I Sing These Songs to Toddlers Sometimes

Toddler Time is my favorite class. It also drives me the most bonkers and makes me the most tired. I’ve been doing this class for a very long time. I’ve only been a legit librarian for 4-ish years (jeez, it feels so much longer), but I used to do very similar programs when I was a daycare provider, a Mommy and Me instructor, and as a nanny (I did circle times for the children I took care of. It gave structure to my days). I won’t say that this experience has helped me perfect my Toddler Time, as nothing about 30 some-odd 2 year olds running around a library is ever, ever perfect. I will say that my years doing this program has given me a lot of time to think about how I run my class and what kinds of things I want to impart to parents, caregivers, and children.

So, I thought I’d share the kinds of songs I usually sing. I hope you’ll share your favorite songs and chants in the comments.

♥ The ABC Stop song, which I learned from a band called the Z Brothers (they have like zero Youtube videos and their website is a hot mess). I first sing the ABCs the standard way, but the second time around, I ask the kids to play the ABC Stop game. It’s just a silly way to get the kids to sing their ABCs two times instead of one. Plus, all the yelling makes them giggle. I do it the same way every time:


STOP! (holding palms facing out in front of you)


STOP! (holding palms facing out in front of you)


STOP! (holding palms facing out in front of you)

W X Y and Z

STOP! (holding palms facing out in front of you)

Now I know my ABCs, next time won’t you sing with me?

STOP! (Extra loud, flail your arms like a maniac)

It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a real crowd pleaser. Kids just like to yell. The Z Brothers also have a song about sneezing, which you can see part of here (Oy, I used to have such a crush on the puffy-haired guy). I use the song to teach kids the proper way to sneeze. I’m sorry I can’t post more of their songs, but I highly recommend their CD, as I’ve used a bunch of the Z Brothers tunes over the years.

♥ What children’s librarian doesn’t rip off Laurie Berkner? If you aren’t stealing her songs, I assume you’re totally new to librarianship or totally weird. In any case, here are some songs of hers I like to use at Toddler Time:

I don’t have the children do upside down hands for their glasses, because that’s kind of complicated. I show them how to do it right-side up with index fingers touching their thumbs. I give high fives to kids who wear actual glasses, because that’s how Miss Ingrid rolls.

I Know a Chicken is a great and silly call-and-response song. I usually pair this song with shakers, because that makes sense, right?

♥  Everyone seems to do Five Little Peas differently. This is how I do it:

Five little peas (waggle five fingers)

in a pea pod pressed (make a fist)

One grew (hold up one finger), two grew (two fingers) and so did all the rest (waggle the remaining fingers)

They grew (spreading hands apart)…..and they grew (more) and they did not stop

They grew so big (stretch hands out very wide) that the pea pod popped (clap hands together)

♥ Most people call this chant Tommy Thumbs, but my ex-boss was named Tom and that just seemed weird. So I call it Timmy Thumbs, because Miss Ingrid is in charge. Also, my boyfriend is named Tim, so this whole thing just got really uncomfortable for all of us.

I usually ask to have the parents help their children find their thumbs, because this is tricky for lots of the toddlers. They usually just end up waving their index fingers at me unless someone assists them.

Timmy Thumbs up (Thumbs up) and Timmy Thumbs down (Thumbs down)
Timmy Thumbs dancing all over town (kind of jerk your thumbs around Elaine Benes style)
He dances on your shoulders (thumbs on shoulders), he dances on your head (thumbs on head)
He dances on your tummy (thumbs on your stomach) and then you tuck him into bed (tuck your tumbs into your fingers)

Then I ask the kids if we should do the song again. I let them know that we can’t sing it because Timmy Thumbs fell asleep. What a jerk. I make some snoring sounds and tell the kids that, on the count of three, we’ll all scream “WAKE UP, TIMMY THUMBS!” You scream, bop your thumbs back out, and sing the song again.

♥ Squiggly Fish is one of my all-time favorites. It makes the toddlers so happy and silly. This guy sings it word for word like I do. I sing it a bit slower, though, and I make my “OH NO!” shout much more dramatic. Imagine lots of flailing and swooning.

♥ Before I read any story, I sing a song to the tune of If You’re Happy and You Know It. This song gets progressively quieter, so by the time the story starts, I’ve mellowed them out a bit:

If you want to hear a story clap your hands (2 times)

If you want to hear a story, if you want to hear a story, if you want to hear a story clap your hands.

If you want to hear a story…

Stomp your feet

…Tickle your tummy (even if they tickle their own bellies, they start laughing)

If you want to be a fishy go like this (I know. It makes no sense, but they love it and it gets them quiet)

And then, finally, and extra quiet:

If you want to hear a story go like this, SHHHH!

I sing the whole song before the first story I read, but I only do the shushing part for each following story.


I’ve tried a couple of new things lately, like this, this pea soup song, and this, but I am eagerly awaiting your favorite songs and old standbys.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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7 thoughts on “I Sing These Songs to Toddlers Sometimes

  1. I wish my toddler could take part in Miss Ingrid’s toddler time! He recently learned a song about green and speckled frogs (we usually do 3 but I think it’s supposed to be 5). They sit on a hollow log eating the most delicious bugs, yum!

  2. Kristen N

    I just emailed my husband because he’s the one who goes every week. He doesn’t know titles but these are the first lines. It’s for 18 months to 3 years. The alligator one is our 2-year old’s favorite. He likes the chomping arm motions.

    Peanut sat on a railroad track

    Five little monkeys sitting in a tree teasing mister alligator “can’t catch me!”

    All the lions are sleeping (jump lions jump lions lions lions jump)

    Let’s go swimming, let’s go swimming, in the bottom of the ocean

    If all the raindrops were gummi bears and gumdrops, oh what a rain that would be

  3. Pingback: We'll Link to That: Winter 2013 | Jbrary

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