This past week, I met with one of my regular moms groups that brings in their young children (about 1-4 years old) for a story time. In these special story times, it can sometimes be a struggle to keep kids engaged for longer than five minutes, especially because of the relatively wide age range. I've found that simple--seemingly too simple, sometimes--programming is what does the trick. Pick a theme with which the children will have at least a basic familiarity, find two or three stories (on the shorter side!) to read, and mix things up with a rhyme/fingerplay and a participation activity. Last week I went with that yummy topic that is familiar to pretty much any American household: pizza!
I read two great, young child-friendly books during the story time: Monica Wellington's Pizza at Sally's and Virginia Walter's Hi, Pizza Man! Wellington's book gives a good nonfiction-style introduction to how pizza is made, while Walter's book is a bit goofy and invites audience response (what would you say if a kitty showed up at your door to deliver your pizza? "Meow meow, Pizza Kitty!" of course!). I separated the two stories with a rhyming fingerplay in which we used our imaginations to make pizzas, and I ended with a color matching game to reinforce color knowledge. Then to the craft: a simple piece of white card stock on which there was an empty slice of pizza, ready for the kids to color or paste their favorite pizza toppings. So simple, using no special supplies, and they loved it! And of course, we ended with the bubble machine--I shall never again underestimate the power of a bubble machine to thrill preschoolers.