Audience: Preschoolers or Toddlers
Here’s an easy puppets & props story where you mostly just have to pull stuff out of a bag or box. If the group doesn’t know the song, it’s simple to learn, and it works well to have them all sing “A hunting we will go, a hunting we will go, we’ll catch a….” And then they stop and wait to see what puppet you pop out. “…Cat!” And put him in a “…Hat!...And then we’ll let him go.” Then after that dramatic sequence, where the words and actions are the teller’s, they naturally re-join you in another verse of the song.
I like the way the rhymes work with different ages. In Toddler Time (where I used it last week), the ones and twos just about never guess what object will complete the rhyme, though you can often see the grown-ups whispering it to them. But I know they do hear the rhyme, even if they can’t yet predict it. With Preschool Storytime, on the other hand, the kids often do guess, with varied levels of correctness, but almost always with strong evidence of imagination and involvement.
As for which puppets and objects to use, I like to mix in simple ones with others that are more surprising. Cat – Hat and Fox – Box are fine. Pig – Wig can be pretty funny. I’ve had fun with extending the –og rhyme: “…catch a Frog and put him on a Hog…and put them on a Dog…and put them all on a Log.” They puppet holding/stacking gets a little messy, but still fun. Cat/Rat/Bat/Hat can be done the same way, but I’d only use an extension once.
With the Toddlers I did another favorite: “…we’ll catch a….Ball?” And then I pull out my cool Armadillo puppet, which rolls and velcros into a shelled ball. I toss him around a bit and then: “Wait a minute…this isn’t a ball!” And unroll him to reveal “…an Armadillo…and put him on a Pillow.” I usually like to close with “Bear…and put him in Underwear…” which gets the automatic laugh that the word always earns, even with two year olds.
Another variation is to make the catching of the animals part of the fun. I tried using a net once, but decided to drop the idea. It was fun for the kids to watch as I nabbed the animal in a big red net, sometimes after a near miss or two. On the other hand, it’s awkward to get the animal out of the net, put the net aside (where the kids won’t be tempted to come up and try it out themselves), and then pull out the appropriate rhyming prop. In other words, the net stole the show and detracted from the normally satisfying rhythmic, rhyming sequence. So instead I just do a little playing around with catching the animal with my hand, doing the near miss thing one time, making the animal hide and asking “where’d he go?” another time…and doing the others just straight.
Because the song is so easy to learn and remember, I usually encourage the grown-up to try it at home, and remind them that although it’s fun with props, just singing the song works great too, developing phonological awareness and challenging the child’s imagination.