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Simple tips for storytelling to young children

Tips and techniques for Storytelling to young children. Storytelling with Sherry
Tips for storytelling to young children. Story-time with Sherry

Hi all! Sherry here – I’m a children’s storyteller. Many people ask me for my personal tips and techniques on storytelling/story-time* to young children.

So I’ll dive straight in!

My personal simple tips and techniques for storytelling/story-time are: 

  • If parents/carers are present, then allow the children to sit with them as many children may feel shy to be placed without a comforting adult.
  • Make ‘happy’ eye-contact with the listeners. Sit on their level e.g, don’t tower over them. If your’e standing, then bend down as often as possible and be close to the children.
  • Speak clearly and try to project your voice at an adjusting tempo – adding slow suspense and fast excitement as needed. 
  •  Be mega expressive with lots of gestures – even when you’re holding a book! Try to know most of the words so you don’t have to be staring at the book the whole time.
  • Try to choose a big book with colourful pictures that can easily be seen and understood. (I’ve used small books before, but I make sure I know the words so I can make up with engaging gestures and different vocals. And when using small books, it’s important to walk around the group).
  • Go around the group showing the children the pictures close-up. Always remember that some may not be able to get a good view, so make sure you find these children and show them the pictures too.
  • Try to make the stories inter-active. Ask questions and allow the children to answer and prompt their imaginations.
  • Choose age appropriate stories. I choose fun stories that are easy to digest and don’t contain heaps of text for 3 – 7 year olds.
  • But sure to select easy to understand books, with engaging stories and illustrations for non-native listeners – such as my all time favourite ‘Shark In The Park’ by Nick Sharratt.
  • Have lots of fun with the children! Don’t take yourself so seriously, and don’t show embarrassment – let yourself be a kid again – Smile and laugh a lot. If you make mistakes, just laugh them off and start the sentence again.
  • Try to wear ‘fun’ clothes that children will relate to – I like to wear a bright t-shirt with a fun character on the front, such as The Cookie Monster. Sometimes I wear a sequinned clowns tie and a waistcoat, with pedal-pushers and stripy socks. But don’t over do it, otherwise your outfit will be distracting.
Festive Christmas story-time with Sherry
Festive story-time with Sherry

Bonus tip for those who want to dive deeper into storytelling/story-time for kids…

Planning a storytelling/story-time event in brief, simple steps.

You can do your story-time as a 45 minute event like I do:

Storytelling with Flashcards. Story-time and songs with Sherry
Story-time and songs with Sherry, using flashcards.
  • No doubt, some people will arrive late to your storytelling event. Don’t worry, this happens for different reasons, and most of them are understandable if it involves kids. So, have something prepared for a little warm-up while you wait 10 mins or so. Play music that the ones who are present can sing-a-long to, or play a simple game with flashcards, play ‘eye-spy’, tell silly jokes, see if they can say any tongue twisters, ask names, etc.
  • Do an introduction when everyone is there – tell them your name and a little bit about yourself and the hosting venue. Or the host can do an introduction for you.
  • Tell two stories: 1 short, fun story to start with. The 2nd story should be a bit longer and very expressive (Such as ‘We’re Going On A Bear Hunt’ by Micheal Rosen and Helen Oxenbury.)
  • Follow the stories with action songs! The children will be in need of lots of movement by now. If you don’t have action songs, then do popular sing-a-long ones that the children are likely to know. Try to get the adults to join in too! I like to do songs by ‘Super Simple Songs’ such as ‘A Sailor Went To Sea’, and ‘There Was A Farmer Had A Dog’. I use flashcards that are blue-tacked to the wall. Kids are very visual and the flashcards make it more fun for them, but they are not a must.
  • After the songs is where I would throw in a game, to get the children calmer and ready for the end of the story-time event. You could play musical statues. I like to play a game of ‘Animal Snap’ if there are no more than 20 children. I give out various animal cards making sure each child has about 5 different animals in their hands, and I keep one of every animal card for myself. I then call out the animals that I’m holding one by one, and if a child has a matching animal that I call out, then they must shout out ‘ SNAP’ and I collect their card. The winner is the one who manages to get rid of all their cards. They get a sticker on their hand as a prize. The game continues until every child gets a sticker – so they are all champs!
  • If there is time and you are feeling adventurous, you can add in an easy craft that you have prepped, or give out colouring sheets. (The colouring sheets should be related to the story)
  • Try not to go over an hour – leave them wanting more!

“I used to give out balloons to each child after a storytelling event, but after realising that balloons just end up in the trash or the sea, creating useless waste and potentially endangering wildlife, I happily decided to ditch them.”

Sherry – What Children Really Want
We're Going On A Bear Hunt easy craft for pre-schoolers
We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, my easy craft idea for pre-schoolers

Here’s our We’re Going On A Bear Hunt – easy craft idea

So, these were my easy to follow tips for techniques on storytelling to young children

*Side note…

I prefer to describe what I do as a ‘story-time’ for children. I mainly read from a story book as children are gathered round me.

I would describe ‘storytelling’ more as telling a story through acting, and without the use of a book in my hands. I imagine it as someone up on a stage and giving more of a performance.

If you need some advice on selecting some great books for storytelling, then read my blog post that contains

a list of my personal favourite books for story-time

This ‘STORYTELLING/STORY-TIME TO YOUNG CHILDREN’ Blog Post  is brought to you by…

What Children Really Want©

What Children Really Want

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