African Countries Storytime

Nothing frustrates me more than when people, books, or media loop all of Africa together as if it is a single country and not a continent made up of 54 very culturally different countries. So this week, I planned an African themed storytime, that highlighted different countries, to begin teaching my kids about these different cultures. 

Our first book was The Water Princess by Susan Verde, set in Burkina Faso and based on the life of Georgie Badiel. This is a beautiful book, illustrated by Peter Reynolds, and is great introduction into how different life can be in other countries. I focused a lot on the water, and how we don’t need to travel to get water, or our water isn’t dusty but clear. The kids were fascinated by these things, and even more so when I told them that the book is based on real person!


For our song I found this rhyme from Storytime Katie. I used a monkey puppet to act out each action the kids are asked to do. They had a ton of fun with this one, and asked to do it a second time (YAY!).

Monkey see, monkey do
Little monkey at the zoo
Monkey, monkey in the tree
Can you jump around like me?

(swing your arms, scratch an itch, eat a banana, talk)

Next we read We All Went on Safari: A Counting Journey Through Tanzania by Laurie Krebs. Though this book is a little dated, it teaches you how to count in Swahili from 1 to 10, and introduces some of the African animals that live in national parks like the Serengeti or Maasai Mara. I pronounced each number in Swahili before having the kids say it, and they did a great job!


After this we did a guessing game rhyme that one of my coworkers shared with me. I did change it from “walking through Africa” to “walking through Kenya,” because in many African countries you wouldn’t see any of these animals. The rhyme uses the Swahili word for each animal, and the kids guess what they think the animal is. I used pictures from my own safari at Maasai Mara national park in Kenya for the big reveal of each animal. One kiddo had me convinced he spoke Swahili for a minute, because he guessed the first two animals correctly.

Walking through Kenya, what do I see?

I see twiga looking at me. (giraffe)

Walking through Kenya, what do I see?

I see kiboko looking at me. (hippo)

Walking through Kenya, what do I see?

I see duma looking at me. (cheetah)

Walking through Kenya, what do I see?

I see punda milia looking at me. (zebra)

Walking through Kenya, what do I see?

I see tembo looking at me. (elephant)

Walking through Kenya, what do I see?

I see simba looking at me. (lion)

(other animal options: tumbili (monkey), chui (leopard), vifaru (rhino))

This semester, our semester build is based on The Princess and the Pea, and I wanted to share a refresher of the story. So we read Rachel Isadora’s African retelling. The words are straight from Hans Christian Anderson, so the illustrations are the only indication that this is an African story. We do get to see three different princesses, one from Somalia, one from Ethiopia, and one from Kenya, all with very culture specific features and their own language. Isadora’s illustrations are gorgeous, so how could I really go wrong with this retelling.


We ended with “If You’re A Lion and You Know It,” from Sunflower Storytime, rather than our usual “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” With our usually closing song the kids’ favorite part is when they get to shout “hooray!” So it was no surprise that their favorite thing about this song was getting to roar.

If you’re an elephant and you know it, STOMP your feet

If you’re an elephant and you know it, STOMP your feet

If you’re an elephant and you know it, and you really want to show it

If you’re an elephant and you know it, STOMP your feet

If you’re a monkey and you know it, JUMP up and down
If you’re a crocodile and you know it, SNAP your jaws
If you’re a lion and you know it, give a ROAR!

Our craft for the week was safari binoculars!


I found this craft on Pinterest, from Arts and Crackers. The ones we made certainly don’t look as elegant as theirs, but it was a fun project. We used toilet paper tubes (and I couple paper towel tubes cut to a smaller size), wrapped them in colored paper, then glued them together. I cut out some strips that they could use to then wrap the pair; some used the strips, some cut their own, and some had no strips at all. CREATIVITY FOLKS! They got to color on them if they wanted, and then I punched holes in them and tied a ribbon on so they could be worn around the neck. One kiddo made one to look just like my example (how flattering), while another featured giraffes and tigers on her pair. It was a really fun craft, and spurred the imaginations about what the kids might spot through their new binoculars.


Overall this week was a big success. We had our largest attendance since changing the day and time! The books kept the kids engaged, and the songs/rhymes were fun for everyone (even the caregivers). My only struggle was that with the increased attendance, I did not have enough craft materials prepped for everyone, but it was a quick and easy fix and you aren’t ever gonna hear me complain about increased numbers.

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