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Storytelling for the Very Young

Storytelling is great for children! It shares the love of stories, builds literacy and social skills, strengthens imagination, and is just plain fun. I have a few tips for getting the most out of the experience.

Choose a story

When you know you will be storytelling for an audience heavy in toddlers and preschoolers, be sure to choose a story with a simple, easy-to-follow narrative. Try telling a story the children may already know.

Don’t memorize it

This is not a recital. Storytelling is about the living, breathing story—and with young audiences, the tale is going to have the opportunity to do a whole lot of living and breathing! Learn the story, and know what it is you like about it, and just know the main points. The story is a little different each time, thanks to the unique circumstances of each telling.

Treat young children like people

There’s not need to use a sing-song voice, or “juvenile” words, or to refer to oneself in the third person. Just talk to children, and with them.

Interactivity is important

An interactive performance does not necessarily mean people have to be invited up into the performing space. In fact, that can quickly devolve, as younger children may get fixed on the idea that they want to be up there, too (and may just come on up). Anyone, though, can participate collectively or individually from where they sit: making sounds or motions, contributing ideas, answering questions.

Get ready for conversation. INVITE conversation.

Talking through the story, clarifying details—it all helps in the audience’s processing of the narrative.

Brace yourself.

Be ready for just about anything! YOU may think a monkey eats bananas, but get ready for other perspectives, and be prepared to handle them—and perhaps incorporate them into your story! Better remember those changes as you go, though! Some things work better with much smaller groups, so consider what techniques work for you along with larger vs. smaller audiences.

Don’t be afraid to be silly

The children will love to correct you. Don’t worry about the adults.

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