Story Time Extras on a Budget

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Story Time Extras (On a Budget!) from
This January I got the opportunity to attend a bit of the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia. I had so much fun!! In addition to getting a bunch of free pre-publication books, I got to also sit in on a Guerrilla Storytime workshop!

Guerrilla Storytime was developed by the amazing folks at the blog Storytime Underground. Run by Kendra, Cory and Amy, 3 Youth Services Librarians from New Mexico, Washington and Missouri; Storytime Underground provides information and advocacy for Youth Services librarians and anyone interested in childhood literacy.

Together these 3 library gurus developed a workshop called Guerrilla Storytime, which has popped up at  Youth Services conventions, trainings and meetings all over the country. Held in a public area, everyone within earshot is invited to participate, join in, share or just watch. This not only makes the atmosphere very inviting but has the added bonus of letting library practitioners from other service areas check out what Youth Services providers do in Storytime. The Guerrilla leader has a cup of questions on popsicle sticks to get the conversations and sharing going.

In the workshop I attended we discussed opening and closing songs (along with live demonstrations!), shaker songs (check it out here and here!), challenging behaviors, yoga storytimes, programs for children with specialized needs, modifying movements, using puppets, teaching kids how to play call-and-response games, and much more. I learned a lot and got so many new great ideas and came away completely inspired!

Story Time Extras:

My favorite discussion by far was one concerning using Story Time EXTRAS. At first I worried I couldn’t do any of this great stuff because I have NO BUDGET whatsoever for my programs and many of these fun activities require props. Of course, one of these brilliant story time leaders had a solution for this exact problem!

This made me feel so much better – apparently other libraries have the same issue! Brainstorming on how to come up with inexpensive, free or recycled EXTRAS ensued! Here are some of the suggestions:

Egg Shakers:
caps shakers
These are easily made from putting rice, beans or beads inside 2 milk bottle lids and hot gluing the lids together. They can also be made using re-purposed plastic Easter eggs glued shut OR recycle small (cleaned) water bottles (added bonus, the kids can SEE the stuff jumping around as they shake! Brilliant! Practically FREE!

Crepe paper streamers can be torn into short segments and used as scarves for dancing and waving – not the most environmentally friendly solution, but they are super cheap and can be used until you can build a scarf collection from thrift shops or fabric remnants. It was pointed out the kids don’t care that the scarf is fancy or from an expensive catalog! They care that they can MOVE and make the scarf or streamer MOVE and that they are having FUN.

Two plastic spoons plus a homemade egg shaker and a little washi or duct tape make another fun instrument!

This got me thinking…. what else could I bring into Story Time that wouldn’t cost a dime?

Here is what I came up with:

Rhythm Sticks:
Paint stirrers work really well, can be easily decorated and are free from hardware stores. One friendly call to my local hardware store later and I had 4 dozen FREE rhythm sticks!

Rhythm Blocks:

I had these in my own house – re-purposed a set of wooden building blocks that really weren’t seeing the light of day at home. I have noticed several wooden block sets at thrift stores, resale shops and yard sales!

castanet2 castanet1
Card stock, hot glue and the plastic from bottle caps.

Recycled canisters make great drums, but also look for resale kiddy instruments. I asked around and got a bagful from neighbors and friends who were no longer using them at home. I was really after a ukulele – posted a funny message on Facebook and 12 minutes later had TWO offers from friends who happened to have ukes lying around gathering dust!
MY FREE UKE! See Katie’s post for some ideas if you happen to score a deal on a ukelele!

Bean bags:

Several Guerrillas mentioned they used beanbags for yoga and calming activities as well as fun games. Super easy and cheap to make with fabric scraps and beans/beads if you can sew a straight line by hand or machine. Not that crafty? ASK for a volunteer to help!

Ribbon Rings:
Mel’s Desk showed how to make these adorable shakers from dollar store shower curtain rings!

Please share your great FREE Story Time prop ideas!

About Anne McKernan

Once upon a time Anne McKernan, a very tired mother of two, walked in to a library ... the next thing she knew she was leading her town library's story time programs. Read more at


  1. […] *Use recycled materials whenever possible. Start saving your TP rolls now. Juice jug lids, cereal boxes, egg cartons, etc. can be used in hundreds of crafts for kids and help you make story time extras on budget. […]

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