Like previous Science Storytimes (Colors, Dinosaurs, Water, and Magnets), this was limited to 18 children ages 3 to 5, and they were required to have an adult with them. It was 45 minutes (our usual storytimes are 30).
Opening Song: “I Am Here & You Are Here” by Peter & Ellen Allard (on Sing It! Say It! Stamp It! Sway It! Vol. 3) Focus on actions that make noise, like clapping, stomping, etc.
Story: This Old Band by Tamera Wissinger. This is a book to sing to the tune of “This Old Man,” plus it’s about a band playing funky instruments with interesting noises. Perfect! The kids enjoyed trying to identify the instruments on each page. The glory of a singing book is that even when they got pretty animated discussing the pictures, they settled down quickly when I started singing. [I also considered using Squeak, Rumble, Womp! Womp! Womp! by Wynton Marsalis or The Croaky Pokey by Ethan Long, which I like to sing using a blower for the tongues.]
Song: “I Know a Chicken” by Laurie Berkner on Whaddaya Think of That? I told the kids they would get to play an instrument and passed out shaker eggs. We sang and played our shakey eggs along with the CD. Several of the kids knew the song already, which helped.
After I collected the eggs, I told the kids that there was another instrument they’d all used today – their voices. I had them hold their fingers over their throats while we made different kinds of sounds so they could feel the vibrations. I brought one little one up to help demo with the guitar how the noise stops when the strings stop vibrating, and also how the larger strings make a lower sound than the thinner strings. They got really into this discussion and had some great questions; we spent longer on this than I thought we would. I considered a few additional group activities – clapping out patterns, singing “Shake It High” with shakers, making a “mystery” sound and having them guess what it was, having them close their eyes and identify which direction a sound is coming from – but the storytime plus discussion had already gone 20 minutes, so I decided to introduce the activities and let them have at it. For some reason, I got really paranoid as we started that there wasn’t enough to do and they would be bored, but it was not at all a problem. Most families stayed between 40 and 50 minutes total and had a great time.
Activity #1 (table): Popsicle stick harmonicas. Made with craft sticks, paper strips, rubber bands, and straws. These were a little bit tricky to assemble and use, but most families got them to work. You definitely feel the vibration that goes along with the sound; it makes my lips twitchy just thinking about it!
Activity #2 (table): Shaker sound match. I made two each of six different shakers — washers, bells, pony beads, rice, macaroni, and lentils — inside clear plastic containers (left from Fun with Math last spring). I covered half of them with paper. The kids tried to match the covered shakers to their uncovered counterparts based on the sounds they make. I considered taping the lids on, but was glad I didn’t – some of the sounds were similar enough that they really wanted to unscrew the lids to see if they got the matches right.
Activity #3 (table): Catalog card castanets w/buttons. Most of the kids didn’t bother with decorating, and went straight to choosing and gluing the buttons. I told them that after they glued the buttons, they should hold them down for long enough to sing the alphabet before trying to use the castanet. This worked pretty well. These castanets were small enough to fit into the kids’ hands and made a lovely, satisfying clacking sound.
Activity #4 (carpet): Instrument petting zoo. I put out a variety of instruments to explore – rhythm sticks, triangles, guiro tone block, tambourines, finger cymbals, cymbals… I also included a pile of cardboard tubes of different lengths to talk through, from toilet paper to wrapping paper size. (I did warn them not to use these if anyone in their house is sick; it’s already been a miserable flu/stomach flu season.) We have an autoharp that never gets used and is probably terribly out of tune, but the kids loved playing with it. I put it up on the bench and told them they had to use it carefully with an adult, and with one exception, they were generally good at taking turns and treating it gently.
I don’t think we needed anything else. The harmonicas took a while to make, and the kids spent a nice long time exploring all the different instruments. I also considered doing paper plate shakers w/ribbons and Abby the Librarian‘s container sounds.