Sensory Storytime!

Today I teamed up with a co-worker to do a sensory storytime for children with special needs.
Sensory play and activities have been growing in popularity over the recent months / years and can range from simple activities that parents and kids do at home to much more elaborate events held at libraries, daycare centers, schools, or other learning institutions. There is a plethora of material out there and many libraries or library bloggers have already written great stuff about it, but now it’s my turn.

My co worker and I planned our event for a group of up to 15 kids; the aim for these is generally to keep the groups smaller to allow for those who don’t do well in the often 40+ groups of kids coming to typical storytimes. Unfortunately, literally every road surrounding our library is currently under construction and it’s been having an impact on library attendance, including program attendance. ūüė¶ We required registration and while we had 4 families registered, we only had one mother and her son that showed up.

While I wish we had more, my co-worker and I thoroughly enjoyed our time with this family and we got excellent feedback from his mother. The young boy stayed in the storytime room for more than 30 minutes even though the scheduled time was only 30 minutes long, we were in the “go with the flow” mode and just let him play until he was bored.

what we had planned to do was read a couple books, maybe read them more than once, as well as do some singing, moving, and free play time.

Many write-ups I found strongly suggested that we have an outline and a visual representation of it posted so that the parents and children attending could follow along.

Here are the images I used, all credits to the owners.

hello read sing dance play goodbye


we printed these out and posted them on our flannel board, we also printed them on sheets of paper to hand out to those attending.

The first book we planned to read was Fuzzy Fuzzy Fuzzy by Sandra Boynton

This is a great touchy feely book, but we were running into trouble with how to share that, until, another co-worker came up with the genius idea of buying fabric to match the touchy bits in the book and did an AMAZING job matching them. Once we had the fabric we cut it up into small pieces and compiled them into packets for each child. I had wanted to attach them together on a key ring or something like a sample swatch packet but we didn’t get around to doing so so we just put them into a zippy bag. While one staff member was reading the book, the other staff member would be up front showing the fabric so the kids could follow along.

We also had the book Feely Bugs by David A. Carter, but this was a last minute addition and we did not have any support materials to pass out. Turns out that we didn’t need it though since we just had the one boy so he had the privilege of simply reading the book along with us and touching all the pages. ¬†ūüôā

Aside from reading the books, the rest of the schedule went pretty much out the window and we just followed along with what our attended wanted to do.

I had also set up some sensory bins and some fidget toys in the back of the room for free play time and that’s where we headed next.

As many children’s libraries do, we have a variety of colored scarves, ribbons, and so on, we also have a small collection of fidget toys that we purchased after I experimented with passing out some of our quiet toys during storytime so that kids had something to play with and help focus their attention without being loud or distracting to others. These fidget toys include nubby balls and rings in different colors and resistance levels. I’d like to expand the collection in the future.



some of our quiet fidget toys. not shown are our tactile nubby rings.



here are some websites that I browsed when deciding what to purchase. Obviously not all the toys listed are suitable for quiet play, but many are and are also excellent for helping to develop many skills from problem solving, to fine or gross motor skills, and strength.


I also put out bins with dry pasta shapes, colored rice, beans, sponges or various sizes, and play dough.











The play was unscripted and undirected and we followed what he wanted to do. ¬†This was my favorite part because he really opened up and we were able to see just what an incredibly intelligent and fun kid he was. He built a volcano from the dough and told us about how lava dries and turns black and that when it touches water it steams because it is hot and the water is cold. At one point he was playing with the rice and letting it fall slowly from his hands and it sounded and looked like rain. During that point I asked if he wanted to make a rainstorm with us. We did the “human rain storm” where you use your hands to simulate the sound of a storm.


Our version was obviously not quite as epic or¬†impressive as the video, but it was still fun and with help from our thunder maker, we had a great time. ūüôā


We also asked him a few random problem solving questions as he played and he continued to show off just how clever he was. His mother told us that he had never handled a sponge before, but when I asked him to take the water from one bin and move it to the other, he took only seconds to grab a sponge and squeeze it over the empty container until the sponge was dry and he had to re-wet it.


All in all, I think it was and can be an invaluable experience for kids, parents, and libraries involved. It gives the kids a chance to participate in library activities that they may otherwise avoid due to their individual needs, it gives the parents a chance to network and connect, and it gives the staff at the library a chance to better understand how to meet the needs of their patrons and better serve their community as a whole.


For more information on autism and other special needs, check out the sites below.




Sharing is caring; it can be fun!

AND difficult!

Luckily, today, we had some excellent sharers.

As promised by the hint in the previous post, this storytime was all about sharing, namely with The Rainbow Fish¬†by Marcus Pfister Herbert. I made and performed my first flannel board. Turns out I’m pretty a-ok at making them, if I do say so myself.

We started off, again, with the Welcome Rhyme and then we moved on to the flannel board.

My pride and joy of this flannel is, of course, Rainbow Fish himself.

I made him with a felt base and then used foam stickers, a googly eye, puff paint, and glitter to bring him to life.

Just look at that self absorbed smirk. Much sparkle. Wow. So Rainbow.

I decided the cover him with regular scales because I thought it would be strange looking once I started to remove the sparkly scales if there weren’t scales beneath. I used these foam stickers that we already had in our craft supplies that were PERFECT scale shapes and adhered them by just peeling off the back and sticking them right on to the felt. Those suckers hold pretty strong! I then made sparkly scales by covering the same foam stickers in glitter and then trimming them down a bit. I did NOT adhere them with their sticky backing because I wanted to be able to remove them, so I ended up just using some bits of scotch tape and it worked quite well. I’m sure that I’ll eventually have to replace the bits of tape with new ones as they get covered in felt, but that’s easy enough.

no scale
BOOM! removable scales!

I also created a bunch of friends for Rainbow Fish; little blue fish, an angel fish that looks like a bee, a gold fish, the starfish to whom he complains, and some weird green dude that I’m not super happy with, but oh well…it works.

What’s up, Mr. Starfish? My eye placement and crooked mouth made him look somewhat nervous, oops.

I’m quite familiar with the story, but it’s decently long so I decided to go through and type out a bit of a script for myself in case I lost my train of thought.

I mostly ad-libbed the story, but I think that’s ok, they got the point, and then that way, when/if they check out the book, they won’t be bored with it. I obviously thought ahead on that one, right? ¬†heh.

Since the rainbow ribbons were such a hit and so helpful at my last storytime, I figured I’d do something similar with this storytime. I made a bunch of small felt fish that I passed out to all the kids and told them that they would need to use their listening skills and when they heard me say “Rainbow Fish” they could hold up their felt fish and make them swim.
They seemed to really like that idea and excitedly, we practiced making our fish swim.
This is again another way to incorporate Common Core Standards, specifically ELA-Literacy  concepts; including the Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening.

We had quite the handful of younger siblings joining us for this storytime, so, unfortunately,¬†my plan didn’t go quite as well as I had hoped. It started off pretty well with making our fish swim when we heard “Rainbow Fish“, but as I began to tell the story and place my characters on the felt board, a couple of those younger siblings really wanted to help me decorate the flannel board¬†and began bringing up their fish and adding them to the board as well. I tried to get them to take the fish and sit down, but they seemed more interested in playing with the board. These things happen.

Things like this can be frustrating for librarians doing storytime because while the concept might work quite well with the age group for whom they are planned, you always risk having younger kids that are energetic, uninterested, grouchy, whatever, or you might have other children that are in the age group but may have learning disabilities or developmental challenges that might not allow them to be able to follow along as you had hoped and it can all go downhill quite quickly.

That’s pretty much how this storytime went. I got to a point in the story where the little blue fish follows Rainbow Fish, and a handful of¬†toddlers came up and stuck their fish on the board. I improvised and talked about how all the fish followed Rainbow Fish but only the little blue fish caught up to him. I also used a familiar face in our youth department for some added fun; I brought in the big stuffed octopus that we keep at the reference desk. In the story, Rainbow Fish talks to a wise old octopus and I thought it would work really well. Again, I wouldn’t suggest bringing in a toy or stuffed animal for younger kids because they’ll of course all want to play with it and that’s just not fair to tease them, but I thought the age group I have would do well with it.¬†Again, all the younger kids wanted to come grab him.¬†I had to stop several times and suggest we find a place to sit,¬†“Does everybody have a good color circle on the carpet, or¬†should we find a better place to sit?” Things like that work pretty well, but sometimes it’s¬†only a matter of a minute or so before the kids¬†might be¬†back up front again. I¬†was quite worried¬†that it was such a distraction to the older kids who were listening and behaving very well, but the kids themselves seemed to not really mind at all. I was also worried that I was a plane going down and that the parents weren’t going to be happy about my lack of control of the room, but we eventually, after a bit of a reminder about sharing the story with everybody in the room and how to sit on our bottoms, the bottom of our bottoms…the bottom of our bouncy, bouncy bottoms (thanks¬†Miss Meaghan), we¬†got through the story and even the parents let out some “oohs” and “aahs” when I removed the shiny scales and placed them on the other fish so that helped calm my nerves a bit.

After the story, I asked them why they thought Rainbow Fish was so happy. They’re a smart bunch and answered with things like “He did what Mr. Octopus told him to do and shared”. I told them what great listeners they were and asked if they could share in cleaning up and help me swim all the fish back home. They all excitedly swam their little fish up to the front and placed the back in the basket.

Next, we did a counting rhyme about friends. I talked about how Rainbow Fish made lots of friends by being nice and sharing his scales. I then asked them how many friends he made. He made 5 friends so we started our rhyme with 5.

5 good friends went out to play
on a bright and sunny day
one friend said “I can’t stay”
how many good friends are left to play?

The rhyme continues on until you have no friends left. Basic stuff, but the kids liked it because they caught on very quickly and were able to rhyme along with me and shout out the numbers. We actually did this rhyme twice because they seemed to have so much fun, the second time around, we started with 10! I asked them “Do you think you can count backwards from 10?” many of them said no, but turns out, they can! ūüėČ

after the rhyme, I could tell the wiggles were sneaking up on us, so I asked them if they needed to get some wiggles out, uhm, duh, Miss Colleen. So we stood up, did the chicken pose, and got ready to wiggle.
First, we wiggled our fingers. We wiggled them fast, we wiggled them slow. We wiggled them high, and we wiggled them…low.¬†Then we tried to come up with new ways to wiggle. We wiggled our nose, then we tried to wiggle our ears, that one turned out to be rather hard to do, but darn it if we didn’t try! Then we wiggled our toes and then we wiggled our hair. Once we had wiggled everything we could, we wiggled ourselves back down to the floor, that’s when one¬†creative attendee suggested we try to wiggle the floor, but turns out that doesn’t wiggle (GOOD!)
Towards the end of our wiggle session, one of the younger siblings had squirmed his way up front again and was giggling and wiggling with all his might when Mr. Tentacles caught his eye again. He reached for the toy and when dad came to try to save the octopus, I suggested we use Mr. Tentacles to help practice our sharing. It looked to me like that octopus had some wiggles of his own to get out and he needed some help. The kids were AWESOME at passing him around so that everybody had a chance to give him a hug and a shake before he made his way back up front to sit with me.

Now that we had all of our wiggles out, We learned the Goodbye Rhyme. Many of the kids that were there for this session weren’t at last week’s Thursday session so it was new to them. Again, I provided printed handouts to any of the kids that wanted to follow along and help me read, and to any parents that would like to take them home to practice.¬† This group was just as good at learning the new words and actions as the first group was.

This storytime didn’t feel quite as successful as the first one, but it certainly didn’t feel like a failure either. I know that not every session is going to be storytime gold, but I hope they at least come close.

I have one more session this week with this theme so I might switch up a few things and see how it goes, Maybe we’ll get our wiggles out first, and maybe I’ll have to make a felt octopus and leave Mr. Tentacles to keep watch at his post on¬†the reference desk. I’ll check back in and let you know how it goes!


The second session of this storytime was awesome! The group was at LEAST twice as large, but they were excellent listeners.

I changed things up a bit and went with the Welcome Rhyme, then we talked about a time we shared with somebody or somebody we share with at home; they were all so proud to tell me that they share with their younger siblings or cousins. Then, judging from the last session, I figured it would be good if we got our wiggles out before our first story. Hilariously, this group wasn’t very wiggly and didn’t even stand up to wiggle, they all just calmly wiggled in their seats which is totally fine, go with the flow. Because they seemed ready for a story, we didn’t wiggle very long at all. Rainbow Fish flannel went off without a hitch; we did have a few younger siblings in this group, but they were much younger and not old enough to get up and get at the flannel board. I also threw out the swimming fish idea. Again, I think it’s a fun thing to be able to make the story interactive, but I didn’t want to have to handle the very helpful younger kids AND remember my spot in the story AND keep the older kids engaged like last time so I opted for a less interactive, but overall better flannel experience. Some stories and activities are just not meant to be.

After the story we, once again, flexed our memory and counting skills and talk about how many friends Rainbow Fish made by sharing (5) and then got our counting fingers out for the 5 Good Friends rhyme. They were awesome counters, as expected.

After that, I asked them to vote; another story, or more rhymes. I didn’t even get to say “more rhymes” because as soon as I asked if they wanted another story, they all shouted “YES!”
More stories it is!

Our second story, which we didn’t get to last session, was “Mine” by Mathilde Stein.
It’s a cute story and I think the kids enjoyed it.

After the second story, I took a cue from the last session where we shared Mr. Tentacles and this time we shared shaker eggs. I told the kids we were going to practice sharing and that I would pass out these fun shaker eggs, but I didn’t have enough for everybody so we would have to take turns and share. This COULD have gone awry, but they were SO great! Once all the eggs were passed out, we shook them in a couple silly ways, then we found somebody to share with, then shook them again in some other silly ways. It went fabulously. The kids that didn’t have an egg shook their hands and giggled while they waited their turn. Yay!

Again, they were wonderful in helping to clean up and return all the shaker eggs and then we ended our session with the Goodbye Rhyme and said farewell.

I am SO not a morning person, but it sure does help to have such a great group for storytime. ūüôā

Now, on to plan next week. Any suggestions?! ūüėČ