What is Art for Early Literacy

Art for Early Literacy is the name of my public library program designed for preschool children, ages 0 – 5. The program teaches early literacy fundamentals using art as its primary focus. The Art for Early Literacy program is designed to impart early literacy skills, introduce children to art concepts and give children of multiple age an interest levels a chance to explore at their own pace. This weekly program is quite popular and regularly draws a crowd of 30 – 60 children and caregivers.

Key components of my program:

  • A short story time encouraging children and caregivers to come together as a group.
  • Stations that allow me to scale up or down depending on the number of participants and are appropriate for children between the ages of 0 and 5.
  • Non-objective art activities that allow children to explore materials and techniques and learn through trial and error.
  • An environment that encourages children to collaborate, share and explore at their own interest and ability level.
  • Art stations that provide a feeling of continuity while allowing children a variety of explorations as materials are rotated.

The program is designed as a short story-time, approximately fifteen minutes long, followed by an open exploration of our multiple art stations to round out the rest of the hour. My mini-storytime is designed to be appropriate for multiple age groups. We discuss our letter of the week, read two books, sing a few songs, work on a flannel activity or finger play and practice spelling a few words. Storytime is where I introduce new art concepts. It is also where I review the rules for art class and explain the structure of the program to new participants. At the end of story time, I make sure that every family has a ticket which will tell them their starting art station. Then I demonstrate our featured art project and let the children loose to make art.

Currently I provide six to eight different activities which are roughly divided into five stations. At arrival, families are given tickets that indicate their initial station. It is the parents’ job to interest their children in the initial activity. When the child is ready to move on, the parent then looks for an open spot at another station and moves the child in the appropriate direction. I have found that the tickets prevent the attendees from bunching up around the featured art station. The five station categories are: featured project, scribbles, play-dough, needlework and manipulatives.

The featured art project rotates every week. This is also the only project that they get to take home. The rest of the stations feature materials that are changed biweekly or monthly. This allows children the chance to gain mastery and revisit skills. However after a few weeks, we change the way children are interacting with the material so they can expand their horizons and look at the materials in a new light. For more information on my stations, I invite you to read my blog posts: storytimes, featured art project, scribble station, playdough, sewing, manipulatives.

Five minutes before the scheduled end of the program, I sing a “clean-up” song and everyone helps put the materials away and clean up the mess. I have been told that clean-up-time is a favorite among many of the children and they certainly are enthusiastic helpers.

Dirt and Dip, an Art Storytime


Dirt Boy by Erik Jon Slangerup Illustrated by John Manders
Compost Stew: An A to Z recipe for the Earth by Mary McKenna Siddals Illustrated by Ashley Wolff

Continuing our summer reading theme, “Dig into Reading,” this week we talked about DIRT. To begin with, we talked about digging in the dirt. Some of the children really enjoyed it; some did not like the feeling of dirt. Then we read our first story, Dirt Boy, which is the story of a child who loves being dirty and hates taking a bath so much that he runs away before bathtime one day. Out in the woods, he spends time with Dirt Man the Giant. This story was excellent for a beginner storyteller such as myself as it had only a few characters. But the story, although long, was quite engaging for my large group.

Our second story this week was Compost Tea. This story is an alphabet book with a rhyming laundry list of additions for your compost pile. If I were to read this story again, I’d begin with a better explanation of composting and making dirt. This story really didn’t resonate with my children, but I think that was my fault for not explaining better. The illustrations in this story are gorgeous collage and I recommend taking a look at this book for that reason if no other.


These flannel mushrooms were introduced at the end of my storytime. Since these were developed as a small group game for the children, I provided a general introduction to the pieces and talked to them about playing a matching game. In upcoming weeks, I will be showing individuals new ways to play with the mushrooms (if they don’t come up with the games on their own). For more information about my matching mushrooms, including how I made them and various games to play with them, see my Flannel Friday post here.

Action Rhyme:

My supporting activity this week was a song. As we sang the following song (to the tune of If You’re Happy and You Know It) the children pretended to be making a mud pie between their hands. Then at the appropriate point in the song, they would wipe their mud on the particular body part.

I Wish I Was a Little Hunk of Mud (tune of “If You’re Happy & You Know It”)

Oh, I wish I was a little hunk of mud
Oh, I wish I was a little hunk of mud
Then I’d oooeey and I’d goooeey over everybody’s shoooee
Oh, I wish I was a little hunk of mud.

Then I’d splish and I’d splat over everybody’s pants
Then I’d wiggle and I’d jiggle till I covered up your middle.
Then I’d spread and I’d spread until I covered up your head.

Art Station:

Our art word this week was DIP. First we talked about some things we might dip, like brushes or sticks or fingers or string. Then we talked about a few things we might dip into, like paint or water or mud. Finally I introduced our project for the week. I created some flannel “worms” which we would dip into some diluted tempera paint. The “worms” were two and a half inch flannel squiggle shapes that were hole punched and had six inches of yarn attached for a handle. The children had an excellent time wiggling their worms across their papers.

Featured art station set up:

  • Flannel worms
  • Diluted tempera paint
  • Paper

Roots and Rare, an Art Storytime


What Do Roots Do? by Kathleen Kudlinski
Up, Down, and Around by Katherine Ayres

Our summertime reading theme, “Dig into Reading” continued this week with our storytime about SEEDS. We began by reading the very factual book, What Do Roots Do? I chose this book because it was specifically about roots and has lots of good factual information at a level that was very accessible for younger people. It also rhymed in a way that was not painful. The book was pretty long so I did have to shorten it for my audience. The kids enjoyed looking at the pictures of the different types of roots… especially the root vegetables.

Our second book this week was an audience participation story, Up, Down and Around. This story was a great opportunity to talk about the different ways that plants grow. But really, this story was a great way to get the kids up and moving around. The book follows the formula of the title the whole way through, so I had the children stand up whenever I said up, sit down whenever I said down and stand up, turn around once and sit back down whenever I said around. I’m not sure how much they actually listened to the story, but we all had fun with the activity.

Action Rhyme:

My supporting activity this week was a fingerplay about seeds and planting. The kids enjoyed it so much, they asked for a repeat.

5 Little Seeds

5 Little seeds in the deep, dark ground, (Hold up 5 fingers)
sleeping and waiting, not making a sound.(finger to lips)
Along came an ant, across the garden floor, (wiggle fingers like ant crawling)
He carried off one seed, and then there were four. (crawl fingers over to take away one)

4 Little seeds in the deep, dark ground, (Hold up 4 fingers)
sleeping and waiting, not making a sound. (finger to lips)
Down came a birdie, out of the tree, (flap hands like a bird)
He ate up one seed and then there were three. (“Eat” down one finger with opposite hand)

3 Little seeds in the deep dark ground, (Hold up 3 fingers)
sleeping and waiting, not making a sound. (finger to lips)
Out snuck a cat, as cats often do, (move hands slowly like a cat walking)
He dug up one seed, and then there were two. (Pretend to dig in the ground like a cat)

2 Little seeds in the deep dark ground, (Hold up 2 fingers)
sleeping and waiting, not making a sound. (finger to lips)
Along came some children, out having fun, (point to or tickle children)
They ran through the planted seeds, and then there was one. (Run with fingers)

1 little seed in the deep dark ground, (Hold up 1 finger)
sleeping and waiting, not making a sound. (finger to lips)
Down came the rain, and warm was the sun, (wiggle fingers down for rain, and hold up above head for the sun)
They woke up the little seed, his sprouting had begun! (Close fingers into a fist, then burst open at the word “woke”, and slowly raise hand up for remainder of the line.)

Art Station:

Our art word this week was RARE. We talked about the meaning of the word: unique, there is only one. And then talked about because there is only one of them in the whole world, they are rare and all the artworks they create are unique and rare too.

Then we talked about our featured art station. Since we were talking about roots, I thought it would be appropriate to make art with root vegetables. I gave the children some carrots and some potato stamps and they went to town. They enjoyed the potato stamps as I thought they would, but they enjoyed painting with the carrots much more than I would have suspected.

Potato stamps were created using the following method:

  1. Cut potato in half.
  2. Smash cut side of potato onto a small cookie cutter (embed it about 1/2”)
  3. Cut around the cookie cutter to remove the excess potato.

Featured art station set up:

  • Paper
  • Paint trays with tempera paint
  • Skinny carrots
  • Potato stamps

Seeds and Scribble, an Art Storytime


Growing a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert
One Little Seed by Elaine Greenstein

Our summertime reading theme, “Dig into Reading” began this week with our theme, SEEDS. We began by reading the classic color story, Growing a Rainbow. The kids enjoyed the large colorful illustrations. I love the way the author illustrates real flowers and categorized them by their color.

One Little Seed is a very quick read but does a really excellent job illustrating the planting and growing process. The words and illustrations are very simple, but the idea is potentially complex. This is a story that can easily be expounded upon to give your group of children plenty to discuss… or it can be left just as it is for a baby storytime.

Action Rhyme:

My extension activity this week was a fingerplay. This was a big favorite with my group. Many of the children (including ones that would normally be considered a bit too young) were really interested in working out this fingerplay themselves. I repeated it three times during storytime, and I think I could have repeated it a few more times without any complaints.

This Is My Garden

This is my garden
(place left hand, palm toward sky, in front of you)
I’ll rake it with care
(use first 3 crooked fingers of right hand to “rake” left palm)
Then some flower seeds I’ll plant in there
(with thumb and forefinger “pinchers” touch garden four times to plant seeds)
The sun will shine
(right hand pinchers in air above “garden” twist wrist and open fingers)
The rain will fall
(wiggle fingers of right hand down to garden)
And my garden will grow up straight and tall
(put right hand under left hand “garden” push right hand fingers up through left hand to grow)

Art Station:

Our art word this week was SCRIBBLE. We had a brief discussion about the nature of scribbling. We had a brief discussion about whether we enjoyed scribbling (the jury was 50/50). Then we introduced our project this week. This project gave the children the opportunity to scribble with crayons on a smaller piece of paper. They then had were able to scribble with white school glue on top of their crayon scribble and place a variety of beans and seeds in the glue.
Despite the fact that there were multiple opportunities for this project to go wrong, it worked out very well. The amount of glue used was appropriate to the task (for preschoolers) and seeds were not scattered everywhere across the library. Most importantly, the children really seemed to enjoy the fine motor skills of squeezing the glue bottles and placing the seeds.

Featured art station set up:

  • Paper
  • White school glue (Elmer’s)
  • Crayons
  • A variety of seeds and beans

Turtles (10), Flannel Friday

These turtles were used in my turtle storytime. To learn about how I used them, check out my turtle storytime post.

This turtle flannel was very easy to construct. It was so easy that I gave it to a volunteer to cut and still ended up with an end product that I loved.

It did require the use of an Ellison die cut. To make the shell of the turtle, I had my volunteer use the 4” oval die.

To make the head and feet, I instructed her to use the coins section of a US money die in a contrasting color of felt. The only other thing to be cut was a teeny tiny turtle tail (freehand).

Glue the largest coin into position for the head of the turtle, the rest of the coins are the feet (glue the tail in the appropriate position for the tail.)

To finish my turtles, I also added felt numbers 1-10 and embellished with glitter. My counting pips on the turtles were created by dipping a circular object in glue and then stamping onto the felt (I think I used pencils and markers). Fine glue lines were created with the use of a mylar cone.

I learned to make mylar cones to work with henna. A mylar cone is used similarly to a pastry bag. It helps give a really fine line and lets you press the glue into your felt to prevent the glue from beading up on top of your felt. See how to create a mylar cone here.

Turtles and Triangles, an Art Storytime


Turtle Splash! Countdown at the Pond by Cathryn Falwell
Hurry Up and Slow Down by Layn Marlow

Our theme this week was TURTLES. The first story we read for this storytime was Turtle Splash! Countdown at the Pond by Cathryn Falwell. This was a counting backwards from ten book. This book had rhyming (which I always enjoy) and showed many of the interesting creatures one might run into by a pond.

Our second book this week was Hurry Up and Slow Down by Layn Marlow. Before beginning this story, the children learned the ASL sign for turtle which they were able to repeat as we read. This is the story of Hare, who predictably does everything fast, and Tortoise (Turtle for the purposes of my storytime) who does everything slow except for one thing. Will Tortoise and Hare ever overcome their differences? Find out when you read this book!


I am super-proud of this flannel. It is made entirely of die cut flannel pieces that I could farm out to a volunteer I had that week. The only thing I had to do was embellish with numbers and glitter. They might not be the prettiest turtles ever, but they are still cute and the time saved was awesome.

I put these turtles up on my flannel board before I began reading Turtle Splash! and used these as a prop during the countdown. Normally I do not advocate creating a flannel for a perfectly good book, but the turtles are fairly difficult to count in the book.

For more details about this flannel, please see my Flannel Friday blog post here.

Action Rhyme:

My supporting activity for this storytime was a fingerplay. The kids enjoyed working on their fine motor skills as the turtle poked his head in and out of his shell.

My Turtle


This is my turtle
He lives in a shell
He likes his home very well
He pokes his head out when he wants to eat
And pulls it back when he wants to sleep

Make fist and extend thumb.
Hide thumb.

Extend thumb.
Hide thumb.

Art Station:

Our art word this week was TRIANGLE. We talked about a few triangles we saw in the room and then discussed our featured art project. This week our project was a hybrid collage and paint activity. I’m attempting to introduce the children (gently) to the idea of multi-step art projects. The idea is that they collage their triangles onto their paper first, and then paint on top. Not all of them got it, but then I didn’t expect them to. Their art was still beautiful.

Featured art station set up:

  • Paper
  • Paint
  • Paint Containers
  • Brushes
  • Pre-cut triangles
  • Glue Sticks

Rabbits and Fluff, an Art Storytime


White Rabbit’s Color Book by Alan Baker
Rabbityness by Jo Empson

Continuing our theme of spring, this week we talked about RABBITS. We began by reading White Rabbit’s Color Book. In a similar way to Mouse Paint (Ellen Stoll Walsh), this story reinforces color mixing concepts by having White Rabbit jump into different tubs of paint (and then clean off again). I was really quite impressed that several of the children were able to answer correctly when I asked them, “What will happen when yellow rabbit jumps into the blue paint?” This book is very sweetly illustrated, and I simply love any book that talks about color mixing in a way that children will understand and remember.

Our second story was Rabbityness. As I read, the children were encouraged to make the ASL sign for rabbit every time I read the word. Rabbityness is a book that recently came into our library’s collection. It tells the story of Rabbit, who likes to do rabbity things like jumping and twirling his whiskers. But Rabbit likes to do some very un-rabbity things as well. I love the way that the illustrations add punch to the story. And I love the message of the book as well. It encourages everyone to do the things that truly make them happy and share that happiness with the world.


White Rabbit’s Color Book was shared with the assistance of flannel props. This is one of my all time favorite flannel presentations because if you can manage to do it right, it’s almost like magic. The trick is to have different colors of flannel rabbits hidden in various containers. Then, as you read the story and White Rabbit jumps into the tub of yellow paint, you can drop your white flannel rabbit into your own yellow container and pull out a yellow rabbit. Magic!

I found this idea on the blog Sunflower Storytime. Follow the link for more details on how to make your own magical white rabbit prop.

Counting Rhyme:

My supporting activity this week was a counting rhyme. I used five flannel bunnies I had previously created for a coworker. Since these bunnies were already labeled 1-5, I did not bother with my counting windows this week.

Five Little Bunnies

One little bunny,
Wondering what to do,
Another bunny came along,
Then there were two.

Two little bunnies,
Hopping like me,
Another bunny came along,
Then there were three.

Three little bunnies,
Jumping around outdoors,
Another bunny joined them,
Then there were four.

Four little bunnies,
So fluffy and alive,
Another bunny joined them,
Then there were five.

Five little bunnies,
Ready for some fun,
Hopped away in the
Warm, spring sun.

Art Station:

Our art word this week was RECTANGLE. We talked briefly about some rectangles that we see in storytime. Then we talked about the papers that we habitually paint on (rectangles as well). Then I introduced our featured art project for the week. The children were given some white glue and paint brushes to allow them to glue bits of colorful fluff and rectangles of various dimensions. The fluff was created by dismantling a few of the giant pom poms that have been floating around our back room. They turned out to be an interesting art medium as well as a fun sensory experience.

Featured art station set up:

  • Paper
  • White glue in egg cartons
  • Cheap plastic paint brushes
  • Scrap paper cut to smallish rectangles
  • Giant pom poms cut in half and pulled apart into “fluff”
  • Scissors (for any child wishing to cut her rectangles)

Caterpillars and Copy, an Art Storytime


Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert
Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Our springtime theme was continued this week with CATERPILLARS. We began by reading Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert. As always, the Ehlert illustrations are beautiful and boldly colorful. Thus they are perfect for sharing with a large group of preschoolers. My group especially enjoyed learning that the pictures in the book are based on real caterpillars. They loved the last few pages which showed the caterpillars and their corresponding butterflies.

Our second book was the classic, Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. Before beginning this story, the children learned the signs for “hungry” and “caterpillar.” As we read, they loved repeating the signs. I don’t often enjoy sharing Eric Carle books, but the children very much enjoyed it. They loved talking about all the different fruits.


My flannel this week was a simple butterfly die cut. I had previously made these and dug them out of storage for this storytime.

Counting Rhyme:

Our supporting activity this week was a counting rhyme. I chose to count backwards from seven to reinforce the idea of numbers as distinct within the series.

Counting Butterflies

Seven little butterflies resting on sticks
One flew away and then there were SIX

Six little butterflies watching clouds float by
One flew away and then there were FIVE

Five little butterflies sitting on the door
One flew away and then there were FOUR

Four little butterflies sitting in a tree
One flew away and then there were THREE

Three little butterflies looking at you
One flew away and then there were TWO

Two little Butterflies sitting in the sun
One flew away and then there was ONE

One little butterfly left all alone
He flew away and then there were none.

Art Station:

The art word this week was COPY. We talked about what happens if we put a piece of paper down on top of a wet painting (a basic print). Then I asked what would happen if we painted on a piece of paper and then folded it in half. Then I demonstrated the process which I outlined: Paint, fold, & squish. This is the basic butterfly painting technique which you likely remember from your own youth. Paint on a piece of paper. Fold the paper in half. Press the sides together to make a really good impression. Open your paper to enjoy the beautiful Rorschach pattern. To make things easier for the children, I watered down the paint a bit and pre-folded the papers. The results were BEAUTIFUL.

Featured art station set up:

  • Papers (prefolded)
  • Watered-down tempera paint
  • Paintbrushes

Eggs and Creatures, Flannel Friday

This eggs and creatures flannel was created to be used in my eggs storytime. To find the rhyme I used with them, go check out my storytime post here.

The eggs were just simple egg silhouettes cut from various colors of flannel.

The creatures were printed on milk filter paper (see the Pioneer Woman’s blog for an explaination.) I find that the colors are not as bright as they could be, so I always end up recoloring my color images with colored pencils after they come out of the printer. Then I touch up the outlines with an extra-fine Sharpie marker before cutting them out. The creature images themselves were free clip art pieces I found in various locations across the internets.

Before storytime I hid the creatures behind the eggs so that as each creature was uncovered, it was a complete surprise. Originally I had planned to decorate the eggs to match or give a hint of the creature inside… but maybe that will happen next year.

Eggs and Exhibit, an Art Storytime


Ollie by Olivier Dunrea
Roly-Poly Egg by Kali Stileman

Our exploration of spring continued this week with EGGs. We began by reading one of my favorite books, Ollie by Olivier Dunrea. The story is simple and perfect for preschoolers. My only complaint is that this series of books is so small, it is difficult to share to a group.

The second story this week was Roly-Poly Egg by Kali Stileman. Before beginning this story, the children learned the ASL sign for egg so they could repeat it as I read the story. I love the illustrations and the bright colors in this book. I also love the way the illustrator has provided a dotted line trajectory of our wayward egg that I can trace to add a little bit of action to the story.


For more details about the Eggs and Creatures Flannel, follow the link. The eggs for this flannel were simple egg outlines cut from flannel. The various animals were created by trimming a piece of milk filter material to 8 1/2” x 11” and then running off a color copy on the material. The result was then color enhanced through judicious use of colored pencil and Sharpie.

Action Rhyme:

My supporting activity this week was a rhyming game played with flannel pieces. I had hidden various animals (who all come from eggs) behind egg shapes. I repeated the rhyme below and let the children fill in the blank. This was a big hit.

I Found an Egg

I found a nest while walking one day.
“Look at all the eggs!” I had to say.
I waited and waited and what did I see?
Craaack! Who hatched? A baby _______ was looking at me.

Art Station:

Our art word this week was EXHIBIT. We quickly defined the word (a display of work) and then we talked about where the children exhibit their work at home. By the way, one of the best things you can do for a child to let them know that their work is appreciated is to display it. I highly recommend taking the time and effort to display their work.

I was running late this week. That is my only excuse for the art project this week which consisted of some printed egg silhouettes that the children could paint on and embellish with collage materials. However, the finished products were so beautiful and creative that you can hardly see the cheap copies they were painting on. They managed (somehow) to overcome my limitations.

Featured art station set up:

  • Printed egg silhouettes
  • Paint
  • Paint containers
  • Brushes
  • Collage materials