Preschool Programs · Storytime

Favorite Music and Movement Books for Storytime

This is the third post in a series about my storytime favorites.


For a couple years, I did a preschool program called Music and Movement, which I adored. It was very active and kept even the most wiggly kids engaged. I always incorporated at least one book that either had kids follow along with movements or is a book you can sing, and these are some of my favorites!

Happy and you know itIf You’re Happy and You Know It: Jungle Edition by James Warhola
Over the six years I’ve been doing storytimes, I’m sure I’ve used this book more than any other. Each two-page spread features a different animal doing a movement or making a sound. The lion gives a roar, the hyena laughs out loud, etc. Because it’s to the tune of a familiar song, parents join in the singing while the kids do the actions. Plus the illustrations are large and clear so kids can see what’s going on even when you’re all jumping around. It’s great for when you want to squeeze in another book, but the kids aren’t in a mood to sit still. And it ends on a quiet note (blinking your eyes like a toucan) so your storytimers might be ready to sit afterwards.

Pete the catPete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin
I’m pretty sure everyone knows this book by now. But there’s a reason for that—it’s to the tune of a fun, original song, the illustrations are cheerful and the story has a good message (to not let small things bother you and to keep your eye on the big picture). I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the rest of the Pete books. <looks around shifty-eyed and ducks under objects being thrown> I don’t like the stories or songs as much as the first. But I love this one and it’s a favorite in my repertoire.

Tanka Tanka SkunkTanka Tanka Skunk! by Steve Webb
This is more of a book to chant than sing. It has a very pleasant rhythm and I’ve had parents chime in to chant it along with me as I read. You can use it to teach rhythm (at the beginning of the book listeners are encouraged to tap out the syllables) and there is a refrain that kids can join in on.

Round the MountainShe’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain by Jonathan Emmett
This is a silly version of the traditional song, with cute illustrations featuring a young cowgirl clad in pink pajamas coming to town. The book gives suggestions for actions kids can do with each of the verses, so there’s an opportunity for interactivity. And it’s a fun challenge to sing it out loud. My favorite verse is:

“She’ll be driving six white horses when she comes. Whoa back!
She’ll be driving six white horses when she comes. Whoa back!
They’re called Misty, Moonbeam, Milkshake, Stardust, Silvermane and Snowflake.
She’ll be driving six white horses when she comes. Whoa back!”

paint no moreAin’t Gonna Paint No More by Karen Beaumont
An unruly child paints different body parts in this rhyming book, which gives kids the chance to guess the rhyming body part before you flip each page. It’s more silly fun.

Curl up in a ballSometimes I Like to Curl Up in a Ball by Vicki Churchill
OH NO. I just realized my library no longer owns this! I might need to purchase my own copy. It’s a movement book, but isn’t over stimulating and features gentle movements to follow along with.

Head to ToeFrom Head to Toe by Eric Carle
This interactive book prompts kids to imitate the different movements animals make. “I am a gorilla and I thump my chest. Can you do it?” The book features large, bright illustrations in Carle’s signature painted tissue paper collage.

Old MacDonald Had a Farm by Jane Cabrera
Cabrera has a number of books closely based on traditional songs. (Others include If You’re Happy and You Know It, The Wheels on the Bus, and Row, Row, Row Your Boat.) These are especially good for toddler or even baby storytimes. Parents and kids can join along in singing these familiar songs, and I just love her simple yet colorful illustrations.

baby belugaBaby Beluga by Raffi
The small format of this book doesn’t lend itself to reading to a group, so I made an enlarged copy of the book to use in storytimes. It goes with the Raffi song by the same name (I don’t know which came first—probably the song?), and both are the sweet tale of a baby beluga whale’s life in the ocean. I usually sing the words a capella, although one time I did use the recorded version. The recorded version has a musical interlude in the middle, so I gave the kids scarves and we pretended to be different animals swimming in the ocean.

Seals on the busThe Seals on the Bus by Lenny Hort
This is a fun take on the Wheels on the Bus; the bus fills with various animals making their animal sounds, until a skunk boards and scares everyone away!

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