Storytime Spotlight: The Big Blue Sea (Family Time)

Still playing catch up with my favorite fun summer storytimes! Led my first ever beach-themed storytimes in July and they were a BLAST. Here’s a plan that worked really well with my mixed-age Family Crowd. I had a lot of preschoolers this time, so my activities skewed slightly higher:

Welcome & Set Expectations

*Sing: Bread & Butter

Prop Talk: Beach Bag

I always try to bring in props or photos when we focus on building background knowledge! This time I brought a variety of objects (including silly choices) and asked the kiddos to help me pack a beach bag. Here’s what they decided made the cut!

beach bag props

While doing this activity, I asked a variety of open-ended questions. For example, we looked at flip-flops and winter boots. “Which pair of shoes should I bring? Why? What would happen if I wore boots to the beach?”

Lit Tip: Open-Ended Questions & Critical Thinking

“Grown-ups, sounding out words is one skill, but actually understanding what you read is something else! You can build your child’s comprehension skills by asking open-ended questions. When you ask questions that start with how or why, you set them on the road to reading for meaning!”

*Sing: If You’re Ready for a Story

Read: I Spy Under the Sea by Edward Gibbs

LOVE reading guess who books when we focus on background knowledge. They are so great for getting kids to draw on what they know! While reading, I throw out a silly guess every now and then (e.g. “I think it’s going to be an elephant!”). The kiddos fall all over themselves laughing and love telling me why I’m wrong – another great background knowledge building exercise. “Why can’t it be an elephant in the ocean? Where do elephants live?”

Flannel: 5 Little Fishies Swimming in the Sea

After reading I Spy Under the Sea, I asked kiddos if they remembered some of the ocean creatures in our book. I put the sea creatures on the flannelboard as they remembered them. Before launching into our song, we took a few moments to talk about the sea creatures. “Which one is the longest? Which one is the smallest? How are they the same/different?”


We removed the sea creatures that weren’t actually fish (the starfish and the jellyfish) before launching into our rhyme! That left us with how many? Four!

Four Little Fishies

Four little fishies swimming in the sea,

Teasing Mr. Shark, “You can’t catch me!”

Along came Mr. Shark as quiet as can be…

And SNAPPED that fishie right out of the sea!



Credit: Adapted from “5 Little Monkeys”

Clip Art set from Kari Bolt

I’ve been working hard to include more opportunities for math talk in my flannels. This means making flannels with specific variation in mind – e.g. size, length, color. This also means not always starting with the number 5 or 10!

Transition: Puffer Fish Breaths

“Do you remember which fish was the widest? The puffer fish! Let’s take some puffer fish breaths and calm down. My heart is still racing from seeing that shark!”

Then we did some deep breathing- we filled our stomachs with air until they were really full like a puffer fish, then slowly blew out. Pink Oatmeal has a great post with this exercise and other ocean-inspired yoga exercises!

Read: Dude! by Aaron Reynolds

This nearly wordless picture book reminds me so much of Moo! by David LaRochelle. It’s got a similar concept – one word in the whole story, but how that word is depicted and said depends on the context. What a fantastic choice for print awareness and building narrative skills! My kiddos loved helping me tell the story and looking at the picture/text clues to figure out how we were supposed to say “Dude!”

Sing: The Waves in the Sea (Parachute)

We sang this song three times: first with gentle, calm waves, then moving how the waves would be if it was windy and choppy, and then gently again.

The Waves in the Sea

Tune of “The Wheels on the Bus”

The waves in the sea go up and down,

Up and down, up and down.

The waves in the sea go up and down

All day long.


Credit: adapted from Jbrary

Sing: 5 Little Fishies Swimming in the Sea (Parachute)


One of my FAVORITE things to do with 5 Little Fishies/Monkeys/Whatever is to retell the rhyme with another medium, such as the parachute. The kids go bonkers bouncing the fishies out of the sea! They always beg to do this activity again and again.

*Learning Through Play

*Please visit this page to learn more about my regular storytime songs and routines.

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