I tell a Bible story at a toddler group each week and these are some of the things I’ve learnt along the way! In no particular order here we go…
1. Know what you are going to say. (I know that sounds obvious but be clear about the story rather than have a vague idea in your mind.) Write it out and tell it to yourself out aloud.
2. Know your opening sentence.
3. Know the ending – so you finish without waffling
4. Include something for the toddlers (and any adults who are there) to do during the story. This can be actions that fit in with story (marching/walking can be done by tapping hands on knees, pretending to be asleep, or sad, or happy, or surprised..)
5 Items taken from a storybag are far more likely to hold everyone’s attention than a picture ( even a really large, great picture)
6 Use a special bag as the storybag and treat it as though it’s special. Make a bit of a to-do about getting the first item out – then all eyes will be on the bag, waiting quietly.
7 Begin storytime with the same special song each week. This signals that you are ready and that everyone is about to hear a great story. We use a popular tune ‘Frere Jacques’ and sing
‘Hello friends, Hello friends.
How are you? How are you?
It’s time for a story, Time for a story.
Come and listen. Come and listen.’
This is printed on A3 card and held up so we all sing along. The children soon catch on and the parents can read and sing the words.
8. Use hand knitted dolls to represent Bible characters.
9. If applicable to the story begin by introducing the person visiting us today – ‘Say hello to Peter’ as you take the knitted doll from the bag.
10. Sit near to the children. I use a low children’s seat not a high adult chair. I’m more on their eye level.
11. Keep the story short.
12. Ignore most of the details in the Bible Story. You don’t need to mention that Zaccheaus was a tax collector but you do need to say he was small.
13 If you use the name of the main character ask the children to repeat it once.
14. At a toddler group there are parents and carers listening too. Sometimes they are a little chatty – I never tell them to be quiet. I carry on and keep smiling. As far as possible I make sure they are involved with an action, repeating a name, making an animal sound and looking to see what’s coming out of the Storybag next!
15. When the children have joined in and listened say, ‘Well done. You listened really well.’
16. Have a plan for how storytime fits in with the rest of the time the children are with you. In one toddler group we have storytime after snacks and after the toys are put away. We follow the story with singing and musical instruments and celebrating birthdays.
Each week I seem to learn something new – if you have any ideas to add to this list please leave a comment.