello to all the animals and they each have their own thoughts on the subject. When more opportunities present themselves…the animals surprise even themselves.

The key to this read aloud is to leave all inhibition behind and voice each animal with their own animal-noise voice. It’s hard to spell out how a goat would speak but I say it something like this: “Iiiii’d like to eeeeeeeat that biiiiiiike” with a nasal “maaaaa”-twang.

I read this to Toddlers, Preschoolers, School Agers, parents, coworkers, strangers – anyone within earshot. I read it for Farms, Ducks, Transportation, and Favorites … basically I will use any excuse. Please read it and love it. And don’t forget to share the very last picture of the duck and “the end.” The kids will laugh!

Big Red Barn (Brown)


A lovely, quiet, classic about the animals’ day on the farm. I usually read the big book version to Toddlers and we talk about all of the activity. It’s a good chance to practice animals sounds, too.

This is the Farmer (Tafuri)


A simple cause and effect story about the actions of the farm animals. The pictures are beautifully detailed and the text is easy. I read this to Toddlers for the length and the  simplicity. Tafuri usually pays off well for Toddlers and this is a great example

Life-Size Farm (Komiya)


I find this book hilarious – not just because of the size…which is…life size (duh. 🙂 ) but also because it is full of strange little facts about the animals mixed in with the regular everyday stuff. And, as a bonus, there are unique farm animals included: alpaca, ferret, turkey – fun stuff. Everyone gets a kick out of seeing these animals in their real size (some of whom don’t even fit on the page!) and part of the beauty is that you can pick and choose what you show and what you share.

Komiya gives us Life-Size Zoo and Aquarium, too. Check them out!

Plus so many more titles on my storytime list on bibliocommons.

The interstitials (the space fillers):

Folder Story

Old MacDonald’s Truck

Thanks to a Folder Story post by 1234morestorytimes, I discovered this wonderful trick to mix it up during storytime. You need a manila folder with a truck shape cut out of one side, wheels drawn on the front, and an assortment of colored construction paper. As you “show” each truck, pull the paper out of the folder and put it behind you.

The story goes something like this (written by 1234morestorytimes with a few additional colors of my own):

Farmer McDonald goes to buy a new truck and takes Mrs. McDonald with him.  Each time the truck sales person offers a different color truck, it is never right. First he shows them a red truck and Farmer McDonald says:
“Oh no, that won’t do, please bring me a truck that is blue,” show blue truck
“No no, you are being mean, please bring me a truck that is green,” show green truck
“No no said Old McDonald with a gurgle, please bring me a truck that is purple,” show purple truck
“No, no, I think….- I’d like to see a truck that is pink.” show pink truck
“I can’t drive that bright truck around town! Please show me a truck that is brown.” show brown truck
“No, that’s just not the truck I have pictured in my head. Let’s try a truck that is red.” show red truck
“Yes, yes! That one wins the race! Why didn’t you show me that in the first place?!” and The McDonalds drive back to the farm in their new truck.

Be sure to have 2 sheets of red paper to pull off the little joke, one at the front and one at the end  – trying to fit the paper back into the folder during the story is a pain. I glued the entire story to the back of the folder so I know what comes next.

Old MacDonalds truck  Old MacDonalds truck 2

Flannel Play

Good Morning Mrs Hen

Cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck,
“Good morning Mrs Hen.”
How many chickens have you got?
“Madam I’ve got ten”
“Four of them are yellow, and four of them are brown.
And two of them are speckled red,
The nicest in the town!”

I do this flannel with my hen puppet on my lap and often pull out an egg (plastic!) before putting her away.

10 chicks

Five Pigs So Squeaky Clean

Sing it to “Five Green and Speckled Frogs”

Five pigs so squeaky clean
Cleanest you’ve ever seen
Wanted to go outside and play
Oink! Oink!
One jumped into the mud
Landed with a big thud
Then there were four clean squeaky pigs.

I first saw this flannel on Storytime Katie’s Flannel Friday post and then followed the breadcrumbs to MissMaryLiberry version! So easy to make and so fun to use. You can Google pig clipart and get a clean pig for one side and make it dirty for the other side. Don’t forget to put velcro on both sides so you can flip it over.  The counting gets interesting with a little subtraction action going on, “Now we have only 2 clean pigs! How many dirty pigs do we have?”

clean pigs


Old MacDonald Had a Farm

Old MacDonald had a farm,

And on his farm he had a pig,

With an oink, oink here,
And an oink, oink there,
Here an oink, there an oink,
Everywhere an oink, oink,

Old MacDonald had a farm,

horse – neigh
sheep – baaa
rooster – cock-a-doodle-doo

Of course you can add any animals to this rotation. I often do this song with a bag full of puppets and pull them out as a reveal to the kids. Sometimes we just sing it without props or pictures of any kind and I have the kids call out animals. However I do it, I try to keep the rooster until the end because it is the hardest to repeat and we all end up laughing. It’s always good to end on laughter.

Old MacDonald had a farm


A Woolly Sheep

I freehanded a sheep profile on some white paper and actually had a teen volunteer cut these out one day. I could have left the cutting to the kids but that had the potential to take awhile. 🙂 As it was, they had a great time gluing the sheep to the construction paper, picking out cotton balls to put on their sheep, and figuring out that it is MUCH easier to put the glue on the paper and then put the cotton on the glue rather then trying to put glue directly on cotton. Sticky fingers all around!

I did tear the cotton balls/craft puffs in half since they were quite puffy. It made them easier to handle and doubled my supply. Winning!

This craft works the fine motor skills with the glue sticks and cotton balls plus it introduces a new texture. You can encourage coloring the sheep to get even more practice in.

cotton ball sheep

These are the bits of fabulous that I picked for the theme this time

Toddler lineup:

Duck on a Bike (Shannon)
ABCs song
Five Pigs So Squeaky Clean flannel
This is the Farmer (Tafuri)
Old MacDonald Had a Farm
Hello Mrs. Hen flannel
Big Red Hen (Baker)
Ran Sam Sam
Mascot visit
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear

Preschool lineup:
Duck on a Bike (Shannon)
Old MacDonald’s Truck folder story
Horseplay (Wilson)
Five Pigs So Squeaky Clean flannel
Old MacDonald Had a Farm song
Big Red Hen (Baker)
Life-Size Farm (Komiya)
Ran Sam Sam
Mascot visit
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear

Going Crazy! Wild Animal Storytime


Confession: Storytime Fail.

For the first few years of planning storytime, I would try to create a Toddler and Preschool storytime theme for snakes. I would find a handful of books, break out my 5 Little Snakes flannel, plan to sing I’m Being Eaten by a Boa Constrictor, and head into the program. And I was always disappointed at how it would come together – or how it really didn’t. I finally realized that I was trying too hard to make it happen. So, I put a post-it note on the topic page in my theme binder that said, “Dear Ann, Please don’t try to do a theme on snakes. It just never works. Plan for Wild Animals instead! Love, Ann.”

I have come across that note many times as I plan my season of storytimes and I thank PastAnn each time.

So here are the things I use for Wild Animals.


The secret of the polar bear–
Is that he wears long underwear.
                –Gail Kredenser

The alligator chased his tail
Which hit him on the snout.
He nibbled, gobbled, swallowed it
And turned right inside-out!
                –Mary Macdonald


Tiny Little Fly (Rosen)


This book is just about perfect for Wild Animal Storytime. Rosen’s narrative is clever in its rhymes and cadence. Waldron’s illustrations are large and interesting giving just enough clues in the pages before the reveal of the animal  that kids can guess who is next. The fly is a nimble escape artist – quickly flying away as each animal tramps, rolls, and swoops as they try to “catch that fly!”  I read this for Toddlers and Preschoolers – having the Toddlers point to their own body parts as the fly lands on the animals, taking more time to guess the animals with Preschoolers, and encouraging everyone to chant “catch that fly!” with me.

 I Am an Elephant (Carr)


This non-fiction title is part of the AV(2) Media Enhanced series. The whole series focuses on animals. The Media Enhanced part is a URL with a book code to enter. Then you get interactive audios etc. But back to storytime. The books have great photos, there is one easy reader sentence per 2 page spread and it is full of interesting facts. The last pages provide more details – a great cheat for didactic reading or throwing in some “didyaknows.”  These books are short enough for Toddler Time and interesting enough for Preschool Time. A few of the other animals in the series are: dolphin, giant panda, gorilla, jaguar, tiger, and shark. I Am a Shark is the only one that might be a little scary. Lots-o-teeth!

From Head to Toe (Carle)


Love me some Eric Carle! And this one is a great opportunity to stand up to read! Get the kids on their feet and have them do all of the movements from the book- yelling out “I can do it!” each time. I read this to all ages – and encourage parents and caregivers to play this game while waiting in line at the grocery store or sitting in traffic.

Big Little Monkey (Schaefer)

Big Little Monkey

Big Little Monkey wakes up earlier than his whole family and decides that he is old enough to go out on his own to play. He meets several jungle animals and tries to play with them but when he meets Mr. Boa and his tricky ways, Big Little Monkey knows he is big enough to know when to head home. Great saturated color and fun language make this good for storytime. It is a little longer and complicated with some movement phrases like bim-bala-bim so I read this one to preschoolers.

The Wheels on the Bus (Cabrera)


Who doesn’t want a great excuse to sing Wheels on the Bus one more time? Cabrera’s colorful illustrations are easily seen from across the room and each page invites everyone to sing along, ” The lions on the bus go roar roar roar!” And along with the typical animals (zebras and monkeys) there are a few surprises (hyenas and bush babies)! The end pages include the simple melody just in case you forgot (yeah, right).

Through the Heart of the Jungle (Emmett)


Emmett’s book is based on There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly but is all jungle animals! The illustrations are bright and beautiful. The descriptions of the animals are delicious “the toad with the big googly eye,” “the monkey that let out a shriek,” and “the snake that slithered and slunk” but there are several and (true to the rhyme) they are all repeated each verse so it does get a little long. That makes it better for older kids than the littles. An attentive Preschool crowd or school age would love it.

The Wide-Mouthed Frog: A Pop-Up Book (Faulkner)
The Big Wide-Mouthed Frog (Martin Larranaga)

106559          1180910

I love the story of the big wide-mouthed frog and both of these versions are lots of fun. The pop-ups in Faulkner’s book are big and fun – especially the last when he closes his mouth tightly. The frog visits a bird, a mouse and an alligator – ending with a big splash! Martin Larranaga’s version is full of Australian animals – making it a tad more interesting. How many emu’s are there in kids books?

The copy I have is on the small side so I actually made a flannel of the characters. The frog has an overlay so his mouth can be small at the end. I’m kind of ridiculously pleased with the emu.

big mouthed frog

The trick is to use a very wide mouth when reading as the frog and then a very very small mouth at the end. I just about sprain my jaw when I read these. It’s like these big mouth parts were written for me……hmmmmmm.

The interstitials (the space fillers):


In the Jungle

Giraffes are tall with necks so long (on tip toes, raise hands)
Elephants’ trunks are big and strong (hand and arm as trunk)
Zebras have stripes and gallop away (gallop in a cirlce)
While monkeys in the trees do sway (sway back and forth)
Old crocodile swims in a pool so deep (pretend to swim)
Or lies in the sun and goes to sleep. (close eyes, go to sleep)

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Monkey, monkey in the tree
Can you ________ like me?
(jump around, swing your tail, scratch an itch, eat a banana…)

Flannel Play

Teasing Mr. Alligator

5 little monkeys
Swinging from a tree
Teasing Mr. Alligator
“You can’t catch me!”
Along comes Mr. Alligator
quiet as can be and
SNAPS that monkey out of that tree!

This one has the makings of storytime/flannel magic if you get quieter and quieter as Mr. Alligator closes in on those smart-alecky monkeys and then SNAP pretty quickly. It doesn’t even need to be that loud – it is startling and the kids loooooove it.

I made this one from clipart, cardstock, and the handy-dandy laminator. Add velcro on the back and it is ready for storytime!

teasing mr croc

Count the Tigers

One big tiger, standing on a tree
Two white tigers looking at me.
Three little tigers, I bet they are brothers.
Four big tigers each different than the other.
Count them all and that makes 10 –
Do you want to do it all over again?

I wrote this rhyme because I wanted to include tigers in my storytime but couldn’t find anything I liked. I found the photos online, printed them on cardstock, wrote the lines of rhyme on the back (as well as photo credits), and laminated them. The 5th page is the other 4 photos all together. I present it like flashcards from a sitting position. It is 5 cards but we count all the way to 10 for a bit of a change.


Five Little Snakes

Five little snakes
Hid under Mom’s chair
My brother grabbed the orange one
Leaving four there.

Four little snake
Swinging in a tree
The blue one slipped and fee
Leaving only three

Three little snakes
Wondered what to do
The red one took a nap
Leaving only two

Two little snakes
Basking in the sun
The purple one slithered off
Leaving only one

One little green snake
Lonely as could be
Went looking for some fun
And came and played with me!



I Went to the Zoo (tune: My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean)
(Raise or lower your arms every time you mention an animal.)

I went to the zoo to see lions, (up)
Elephants, tigers, and bears. (down, up, down)
I went to the zoo to see zebras, (up)
I love all the animals there. (stay up!)

Lions, tigers, elephants, zebras, and bears and bears. (down, up, down, up, down, up)
Lions, tigers, elephants, zebras, and bears (down, up, down, up, down)

This song is awesome and the whole room will love it. If you practice – you’ll be able to do it faster and faster. Lots of laughing!!


Down in the Jungle
(clap hands on knees and clap them together to set the rhythm of the chant)

Down in the jungle with the beat in your feet
Think of an animal that you’d like to meet!
That you’d like to meet!
(Child calls out an animal)
A ____! A _____! You want to see a ______!
(Then all children imitate that animal)


(update 2/5/15) A Zebra

I found an unstriped zebra in Google and cut a bunch of thin strips from black paper. I left the strips longer than the zebra on purpose. This allows the kids to tear the strips and develop their fine motor skills of pinching. They glue the strips onto the blank zebra thereby making stripes (and practicing more fine motor skills with all the gripping and pushing) and voila. The results are organic and interesting. Try it!

blank zebra      zebra

Snake Spiral

Our diecut machine does a great spiral so I prepared some from cardstock. The kids taped a piece of yarn to one end and colored the spiral. Then when they lifted it by the yarn, it spun out so very nicely! The coloring and taping work the fine motor skills, the walking while lifting the yarn – the gross motor skills.

spiral snake

So, I guess I did put a lot of snakes in there anyway. Maybe I could do a storytime just about snakes….

Dear FutureAnn,
Just say, “no.”
Also, drink more water. Because, water.

This week’s line up:

Toddler lineup:

Tiny Little Fly (Rosen)
ABCs song
Teasing Mr. Alligator flannel
From Head to Toe (Carle)
Five Little Snakes flannel
Zoom Zoom Zoom song
Ran Sam Sam
Mascot visit
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear

Preschool lineup:
Big Little Monkey (Schaefer)
Teasing Mr. Alligator flannel
Tiny Little Fly (Rosen)
Count the Tigers
Wheels on the Bus (Cabrera) book/song
The Wide-Mouthed Frog: A Pop-Up Book (Faulkner)
I Went to the Zoo song
Five Little Snakes flannel
I am an Elephant (Carr)
Ran Sam Sam
Mascot visit
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear