Danger: very young audiences (Part 1)

One of the best things about this job is the variety. So when I’m not telling horrific tales for adults, I might be telling lovable friendly stories for under threes.

But how can any storyteller hold the attention of very tiny children who may not have language yet- kids who don’t know that it’s rude to shout, babble loudly, cry or wander off?

This question has been much on my mind recently. I’ve been touring all over with “Guess How Much I Love You” an interactive storytelling show for 0-5 yr olds, based around the much loved book by Sam McBratney, published by Walker. Kids love the book, so that’s always a big help. But whatever your story, there are things you can do to help the session go smoothly.

There’s lots to cover so lets start with setting up the space:

Firstly, remove all distractions. Hide toys and loose objects. Block anything that could be climbed on or used as a tunnel. If you can’t remove it, cover it with a cloth! If children have toys, costume or craft materials in their hands, ask nicely if they can be put in a bag until the end.

Maybe you don’t have an empty room. Still situate your story away from loud noises, other children’s play, ballpits etc! Also, indoors is usually better. Grass is beautiful, sure, but a bee or helicopter might upstage you completely.

Number two for very young children is to make sure their adult is sat right beside them, ideally with kid on lap. Like this: (credit- Discover Story Centre Stratford)

This means if the child starts to hit other kids or run crying through the session, the parent might hopefully try and calm them down. Vitally, it makes a child feel reassured and safe. If the parents are sitting and listening, the child will copy them and if there are actions or singing (of course there will be!) parents can show the child what to do. If the child needs to go to the loo, have a drink or loses their balloon, it’s not the storyteller’s job to sort this out, right?

All this thinking is making me tired so I’ll move onto session content and dynamics with my next post. Meanwhile, here’s a hoppy hare! (pic: Discover again)