The Fourth Wall & Story Time

There’s nothing more satisfying in art and culture than breaking the fourth wall. The fourth wall, to any non-theater-nerds, is the invisible barrier that shields the characters in a performance from the gaze of the audience. When you’re watching a play, the characters in the play don’t recognize that they’re characters in a play, nor do they acknowledge the audience.

Except when they DO! Which breaks the invisible barrier, allowing the players to acknowledge the audience and create a meta self-awareness of the art. I LOVE this angle when it’s used in picture books, and no one seems to do it better than Klassen & Barnett.

Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen are the creators of the Hat books, and many, many other fantastic books for children and juniors. Their collaborations are always tongue-in-cheek, wildly hilarious, and often give a knowing nod to the audience as if to say “yes, we’re in a book, you can see us, but we see you too!”

These types of books are engaging on a different level for children. They allow an interaction or an exchange between the characters, the plot, and the audience that will make a child truly think they know a secret that the characters in the book don’t know. They’ll be shouting “He’s coming for his hat!” and “The bear ATE THE RABBIT!” at the pages, warning and reprimanding the sly characters.

Hats Off To You! Story Time Plan

Take-Home Brochure:

Books To Read:









Jon Klassen’s hat series (I Want My Hat Back, This Is Not My Hat, We Found A Hat) are subtle, clever, and always make for a successful story time. A really great story time, to me, requires that children are 1. paying rapt attention to the characters in a book, 2. are laughing along with the characters and 3. are making predictions. These books have it all.

I Want My Hat Back is about a dastardly rabbit who steals bear’s little red hat. Bear asks all the animals he comes across if they might have seen his hat, until it dawns on him that he saw rabbit wearing his hat, even as he said “no, I definitely haven’t seen a hat.” The ending is pretty open-ended for us to imagine–most of the kids will suggest that the bear ate the rabbit in vengeance to get his hat back, but they won’t be too unsettled by the prospect.

This Is Not My Hat flips the script from its predecessor. A little fish swims along, telling the reader that the hat on his head is not his hat. He stole it from a big, huge fish, who he thinks will never find out. The ending is just as ambiguous, as the large fish and small fish disappear into the sea grass, and the large fish swims away with his hat once more.

We Found A Hat deals with sharing. Two turtles stumble across a hat, and each one envisions how great it would be to have the hat. In the end, though one of the turtles begins to steal the hat while the other is asleep, he decides that the hat wouldn’t be worth much if they didn’t each get one. So they leave the hat.

Songs, Rhymes & Activities:

Song: I Dropped My Hat! (Provided by Storytime Ukulele)

I dropped my hat, pick it up pick it up,
I dropped my hat, pick it up pick it up,
I dropped my hat, pick it up pick it up,
and put it back on my head!

The kids and I doing a very literal rendition of the I Dropped My Hat song

Action Rhyme: Magic Hat

I’ve got a magic hat you see, (put on your hat)
So say the magic words with me (wave your magic wand over your hat)
bippity boppity bippity boo! (jazz hands, clap at boo)
What’s inside my hat for you? (take off the imaginary hat and mime rummaging inside)
…A Giant Kangaroo! (hop like a kangaroo)
…A bowl of smelly stew (plug your nose and say “peeyeewww”)
…A Wedding cake for two! (mime cutting the cake and eating it)

Activity: Rabbit’s Magic Hat (parts of words lesson):

I used the Magic Hat Method on this rabbit to help teach the beginning parts of words. This is a higher level activity, but pre-k can follow along really well, especially if you’re doing most of the work for them.

As we go through the alphabet, we replace the “H” in “HAT” with another letter until we find a word. For example, I replaced the “H” with a “C”, and sounded out the letters phonetically in CAT. I asked the children, is cat a word? And they shouted YES! Then we all made meow sounds.

Craft: Make Your Own Hat

We made some hats out of paper plates by cutting an “X” into the center of the plate, allowing the child’s head to fit through and make a crown shape. The kids had a lot of fun putting on foam stickers and coloring their hats, and it was a super low-key and easy craft for the parents.

ECRR Reinforcement: Draw Your Own Hat

I drew up these templates for the children so they could utilize several ECRR skills in a fun hat-related activity. They’re using prediction, inference, imagination and fine motor skills to conceive and craft hats for these silly characters. The kids really took to this one–of course, it’s always the simplest things they love the most.


Helpful Links on The Fourth Wall for Kids:

Goodread’s list of 101 Picture Books that Break The Fourth Wall

Museum 2.0: Breaking the Fourth Wall in Children’s Books..and Museums?

As always, have fun & keep kids curious.

Comment below or message me with any additional hat storytime ideas! 




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