Preschool Programs · Storytime

Favorite Songs for Preschool Storytime

This is the first post in a new series I’m doing on my storytime favorites–music, books, rhymes and more that I love to use in library storytimes!

Favorite SongsKatie at Story Time Secrets has been doing a great series on story time music. The first post was on using recorded music and the second was on singing a cappella, and I’ve found these posts to be very balanced in offering the pros and cons of each. (Which I really appreciate, because sometimes librarians are judgey of others who use recorded music. No likey.) I do a little of both in my programs. There are some musicians who have fabulous recordings that I could never come close to re-creating on my own, so for their songs I sing along with the music. And even though I don’t have a good voice, there are so many advantages to singing your own songs (Katie sums them up nicely) that I frequently sing a cappella and my program participants just have to suffer through. (Truth be told, 2-5 year olds really don’t care how well you can sing or if, um, your voice cracked that one time during Five Green and Speckled Frogs. So if you’re on the fence about singing a cappella, I encourage you to take the plunge!)

If you’re looking for some musical inspiration for your storytimes, these are my top ten favorite songs to use in preschool storytime, in no particular order. With the Jim Gill, Ralph’s World, Raffi and Anna Moo songs, I sing along with the recordings, but the rest I sing on my own.

  1. Sleeping Bunnies
    This is a great song for working on self-regulation and it gives the kids a chance to get the wiggles out. I usually do about three verses, adding in whatever animals fit my theme or otherwise strike my fancy that day. I’ve done birds (“flap little birdies”), alligators (“chomp alligators”), and bears (“growl little bears”).
  2. I’m a Little Seed by Carole Stephens
    I trot this out every spring for spring-, weather- and flower-themed storytimes. In one very short song, Stephens helps kids understand what plants need to grow. I like to start by having a discussion about this process using a flannel board I made (sun, raindrops, seeds, flowers) and then do this song.
  3. Sticky Bubble Gum by Carole Stephens
    Another great song by Stephens.* It’s silly and fun and also reinforces body part identification.
  4. Five Frogs by Anna Moo
    I’m a huge fan of the fingerplay “Five Little Monkeys Swinging in a Tree,” (I just love how you get quiet and then suddenly CHOMP THE ALLIGATOR’S MOUTH!) and this is a variation on it.  It’s a bluesy song about an alligator who eats five frogs off of a log. It’s quiet and is great for when the kids are wound up and you need to slow things down.
  5. Everything ever written by Jim Gill (including–but not limited to–Silly Dance Contest; Hands are for Clapping; Can’t Wait to Celebrate; Jump Up, Turn Around; My Ups and Downs; Jumping and Counting; Face the Facts)
    Yes, I cheated here with more than one song, but how could anyone be expected to pick their favorite Jim Gill song(s)? If there were a Jim Gill fan club, I would be the president.** I love to use his music with toddlers and preschoolers. It’s fun for them and any grownups in the room.***
  6. Wiggle Your Lah-De-Dah by Ralph’s World
    A co-worker of mine gets the credit for finding this song; she uses it as her closing song every week. It’s a good movement song that’s not too fast/doesn’t get the kids overexcited and her storytimers go crazy for it.
  7. Drivin’ in My Car by Ralph’s World
    In this song, you race around the room pretending to drive a car. What’s not to like?
  8. Johnny Works With One Hammer
    This is a fun song that a friend introduced me to. You can do on its own, or sometimes I’ll rhythm sticks with it (you pretend the sticks are hammers).
  9. Skinnamarink
    This song holds a special place in my heart because I remember doing it at library storytime when I was little. It’s another quiet song that’s great when you need to calm things down. Many musicians have recorded versions of this; you can do a YouTube search to find the song and hand motions if you aren’t familiar.
  10. Shake Your Sillies Out by Raffi
    I couldn’t have a top ten list without a Raffi song! I really like Raffi’s music (I may have been known to listen to it at my desk on occasion), although I don’t use a ton of his music in storytimes. This one is great as an opening song, or to use with shakers, or for when everyone just needs to get rid of their wiggles.

*Carole Stephens (formerly Carole Peterson) is really fantastic, and if you’re not familiar with her I highly recommend you check out her music and songs of the month on her website. She’s located in the Chicago area and we’ve had her do programs at my library, which I’d also recommend! Not only is she a lot of fun, she incorporates into her music opportunities for skill-building. And she also does awesome teacher/librarian workshops.

**There isn’t a Jim Gill fan club, is there? Should we start one?

***We’ve had Jim Gill do programs at our library three years in a row, and he is FANTASTIC. He’s all about parents and kids playing together through his music and he really encourages that in his programs. He has a degree in child development and he has experience working with children with special needs, and all of this shows in his music. He presented at a librarian workshop I went to on working with children with special needs and I took a lot from it. I could go on, but I’ll stop here. Like I said: fan club president.

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