Ask a Storytime Ninja: Getting Parents Moving
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This week’s question:
What are good ways to get adults up and moving with children in story time during the movement activities? And do you ask adults to sit with their children? I know that would help but the tradition here is that kids sit in front close to me and adults hang in the back, sitting on chairs. I feel like I would dynamite to change this arrangement.
Answers from this month’s featured ninjas:
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GUILT THEM INTO IT. No I’m kidding, kind of. If you get one or two parents into it then usually I’ve found that others will follow, especially if you say something like “(child’s name) I love how your mommy/daddy is dancing with you!” As for the chairs I would really just take them away. As long as they are there the parents will be sitting on them (and often when I’ve had this arrangement the kids go sit on them as well). If you really aren’t comfortable with that than I would kindly ask them to come sit closer with their child and add in some early literacy tip like, “when you child sees you enjoying the stories and interacting in storytime it makes him or her also excited about it”
Melissa Depper from Mel’s Desk shared this great message that she gives to parents before starting her first book of storytime:
“Grown-ups, we know that children watch what we watch, so please put away your cell phones and save your conversations until after storytime. Let’s all do storytime together! This will help our children be successful and to have fun. All right, here’s our first story…”
Parent participation is something we’re still working on, too. A few things that might help: posting the words to songs and rhymes so that everyone can see them and sing/say along, including grownups when you pass out props like bells, shakers, etc., including songs and rhymes that are familiar to most people (this is something we pop in sometimes if parents are becoming distracted or chatty). Another thing I have heard other librarians do is tell the children to go get their grownup for the next activity. Grownups might be more likely to play along if their child is asking them to! We typically have kids sitting on the carpet and some parents with them and some parents in the chairs, but at my previous library we only set out maybe 1 or 2 chairs to accommodate folks that found sitting on the floor to be physically difficult.
Usually when I start an action rhyme or song, I say “everybody on your feet” or “everybody, let’s get our rocking arms going” or something similar. If the adults aren’t participating I usually say light heartedly “everybody includes the grown-ups, too! Where else can you get away with being this silly?” That usually gets the kids to give their adults the side-eye until they start participating. If it’s an ongoing issue, I’ll work something into my welcome spiel along the lines of “today we’ll listen to stories, sing some songs, and move our bodies. Can everybody do my a favor and listen well when we’re listening and sing loudly when we’re singing and do all the actions when it’s moving time? Grown-ups, can you do me a favor and do the same because a little backup never hurts and makes my job A LOT easier.” I’ve found that wording it that I need help works really well.
I have a few different ideas for you that can be used all together, or whichever ones you feel may work with your families. To get the parents up and moving, I would suggest using some storytime instruments for a few weeks. Try using scarves, rhythm sticks, whatever you have for at least one song during storytime and make sure to hand one to each adult as well. Hopefully, the adults will get the hint that it would be appreciated if they do their movements. If you don’t have enough to go around, William Janiak has a fantastic song on “Songs About Me” called A Piece of Paper. All you need is paper!
Of course, that may not be enough or work for you. Another idea is to address the adults when talking about the actions you’ll be doing. For example, if you’re going to clap your hands, ask the group to clap their hands above their heads and “Goodness, look how high your grownups can clap your hands! Moms and Dads, can you clap your hands above your heads?”
As for sitting with their children, I would just be really direct and tell everyone your reasons for wanting them to sit with their kids (modeling storytime behavior or what have you). The next thing that I would do is cut back on the number of chairs that are out, if possible.