Storytimes: To Theme or Not To Theme

There are so many lovely blogs and Pinterest boards about themed storytimes, complete with books, fingerplays that fit the theme, a freshly made flannel story, and of course a craft.

If that’s your style as a storytime provider, more power to you! But it isn’t mine, and as I’ve settled into my personal style doing storytime, I find myself letting go of this expectation that I should have a perfect coherent theme. In fact, I’ve been seeing a lot of advantages to NOT having a theme.


We all know that little kids benefit from repetition! Freeing myself from themes makes it easier for me to repeat the same song for several weeks in a row. For instance, I did “The Beanbag” three weeks running so that the tots could have a chance to improve and practice.

Avoiding the Blank Stare

You can find adorable themed action rhymes and fingerplays for all kinds of fingerplays. Two Little Penguins. I’m a Little Robot, to the tune of I’m a Little Teapot. If those work for you, great! Enjoy!

But when I’ve tried these, I get blank stares. The parents aren’t participating. The kids aren’t participating. We slip into a reality in which I am a performer and they are the audience. I get the best involvement from songs and rhymes that parents are likely to have heard before. The Itsy Bitsy Spider seems to give them confidence. I have also been successful teaching easy rhymes like Zoom Zoom Zoom, We’re Going to the Moon. There is a quick payoff (blastoff!) and it’s easy to learn. But again, it takes repetition to learn.

Instead: Loose Connections

For me, it works better to make looser connections between the elements in my storytime. It could be a feeling, like being brave; an activity, like searching; a concept, like colors or counting; or pretty much anything. (“That was a silly book! Let’s do a silly song!”)

I generally choose 2 books that have a loose connection with each other, like a nonfiction book about tractors paired with Spots, Feathers, and Curly Tails by Nancy Tafuri (both on a farm) and then fill in some familiar songs and rhymes and a flannel or glove story that I could sell as being connected.

Spots Feathers and Curly Tails by Nancy Tafuri

Machines at Work: Tractors, Bullfrog Books

What’s your storytime style? Do you create Pinterest-worthy themes, loose themes or no themes? Let’s talk about it on our Facebook page.

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