Important questions come up during Toddler Time.
Can you wiggle like a fish?
Can you make a trunk like an elephant?
But the single most burning issue during Thursday’s storytelling session at the downtown Spokane Public Library was this:
Will Mr. Turtle come out of his soft fuzzy shell and say hello?
Many of the 36 kids gathered to hear stories and sing songs were momentarily mesmerized with anticipation. But even Rebecca Christensen, the expressive children’s librarian on whose hand and forearm the plush green puppet fit, seemed unsure of the shy terrapin’s answer.
That’s the way it goes at Toddler Time. When you’re dealing with unpredictable stuffed animals and kids between the ages of 18 months and 3 years, you just never know what’s going to happen.
Some of the children, baffled bundles of questions they couldn’t quite articulate, sat still on the carpet and watched the animated Christensen move from story to song to story. Others contemplated the nature of being and blurted interesting sounds or struggled to their feet with the notion of going on walkabout.
“Please sit down, Brandon,” said a day-care worker, one of about 10 adults at this half-hour edition of Toddler Time.
The stories included one about how the coyote got its color, one about an alligator under the bed and another about a free-thinking elephant named Elmer.
In between, there was singing. And at Toddler Time, the songs are highly interactive.
“If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!” Everybody clapped.
When it was time to wrap up the program, Christensen reached into her bag and, once again, brought out the star of the show.
“Mr. Turtle,” trilled a little girl who sounded awed and delighted in the way only a 2-year-old can.
Christensen, her eyes wide and hopeful, gazed at the stuffed toy on her hand. “Do you want to come out and say hello, Mr. Turtle?” He did, his happy face and waving front legs slowly emerging from his shell. The crowd loved it.
Kids rushed up to extend personal greetings and put their hands on this ‘90s-style Mr. T.
And then it was time for everybody to put on their coats. Have you ever seen 36 toddlers wrestling with puffy winter coats?
But that’s another story.