Library Laptime

storytimes for 2 and younger

Books and Babies:

Story Times for Two and Under

Story times for babies, or Laptimes, are short 15-20 minute story times that employ finger plays, songs, puppets, stories and sometimes a book or two.


Reasons for Laptime:

By providing story times for babies and toddlers in your library you will be contributing to the future welfare of your community.

Laptime is an engaged learning activity where you are not only providing entertainment for children, but teaching their care-givers as well. You are setting up a firm foundation for literacy.

The following information and more on childhood literacy is from North Central Regional Educational Laboratory


From as early as the first months through the second year of life, children's experiences with oral language development and literacy begin to build a foundation for later reading success (Burns, Griffin, & Snow, 1999; Strickland & Morrow, 1988; Weaver, 1988).

In 1966, New Zealand researcher Marie Clay introduced the term emergent literacy to describe the behaviors seen in young children when they use books and writing materials to imitate reading and writing activities, even though the children cannot actually read and write in the conventional sense (Ramsburg, 1998). In the three decades since Clay's introduction, an extensive body of research has expanded the understanding of emergent literacy. According to current research, children's literacy development begins long before children start formal instruction in elementary school (Allington & Cunningham, 1996; Burns, Griffin, & Snow, 1999; Clay, 1991; Hall & Moats, 1999; Holdaway, 1979; Teale & Sulzby, 1986). This literacy development is nourished by social interactions with caring adults and exposure to literacy materials, such as children's storybooks (Sulzby, 1991). It proceeds along a continuum, and children acquire literacy skills in a variety of ways and at different ages (Emergent Literacy Project, n.d.; McGee & Richgels, 1996; Ramsburg, 1998; Strickland & Morrow, 1988). Children's skills in reading and writing develop at the same time and are interrelated rather than sequential (Teale & Sulzby, 1986). Educators can promote children's understanding of reading and writing by helping them build literacy knowledge and skills through the use of engaged learning activities."


Tips and Tricks


1. We use the term "Laptime" to emphasize that the story time for babies and toddlers is a shared experience. Care-givers stay and participate.

2. Keep it short: 15 to 20 minutes is about right.

3. Variety is your friend. Use the combination of sharing books, telling stories, music and action rhymes, puppets, etc. that fit your style and your audience.

4. Hide props and puppets. Store puppets and supplies in a box, otherwise they are too much of a distraction.

5. Longest story first. Attention span is best at the beginning.

6. Be flexible. If you’re losing the children’s attention on a story, keep it short. Move on to an activity with action or a song or finger play, or even repeat something that worked earlier. Modify your plans to fit your audience.

7. Keep the momentum going. But at the same time you need to let the children keep up with you by not going too fast. Keeping a baby’s or toddler’s attention is no easy task. It may not be possible to keep interest in the narrative of a picture book if you’re trying to show each picture to each child. Keep explanations short, and only give an explanation when necessary. Expecting "classroom" responses from the young children will kill momentum. Answers, if you can get a child to say anything, will likely have nothing to do with your topic.

8. Repetition is great! Repeat successful activities. For example, do a finger play twice at the beginning of the story time to teach it, and then do it again after something else, you can even do it again at the end. This would bore older kids, but young children love repetition. Repetition also gives the care-givers the confidence to repeat the activity at home.

9. Smile. Friendly facial expressions and body language create a welcoming atmosphere.

10. Respect young children’s shyness, and be alert to fears. Keep distances "safe" between you and your young listeners. Even a puppet too near a child’s face can be frightening.

11. Keep your eyes (and ears) open for new material. Look for "laptime appeal" in new picture books, as well as while perusing children’s song books and finger rhyme books. Keep an eye out for great props. We have a storyteller who brings spoons and individual chimes (just a metal tube with holes for a string handle) for each child. As they sing "Grand Old Duke of York," the children hit the chime to the rhythm and hold it high for "up" and low for "down."

12. Themes are great, but not always necessary. Don’t feel as if every story time has to be perfectly choreographed. If the material for the "theme" is falling flat, go back to material you’ve used before that went well.

13. Have fun with different tunes. Do a rap version of ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider’ or sing ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ to the tune of ‘London Bridge’.





Compilations of finger play and story ideas for babies




Creative Fingerplays & Action Rhymes : An Index and Guide to Their Use

Jeff Defty (Author)

Not much illustration at all. Older book, with a few illustrations, but still a good resource.

The Eentsy, Weensy Spider: Fingerplays and Action Rhymes

Joanna Cole & Stephanie Calmenson (authors) Alan Tiegreen (illustrator)

Limited availability. All black and white, every rhyme is illustrated though. Music and guitar chords included in the back. Resource list.

Eye Winker, Tom Tinker, Chin Chopper

Tom Glazer, Ron Himler (Illustrator)

Music and words. Traditional folk songs. Limited availability.

Every Child's Book of Nursery Songs

Donald Mitchell

Musical scores and lyrics to classic nursery songs.

Finger Frolics

Liz Cromwell, Dixie Hibner

Finger plays on the seasons, science, holidays, the world around us, mythology, make-believe and more.

Finger Rhymes

Marc Tolon Brown

Picture book with the finger rhyme actions illustrated. Some music included in the back. Also by Marc Brown: Play, Hand or Party Rhymes.

I’m a Little Teapot

Jane Cobb (Compiler), Magda Lazicka (Illustrator)

My absolute favorite resource for laptime. Just don’t get carried away and try use the suggested activities or books for laptime - save those for the older kids. Hundreds of finger plays arranged by subject.

Metropolitan Museum of Art’s: Go in and Out the Window: An Illustrated Songbook for Young People

Dan Fox, P. Fox

Very limited availability, and expensive if you do find it, but too good to not include - if you can get it, do! Classic childhood songs (61 of them) from American, European and British traditions.

Mitt Magic: Fingerplays for Finger Puppets

Lynda Roberts, James Morris (Illustrator)

Finger plays based on the number 5 (for your 5 fingers). Patterns included in the back.

Ring A Ring O’Roses: Fingerplays for Preschool Children

Flint Public Library

Long considered THE source for finger rhymes. Call Flint Public Library’s Business Office at (810) 232-7111 to order -$13.95. Alphabetical listing of 137 pages of finger plays - indexed by first line. Actions are italicized.

Rise Up Singing: The Group Singing Songbook

Peter Blood (Editor)

Words, chords and sources to 1200 songs. Alphabetical by subject-the Play section is best for babies. Make sure you read the chapter notes too.

Songs from the Mother Goose With the Traditional Melody for Each

Nancy Larrick (Editor), Robin Spowart (Illustrator)

Perfect for toddlers and babies.

Stories to Play With: Kids' Tales Told With Puppets, Paper, Toys and Imagination

Hiroko Fujita, Fran Stallings (Editor)

A selection of simple stories and a variety of attention-getting techniques for storytellers who are just starting out.

Too Many Rabbits: And Other Fingerplays About Animals, Nature, Weather, and the Universe

Kay Cooper, Judith Moffatt (Illustrator)

Every action is illustrated. Short book, just over 20 finger plays.

Treasured Time With Your Toddler: A Monthly Guide to Activities

Jan Brennan

Weekly suggestions for activities, reading ...and finger plays. Has lots more than that too. Try not to get carried away with the recipes and crafts :)

Where Is Thumbkin?: Over 500 Activities to Use With Songs You Already Know

Pamela Schiller, and Thomas Moore

Look in the back for the Special Toddler Section. I like the Related Bibliography and Related Records and Tapes for each chapter -it’s always a plus to be able to hear the music!

Juba This and Juba That: Stories to tell, songs to sing, rhymes to chant, riddles to guess, and more!

Virginia Fashjian and nadine, Westcott (illustrator)

Mostly good for the older story times, does have 2 chapters with 9 action rhymes and 11 songs that are good for babies.

Baby’s Game Book

Isabel Wilner and Sam Williams (illustrator)

Great resource in picture book format. Has 35 activities, all include actions in italics and most are illustrated as well.

Crazy Gibberish and Other Story Hour Stretchers

Naomi Baltuck

Now for babies, you do NOT want to stretch out a story time. Short and active is what you aim for, nevertheless, this book does have some good stuff for the babies too.

And the Green Grass Grew All Around: Folk Poetry for Everyone

Alvin Schwartz and Sue Truesdell (Illustrator)

Mostly for older children, but is a good overall resource for story times aimed at all ages.

Complete Book of Rhymes Songs Poems Fingerplays and Chants

Jackie Silberg and Pam Schiller

Over 700 selections. Very comprehensive. There is absolutely no reference to any music or melodies, if you are musically ‘impaired’ this is a challenge. If you enjoy making up your own tunes, or if you have a musical background this book will present no problems.

Nursery Collection: Stories and Rhymes for the Very Young.

Caroline Repchuck, Claire Keen and Andrew Charman

A collection of traditional rhymes and original material. The smaller version is abridged. Make sure you get the large format - isbn# 0752564307. This is a Barnes and Noble bargain book for $9.98.

I Can’t Song Book for Grownups Who Can’t Carry a Tune in a Paper Bag... But Want to Do Music with Young Children

Jackie Silberg

Mostly good for preschool teachers, or for when you want to actually make simple instruments or noisemakers. I did love the book even if it is not exactly perfect for baby laptimes.




The Internet:

An excellent resource for finger plays and ideas

Internet Sites



Gayle’s Preschool Rainbow

Preschool Finger plays, Action Poems, Nursery Rhymes, and Songs


Action songs, including some with the music

Find lyrics, rhymes, information on choosing music for children and more.

Enchanted Learning

Topic Index of rhymes includes hints on teaching them too.







Individual Titles / Series (personal favorites)




Animal Boogie

Debbie Harter

Jungle animal fun set to a catchy tune. Music notation included.

Bubbles, Bubbles

Kathi Appelt

Rhythmic bathtub story, very fun to tell.

Daisy Books: Daisy Says Coo, Daisy’s Day Out, etc

Jane Simmons

Animal sounds starring a cute little duck. Stick with the board books, the picture books are a little long.

Five Little Pumpkins

Iris Van Rynbach

Traditional finger rhyme with watercolor illustrations.

Itsy Bitsy Spider

Iza Trapani

Lots of additional verses to the popular tune.

I’m a Little Teapot

Iza Trapani

Lots of additional verses to the popular tune.

Jesse Bear Board Books: Tum Tum Tickle, Yum Yum Crumble, Buzz Buzz Chug a Chug, Wiggle Jiggle Jump Up

Nancy Carlstrom

Learn sounds or colors, or just have fun with the rhythm. Larger size allows for easier sharing. Or, memorize the books and make up actions for them.

Jiggle Joggle Jee

Laura Richards illustrated by Sam Williams

Fun train book. Speed up then slow down at the end. High voice and low voice- steady rhythm like a train. Have mothers and children repeat key phrases.

Little Barron’s Toddler Books

Five Little Ducks, Wheels on the Bus, Row Row Row Your Boat, Five in a Bed...

Penny Dann

Great picture books to sing or read.

Little White Duck

Walt Whippo & Joan Paley music by Bernard Zaritsky

Musical notation included. Picture book.

Moo, Baa, La, La La

Sandra Boynton

Wonderful animal sounds (three dancing pigs say la,la, no no you say, pigs go oink all night and day).

Off We Go

Jane Yolen

Woodland animals make their individual sounds as they leave home for grandmas. Repetitive and rhythmic.

Over in the Meadow

Numerous authors and versions

Wonderful book to sing to toddlers. Automatically lends itself to puppet use or use as a counting book.

Raffi: Songs to Read Series: Wheels on the Bus, Down by the Bay, Shake My Sillies Out, Top Ten Songs to Read


Illustrated books that include the musical notation in the back. Great for toddlers. Audio versions are readily available too.

Where’s My Teddy?

Jez Alborough

Available in BIG book format.






I Have a Song for You

Janeen Brady

3 volumes were published.

Songs to Grow On

Woody Guthrie

Howdi Do; My Dolly; I’ll Get a Hammer.

Play it Again

Bill Harley

Sittin’ Down to Eat works well for Laptime. Bill Harley's site

Raffi: The Singable Songs Collection


3 cd’s: Singable Songs for the Very Young; More Singable Songs; Corner Grocery Store. RaffiNews site


A Few Finger Plays to Get You Started:

Willoughby Wallaby from Raffi

Willoughby Wallaby Wee, an elephant sat on me,

Willoughby Wallaby Wou, an elephant sat on you!

Willoughby Wallaby *Watt, an elephant sat on Matt,

Willoughby Wallaby Wusie, an elephant sat on Susie,

Willoughby Wallaby Wustin, an elephant sat on Justin.

End: Willoughby Wallaby Wus, an elephant sat on US! -fall back like an elephant just sat on you SPLAT! - invite kids to copy you

*Use the children’s names


Itsy Bitsy Spider

Itsy bitsy spider climbed up the water spout -fingers climb up arm

Down came the rain -sign ‘rain’ (falling rain)

and washed the spider out -sign ‘out’

Out came the sun -arms over head for sun

and dried up all the rain

So the itsy bitsy spider went up the spout again -fingers climb up arm


Five Green and Speckled Frogs

Five green and speckled frogs,

Sat on a speckled log,

Eating some most delicious bugs - yum, yum

One jumped into the pool,

Where it was nice and cool,

Then there are 4 green speckled frogs. -Glub, Glub

Four green and speckled frogs...


Grand Old Duke of York

Oh the Grand Old Duke of York (salute)

He had ten thousand men (wiggle fingers)

He marched them up to the top of the hill (lift baby up)

And he marched them down again (lower baby into lap)

And when you’re up you’re up (lift baby up)

And when you’re down you’re down (lower baby)

And when you’re only halfway up, (lift baby halfway)

You’re neither up nor down! (Lift up then down)


Five Little Fishies by Carly Durrant

Five little fishies swimming in the sea - fingers swimming

Teasing Mrs. Octopus,

Can’t catch me, can’t catch me - while saying this, make burbling bubble sounds with other hand and mouth

Then along came Mrs. Octopus, - bring other hand slowly swimming like an octopus from behind back

As quiet as can be...

And SNAP! - snap at one finger on ‘fishy hand’ put that finger down

That fishy right out of the sea

Four little fishies swimming in the sea...


Over in the Meadow

Over in the meadow, in the sand in the sun

Lived an old mother frog with her little froggie one

Croak said the mother; I croak said the one

So they croaked and were happy in the sand in the sun

Over in the meadow in the pond so blue

Lived an old mother fish and her little fishies two

Swim said the mother, we swim said the two

So they swam and were happy in the pond so blue

Over in the meadow in the nest in the tree

Lived an old mother bird and her little birdies three

Sing said the mother, we sing said the three

So they sang and were happy in the nest in the tree.


I Had a Little Turtle

~Amy's version

I had a little turtle -one hand on top of other, wiggle thumbs

His name was Tiny Tim

I put him in the bathtub to see if he could swim - ‘swim’ hands in a wave motion up and down

He drank up all the water -sign ‘water’

He ate up all the soap -sign ‘eat’

And now he’s sick in bed -hand to forehead like testing for fever

With a bubble in his throat -point to throat, then hiccup

Big... bigger....biggest.... POP! -blow bubble, move hands apart, larger, larger....pause... CLAP!


Tick Tock

Tick tock, tick tock, goes my daddy’s big clock

-rock back & forth for each word, slowly

Tick tock, tick tock, goes my daddy’s big clock

...but my mommy’s little clock goes

-be still, expectant...


-shake head back & forth, fast


I’m a Little Teapot

I’m a little teapot, short and stout,

Here is my handle, - one arm on hip

Here is my spout, - other arm up

When I get all steamed up, - excited expression on face

Hear me shout: Just tip me over, pour me out. - bend over and pour out

I’m a special teapot, it is true, - nod yes

Here, let me show you what I can do

I can change my handle and my spout, - switch arms, back & forth

Just tip me over, pour me out. - bend over and pour out


Five Little Monkeys Swinging

Five little monkeys swinging in a tree - fingers sway back &forth

Teasing Mr. Alligator,

Can’t catch me, can’t catch me - shake fingers in a ‘no, no, no’

Then along came Mr. Alligator, - bring other hand slowly

As quiet as can be... swimming from behind back

And SNAP! - snap at one finger on ‘monkey hand’ put that finger down

That monkey right out of that tree.

Four little monkeys swinging in a tree...

Slowly, Slowly

Slowly slowly very slowly creeps the garden snail

- slowly creep fingers up from ankles

Slowly slowly very slowly up the wooden rail

-creeping fingers up sides to top of head

Quickly, quickly, very quickly runs the little mouse

-quickly tickle baby all over

Quickly, quickly, very quickly all around the house

-tickle like a mouse running around


Open Them, Shut Them

Open them, shut them, Open them, shut them -open & shut -fists

Give a little clap -clap

Open them, shut them, Open them, shut them

Fold them in your lap -fold hands in lap

Creep them, creep them, creep them, -creep fingers up belly, neck ,chin

All the way up to your chin, Open your mouth wide... -open mouth...

But do not let them in. -hide hands quickly -



Pat-a-Cake -clap for each syllable


Baker’s man,

Bake me a cake as fast as you can.

Pat it and prick it

And Roll it -arms roll over each other

and mark it with a ‘B’ -mark a b on baby’s palm

And toss it in the oven, for baby and me! -toss baby’s arms in air and tickle


The Wheels on the Bus

The wheels on the bus go

‘round and ‘round,‘round and ‘round.‘round and ‘round -repeat

All through the town.

...The driver on the bus says ‘move on back...

...The money on the bus goes clink, clink, clink

...The babies on the bus go ‘wa, wa, wa’...

...The mommies on the bus go ‘shhh,shhh,shhh’

...The daddies on the bus go read, read, read...

...The rain on the bus goes plink, plink, plink

...The wipers on the bus go swish swish swish


We Clap Our Hands and Wave Bye Bye

We Clap Our Hands and Wave Bye Bye, bye bye, bye bye

We Clap Our Hands and Wave Bye Bye, bye bye, bye bye


Add American Sign Language

to Enhance Story Times for Babies


Many people are beginning to teach American Sign Language (ASL) to babies. Studies have demonstrated that adding visual and kinesthetic elements to verbal communication helps enhance early reading skills.

During infancy and the toddler years, the development of both fine and gross motor skills is critical to language and cognition. There is well-documented research indicating that the gross motor skill of bringing the arms and hands together at the midline of the body is one of the most significant developmental milestones in infancy. It is a primary step in integrating the right and left hemisphere of the brain to work together and is crucial to sensory integration. This motor skill, paired with the visual skill of gazing toward midline, is reinforced by the use of sign language.

Many of the ASL signs recommended for babies involve basic hand movements made at the body's midline. For example, the signs for 'MORE', 'BOOK', 'SHOES', all encourage a baby to move their hands together toward their midline.

Once a baby is able to make these moves to midline, the next developmental step involves crossing the midline. There are many ASL signs recommended for babies and young children that encourage the crossing of midline. The ASL signs for 'HUG', 'BABY' 'BEAR' and 'SPIDER' encourage the development of this important motor skill. Information from Sign 2 Me


Books and Videos:

American Sign Language Resources for Beginners

Author / Illustrator


Simple Signs

More Simple Signs

Cindy Wheeler

Very good, very basic books. Easy to understand illustrations showing the signs

Signing Time Video / DVD Series

Emilie de Azevedo

Videos of DVD’s for the youngest up to elementary age - Teaches basic sign language. There are 3 volumes: First Signs, Playtime Signs, Everyday Signs.

Beginning Sign Language Series:

Pets, Animals, Foods, Fruits & Vegetables, Mother Goose, Songs in Sign and many more

Jane Phillips, Kathy Kifer, Marina Krasnik & Stanley H. Collins

Picture books that are perfect for teaching you some basic signs that you can then use for enhancing finger rhymes.


Puppet and Prop Ideas:


Grand Old Duke of York

Hand out a chime and a striker to each child. Hit the chime to the rhythm. Raise chime high at ‘up’. Lower chime for ‘down’.

Wide-Mouthed Frog by Keith Faulkner

Act out the story with frog, mouse, bird and alligator puppets

Over in the Meadow or Old MacDonald Had a Farm

Have children hold appropriate puppet or stuffed animal up during the song.

Five Little Monkeys Swinging or Five Little Fishies

Five monkey puppets on one hand, alligator on the other. Alligator ‘eats’ the monkeys as you go along.

Five Little Ducks

or Five Little Frogs

Glove and pom-pom ducks. Remove ducks from velcro fingertips as you sing.

Very Hungry Caterpillar

Turn a striped sock into a caterpillar, feed him plastic food. Or use a kit from one of the online sources.


Online Sources for Puppets and Props:

Internet Sites



Folkmanis Puppets

Best quality I have ever seen for puppets. I personally LOVE these puppets. They can be hard to find and more expensive than your typical stuffed animal, but well worth it.

Mimi’s Motifs

Mimi is an educator and advocate of reading to babies. You can get crocheted finger play puppets as well as some excellent storytelling aids and Folkmanis puppets via this web site.


Click on Learning Materials then Reading fEnrichment for what is available.


Get Creative:

Have fun with felt and glue to make your own flannel board stories. I have had a lot of fun making Humbug Witch by Lorna Balian; Eggbert the Slightly Cracked Egg by Tom Ross; and Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Edward Emberley into a flannel stories.

Pom poms, googly eyes and one-handed gloves will go far in creating great stories for a lot of the finger plays you’ll find in Mitt Magic, by Lynda Roberts.