Toddler Storytime: Bears

Bears! For whatever reason, this is one of my favorite storytime themes. I’ve done it several times now, and I always have fun with it. Maybe it’s because there are so many awesome books about bears, or maybe because I sometimes feel my spirit animal is a bear. At any rate, I needed a trusted, reliable theme to whip out during school vacation week (after the February-fiasco-of-which-we-do-not-speak): enter bears.

PicMonkey Collage

Books Read:

Welcome Home, Bear by Il Sung Na
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. & Eric Carle
Polar Bear’s Underwear by Tupera Tupera

Opening Song: “So Early in the Morning”
To the tune of “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush.” We use the ASL sign for “hello” in the first verse.

This is the way we wave hello,
Wave hello, wave hello,
This is the way we wave hello
So early in the morning.

Repeat with clap our hands, stomp our feet, jump around.

Discussion & Sign: We talked about the different kinds of bears we know, and what they look and sound like, before learning the ASL sign for Bear. My go-to site for learning new signs is ASL University.

Book 1: Welcome Home, Bear.  A simple, beautifully-illustrated book by one of my favorite children’s authors. This book explores different animal habitats, after bear grows sick of the forest and decides to visit his friends where they live — in the desert, swamp, rainforest, and Arctic. In the end, he decides that the forest was just right for him.


The rainforest is too wet for bears.

Song & Flannel Board: “Five Bears in the Ring”
An adorable song and flannel set from Mel’s Desk. I used laminated clipart to represent our different bears — in my case, a brown bear, a black bear, a polar bear, a panda bear, and a teddy bear. This song explores different types of bears and the foods they eat, and it’s ridiculously catchy.

Brown bear in the ring, sha la la la la,
Brown bear in the ring, sha la la la la,
Brown bear in the ring, sha la la la la!
Looking for some honey in the comb.

Black bear — berries in the bush
Polar bear — fishies in the sea
Panda bear — bamboo in the sun
Teddy bear — snuggles from a friend!

Action Rhyme: “Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear”

Book 2: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?  A storytime classic, and one that, somehow, I’ve never used before! Via Pinterest, I found that all of Eric Carle’s illustrations are available online. I printed out two copies of each animal, laminated them, and threw some Velcro on the back. I also made matching strips in each color. While we read, the kids came up to the flannel board and matched their animal to the corresponding strip.



Action Rhyme:  “Red, Red is the Color I See”
Since we were on the subject of colors, we turned to “The Color I See,” an action song that gets everyone up and moving. Each person stands according to the colors they’re wearing.

Red, red is the color I see.
If you’re wearing red then show it to me.
Stand up, take a bow, then turn yourself around.
Show me your red, and sit back down!

Book 3: Polar Bear’s Underwear. I first saw this book when it came in more than a year ago, and it’s been on my radar ever since. It’s perfect for a storytime group — a simple, repeating structure, bold illustrations, a built-in guessing game, and, obviously, underwear. It’s also perfect for a flannel board! (Note: I had way too much fun making this).


Polar bear, looking appropriately bashful.


An assortment of underwear.

Song: “If You’re Happy and You Know It”

Closing Rhyme: “Wave Hi, Wave Low”
The version we use, with the ASL sign for goodbye:

I think it’s time, we’ve got to go,
So wave your elbows, wave your toes!
Wave your knees, wave your lips,
Blow me a kiss with your fingertips!
Wave your ears, wave your hair,
Wave your hips and your derriere.
Wave your fingers way up high,
Wave a hand and say goodbye!

Wrapping Up: I had too many books planned for this unit, which meant we never got around to We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. I’d still like to use this in a storytime and build a scavenger hunt around it, especially since we have a copy with sound effects in our collection.

The books we did use, though, were great. Lately I’ve been using a lot of flannel sets and/or visual elements to supplement our stories, and it’s really brought them to life. The kids love “interacting” with the book rather than just listening to the story. And now when I look for new books to incorporate, I’m often looking for ones that can be “acted out.” I guess what I’m trying to say is, I finally understand the librarian’s divine worship of flannel boards. A few of the parents have noticed too, and told me today how much they like the new format. Looks like we’ll have to keep doing it!

All in all, a great session with plenty of energy and enthusiasm. Plus, I got invited to a party! A birthday party, for my storytime assistant. A Power Ranger birthday party. It’s one of the coolest things that’s happened to me as a librarian.


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