Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Starting Baby and Me Storytime at the Rusk County Community Library

Baby and book
Baby and book (Pixabay)
Guest post by Valerie Spooner, participant in the Growing Wisconsin Readers Early Literacy Community Development Course

In January we started offering Baby and Me Storytime for children ages 0-2 and a caregiver. We welcome older siblings and have some activities set up for them in the same room, as well as someone to supervise so the caregiver can focus on the baby/toddler. We decided to have it twice per month, on the first and third Wednesday of the month.

Baby and Me Storytime Space
Baby and Me Storytime Space
(author's image)
I use a theme to help me guide my planning, but it’s not necessary. I find that a theme helps me focus while planning. I start with the same two opening songs and use the same closing song every week. I also borrow enough copies of the featured board book so every child has a book to hold while we read it. 

Here’s the general outline for what we do: 
  1. Introductions
  2. Opening song
  3. Opening wiggle
  4. Board Book
  5. Literacy tip
  6. Bounce/Wiggle/ or Finger play
  7. Song
  8. Literacy Tip
  9. A second story. It might be an interactive flannel board, a book that I can sing/read while the children use ribbons, scarves, or shakers, or a variety of similar books or books by the same author that I put in the middle and let the children choose.
  10. Bounce/Wiggle/ or Finger play
  11. Song
  12. Literacy tip
  13. Closing song

It looks like a lot, but goes rather quickly. Even with introductions and chatting at the beginning it takes less than 30 minutes. Most of the children who attend are able to stay with the circle for the entire time, but I always make it clear at the beginning that the children are allowed to go to the play activities when they’ve had enough. 

Mini ball pit
Mini ball pit (author's image)
We almost always repeat the songs, finger plays, and bounces two or three times. Many of them are very short. After storytime we have 15-30 minutes of free play. The caregivers really seem to enjoy the free play time as it gives them a chance to chat with each other. I also use this time to ask the caregivers if there’s anything they want me to cover at the next storytime or share ideas for how they can adapt our play activities to items available at their homes.

We already had some of the toys and materials I’ve used, but I was also able to purchase some new things with a grant from WECCP Western Region

Mini sand box
Mini sand box (author's image)
The most popular item to play with is the mini sand box. I purchased some large tubs and 25 pounds of play sand using the grant money, and we’ve used plastic cups, large soft plastic animals, and little people toys in the sand. I place a large tablecloth underneath the tub and tape it to the floor, which really cuts down on the mess. 

Another popular play area is the foam blocks. I chose foam because they are soft and don’t hurt when they are inevitably thrown or dropped. They are also less noisy and less expensive than wooden blocks.

Foam blocks (author's image)
Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. I know it can be stressful to start a new program (it certainly was for me!) but it’s been a joy to see the children learn and grow. I will have at least one baby/toddler station each week during the Summer Library Program, and look forward to starting up Baby and Me Storytime again in the fall.   

Written by:
Valerie Spooner Youth Services Librarian