Ask a Storytime Ninja: Siblings in Storytime

These questions were asked on the alsc-l listserv so you can see more answers there, but we wanted to see what the Ninjas had to say. They did a great job!

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1.       How does one politely and positively phrase that siblings and storytimes are not a good mix, developmentally?   We just don’t want to be too blunt and say, “No siblings, please!”

2.       What is your preschool storytime called (if it has a special name besides just “Preschool Storytime”)?


Abby (@abbylibrarian) says:
For #2:

We’re doing Preschool Explorers every week, which will rotate between Storytime, Wee Dance (music & movement program), and Preschool Lab (preschool science). This is for ages 3-5.
We’re also starting Reading Rock Stars, which is a beginning readers’ storytime for ages 4-6.
(And we have Toddler Time for 2-3’s and Mother Goose on the Loose for under-2’s!)

Emily says (@PoesyGalore):
1. If being able to also bring siblings gets a family in the door, that’s more important to me than whether the storytime is entirely age-appropriate for every member. I always make sure to let parents and caregivers know (on a one-on-one basis after storytime), for ex, that we have baby storytimes, and how they are different from family storytimes, and that their babies might get a lot more out of that experience, but baby siblings are absolutely welcome at my family storytime, and older siblings at my baby storytime. If an older sibling shows up to baby storytime, I offer him or her a puppet to use as a “baby” to do the bounces with–and on occasion, I’ve had one 3-yr-old sibling who liked to pretend to be “my baby”. Fine with me! In summary: make sure everyone knows the “ideal” options developmentally, but also realize that many families can’t attend every offering schedule-wise, and that it may be all or nothing for them.

Lisa (@lmulvenna) says:
We have a couple of tricks that we use here so we get just the kids in the age group for the program.  First of all, we register for all of our story times.  The child must fit between the age guidelines in order to attend (and we don’t budge on that).  While we have some people who fudge the ages, by the second time they register, we have normally caught on.  All of the kids who register get a nametag.  While this is great for early literacy skills, this is good for the leader so I can easily identify those kids who should be in the program.  We have a story time carpet and all the participants sit on the carpet.  We announce at the beginning of the program that while siblings are allowed in the program room, only the kids who are registered for the program should be on the carpet.  These are the kids who get the shakers, scarves, and other props.  When parents ask, we don’t explain it as a sibling issue, but rather a size one.    After all, if you are in a 2 year old program with dancing and movement, you don’t want a 5 year old right next to them in a crowded room.  That is when kids fall down and get hurt.We have a lot of 4 and 5 children families coming so it is unrealistic for us to tell the parents that they can only bring one child to the library.  As long as the child is on the parent’s lap or next to them, we don’t complain.  They can even dance next to the parent.  If I happen to have extra shakers and enough for all of the siblings, I will pass them out, but I will bring them around to the kids.  We also explain that we run story time sessions and programs all year long for a variety of ages.  If your child is not old enough yet, they will be soon and will get to participate in the fun.

Brooke (@berasche) says:
I had a similar problem with my baby storytime. I would have older siblings who would come and almost ruin the storytime because they were distracted, wanted to tell the babies what to do, request songs in the middle of books, etc. It got to the point that I was dreading going to storytime. To help with the problem we started saying this during registration:“This storytime is designed for 10-23 months old and is specifically for this age only. Older siblings will likely be bored with the content since it is designed for such a young age. We really want our babies to have a valuable experience at this storytime, and so we ask that you make alternative arrangements for the older siblings. We do invite you to attend our Family storytimes at where content for multiple ages is provided”

It really worked for us. I had a lot of the same parents as the first session, but without the siblings the group was wonderful. Once parents came the first week and had a sibling-free storytime they realized what a difference it made and respected the rule. Good luck!

Sue (@suelibchick) says:
1.      We do not, at our branch, discourage siblings.  However, in the summertime, we know older siblings will come and want to shout out everything, so we politely deal with that when it comes up. I might say “Oh you answered the last one so well – is there a preschooler who knows?”  They get the concept of taking turns so I might say that it is someone else’s turn.  For a younger sibling, I try to pre-warn the parents.  Early in the school year when older siblings go back to school, or I notice an influx of new parents, I might mention that this is preschool story time, and while everyone is welcome, all of our songs, books, and activities are for the 3-6 year old to learn how to get ready for school.  If the little one is uncomfortable or having a bad day, it’s OK for mom to step out for a few minutes and the preschool child will be fine.Another thing we do at our branch is take notice of the ages of children coming.   If we notice a child is having bad experiences in preschool story time for example, we might offer toddler story time to them, saying that the age ranges are just a suggestion and not a hard rule, and perhaps their child might be happier in a shorter storytime.  Of course we have parent who want their 2 year old in preschool story time because their child is ‘ready’…we cant do much about those parents.

Kirby (@kirby_mcc) says:
This happened last week and I said to the older sibling with the mom in hearing distance “You will probably be pretty bored” and then told her what we do. She went out to play on a computer. Another way around this is to get the older siblings involved if it is a particular young group and the parent or guardian doesn’t want their children alone in the library. For example, with my Toddlers there are two school age cousins who come with the aunt and her toddler. Because I know the aunt wants them close by, I let them know at the beggining I could use their help with collecting the board books and props so they feel involved a little. I also tell them I will give them a signal when reading when they have to be patient, and I will then give a little wink when I ask “What’s this animal” as in I know you know the animal but let the little ones scream it out.

Leona (@layleevj)1. I usually warn parents that their younger/older siblings may be bored as the storytime will be over/under their developmental abilities/attention span.  I ask them to keep this in mind and maybe sit nearer the door in case they have to leave.
2. Our storytimes have boring names… Lapsit, Toddler Time, and Preschool Storytime. So basically, I am no help on this question. Sorry!


Erin (@fallingflannel) says:

I’m a tad late for this one, but I literally just stumbled upon this blog post (from the authors of Storytime Magic and Kindergarten Magic) about Five Reasons to Welcome Older Siblings in Your Baby and Toddler Storytimes. I know that this is the exact opposite of what the original question wants, but the article has some good tips for dealing with older siblings in younger storytimes.

About Kendra

Children's Librarian in the Northwest. Lover of toddlers, twitter, and TV (T's, too, apparently!).

Posted on July 30, 2013, in Ask a Storytime Ninja. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I’m a tad late for this one, but I literally just stumbled upon this blog post (from the authors of Storytime Magic and Kindergarten Magic) about Five Reasons to Welcome Older Siblings in Your Baby and Toddler Storytimes. I know that this is the exact opposite of what the original question wants, but the article has some good tips for dealing with older siblings in younger storytimes.

  2. Thanks for adding this! I’m going to stick it up in the body of the post right now. Also, it is NEVER too late. 🙂

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