We all enjoy reading lovely books like The Gruffalo or Rosie’s Walk with our young children, but a great way to really get the children engrossed is to dramatise these stories by actually walking with the mouse through the wood or strolling with Rosie around the farmyard.
We could call this approach story walks or tale trails! Drama and creatively enacting tales are old forms of storytelling which have engaged both adults and children alike over the ages. Children have the opportunity to be creative and use their imagination, extend their vocabulary and develop their social skills whilst re-enacting a familiar story. Telling stories on the move is also a lot of fun, children become totally engrossed and it can happen inside or outside, whatever the weather!
Depending on the age and stage of development of the children in your care, you may want to prepare the props for the story walk in advance. However, you can have a lot of fun setting up the story props with the children too. For example, when I was childminding, we had been reading We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and I suggested we went on our very own bear hunt. We talked through the different terrain that the children in the story visit and thought about how we could recreate the story for ourselves. On this occasion, we stuck to the order and specifics of the book as a frame but the more familiar children become with this method of storytelling, the more creative you can all become; inventing your own additions to stories or even making up your own.
The children decided that we would swish and swash through the grass outside (which was probably taller than it should have been, having not been cut recently) to begin our bear hunt. We then thought about what we could use as the river – we didn’t have a paddling pool or real stream nearby, but I remembered that I had a blue blanket and showed it to the children. Thankfully, they thought it would make a perfect river! They then decided to pour some water on the patch of muddy grass under the swing to make the squelchy mud and found that we could ‘stumble trip’ under the apple tree for the dark forest. Our snowstorm was a white sheet pegged on the washing line and the dark cave was a small play tent. Unbeknown to the children, I had hidden a large teddy bear in the tent. So we set off on our bear hunt together, visiting the various places in the story, and when we started tiptoeing into the cave, the children all shrieked with joy when they discovered our very own bear! We then had to run back through all the places we’d visited and run into the house… we had a large throw on the sofa which was perfect for us to hide under as we escaped from the bear, exhausted but exhilarated from our adventure!
You can dramatise any story with a few basic props in hand, although some stories perfectly lend themselves to this sort of story walk, for example:
- We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
- Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins
- The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
- Whatever next? by Jill Murphy
- Emma Jane’s Aeroplane by Katie Haworth & Daniel Rieley
- Captain Duck by Jez Alborough
- Up, Up, Up by Susan Reed
- Walking through the Jungle by Julie Lacome
Traditional tales like The Three Little Pigs or Goldilocks and the Three Bears are also great stories to act out with young children. This type of storytelling is not static – where children act out a scene on a stage – but active, where children physically move from scene to scene through the setting. The addition of movement encourages attention and listening skills to keep the children engaged but also supports their physical development.
Story walks are simple and really good fun – so grab your wellies and go on a bear hunt today!
About the author
Tamsin Grimmer is an experienced early years consultant and trainer and parent who is passionate about young children’s learning and development. She believes that all children deserve practitioners who are inspiring, dynamic, reflective and committed to improving on their current best. Tamsin particularly enjoys planning and delivering training and supporting early years practitioners and teachers to improve outcomes for young children.
Tamsin has written two books – Observing and Developing Schematic Behaviour in Young Children and School Readiness and the Characteristics of Effective Learning.