I have been given an opportunity to share with parents and carers some ideas on how to create sensory stories at home. Here is a guide on how to engage your child or sibling through different interactive ideas. Please feel free to adapt and extend them. 

There are plenty of different ways to read a story book and engage your audience. Using tone of voice, expression, body language and gestures, dramatic pauses… and audience participation are to name but a few. Often people introduce props. These are a great way of involving your audience, through using soft toys, hand puppets or a stick puppet you’ve made. These are obvious representations of a character in a story. For example the hand puppets pictured below are from the story of the Gruffalo. 

There are however, lots of other ways, using our senses in which we can bring a story to life, creating an interactive or sensory story from things you may find around your home. This can include resources we can; hear, feel, see, smell or even taste! There are often more abstract objects which can represent a character, object or action in a story. For example, if you don’t have a tiger puppet for the story of The Tiger who came to Tea, you may want to represent it using a sound (roar?) or something you can touch; a soft or stripy piece of material.

     =    

To start, choose a familiar and simple story you have at home. Read through the story and think about what you could add to create a sensory experience for your listener/s. I try to include a sensory item for every 1 to 3 pages, depending on the book. I am often guilty of using an abundance of props, actions etc. during storytelling, which apart from being rather exhausting, can also lead to confusion when trying to match the prop to a part of the story. So to begin with simplify it. Below, are some examples of ideas you may wish to use in your chosen story.

Hear

Create your own sound effect. As a story teller; we, ourselves are a fantastic asset to storytelling. Sound effects we make by stomping our feet (like a giant), making animal noises with our voice or using large, flexible card to sound like a storm, take minimal preparation time and are instantly effective. We can also create musical instruments which make fantastic sound effects: a spoonful of dried pasta or lentils in a sealable tub make a great shaker to represent rainfall or to shake along to the tune of ‘run, run, as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!’ Or you can play a track from a related song. YouTube have a range of instrumental backing songs which provide a fantastic atmosphere (rainforest sounds or dinosaur roar; some a little scarier than others) just beware of the adverts, ensure footage is suitable and set it up before you begin the story).

Touch

Using different types of material can be a great way of representing characters or events in a story. For example: allowing your audience to explore bubble wrap when reading a story about fireworks, using a fan to represent wind, or water spray to represent the ocean. Plastic play food or real food can be another great way of engaging your audience. Another fantastic way of creating an experience during storytelling is by allowing your audience to explore a range of materials with their feet or hands. The story of We’re going on a bear hunt creates a great opportunity for people to explore; ‘mud’ (soil in a container), ‘snow’ (can use shaving foam or cornflour and water), a ‘river’ (jumping in puddles or exploring it in a basin) etc.

See

Items that have already been mentioned can also be very visually stimulating. In addition to these, the use of lights; including fairy lights or a torch can represent street lamps or car lights or even ‘going into space’ as part of a story. Remember that, again, YOU as the story teller are a key part in expressing a story through movement and gestures (no need to be still, where possible move around and encourage your audience to do so too!).

Smell

Introducing a variety of smells can be an alternative way of gaining a person’s attention. Rather than introducing a puppet as a character, use a spray of perfume on a cloth. Every time the character is mentioned allow them to explore the aroma on the cloth. You could use a range of spices and herbs to heighten their senses. For example ginger or mixed spice could be rolled into playdough and explored whilst talking about how the old woman baked a gingerbread man as part of that story. Flowers and grass cuttings can be added to represent a garden or a story about growing plants.

Taste

On occasions adding something to taste can be a lovely surprise for your listener. Using real food for them to play with, explore and taste if they choose to, could also be a fun way of introducing new foods without the pressure of having to eat them. Previously I have given my young people vegetables to cut and make a ‘stew’ following a story about vegetables. Adding a picnic theme to the story of The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, We’re going on a Bear Hunt or The Gingerbread Man is also another great way to extend a story.  *If you are unfamiliar with the person you are telling the story to, ensure they are not allergic to anything you offer them first and that it is safe.

If you are new to creating stories it is important to remember four key points:

  • Keep it safe
  • Keep it simple
  • Be prepared
  • Have fun!

Below I have included a sensory story for you to use of The Tiger Who Came to Tea. I hope you enjoy it.
Best wishes and happy story telling!

THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA

Sensory Story

By Louise Graham

Suggested Resources: *Please note these are ONLY suggestions. When reading the story I select a few of these objects to use with my audience. *If you do not have access to the book, you can access the story via YouTube which you may choose to refer to and pause when exploring the props.  Please check the video you choose is appropriate before using it in your story.

  • A bell (or action; knock at the door) Pg. 1
  • Keys (daddy’s keys) Pg. 3
  • Puppet or fluffy material; to represent the tiger Pg. 4
  • Plastic food (or real snack food) Pg. 6+
  • Tea bag (to smell) Pg. 8
  • Pretend to put ‘goggles’ on. Hold hands around eyes to look around the kitchen and see what else there is to eat! Pg10
  • Saucepan and spoon (tiger eating all the dinner) Pg. 12
  • Water spray (tiger drinking all the drinks) Pg. 16
  • A small brush or broom (to sweep away the mess the tiger left). Pg. 19
  • Keys (Daddy’s keys coming home) Pg21
  • Torch (represent street lamps and car lights) Pg. 22-23
  • (Optional) ice pack to feel for the cold ice cream Pg. 24