When the general public thinks of library programs, preschool storytimes are basically it.
A cluster of children, listening to a librarian reading books. Hopefully they are
engaged and interested, looking at the book with rapt attention, eager for more.

Storytimes are a library staple. You can encourage children's love of reading while also
building independence, as children often participate without their parents or caregivers.
A simple storytime will consist of stories, songs, perhaps some props, plus the option
of adding playtime or a craft project once the storytime portion is complete.

Overall Format

Preschoolers thrive on routine. They like to know what to expect. Therefore having
a consistent schedule and format with storytimes can help them feel secure and engaged.
I usually recommend a weekly storytime, with an occasional week off when seasons change
or a librarian goes on vacation. If this is too much, you can create program series
of a few weeks before taking a break, or you can find another librarian or two to rotate with.
How many stories, songs, and props you include is up to you, though in general at this age
you'll want to keep the length of the storytime portion to roughly a half hour.
This allows you to build substance without dragging on and losing your audience's attention.

My general preschool storytime format consists of:

Hello song
"Get your wiggles out" song
First storybook
Interactive song or felt board story
Second storybook
Prop songs
Goodbye song

If I'm doing the storytime as part of outreach to a preschool or daycare, I also add
a very short take-home story after the second storybook. We read the book together,
then I let the kids know they can take it home to keep. I once read that one
indicator of poverty is a lack of reading material in a family's home.
While we all know that the library is a great source of free reading material, not everyone
has the time or means to get to the library on a regular basis. So I have added to my
outreach a printed book for each child that they can take home, color in, and keep
to share with their families. It's my little way of making sure the kids have at least
some printed reading material in their homes. I also make printed books available
if I participate in community events, such as trunk or treat events or fairs.

I get these printable books mostly from a site called Scholastic Teachables.
They have a whole section of mini books, from full storybooks to very short ones
for beginning readers. I have also had success finding some mini books on
I look for books with simple, short sentences that relate to my theme for the session.
For community events, I usually opt for the full storybooks, for families to read together.
Please be advised that both of these sites require a paid subscription, though
occasionally you may be able to get a trial.

Story Selection

With so many wonderful picture books in the world, the storytime options seem endless.
The only criteria for our purposes are something engaging, preferably colorful, and not too wordy.
Preschoolers have a longer attention span than toddlers, but it is still relatively short.
Try to find books that have no more than 2 or 3 sentences per page. You'll also want to
make sure the story is not too advanced for them to grasp. Deep meanings or symbolism
will likely go right over their heads. Look for books that they will relate to,
that involve objects and characters they can associate with their everyday lives.
Books that incorporate colors, counting, the alphabet, etc., are also appealing.
If they give you opportunities to ask simple questions along the way, even better.
You want the children to be engaged and interested in the story, so look for language
that they can understand, that will keep them listening.

Sounds like a tall order! But there are many books that meet the criteria and
make for great preschool storytime books. Below are just a few of my favorites:

Dog's Colorful Day by Emma Dodd
Birds by Kevin Henkes
Summer Color! by Diana Murray
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff
Ouch by Ragnhild Scamell (also makes a great felt board story)
Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip Christian Stead
The Cow Loves Cookies by Karma Wilson
Nibbles: A Green Tale by Charlotte Middleton
Thank You, Omu by Oge Mora
Leaf Jumpers by Carole Gerber (also makes a great interactive felt board story)

Song Selection

You can conduct a very basic storytime that really just consists of reading stories, however
children are more likely to remain engaged if you add at least a couple of songs.
Hello and goodbye songs put "bookends," so to speak, on the program, prompting children
and helping them recognize the structure of the storytime.
Having an active song before stories start helps them get energy out before needing to focus.
Having the same songs every session helps them learn the words, which can
empower them and get them excited to participate.

I use a mix of recorded songs and sing-along songs, depending on the situation.
For outreach, I use recorded songs (via Spotify) for hello, wiggles, and props.
Then I use sung songs for the interactive song and goodbye.
For in-house programs, I sing them all myself.
In general, do whatever you feel comfortable with. As long as the kids are engaged,
it's a success! And kids this age are very flexible.

I am listing some favorite songs below, with links so you can hear them.
I am also including Spotify playlists I've put together if you would like to check them out.

Some favorite songs:

Hello and Goodbye songs

Hello, Hello - this is a recorded song that is my go-to for outreach
Bread and Butter - hands-down (pun intended) the favorite goodbye song with my outreach groups
Up, Down, Turn Around - also great with babies and toddlers
When Cows Get Up in the Morning - I don't use puppets, but this one's great for an animal-themed storytime or series
See You Later, Alligator
Well, Hello, Everybody - great for younger preschoolers
If You're Ready for a Story

Get the Wiggles Out songs

Get Your Wiggles Out playlist on Spotify
I Wak e Up My Hands
My Thumbs Are Starting to Wiggle
My Right Foot Has the Wiggles

Interactive songs/rhymes

The Four Seasons Song
Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes
The Monsters Stomp Around the House
See the Little Bunnies Sleeping
The Leaves on the Trees
Bubble, Bubble, Pop
Hurry, Hurry, Drive the Fire Truck
Little Raindrops Falling Down
Little Clapping Mouse
Be a Seed
Do You Know What Shape This Is?

Felt Board stories/songs

10 in the Bed
5 Green and Speckled Frogs
5 Elephants in the Bathtub
Who's in the Barnyard?

See also: books above noted they're good for felt boards

Adding Props

Children love scarves, egg shakers, beanbags, rhythm sticks, and jingle bells - anything
that makes noise or that they can throw! Props add an interactive, sensory element
that enhances the storytime experience. Moving them helps children's gross motor skills.
Plus they help build children's listening skills, as songs using props often include instructions:
how and where to move the prop, how loud or quiet to be, etc.
Look for songs that are easy to follow, encourage listening, and are upbeat.
If you opt to use recorded music, "freeze" songs are particularly popular.
Below are some of my favorites.

Scarf Songs

Scarf Songs playlist on Spotify
We Wave Our Scarves Together
Little Bo Peep with Scarves
Popcorn Kernels
One Bright Scarf
Wave Your Scarf Up and Down

Shaker or Jingle Bells Songs

Shaker Songs playlist on Spotify
Everyone Can Shake, Shake, Shake
Egg Shakers Up
Shake Your Shakers
Can You Shake Along With Me?

Beanbag Songs

Beanbag Songs playlist on Spotify

Rhythm Sticks Songs

Tap Your Sticks
This is the Way We Tap Our Sticks
If You Have Some Rhythm Sticks

Songs Using Multiple Props

We Wiggle and Wiggle and Stop


At the end of your storytime, you may opt to add a playtime or craft time to the program.
Both give a chance for the kids to socialize, learn social skills, and build motor skills
while having added fun. Which one to offer is up to you, and both have benefits.


Adding playtime is as simple as putting out toys for the kids to play with.
The beauty of playtime, however, is that as simple as it is, it has tremendous benefits.
I believe it was Mr. Rogers who once said that play is the work of children.
They learn so much by playing, especially when they're working alongside other kids.
They learn gross motor skills when they figure out how to move and manipulate the toys.
They learn social skills, such as taking turns, sharing, or playing together.
Their cognitive skills are put to the test as they figure out, for example, which
shapes go in which hole, or how to put the blocks together to build the tallest tower.
While overseeing the playtime, you could ask them about colors, numbers, even letters.
You can help with vocabulary by naming things and describing them.
So many opportunities for growth, exploration, and learning - while having fun!
Any toys will do for an after-storytime playtime, but some favorites are balls, blocks,
play tunnels, cars and trucks. If you have the space, a small slide or mini basketball hoop.
Even if you don't have dedicated space to store items for playtime, see which items
could be pulled from your existing library play space.


Many storytimes will add a craft time to the repertoire. Crafts have many benefits,
from building fine motor skills to learning how to follow directions to exploring creativity.
Working near other kids and having to share supplies can also help with social skills.
And if you were working with a theme, a craft can emphasize that theme or extend it.

With preschoolers, you'll want a simple craft that offers freedom of expression.
There are some beautiful craft projects available with pinterest-worthy results -
for the adults who make the samples. As you're finding crafts, pay attention to
how much prep would need to be done for it to be appropriate for preschoolers.
How many things would need to be cut out, pre-printed, or pre-glued?
How much of the crafting session would be spent with you having to help each
child because the steps require dexterity, precision, or attention to detail?
Will little fingers be able to do what you need them to do?
Is there enough opportunity to alter and adjust the design, or does it have to be
done just one way? Can the kids be creative?

Some general tips:
* Keep things simple.
* If something requires a distinct cut, have the items cut before hand.
While increasing scissor skills is important, they just don't have the dexterity
at this age to ensure lines and shapes are well defined.
* If you use paint, make it washable! Same goes for markers.
* Avoid crafts that have to be completed "just so."
Try projects that offer flexibility and the ability to be creative.
* While you're at it, let kids know that they can be creative.
* Be prepared for a mess. And try not to worry too much about the mess!
* Learning to share is important. While you want more than enough project materials
for each child, having to share supplies such as glue sticks
is a valuable learning opportunity!