Prop songs are so dynamic that I had to break this topic down into TWO POSTS: Part #1: Individual Props (find that post here) and Part #2: Group Props.

To recap: My #1 tip for increasing engagement in storytime is to use PROP SONGS. A prop is an object that a child can manipulate. Music and movement props encourage movement by giving children something concrete to use as they move to music, which increases engagement and confidence. 

While props are always a hit with children, sometimes librarians and teachers get a little overwhelmed when it comes to figuring out how exactly to use them (especially if they have large groups). Big props like parachutes and stretchy bands can be especially intimidating to new users - but never fear! There are many approaches you can take to make this process go smoothly!

Here are my tips for using group props in storytime:

 

  1. To take out parachutes and stretchy bands, I have the children stay in their spots (we sit in a circle) while I sing a song and unfold the parachute or band. The song I sing requires them to do something with their hands, so that they are using their hands for the song and not grabbing the parachute. Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes is a great rhyme for this!
  2. You can always start with a stretchy band. While parachutes can present more challenges because children like to climb on and under them, stretchy bands do not pose this problem. You may want to begin with a stretchy band and work up to a parachute. 
  3. Encourage parents to hold onto the parachute or stretchy band as well as the children (mostly because it’s fun for them too!) For children up to 36 months who are new to the chute, you can have them sit in their caregivers lap while the caregiver helps them hold the parachute. You’ll want to select songs that don’t require going from sitting to standing (there are plenty!) When they get comfortable with that, you can begin to try songs in which they are standing, then eventually when you feel the children are ready, you can have the parents take a back seat and simply sit or stand behind their child.
  4. Use a calming transition song or rhyme to collect the parachute or stretchy band.

Parachute

One Two Three Whee! By Eric Litwin & Michael Levine

This is my go-to parachute song! You lift the parachute on the “whee”, then you jump, shake, and go back to “whee.” If you use puppets for a story, it’s fun to throw the puppets in during the middle section and have them go for a little ride. 

Fast and Slow (The Rabbit And The Turtle) by Laurie Berkner

A perfect, simple song for shaking fast and slow! I love that LB incorporates an Irish Reel! 

My Parachute by Dancing Bears Music

Slightly more challenging, this song is great for groups who have some experience with specific parachute movements: up and down, big beats, tiny beats, walking around, quiet beats, and the ability to stop on cue. 

A Dancing Tree by Caspar Babypants

I love to use this fantastic song with a parachute! We all stand up and the parachute represents the canopy of the tree. Shake on (shake the chute), stomp on (stomp your feet), wave on (big waves), sway on (sway side to side.)

Stretchy Band

Row Row by Charlie Hope

Charlie Hope’s dreamy version of this traditional song is a great place to start when introducing the “rolling” movement with the stretchy band. The movement is very much like a rowing motion (or at least it reminds me of the rowing machine at my gym.) You can pretend to sit in your big boat and row away!

Moving in Place by Mr. Gym

Learning to move in place is a great skill to build with a stretchy band! This song is perfect for learning to move in your own space: jump, walk, run, hop, stretch, move any way you want, and finally sit in place! 

Bicycle by Laurie Berkner

This song plays with tempo in such a delightful way! Ride your bicycle (seated, rolling the band in a forward motion away from the body) scooter (seated, rolling the band in a backward motion toward the body) walk (stand up and march in place and shake the band, or if the group is advanced walk in a circle.)

Chugga Chugga Choo Choo by Stephanie Leavell 

This is a lovely tune by Stephanie Leavell, and it is very customizable to your group’s abilities. Jump, dance, spin, stomp, swim, wiggle, stretch, and yawn along the track either in place or moving in a circle. (If you are doing it in place, you can roll the band for the “spin” part. For the “swim” part I like to have us lift it above our heads as if we are under water and hold our breath.)