Sensory Storytimes: an outline from the Chicago Public Library

Bare Bones Sensory Storytime – Josh Farnum, Chicago Public Library

MGOL elements fit into my sensory storytime model on the strength of their repetition, predictability, and simplicity of structure. In this bare-bones Sensory Storytime plan from the Chicago Public Library, everything repeats exactly for a six- or eight-week series except for new read-aloud books each week.

Since I generally work with older children, but often see children with a wide range of developmental differences, I wouldn’t do a MGOL program per se. Instead, I bring out scarves during the program, and we’d do “Wind Oh Wind,” “This is the Way,” “Wind Oh Wind”, and “Scarves Away”, in that order, every time for 8 weeks instead of switching it up.

Key Aspects

  1. Use a visual schedule,
  2. Provide fidgets,
  3. Follow the session with open sensory play.

Tips for Success:

  • Just roll with the punches, like with any storytime.
  • Try to control the environment as much as possible (for sound, light, etc), and don’t worry about controlling the kids.
    • Children will come with their parents, caregivers, or OTs, and those are the folks who know them best. They know their needs and their meltdowns, and will help them have a rich experience. So you as the librarian can just focus on providing awesome literacy and sensory experiences. (And of course, busting out some MGOL rhymes is a great go-to for those literacy practices.)



Below is a bare bones plan. This is kind of frame that I’d repeat exactly for a six- or eight- week series, changing only the books I read.

1. Welcoming Comments


2. Rhymes and Reads

  • The Shirt Song

Betsy has a blue shirt, blue shirt, blue shirt…

  • Peter Works with One Hammer
  • Book: Kitten’s First Full Moon, with flashlights and cricket nighttime sounds

3. Body Rhymes

  • Wiggle Break (Move your legs like an ocean wave, etc.)

4. Drum Sequence (not done)

6. Animal Activities (not done)

7. Musical Instruments and scarves

  • Wind Oh Wind
  • This is the Way We Wash
  • Wind Oh Wind / Scarves Away

5. Stand-Up /Sit-Down Activities (with beanbags)

  • Beanbags (Play a recording of Hap Palmer’s “Beanbag Song,” and follow along with the actions)
  • Handy Spandy

8. Lullabies (not done)

9. Interactive Rhymes (with read-Aloud)

  • Higher! Higher! with foam balls to toss in the air

10. Closing Ritual

  • Open Play with cloud dough, some other sensory exploration stations, blocks, etc.