Early Lit Tips: Let’s Go Bananas!

So often adults describe active children as little monkeys. Let’s celebrate that energy and fun-loving attitude with some of my favorite monkey books and rhymes.

These books are great read alouds and lend themselves to multiple early literacy practices, but today we’ll focus on playing. Playing is more than just fun. It is how children learn new concepts, including language.

Five Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree by Eileen Christelow
Cover of Five Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree by ChristelowFive mischievous little monkeys out on a picnic decide it would be fun to tease Mr. Crocodile. This is a great participatory book that always goes over well at Storytime. Children love to join in when the crocodile goes “SNAP!” Make it a game and have them use their arms to mimic crocodile jaws opening wide and snapping shut. When you re-read this book, as you know you will, make a game of trying to find where the disappearing monkeys are hidden.

Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett
Cover of Monkey and Me by Emily GravettThis is another Storytime favorite. A little girl and her stuffed monkey playfully relive a visit to the zoo. The repetitive text and singsong rhythm make it fun to read aloud. Be sure to have your little listeners playfully act out the different animals in the zoo! Use the book as a starting point to talk about animals. Ask what animal in the book they would like to see the most and what other animals they would visit at the zoo.

Rhymes and Songs
Rhymes and songs often lend themselves to play. These two songs let children play at being monkeys. Be sure to get silly as you act out the words! Feel free to add any motions you think of.

The Monkeys in the Zoo (sung to the tune of The Wheels on the Bus)

The monkeys in the zoo
Turn round and round,
Round and round,
Round and round.
The monkeys in the zoo
Turn round and round.
Just like I do!

Repeat with:

Touch their toes.
Rub their tummies.
Pat their heads.
Jump up and down.
Swing through the trees.

Ten Little Monkeys (To the tune of Ten Little Indians)

1 little, 2 little, 3 little monkeys,4 little, 5 little, 6 little monkeys,
7 little, 8 little, 9 little monkeys,
10 little monkeys
Swinging in the trees.

Repeat with:

Jumping up and down.
Turning round and round.
Shaking back and forth.


Take a favorite toy animal on an imaginary visit to the zoo or other fun place. You could head to the jungle or the park. Act out what you would do there just like the girl and her monkey in Monkey and Me.

Make a monkey mask

Make a monkey mask out of a paper plate and pretend to be a monkey.

Find out some facts about monkeys and share them as you play. The Animals page on the National Geographic website has great information about monkeys and lots of other animals. For some fun facts, check out these monkeys:

  • Howler Monkeys live in South America and have prehensile tails they can use to hang from the trees. Don’t miss the audio!
  • Proboscis Monkeys – Not only do they have an amazing nose, but these natives of Borneo are great swimmers!

Learn more about Playing and Early Literacy

Cover of Literacy Play by Sherrie West and Amy CoxThere are lots more ideas for activities in the book Literacy Play : Over 300 Dramatic Play Activities That Teach Pre-reading Skills by Sherrie West and Amy Cox. Click on the cover picture to check Worldcat and see if your library has a copy that you can borrow. Then get playing!

The Center for Early Literacy Learning has lots of activities on their website for building early literacy skills. Here are just a few that are based on playing:


About booksnquilts

I'm the Children's Services Coordinator for the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library in Central Virginia.
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