Monthly Archives: January 2012

Mother Goose Storytime at the Library

This morning I was awakened by the sound of GirlChild crying out in her sleep, “Oh, no! I dropped all my books on the floor!” A good library day if there ever was one! 😉

Today I took BoyChild to his first infant storytime at a nearby library (since he slept until 9ish so he could delay his morning nap until after the session)…and I think I made a mommy playdate for next Monday’s storytime!

I haven’t been to an infant storytime since GirlChild was a baby, so here’s a recap of what happened there:

Seating—A large, colorful parachute was spread out on the floor of the storytime room, and we all spread out around it. I chose a seat close enough to the librarian’s spot to see her without being right next to her. BoyChild is beyond distractible, so I figured this was my best bet.

Greeting—The librarian (we’ll call her Mother Goose) had all the adults introduce themselves and their babies and give the babies’ ages. There were babies as young as three and a half months and one going on two who was transitioning up to the next storytime. The majority of the babies were between eight and ten months old.

Meeting—As is typical with infant storytimes, there was a decent bit of instruction and explanation for parents as everything transpired; tips to modify the activities for different babies, reasons why we do certain things, etc. Mother Goose didn’t really address the children at all, but I guess that makes sense when they likely wouldn’t give her the time of day anyway! 🙂

  • Finger plays—I can’t remember what it was called, but we did something involving a bunny going ‘round and ‘round (in the palm of the hand) and a puppy chasing it “under there” (and ending with an underarm tickle).
  • “Baby Exercises”—BoyChild did NOT like this part of storytime. I should never have put him on his back, but it was hard to do the movements (basically baby stretches) with him sitting or standing (as he preferred). This seemed a lot better with the younger, less mobile babies.
  • Books—Just two: All of Baby Nose to Toes and Pat-a-Cake. Mother Goose would read a sentence from the first one and have us repeat it while poking our babies in the body part mentioned (or, you know, just pointing at or patting it). Since Mother Goose was using a doll to demonstrate all the songs and whatnot, she wasn’t able to actually *read* Pat-a-Cake while she was doing the motions, so she just showed us a few of the illustrations when she was done as part of showing us how to read to our babies.


  • Songs—I knew most of the tune to “All the Pretty Little Horses,” but my memory of the lyrics was all from the Susan Jeffers book (apparently just called All the Pretty Horses and out of print) that I had when I was a kid. Although BoyChild didn’t care for being reclined in my arms while we sang it and had to have belly-nibbles to keep him curled up and giggling softly while the song went on, I actually used this song to put him down to bed tonight. We also did “The Noble Duke of York” (which we call “The Grand Old Duke of York”) and another bouncing/lifting song that I can’t recall. There may have been more as well.
  • Parachute—GirlChild loved this part because she actually got to participate instead of sitting and watching quietly! We sat with our children in our laps and raised and lowered the parachute slowly while we sang basic songs (“The Wheels on the Bus”) and recited nursery rhymes. The oldest child crawled underneath it to play, but everyone else tried to keep their kids with them. (I would have set BoyChild free, but Mother Goose never said it was okay, and I didn’t want to be a disruption!) Mother Goose said that the babies like to see each other from underneath it, but I was too busy trying to keep BoyChild from escaping to pay attention to whether it was just a desire to be free or a desire to interact with the babies on the other side.
  • Sign Language—Mother Goose said they had learned “daddy” (among others) last week, so this week she introduced these: mommy, thank you, ball, and happy. GirlChild loved this, of course, but BoyChild was too squirmy at this point to let me manipulate his hands at all.
  • Free Play—After the closing song (which I don’t remember), Mother Goose told us that her part was done but that she would pass out books and balls and we were free to stay until noon. GirlChild took two books (“One for me, and one for my baby brother!”), but she spent most of her time kicking around the little, soft soccer ball that Mother Goose handed out. Probably half of the families stayed. There was a little boy (dressed almost exactly like BoyChild) and his mom sitting directly across from us during storytime, and she came to talk to me during the free play…turns out her little one is just one day older than BoyChild! We had a nice chat while GirlChild played and read and BoyChild tried to steal other babies’ slobbery soccer balls.

GirlChild was the only older sibling to attend, so I don’t know if that is frowned upon (nobody complained to me, at least!) or if none of these kids have older siblings not already in school.  I prepped her before we went that this was for BoyChild and other babies and that she wasn’t allowed to answer questions or respond to Mother Goose when she talked to the little ones. She was a perfect little lady and only did the things families were expected to do; singing songs, reciting rhymes, and interacting with BoyChild. She seemed glad to know most of the songs and perfectly happy to listen to baby books. (It probably helped that the mom sitting next to us couldn’t stop smiling at GirlChild and engaging her attention!)

We had a good enough experience that we plan on going back next week if we can arrange the nap schedule to accommodate it! If you have an infant (most infant storytimes start no later than 6 months (often from birth) and can go up to either ages 1 or 2, depending on the size of the library system and the number of different storytimes offered), I would most definitely recommend trying to find an infant storytime near you!

I found this blog by a storytime librarian that talks about infant (and preschool) storytimes in general and the specifics of her program as well. She mentioned handouts of the songs/rhymes/etc., and that was one thing I missed at this one that we had when GirlChild was a baby. I certainly could have used a reminder of some of the words during the session, and it would have been nice to have the information for when we got home to rehearse again. Check out Library Noise for weekly posts about what songs, books, and rhymes she’s doing with her little ones!

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My First Signs, illustrated by Annie Kubler

My First Signs (Baby Signing)My First Signs, illustrated by Annie Kubler
(2004, Child’s Play, ISBN 1-904550-39-8)

I don’t pretend to be an expert in parenting or language development, but teaching babies some simple sign language has been a useful communication tool for many families of my acquaintance (and for my husband and I when we taught toddler Sunday school), and I decided that there was no harm in giving it a try with BoyChild. (We tried it with GirlChild, but she learned “more” and “please” in sign language, then she started to talk, rendering further teaching pointless. BoyChild just doesn’t have the advanced language skills that she displayed, so we’re giving him other ways of communicating than staring us down while screaming at us until we realize he means he wants to eat something we’re eating…)

I grabbed this book because the illustrations reminded me of Helen Oxenbury’s; cartoonish babies of various ethnicities with big heads and tiny feet demonstrate each sign and situation calling for the sign. This large (10.5″x10.5″) board book shows about eight American Sign Language based signs per spread. Each illustration shows a young child–for instance, a little red-haired girl sitting on the floor with various milk-bearing containers around her–showing the sign (with motion arrows as needed) for the featured word–milk, which is one hand opening and closing like it’s squeezing (the most cringe-worthy of signs, in my opinion, since it makes me feel like a cow!)–and is captioned with the word and, in smaller, plainer type, a brief description of how to do the sign. At the bottom of each page, in italics, are tips and pointers related to baby signing in general (“The first aim is for your child to make a connection between the sign and what it represents.“). The book focuses on approximately 40 of the more useful signs for nouns, verbs, adjectives, and brief statements that a baby is likely to encounter in day-to-day experience, from “milk” to “sleep” to “I love you!” I found the notes at the bottom of the page to be appropriate for the casual user of sign language for babies; they encourage “best practices” for teaching signs to babies (like introducing a few really useful signs at first and then expanding from there) and reminders that babies aren’t going to do the signs just like an adult would, and that’s okay. It’s clear that the book isn’t really to teach babies the signs (of course), but this is the kind of book you can look at with your infant that will hold his or her attention because of the illustrations and will allow you to study and practice the signs that you might want to use.

GirlChild and BoyChild’s Reactions: BoyChild seems to like the illustrations (if grabbing the book and banging his hands against the pictures is any indication). He’s already doing pretty well on the ever-important sign for “more,” and we’ve been adding “milk,” “drink,” “eat,” and “all done” signs recently as well. I’m going to take the book’s advice, however, and cut it down to just three or four total until he’s really good at using them consistently–probably adding just “milk,” “all done,” and possibly “please” to the mix. (He still resorts to screeching and staring during dinner if his tray isn’t fully-stocked, and we clearly need to work on some manners!) GirlChild didn’t bother reading this book with us, but she has been talking to BoyChild about his food and using the sign for “more” to him, so I think she’ll be interested in learning more of the signs to help teach him. (She dearly loves her baby brother!) Maybe I’ll try to find a book that teaches the sign for “sister”!

Related titles:

This Little Piggy (Nursery Time) (by the illustrator)

Teach Your Baby to Sign: An Illustrated Guide to Simple Sign Language for Babies (not an endorsement of this particular book, although it’s ranked relatively high–do some searching of your own, check out your library (try the 419 section), choose what works for you!)

Baby Einstein - My First Signs (a video for little ones to help teach the signs)

Baby Love: A Board Book Gift Set/All Fall Down; Clap Hands; Say Goodnight; Tickle, Tickle(some Helen Oxenbury books–very cute!)

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Themed Third Thursdays: Birthday Edition

It’s been a long month and two days since my last post, but Christmas, travel, a proofreading blitz, and some random illnesses thrown in have made it a very busy month and two days! Today, however, is my birthday, and I’m using it to announce a new entry type: Themed Third Thursdays! Each third Thursday of a month (just like this one!), I’ll be posting a list of themed books with a short blurb instead of a full-blown review. The theme might be a holiday (like this one–birthdays!), an animal, a genre, a type of book, an author–anything! Leave me some (specific) ideas in the comments!

Where Is Baby’s Birthday Cake?, by Karen Katz (infant/toddler): This lift-the-flap board book will be as popular with the littlest ones as all the other Karen Katz books are. Baby looks everywhere for his cake and, of course, finds a variety of other things first.

Birthday Monsters and Happy Birthday, Little Pookie, by Sandra Boynton (toddler/preschool): The birthday monsters drop in early on hippo’s birthday, and they bring Cat-in-the-Hat-like disaster in their wake! Don’t worry, though; little hippo gets his happy ending!

Little Pookie (of What’s Wrong, Little Pookie? and others) is eager to start his birthday as soon as he can so he can get the most out of his day! His parents treat him to a day that’s all about Pookie (without making him a spoiled little piggy).

Betty Bear’s Birthday, by Gyo Fujikawa (preschool): This out-of-print book was one of my sister’s favorite books as a child; I think she had it memorized! It’s Betty Bear’s birthday, but none of her friends have time for her! Just when she’s starting to feel very sorry for herself, she’s in for a (predictable to us adults) surprise!

Happy Birthday, Moon, by Frank Asch (preschool/early elementary): This one was recommended by my sister-in-law who has three girls who love to read! Frank Asch is a classic author, and this is a classic book. One night, Bear decides it might be nice to give the moon a birthday present…if only he knew when the moon’s birthday might be!

Topsy and Tim Have a Birthday Party, by Jean and Gareth Adamson (preschool/early elementary): I haven’t read this particular title (but I’ll be ordering it for GirlChild’s fourth birthday, I’m sure!), but if it’s Topsy and Tim, I know it’ll be realistic and fun, and the target age group will like it. It appears from the cover that they’re turning five in this one (5 blue candles and 5 pink ones on the cake), and the Amazon preview pages show them at their party playing traditional games like Musical Chairs and Pin the Tail on the Donkey with their now familiar friends from other books.

The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Birthday, by Stan and Jan Berenstain (preschool/early elementary): I loved the Berenstain Bears when I was a child and purchased them obsessively from every school book fair (along with the Stephen Cosgrove/Robin James Serendipity books…a post for another time!). Now…not so much, but GirlChild and all the nieces adore them at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, and to each her own (a phrase in the masculine that I’m trying to teach GirlChild to use instead of squealing, “Ew!” when Daddy eats something she wouldn’t like). Sister Bear is turning six, and her family is getting caught up in the excitement of planning her first big party. Sister Bear gets overwhelmed on the big day, however, and things just aren’t going right. However, as these books always go, it all works out in the end and everyone learns a valuable lesson. Small girls will like this one even if their parents get tired of reading and rereading it. (That’s what grandparents are for!) 😉

Striped Ice Cream, by Joan M. Lexau (elementary): I had this one in my classroom library when I taught fifth grade, but the protagonist is just turning eight, so I’d recommend it for a little bit younger. Becky’s family is scrimping to get by, and she is pretty sure she won’t even be able to have her favorite ice cream (Neopolitan, for those who wondered what striped ice cream was) to celebrate. She’s mostly hurt that, in the days leading up to her birthday, everyone seems to be especially mean and secretive around her. I’ll let you guess how it ends! 😉 This book was written in the late sixties, just a few years before Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, and it likely contains some things that will seem out-of-date, but realistic, loving families, misunderstandings, and birthdays with ice cream will never go out of style!

11 Birthdays, by Wendy Mass (upper elementary): By the author of A Mango-Shaped Space and Leap Day, this children’s choice award-winning book was recommended by my mother (a sixth-grade teacher). It’s Amanda’s 11th birthday. It’s the first one she hasn’t shared with her former friend Leo since their very first, and it’s all because of a misunderstanding at last year’s celebration. It’s not going well at all, and she can’t wait for it to be over, but the next day is her birthday again…and again…and again. Amanda learns through the repetition that sometimes the little things make a big difference. Mass has also written other birthday books about different girls turning 12 (Finally) and 13 (13 Gifts). (Information gleaned from the author’s website since I haven’t actually read this one yet!)

Well, I hope you find a book that your reader might like to read on his or her birthday this year. If you have any other suggestions for great birthday themed books, leave a comment!

Happy birthday to me, and have a great third Thursday!

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