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Sensory Storytime


Encouraging children to use one or more of the senses, including sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, balance, and movement, offers numerous developmental benefits. From language enrichment to motor and social skills, sensory play is engaging, fun, and even calming for some children. Add sensory elements to your current storytimes or take things a step further and offer a storytime that is especially welcoming to neurodivergent children and their families.  

We conduct Sensory Storytimes once a month on Fridays at 10 AM. Attendance is limited to 12 families with content designed for ages 2-5, but children of all ages are welcome to attend.


The description used in our promotional materials is: "Join us for stories, songs, and play! Sensory Storytime is for all children and all abilities."


Registration is required, but there are always a few drop-ins. Expect last-minute sign-ups and cancellations as some days it may simply be easier for families to get out of the house than others. I would encourage you to be as accommodating as possible. Offering multiple sessions is helpful if you have the demand. Siblings are always welcome to attend which is another reason limiting attendance is encouraged as you will always have more children in the room than planned. 


Leave the room as sparse as possible only setting up a table or two in the back for sensory play/crafts and a few chairs along the edge of the room for caregivers. We encourage caregivers to sit on the floor with their children when possible. To limit distractions, keep props and other supplies out of view or in a bin until needed.  


We repeat the first two songs and the closing song every month. A month is a long time in between programs, so repetition is always welcome!



Opening Song (repeat every month)
Interactive Book
Interactive Book
Prop Activity

Sensory Play

Closing Song (repeat every month)

This bare-bones outline is not much different from a typical storytime, but much more interactive.  For every story, song, or activity ask yourself, "Which senses are not being engaged?" and "What else can we do to engage those senses?" This usually leads to adding more movements, a textured prop, a puppet, or additional imagery. For example, after providing kids with scarves to wave during a song, let them keep the scarves for the next book and ask them to wave their scarves whenever a phrase or word is repeated in the story.

Please note the goal is not to bombard children with multiple sensory inputs but to offer alternative ways for them to experience books and language. For example, placing coinciding images on a flannel board while also turning the pages of a book may help a child follow the story more effectively. Perhaps the texture of finger paint is too much for a child, so perhaps offer them a paintbrush or paper roll to paint with instead.

We spend 20-25 minutes enjoying songs, rhymes, and stories, followed by 20 minutes of Sensory Play, which typically includes sensory stations, coloring sheets (or a table covered in butcher paper for even more coloring fun), and a craft. 

Visual Schedule
Visual Schedule

Individuals with neurodivergent needs may find comfort in knowing what is happening next (and some neurotypicals may, too!). A picture schedule provides a visual guide to see what is to come and what is currently happening. Visual schedules were highly recommended by the teachers and specialists I consulted with prior to launching Sensory Storytime.

There are great resources for purchasing or making your own visual schedules, such as Boardmaker, but I use good ole Microsoft Word.  Word allows me to quickly make new pictures for whichever activities and props I discover each month.  Lining up your images in one vertical line would be best, but my magnetic whiteboard is not large enough (pictured to the right), so I use two columns.


For each picture, add text, and a coinciding clipart image, then print, cut, laminate, and add magnets/tape/felt to the back. Remove the appropriate picture after each activity occurs and place it out of sight.

If your local Early On or Educational Services agency utilizes specific visuals in their programs, consider using the same images to keep things consistent for your patrons. 

Sensory Storytime Books
Sensory Storytime Books

Enhance each story by adding movements, a flannel board, props, or signs. 

Everybunny Dance by Ellie Sandall

Everbunny dance, play, sing, and the ultimate challenge, be still! Perfect choice to get kids moving and listening.

Five Little Ducks by Ivan Bates

Perfect for pairing with a flannel board and/or singing along. Encourage kids to "quack, quack, quack!" Bates' illustrations are the perfect size for sharing with a crowd, but any version will do.

Do Crocs Kiss? by Salina Yoon

Do crocs cry? Do crocs clap? All I know is crocs go....SNAP!" Excellent lift-the-flap book for animal sounds and laughs. Each creature's mouth goes from closed to WIDE open!

Giant Pop-Out Shapes by Powell

Real world examples encourage kids to guess the shapes which include circle, square, triangle, oval, star, and heart. Give kids paper or felt shapes to hold up or bring up when their shape is called out.

I Ain't Gonna Paint No More! by Karen Beaumont

Pass out dry paintbrushes for kids to "paint" their bodies along with the story.

Say Hello! by Linda Davick

Share the many ways to say hello! Add motions and/or accompanying pictures on a magnet/flannel board.

Dog's Colorful Day by Emma Dodd

Pass out colored dots for each child to bring up throughout the story and place on flannel/magnet board.

A Good Day by Kevin Henkes

Sweet and short read about emotions, colors, and animals. Place pictures of each animal on a flannel board as their page is read, then add an image of whatever makes them happy when appropriate.

Fall Leaves Fall by Zoe Hall

Place flannel leaves on a board plus give the kids leaf cutouts to sway, dance and jump along.

Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin

It lends itself to a flannel board plus you can sing along. Sensory Storytime perfection!

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr

Hand out egg shaker and encourage kids to beat a rhythm while you read.

Here Are My Hands by Bill Martin Jr

Encourage kids & parents to raise/shake/gently tap body parts when they are mentioned in the story.

The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri

Big illustrations, rhyming text, and it makes for a great flannel or puppet story.

How to Help Grow a Pumpkin by Ashley Wolff

Dog's animal friends help grow a pumpkin, make pumpkin pie, and carve a jack-o-lantern. Give kids a clipboard with print out of animals to cross off as each one appears in the story. Great activity for two-year-old storytimes, too!

Opening & Closing Songs
Opening and Closing Songs

Opening Song

I'm very glad you're here today

I'm very glad you're here

I'm very glad you're here today

I'm very glad you're here

I'm glad you and you and you and you (point at each child)

And you and you are here.

I'm glad you and you and you and you and you and you...(picking up the pace and pointing everywhere!)

Are here!

*Encourage kids and caregivers to clap along to the rhythm with you. I lovingly stole this song from The Music Lady Beverly Meyer and tweaked it ever so slightly. Watch her sing part of the song and a number of other fun ones here

Goodbye Song

(Tune: Skip to My Lou)

Hands are clapping

Clap, clap, clap

Hands are clapping 

Clap, clap, clap

Hands are clapping

Clap, clap, clap

Storytime is over

Feet are stomping...

Arms are flapping...

Prop Songs & Rhymes
Prop Songs & Rhymes

From scarves to paintbrushes, you can turn just about anything into the perfect storytime prop. Just be sure you have enough for every kid in attendance. Most of the songs and rhymes found below can be adapted for a variety of props, so let your imagination run free.


Wave and Stop

We wave and wave and STOP (freeze on STOP)

We wave and wave and STOP

We wave and wave and wave

And wave and wave and wave


We sway...spin...jump...clap...etc.

Dancing Scarves

Dance your scarves up

Dance your scarves down

Dance your scarves to the side

And dance them all around!


Dance them on your shoulders

Dance them on your head

Dance them on your tummy

And put them all to bed!


Purchasing 12 or more identical animal puppets may not be in your budget, but you probably have some cardstock or felt lying around!  Let a teen volunteer practice their scissor skills or thank your lucky stars if you have an Ellison Die Machine because it means you can make just about any identical shape you want. The most mind blowing day of my librarian life was the day I learned that Ellison Die Machines can cut felt in addition to paper. I often provide kids with construction paper or cardstock cutouts, but felt is my favorite material to give for Sensory Storytime kids. Pick the shape of your choice and try it out with one of these songs.

There’s a _____ On My Head

From bears to leaves, fill in the blank with any silly animal or object you can think of and encourage the kids to place their cutouts on the appropriate body parts. 

There’s a bunny on my head, on my head

There’s a bunny on my head, on my head

There’s a bunny on my head, now put him straight to bed

There’s a bunny on my head, on my head


There’s a bunny on my toe, on my toe...

Now shake it to and fro…


There’s a bunny on my knee, on my knee...

Now sit down quietly…


(If this is the last song you are doing with this prop, add this last line and encourage the kids/parents to bring up their props and put them in a bin, bucket, or whatever you want to collect them in.)


Put your bunnies in the bin, in the bin

Put your bunnies in the bin, in the bin

Put your bunnies in the bin, now let me see you spin

Put your bunnies in the bin, in the bin


Standard kitchen sponges are low cost and can come in bright colors. Depending on the size, they can even be cut into fun shapes with scissor or an Ellison Die Cut machine! Scarves work well in place of sponges too. 

The Washing Song

*Encourage kids/parents to gently tap or massage their sponges on

each body part when appropriate. 

This is the way we wash our arms

Wash our arms, wash our arms

This is the way we wash our arms

When we're in the tub!

…Tummies, toes, and hair!

Wash Your Head Shoulders Knees & Toes

Wash your head, shoulders

Knees and toes, knees and toes

Wash your head, shoulders

Knees and toes, knees and toes

Eyes and ears and mouth and nose                 

Wash your head, shoulders

Knees and toes, knees and toes!

Bears/Sponges in the Tub Song 

If it's time to put the sponges away, hold out a bucket or pail (aka "the tub") and encourage kids to bring up their sponges when appropriate. We used an Ellison Die to cut our sponges into bear shapes, so you can swap out "bear" for wimply "sponge" or any other shape.

If you have a blue bear,

Blue bear, blue bear

If you have a blue bear

Come put him in the tub.

If you have a pink bear…


Bean bags make excellent fidget toys and manipulatives. Even the weight of a bean bag resting on a child's hands, tummy, or lap may be calming. Gently toss them from hand to hand, let them fall to the ground, or use them in a song.  

Put Your Bean Bags Up High

I've seen this silly and super fun song/rhyme a few different places, but most recently

on the Saint Paul Public Library's list of Sensory Sensitive Storytime Songs.

Put your bean bags up high, 
Put your bean bags down low, 
Put your bean bags in the middle and wiggle just so! 
Put your bean  bags in the front, 
Put your beanbags in the back, 
Put your bean bags in your armpits and quack, quack, quack! (Flap your wings!)

The Bean Bag Song by Hap Palmer

I suggest singing it A Capella to slow it down. Check out this video from the Rose Garden Library to learn the tune.

Throw the bean bag and catch
Turn around, turn around, stamp, stamp, stamp
Throw the bean bag and catch
Turn around, turn around, stamp, stamp, stamp

Put it on your head and walk around the room...
Put it on your shoulder...knee...stomach...


For theses first two songs, pass out a hand puppet to each child to use.

We've been pleased with this set of 12 animal hand puppets from

Oriental Trading, which only cost $19.99 for the set. We frequently use them

in Baby and Toddler Storytimes as well.

Put Your Puppet On Your Heart

(Tune: If you’re happy and you know it)

Put your puppet on your heart, on your heart

Put your puppet on your heart, on your heart

Put your puppet on your heart,

What a lovely way to start!

Puppet your puppet on your heart, on your heart


Knee…You’ll both be filled with glee

Toes…Now move it to your nose

Head…Put your puppet straight to bed


The Animals at the Zoo

(Tune: Wheels on the Bus)

The animals at the zoo jump up and down (Move hands, baby, or puppet up and down)

Up and down, up and down

The animals at the zoo jump up and down

All day long


The animals at the zoo might eat your toes…(Tickle baby’s toes or “bite” with puppet)

The animals at the zoo might tickle your tummy…(Tickle baby’s tummy)

The animals in the zoo stretch and yawn…(Stretch arms out wide and yawn big)

And mine says __________!


*Before starting song, ask caregivers and babies which puppet they were given and what sound their puppet would make.

There's Something in My Garden (or in the snow, pond, etc.)

*Hide puppets of each creature in a bin, behind a board, etc. and reveal it when appropriate.

There’s something in my garden,
Now what can it be?
There’s something in my garden
That I can’t really see.
Hear its funny sound....
A FROG is what I found!

CAW - CAW - CAW...Crow

*Original from SurLaLune Storytime

Sensory Play & Crafts
Sensory Play & Crafts

The last 20 minutes are for play and socialization. It's a great opportunity for caregivers to get to know one another and for children to watch and interact with others.  Participants are introduced to 4 stations and encouraged to complete whichever ones their child is interested in.  The stations include:

  1. Coloring Page with Jumbo Crayons - I typically make my own based on the theme or one of the stories that was shared. However, my attendees love it when we simply cover a table with blank butcher paper and offer jumbo crayons for free drawing. 

  2. Craft - Something that needs little instruction for children and their parents. Preferably using common household supplies, such as dish soap or paper towel rolls, that can easily be reproduced at home.

  3. Two Sensory Bins - Ideas for sensory bins are everywhere these days! Google "sensory bins" or check out ideas at The Youth Desk's Pinterest Page.  I try to avoid small objects that are easily swallowed, however, my most successful item has been dry pinto beans. I bought a bulk bag at the grocery store, filled a bin, and tossed in a couple of measuring cups. Many children enjoy burying their hands in the beans, taking handfuls and letting the beans stream through their fingers, or using the measuring cups to transfer beans from one bin to another. Yes, the beans go everywhere, but I don't care. Embrace the mess and you will be a much happier and effective librarian! Other items could include shredded paper, cotton balls, pom balls, dry pasta (or cooked for fun with texture!), buttons, or leaves to name a few. Hide small toys or objects for added fun, such as plastic trucks, frogs, Legos, whatever you have lying around the library.  

       The second sensory bin typically includes 8 Sensory Balls

       like the ones pictured here. Discount School Supplies offers

       4 for $13.99, but we found ours at the Dollar Tree. The kids

       love squeezing, rolling, and tossing them.

   4. Flannel Board Pieces​ - Set out any flannel or magnet board pieces you may have used during the

       program for kids to recreate stories and songs. 

Here are some tried and true crafts and play activities to try with your Sensory group or check out The Youth Desk's Pinterest Page for more ideas and inspiration:

Rainbow Writing

Rainbow Writing

Write letters/numbers or draw shapes through a thin layer of colored rice or barley. Pair with "I Ain't Gonna Paint No More" by Beaumont. - Image from Fun-a-Day.

Bubble Gum Playdough

Bubble Gum Playdough

Add pink color and a sweet scent to playdough and provide critters to get stuck in it. Pair with Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum by Wheeler - Image from Choices4Children.

Bear Hunt Bottles

Bear Hunt Bottles

Fill bottles with grass, mud, blue water, powdered sugar (snow), and twigs then shake & whirl bottles. Pair with "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" by Rosen. - Image from Teacher Types

Pumpkin Bags

Pumpkin Bags

Fill a clear bag with pumpkin guts and manipulate. Is it cold, gooey, slimy? Pair with Pumpkin Pumpkin by Titherington. - Image from Teaching Mama.

Bubble Prints

Bubble Prints

Pour bubble soap into a shallow tray and mix in a splash of paint. Stamp paper rolls into the tray then onto cardstock. Bubbles will cling to the paper and leave a print when they pop! - Image from Lynds XO (shows paint prints, but without bubble soap).

Fall Leaf Confetti

Fall Leaf Confetti

Crush dry leaves into confetti, apply glue to a paper leaf cutout, then sprinkle leaf pieces on top. Pair with "Fall Leaves Fall" by Hall - Image from Cute & Peculiar


Word of mouth has been the most effective form of promotion.  We were fortunate to find a teacher from our county's Early On program who has been an amazing cheerleader for us.  She not only promotes the program to the families she works with, but frequently attends Sensory Storytime in case there are any parents that have questions about Early On and the services offered in our county. She also hyped the program to some Speech & Language Pathologists and Occupational Therapists in our area who have stopped by to provide me with feedback on the program in addition to promoting it to their students.

Each quarter we also contact the administrative assistant for our district's Special Education Department and send her print and digital flyers to be distributed to teachers and parents within the district.

Finally, I was introduced to a private organization in our area which offers speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. They promote the program and have even offered to lead a few Sensory Storytimes for us for free. 


From parents to specialists, I've been amazed by how supportive and enthusiastic the neurodivergent community in our area has been. Simply offering a Sensory Storytime is not only a positive thing for your community, but may bring you in touch with other professionals and educators from whom you can learn. 

More Resources
More Resources

Sensory Play & Storytime Presentation

Community Sharing for Healthy Caring Conference - November 12, 2016

Sponsored by Child Connect for Family Success

Adapted Sensory Programming for All Ages & All Budgets

Library of Michigan Webinar - September 17, 2017​​


Library Links

In addition to online articles and blogs, try learning directly from your peers and other professionals by attending a workshop. If you are in the Michigan area, I highly recommend the biennial daylong Adaptive Umbrella workshop sponsored by the Bloomfield Township Public Library for librarians, educators, and caregivers working with youth and the disability community.

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