10 tips to enhance kids storytime
Rachel Jacobs shares how to enhance storytime for your children's work.
Storytime... I wonder if that’s something you try to avoid or absolutely relish. It is important to recognise the significance stories can play in our teaching sessions. Jesus, the greatest teacher of all, often taught in parables.
He used stories that were relevant to his audience to communicate ideas effectively; we want our stories to be as well. They should be applicable to the children we’re reaching, and illustrate a point to take away.
However, story time can be challenging and sometimes feels like hard work. Below you’ll find a few tried and tested ideas that can help enhance story time so that it becomes an engaging, worthwhile experience. Some suggestions are ways to tell stories, some are props you can use and others are ways to present a story. Hopefully, some will be relevant to your ministry.
1. Dress up to tell the story
Get the children to dress up to recreate a scene. Kids love trying costumes out and this can engage them really well as you’re telling the story. Try and get them to imagine what it would have felt like to be the characters.
Top tip: Get involved too- Kids love seeing us leaders being silly. Keep it simple, tea towels and ties on head/hats works well. So does cutting a pillow case like shown- it creates a tunic really quickly.
For older kids, costumes can still be a good addition to telling a story. However, getting them to act it out also gives them creative license to tell it how they want.
Top tip: Within this idea, you can get the group to create scenes from the story which can be used to make a storyboard to share. You can also film it and show it to your church or other children’s group as a teaching resource (with permission). Or you can try creating a modern day take… we had Mercedes Benz in our twist on the Prodigal Son!
3. A Treasure Hunt Story
Breaking the story up into sections and hiding these around the room can a great way to engage children. It adds some challenge and a teamwork element to help build relationships. For children with a short attention span, this is particularly effective as there isn’t lots of sitting down.
Top tip: Don’t create too many sections as this can make the story disjointed and you might lose your group’s attention, roughly 4/5 works well.
4. Create a Story Den
It is amazing what a big sheet of material, some chairs and a mat can create! A story den can create some excitement and buzz around what the story is and why they’re in a den. It can help create atmosphere and really define the story time space.
Top Tip: Leaving some clues in the den can be amazing to ‘find’ and discover why they’ve been left through listening to the story.
5. 5 senses
Including any of the 5 senses is always a great way of engaging lots of different learning styles in a story. Can you have a picnic of bread and tuna for the telling of the 5 loaves and 2 fish? Can you play/create sounds when you hear certain words in your story? Can you build a boat out of cardboard for Noah? Etc.
Top tip: It can be as simple or creative as you like. If you’re aware of something that your group really like, try and include it. I had a group who loved Lego so when we read about Joshua we used it to build the Walls of Jericho and they loved it.
6. Be Dynamic
Using different, exaggerated character voices can really help capture children’s attention and imagination.
Top Tip: If you know of someone in your church that enjoys drama, you could ask them to join you.
7. 5 questions
For follow up, who, what, where, when and why questions are a great starting point to solidify learning and check for clarifications.
Top tip: You could pick the questions out of a hat (including some challenges/dares!) to keep interest.
8. Puppets (Younger children)
Puppets are a great way to engage younger children. You can get your puppets to tell the story, act it out or whisper questions in your ear you can ask the kids.
Top tip: I have found smaller, one-handed puppets easier to use when telling stories. However, bigger puppets are great, especially if you have another team member to help you.
Parachutes are such a versatile resource and this most certainly applies to storytelling. They range in size and can fit various room/outdoor spaces. Parachutes can be used to show calm waters, choppy waters. It can represent the rainbow in the sky. It can be used for Noah’s boat and you can be the animals filling it up. If you lift it up and bring it down quickly and sit on the outside edges, you can pretend you’re Jonah in the big fish’s belly etc. Lots of fun to be had!
Top Tips: Some younger children can get overwhelmed by a parachute so be aware of this when introducing it and encourage your confident children to be calmer if someone isn’t sure.
10. The Bible App for Kids (Younger Kids)
This is a great app created by Youversion which tells popular Bible stories in a really interactive way. You can touch the screen to interact with the pictures further. As there are a few pages, different children can have a turn taking the lead on each page. This can give the children some ownership over their learning as they interact with it and show others what’s happening.
Top tip: There is a free 24-month curriculum that goes along with this which you can find at: https://open.life.church/preschool
Knowing your story well can definitely help when you have to amend and change on the spot. But importantly, have fun!
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