Q&A: Outreach Storytimes to Babies

For the last year and a half I've been visiting a group of 6-12 month old babies at one of the preschool centers in my community. I also visit the next two older groups of kids on the same day. For simplicity's sake, I've been reusing the plans for my 0-36 month in-house storytime. If you're a regular reader of Mel's Desk, you'd be familiar with most of the storytimes I present. I plan to have 20 minutes of "group" time and like to keep the book count down to 2 or 3.

Things are going well with the upper two age brackets, but I wonder if I'm providing the most that I can for the youngest group. Since I can guarantee a 2:1, 1:1, or 1:2 adult:child ratio with the current crop of in-house attendees I have, I know that bounces, tickling rhymes, fingerplays, etc. can all be done easily (as long as the child is in the mood). At the center there are, at the most, 6 kids in the class and 2 adults. So I find that all those rhymes, bounces, fingerplays, etc. don't work-- or work but not as well as I think they could.

At a previous library, the department also did regular outreach to this age group, but it was to a preschool on a college campus, so in addition to the teachers, extra students were always present, and we had a volunteer who would come, so that there was a 1:1 or 1:2 adult:child ratio and a lapsit-style storytime was possible.

I've tried experimenting with some props or exploratory play segments. For instance, today I brought a large plastic bear (from this set) and set it on the floor at the beginning of our time. I left it there and after a bit, some of the babies starting being more curious about the bear than me being there. They all had a little time holding or examining the bear before I left. I've also done a counting rhyme (10 Little Books to the tune of Michael Finnegan) with actual board books. As soon as the books were stacked up in a pile, the babies needed to be touching and opening them, so we took some time for to play with the books. But those have been kind of last minute, fly by the seat of your pants sort of decisions. On the whole, I like to be more thoughtful than not when it comes to assembling a quality storytime. :)

Since I only visit the kids once a month, the babies aren't comfortable enough with me to want to sit in my lap for a bounce. How do you all manage storytimes for such young ones in situations where a 1:1 or 1:2 adult:child ratio isn't possible? What strategies or activities could I try to add value to the books and songs I'm already using?



  1. I visit a mixed group of "tykes" and toddlers. The Tykes range from 3-5 and the toddlers, are, well toddlers. My experience is still slightly different than yours but one thing I find that lends for lots of success is to bring puppets. I don't know if you have access to puppets, but when I bring them I usually do a short rhyme (could be an action rhyme), story or song with the puppet and then take time right after to come around to each child and let them touch and feel the puppet. The rhyme and action part appeal to the older kids and letting the younger kids touch it really draws them in. Plus, as soon as they see the puppet their eyes light up and they are glued. It is definitely a harder age group and I noticed that the first few times I went it was hard because they weren't used to me but now they have sort of warmed up and gotten used to giving me some (even if it's just a little) attention. I've also learned it's okay to have a shorter plan. Sometimes the more successful visits have been ones where I have extra time to talk to the older kids, or "play" with the toddlers (let them touch the puppet some more, or the board books I bring). Anyway, I don't know if any of this helped at all. Good luck!


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