The Ultimate Guide to Creative Storytime Ideas for Toddlers
“You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book” – Dr Seuss
I don’t know about you but we love stories in our house!
There is something magical about going on a journey through a story and exploring new places as we imagine together what a place might be like…
I believe reading with children is so important – and so I love it when creative play and story times come together!
Using characters, settings, loose parts and sensory elements we can create some great story baskets, story sacks, crafts and tuff tray setups that can really bring a story to life!
This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using this link. Please see my disclosure for more details.
Why is storytime so important?
✔ Childhood Development – Reading and sharing stories together is a great way to help your child develop literacy skills in early childhood as they recognise sounds and begin to form words
✔ Sparking the Imagination – Stories really help to stretch the imagination, and takes us to places we may not have otherwise conceived. Discovering new places and people in stories can create curious children, keen to explore their own surroundings
✔ Communication Skills – As stories are shared, listened to, and retold, they are helping children to communicate with others, and it can help them to express their own feelings and emotions as they process the feelings they are learning about through stories
✔ Listening Skills – Young children have so much to take in as they growing up and can easily be distracted – stories are a great way to practice listening skills – In our house we use Audible stories as a way to really engage with our children (and we like the grown up stories too!!)
Having characters that you can physically see or hold is one great way to bring a story to life for children – start by using stories that they are very familiar with and see how they interact with the characters from what they already know of the story!
Characters you can hold in your hand
- Wooden spoon Characters – You can purchase some beautiful story spoons, but if you would like to have a go at creating them yourself then stick to simple designs (unless you are very artistic of course!) and a great option is to paint the top of your spoon with chalkboard paint and then you can change the characters depending on the story – you could encourage older toddlers to have a go at drawing their own characters too!
- Soft Toys – You may have soft toys and teddies that go with specific stories but if you don’t, there are plenty of generic stories that you can use whatever animals you toys you have – The story Dear Zoo is a great one for cuddly toys!
- Painted Wooden Peg Dolls – Again this is something you can purchase, but if you want to have a go yourself you can purchase wooden dolls on Amazon and have a go at creating your own characters 🙂
- Story Stones – these are a great and inexpensive way to create outdoor stories – simply draw you characters on with some paint pens or nail varnish works great too! For older children you could write names too.
Becoming the Characters
- Costumes – Fancy dress is a great way to get into a story. You don’t need to wait for World Book Day to dress up as your favourite story characters 🙂 Fancy dress comes in lots of different forms, from full on shop bought costumes, to homemade outfits, hats and any accessory you feel might fit the character!
- Masks – This is another easy way to get into character – these are easy to make with some card and elastic (or you can buy ready made ones to colour in). You could also make some that are held up to the face using a the end of a wooden spoon. It doesn’t even have to be a full on mask – an eye patch is great for any pirate story!
- Puppets – hand puppets and finger puppets are such a fun way to bring a story to life and they are fairly inexpensive too – If you are a fan of the story ‘We’re going on a Bear Hunt’, then these free printable finger puppets are perfect for little ones especially when combined with the tuff tray set up!
Setting the scene can really help bring stories to life too – Helping children to imagine what it might be like to be physically in the story setting.
- Buildings – try using construction toys for a backdrop to your stories – Duplo, magnetic tiles, and building blocks are all easy ways to set the scene for your story – this Magnetic Tiles Castle would be perfect for a princess story – or you could make houses out of Duplo bricks – get creative and see what you can come up with 🙂
- Gingerbread house – they aren’t just for Christmas (!) Gingerbread houses are a great story telling accessory and they are super yummy too so it’s a win-win!!
- Using Chalk – like with the story spoons, chalk is a great versatile option – paint chalk paint on to blocks of wood to make a city scene by drawing on lights and windows – or create 3 different looking houses for the 3 little pigs. You don’t need a chalkboard to use paint though – why not draw a house or scene in the garden using jumbo chalk?
- Outdoors – We recently went on a ‘Bear Hunt’ walk – we found some long wavy grass, splashed in a little stream and got stuck in some thick oozy mud!
- Sand – if your story is at the beach (Pip and Posy: The New Friend is a fun one if you’ve not read it!) then why not take your story into the sand pit!
- Shadow Puppet Theatre – why not try setting up a little theatre using either some fabric or even paper – just make sure you have the lighting behind your puppets (just print and cut out some characters or settings) – you could tell the story to your little ones whilst they watch or even better have the story play and you act it out!I highly recommend Audible for children’s audio books – it’s a great way to engage your kids and for new customers there is a 30 day free trial with one free audio book so why not give it a go!
Loose parts and sensory play
An easy way to engage children and let them take the lead is with loose parts play – this is using any parts or objects to encourage open ended play and creativity in children
- Tinker Trays – these are for toddlers to get hands-on in a storytime – use things associated with the story that they can touch and feel to get a grasp of the story
- Generic story baskets – not all story baskets have to have a theme in mind , you could put together a generic story basket with some dolls or teddies, and some blocks and other generic items that could be used in lots of different story sessions
- Sensory wooden spoons – I absolutely love these sensory wooden spoons to go along with the the story ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’ from Imagination Tree – she uses materials that would be great for younger children to experience the story through touch
- Sensory Play – For children of all ages but especially younger toddlers or babies, sensory play is a brilliant way to engage them with a story and so try using sand, foam, or water in your stories.
- I spy Story bottles – fill a bottle with rice and some objects that relate to the story and see if your child can find the objects in the bottles – discuss what part they play in the story
- Sound effects – Kids love to make noise (mine can’t be the only ones?!) Why not put that noise making to a use and get them to create sound effects for their favourite stories – you don’t need to have any musical instruments, get creative and see what you have in your home – balloons stretched over tins or bottles make great drum skins, elastic bands make great guitar strings over a yoghurt pot and there’s always saucepans if you can stand the noise!!
- Playdough – I think playdough just about works in any situation! The possibilities are endless and there aren’t many things you can’t create with it!
Engaging Older Children
Depending on the age of your child, you might want to try some of these activities to encourage them further in their learning
- Make up stories – encourage your child to use props and to make up a story of their own – help them think about who will be in the story, where it will be set and how it might end
- Alternative endings – what happens at the end of the story after its finished? Or what would a different ending look like? These may seem quite challenging questions for little ones but you’d be surprised what they can come up with 🙂
- Kim’s game – If you’re using a story basket, try taking away one element and see if your child can remember what’s been taken
- Questions – ask lots of open-ended questions to spark your child’s imagination and get them thinking
- Sequencing – You could print out story cards for a favourite story and see if your child can put the cards in order
- Guess the story – Show your child the story props in a basket or bag, and see if they can guess what the story is!
Bringing lots of ideas together to create a storytime set up your toddler will love
So we’ve got lots of ideas for what we can incorporate into out story time now, to really bring them to life – but I also have some story ‘sets’ for you to recreate at home based on some of our favourite stories – enjoy!
Story Baskets – The Tiger Who Came to Tea (Judith Kerr)
The Tiger Who Came to Tea is one of our favourite stories and we had so much fun putting together this story basket to help us tell the story!
This is what we included:
- Doll (Sophie)
- Lots of Toy food
- Toy bath
- Cafe tablecloth
- And a tin of tiger food!
Some of the things we had in the house, some of them we made – just choose some element of the story that you already have, and have a go at making your own story basket!
Story Sacks – Dear Zoo (Rod Campbell)
Similar to the story baskets, this is a collection of items from a story, altogether in one bag – this is great for story sequencing and for getting out one item at a time if your child is easily distracted or overwhelmed by too many options
What we included in our Dear Zoo Story Sack:
- Soft Toy elephant
- Duplo Giraffe
- Lego Camel creation
- A monkey (Fingerling)
- Lego frog creation
- Bean bag snake
- Pom-pom Lion face
- Talking Puppy dog
Again these were all toys we had a around the house or made out of building bricks! You could use printed pictures or balls with stickers on to go in the story sack, or even finger puppets!
Story Crafts – Stick Man (Julia Donaldson)
Having a craft to go alongside your storytelling helps the ideas and characters really set in your child’s mind – there are so many options but we went for the story of the Stick Man here and had a go at making our very own Stickmen!
- Sticks with Y shaped legs (this can take some hunting!)
- Wool in varying colours – go wild!
- Elastic bands to hold the ‘arm’ stick in place under the wool
- Googly eyes – because every craft I do has to have them!!
There are so many crafts you could have a go at – In a recent blog post I shared how I made these Three Little Pigs and a Wolf out of toilet rolls and foam felt (and of course googly eyes!!)
Story Tuff Trays -The Gingerbread Man
And to finish off we’ve got a sensory play Tuff Tray based on the story of the Gingerbread man! This was a really easy set up which kept my kids occupied for hours so I’m sure you’ll have fun with this one!
What I used:
- Wooden Utensils
- Plastic Cutters
- Pompoms for decoration and play
- Homemade Gingerbread Playdough/Cloud Dough
My recipe is a rough guide and I adapt it each time depending on what I am using the dough for, I simple use small plastic cups to keep it simple and double or triple the recipe depending on how much I want to create:- 2 small cups of flour
– Half a small cup of vegetable oil
– A spoonful of both ginger and cinnamon (it smells amazing!)
Mix it all in a bowl and have fun with this taste safe gingerbread sensory dough!
Another great Story Tuff Tray that we love is based on the book ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ and you can find out all about that Tuff Tray Here
Share Your Story Time
The above story ideas are just a fraction of what is possible – there are so many different stories out there to explore, and endless ways to do so!
Have fun bringing your stories to life with these creative storytime ideas – and I’d love to see what you get up to so be sure to tag your photos on social media with the hashtag #creativestorytimes