Thursday Thoughts: Baby Storytime and Behavior Messages

Last week I blogged about starting storytime with gratitude. My sample messages were all from toddler or family storytime, so I wanted to talk a bit about storytime messaging with infants and caregivers.

Baby storytime is extra special! Oftentimes baby storytime is a family’s very first experience with the library. It’s so, so important that these early experiences are positive and supportive. Here’s how I go about making a welcoming environment.

Set Up

Babies come with a lot of accessories to manage, so I play background music for at least 5-10 minutes before storytime officially starts so that caregivers have a chance to come in early and get settled! I also scatter board books around the rug. During this time, I greet caregivers and babies with my puppet. Sometimes my monkey gets taken, but we usually reunite before our first lap bounce.

*When this post was first written, I was using a monkey puppet to demonstrate songs and rhymes. I no longer use a monkey due to the long, racist history of associating simians with people of African descent.


Getting Started

I sing “Good Morning to You” to signal the group when it’s time to get started. Then we get into gratitude and some storytime expectations:

And welcome to storytime for babies between 0 to 24 months! My name is Miss Jessica. I’m so glad you’re here this morning and I’m so grateful. It takes A LOT of work to get going in the morning with a little one and yet here you are! Everyone is dressed, everyone has shoes on the right feet (at least for now)… Our shoes might not stay on our feet for long because we’re going to sing and bounce and have a great time this morning. If your baby is not having a good time, please take a break and come back in. Let’s get started!

If we have between 10-15 babies, we’ll introduce ourselves, our little ones, and share a fun fact (e.g. what baby’s favorite food is right now, how old baby is, what is baby’s favorite toy, etc). This leads to so much bonding between caregivers later during play time! It also lets the adults know I care about getting to know them, too.

There’s almost always some crawlers and walkers who start to wander during introductions. I love when this happens because I bring up what Mel’s Desk calls the no-fly zone:

I see we have some curious explorers today – and that’s totally okay! It does not bother me and I do not want it to bother you! If you do have a little explorer, I just ask that you help keep them back from the [line or rug]. That way no one gets hurt [by climbing up the windows or tripping over the cord] and everyone can see.

Gosh those babies are getting so big! We do “This is Big, Big, Big.”

Those babies must be eating breakfast every day to be growing so fast! We do a lap bounce and make some “Toast in the Toaster.” Then we pop in some bagels or waffles for good measure and do it again! Since Baby Storytime is for babies big and small, I demonstrate how to do the rhyme once with my lap puppet and the second time through as a walker.

Speaking of food, please save snacks for after storytime. That way none of our friends gets exposed to any food allergens this morning. Thank you!

Then it’s time to sing! Over the years I’ve used a few different songs, such as “This is the Way We Clap Our Hands.” I just switched to “I Wake Up My Hands” and we’re loving it!

At last it’s time for our first story. Before we read, I take a moment and let caregivers know:

It’s okay if baby wants to crawl closer to see this book, or read a different book with you on the rug, or even if they want to eat books on the rug! What matters is that they have a good time and feel close to you. Learning to read feels far away, AND the more positive memories your baby has of reading with you now, the more motivated they will be to stick with reading when it gets tough later.

Why So Choppy?

I deliberately break up my storytime expectations for a few reasons. Firstly, babies are very curious and have very short attention spans! I really want my caregivers to hear and take in everything I’m saying. Spreading out expectations between songs and rhymes allows caregivers to focus more on the messages. It also lets latecomers hear at least some of our guidelines.

Additional Resources

Wondering about the songs and rhymes I mentioned?

Check out my regular storytime songs and rhymes here.

And here’s some more resources for crafting baby storytime specific behavior messages:

Jbrary: Welcoming Activities for Baby Storytime

Mel’s Desk: The Blue Carpet & the No Fly Zone

Reading with Red: My Baby Storytime

How do you welcome families to baby storytime and communicate your expectations with caregivers? Would love to learn more in the comments below!

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