Just as a hello song signals that story time is starting, the goodbye song lets everyone know it’s time to go home, or at least that story time is finished, and it's time to move on to whatever comes next. To be truly effective, I think a goodbye song needs to directly state that it’s time to leave, and that we’re saying goodbye. If there is a craft or other activity to follow, the song would ideally reference the transition to that activity as well.
Though adults can watch the clock and figure out that story time is about to end based on the fact that 30 minutes is up, kids don't have that advantage, so I like to help them wind down from story time with a predictable closing routine. At most of my morning story times, this routine consists of singing If You're Happy and You Know It and then our goodbye song. At class visits, kids know we're just about done when we sing Laurie Berkner's These Are My Glasses. At pajama story time, we wind things down a bit more calmly by singing goodnight to animal puppets with Goodnight (also by Laurie Berkner). Kids are creatures of habit and routine, and if the end of story time is the same every single time, they begin to understand intuitively that it's time for the session to end when they hear certain songs.
Three great goodbye songs and rhymes are listed below:
- We Wave Goodbye Like This is my preferred goodbye song. The motions are very simple - waving and clapping - and the song signals the end of story time and also applauds the kids for participating. The song is also very short, so if people get up and start leaving in the middle of it, they're not really interrupting anything the kids will miss out on.
- The Open, Shut Them Goodbye Song is my simplified goodbye song for babies and toddlers. The youngest kids typically can't open and shut their hands very well, but they can definitely raise their hands up high and wave goodbye. I always sing this song twice so the kids can learn it, and it's definitely a favorite of the parents as well.
- My Hands Say Thank You is the first goodbye rhyme I ever learned, and I still tend to use it for Thanksgiving themed story times. It's a nice alternative for librarians who don't like to sing, and it works best with twos and threes.