Wednesday mornings are always a little dose of sunshine during the week–for that’s preschool storytime.

The ‘preschool’ time is a challenge to prepare because it is our “drop in” story time. Thus I have no one formally registered, no clue on how many I’ll have week to week, and an age range generally running from 2-6. Development levels are all over the place. I use crafts sparingly, usually focusing on more physical activities rather than crafts as they don’t require manual dexterity the 19 month olds don’t have and which can be expanded to a broader age group without the five year olds being bored and “done” in .5 seconds.

I usually prep on Tuesday nights, finding picture books appropriate for whatever theme I’m doing (today was trains), semi-memorizing action rhymes that help reinforce what we’re talking about, debating the use of a flannel board activity, figuring out a little early literacy tip to sneak in, and if I’m a week ahead of time-working on a craft. I did use a video a couple of weeks ago–our copy of Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats was out and we have it in video from Scholastic–a really nice gentle version. But that’s a rarity for my story times.

I close Tuesday nights and have never professed myself to be a morning person, so Wednesdays aren’t my favorite morning to roll out of bed. The residual lethargy slips away about 10:07 a.m. when I head into our story time area. This is, quite literally, a Mississippi riverboat. There is a deck outside the room and the kids have a fabulous time climbing all over it, pretending more boat stories that I could ever imagine, and frolicking on the carpet that truly looks like hard wood flooring.

Young children are marvelously enthusiastic, particularly in story time. At 10:15 I ring the bell on the boat to call everyone in and from the second they race for their carpet squares, the energy is teeming. Now I’m faced with excited children, some forward and some shy, all anticipating and that’s as powerful a wake up as a Starbucks Double Shot. There’s a ‘hello’ song to pull their focus and we’re off into adventuresome tales. Toss in an action rhyme and the required ‘head and shoulders’– which we have to do (at P’s demand today) “REALLY fast!!” and 35 minutes flies by without a thought. We finished with a little parachute time today–circling around while singing “Little Red Caboose” and then letting them shake the parachute and run under it. I’ve never quite understood the parachute fascination, but I think if I had the opportunity to lay under one sometime, I might.

It’s one of the best half hours of my week, that chance to be with children who are happy to be there, introduce funny stories on familiar and new subjects, and find a way to change it up just enough to keep it fresh for the parents and myself. It’s a lovely way to set aside the rest of the world for a few moments and allow our imaginations to run free.

And besides, how often do you get to say “After a rousing round of ‘Hot Potato’…”