Ask a Storytime Ninja: Transitions

This post will be a little longer than usual, because I wanted to be sure to include all the amazing responses from the Ninjas. They had 24 hours to answer this question and, boy, did they come through! Thank You, Ninjas!

Don’t forget to add your thoughts in the comments!

Just me wondering if a bear would be any more successful with getting props back.

Just me wondering if a bear would be any more successful with getting props back.

I use lots of manipulatives in my storytime for twos, and I have a question about transitioning between activities that use them. What are some strategies for handing out and then re-collecting these items without causing too much fuss? Some of the issues I’ve encountered include kids fighting over who gets items first, caregivers letting kids play with the items during stories, and kids reluctant to give up the items to move on to another activity.


Kim (@librarylady2u) says: I try to be really upbeat to each child as they give back their manipulatives. For young toddlers, I will say, “Say bye-bye, shaker!” (for shaky eggs) and tack on a “yay!” when they nicely give it back. For twos, I will make sure to smile and say, “Good job, (insert child’s name)!” or “Thank you, (insert child’s name)!” If the child is absolutely refusing to give back their manipulative or is on the verge of a breakdown, I just quietly move on to the next thing and collect it at the end of storytime. This seems to work pretty well for me.

Sara (@PLSanders) says: Something that I heard worked at a workshop last year (presented by Leslie Petersen) is a game called “BOOM! CRASH!” to collect them: Keep your manipulatives in a big bin, and invite the kids to throw the manipulatives in, while dramatically shouting “BOOM! CRASH!” This makes putting the manipulatives away part of the fun.

One suggestion I personally have is to cut the number of manipulatives you’re using in storytime in half each week. Not only will this make their use “special”, but it will also help you not feel too harried when the transition goes on too long and eats into storytime. Cognitively, two years are just starting to grasp the concept of time, and may linger on new experiences longer than older children or younger children because they’re starting to really think about what’s happening.

If not, use their developing brains to your advantage: turn passing out and collecting manipulatives into a counting song or a sorting activity with colors. This will make the task fun for them while keeping you sane!

Abby (@abbylibrarian) says: For my baby storytime (under 2’s), I encourage families to sit in a rough circle and when I pass things out, I’ll just go along the circle. I let them choose an item (bells, scarf, whatever we’re using), but the little guys aren’t as particular. For older kids who might spend too much time over choosing or argue with other kids, I’ve found it’s more effective to just hand them out and “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit”. I pass out materials right before we’re going to use them for an activity and then collect them up when we’re done with that activity before moving on to something else. If I occasionally have a kid who won’t give theirs up, I leave it and usually they get distracted when we move on to something else. When I collect the items, I go around the circle again with my basket or bag and sing a little song: “Bells away, bells away, put your bells away today”. The song comes from Betsy Diamant-Cohen’s Mother Goose on the Loose CD. Another song that might help (and lots of toddlers are familiar with) is the Barney clean-up song: “Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere! Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share!” We also use a very structured format for the babies and for the toddlers, so the kids really know the routine and that helps the transitions go smoothly.

Kirby (@kirby_mcc) says: I use the “swap” technique. As in exchange the prop/manipulative currently in your hand with this new book/item. When we are all finished with our books or manipulative I invite everyone to help me clean up by returning the item to me. It takes a little while but they learn the routine and its a nice way to make eye contact with each child.  I also immediately play a song after the last item is returned, typically a “Clap Your Hands” kind of song.

Kim (@LibrarianMarian) says: I do have a passing out items song:
(Tune: Farmer and the Dell)
I’m passing out the Shakers,
I’m passing out the Shakers,
Hi-ho, the dairy-oh, I’m passing out the shakers.
I’m collecting all the shakers,
I’m collecting all the shakers,
Hi-ho, the dairy-oh, I’m collecting all the shakers)

I’ll sing that the whole time I’m passing out the item and even the most reluctant of kids and parents usually get the point (if only to stop me from singing).

Not sure how to deal with having a lot of manipulatives in planning. I know in my 2 story time that we always do the fingerplays and songs that would be best on a lap in the beginning, because by the end of the 1st story they are usually off their parents lap. Towards the end, I save the big hit songs that they all love: Itsy Bitsy Spider and Wheels on the Bus. Wheels on the Bus is a great transition, because no matter how antsy they are, they won’t be able to resist the siren call of the Bus, and then you’ll have their attention again.

Anne (@sotomorrow) says: This is maybe going to sound ridiculous, but the method of collecting props (say, scarves) that I have had the best luck with in my 2 and 3 year old storytimes is having a giant pile of them on the floor. I throw mine on the floor and then the kids follow suit. This is actually how I hand them out too–a big pile on the floor and the kids pick through to find the color they want. I’ve had weirdly good luck with this. The kids can easily see what is in the pile to begin with, what’s left after a minute, and watch each other take/put back scarves.

Kendra (@klmpeace) says: What has worked for me with the twos class: use only one manipulative per storytime (just bells, for example, instead of bells and scarves) and if a child won’t give theirs up, I say to the parent as I’m going around collecting, “Take your time. You can bring it up to the front when he’s ready to let go.”  This has worked really well for me because the parent knows I’d like it back (if it’s a shaker-I actually don’t collect the scarves since they are silent, but a toddler usually collects them for me anyway).

Learn about Ask a Storytime Ninja and ways to participate here.

About Kendra

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

Posted on March 4, 2014, in Ask a Storytime Ninja. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I picked up another rhyme that the kids know from local preschools: “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.” It works well, too!

  2. I’m looking forward to trying these creative fun ideas! Thank you!

  3. Do you have any big canvas book bins you can use.? I always borrow one from circ and cover it up with a table cloth until I’m ready to pass out shakers, drums, puppets etc. I also do toddler storytimes. It’s deep enough to discourage grasping hands and I just ask the kids to throw them in the bin when they are done. I also always promise to bring them out after storytime.

  4. I like to sing ABCs while I pass out and pick up items. For Toddler Time storytimes I usually only have one item that we use at the very end so I plan to let them hold on to it and have the choice to put it away or keep it during the post-storytime play time. For babytime storytimes I pass out multiple copy books to the group and like to switch with a scarf when we finish reading to avoid crying babies. I have had a lot more tears putting toys away after play time compared to handing back items during storytime.

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