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6 ways a storytelling tray can support children who don’t engage with books.

Do you have children who do not show much interest when reading books?

It happens to us all and in fact I had a couple of boys that were reluctant and just did not want to be at group times. I wanted to try and draw them in and so I decided to try some storytelling trays about the play they were engaged in.

So, what is a storytelling tray?

A storytelling tray is a creative and interactive invitation that can be used to engage children in storytelling activities. It typically consists of a tray or a shallow container filled with various items related to a specific story or book. These items can include small toys, figurines, natural materials, pictures, or other objects that represent characters, settings, and objects from a story.

I have found some items work really well in a storytelling tray and I have shared some here and MORE are in my storytelling tray mini-course.

I have found a storytelling tray can support children in 6 ways:

1. Visual and Tactile Stimulation:

  • Visual Appeal: Children are naturally drawn to colourful and interesting objects. The variety of items on the tray captures their attention and curiosity.

  • Tactile Experience: Handling and exploring the items provide a tactile experience, which can be particularly engaging for children who learn best through touch and play.

2. Imagination and Creativity:

  • Story Creation: Children can use the objects to create their own stories. This process encourages imaginative thinking and creativity, allowing them to invent characters and scenarios.

  • Role-Playing: The objects can be used for role-playing, enabling children to act out different characters and explore various social situations.

3. Language Development:

  • Vocabulary Expansion: Discussing the items on the tray with an adult or peers helps in expanding vocabulary as children learn the names and attributes of different objects.

  • Storytelling Skills: Children can practice storytelling by describing the objects and creating narratives around them, enhancing their storytelling skills.

4. Engagement and Attention:

  • Personal Connection: Children might find it easier to engage with physical objects, especially if they have a personal connection to the items, making the storytelling experience more meaningful.

  • Sensory Engagement: The sensory experience of touching and exploring the items can captivate their attention, making them more likely to participate.

5. Inclusive Learning:

  • Accessible: Storytelling trays can be adapted to cater to children with different abilities, making learning more inclusive for all.

  • Customization: Teachers can tailor the trays to match individual interests, ensuring that every child finds something engaging.

6. Preparation for Reading:

  • Familiarity with Narrative Structure: Through storytelling trays, children can grasp the basic elements of a story (characters, setting, plot), which provides a foundation for understanding books later on.

Storytelling trays provide a hands-on approach and they cater to different learning styles and preferences, making them an effective tool to support children, especially those who may initially struggle with engaging in books.

My reluctant book listeners were interested in construction and knocking things down. With these interests and schema, I grabbed Sally Sutton's books which also have simple text and illustrations.

I started with a large tray or tuff to engage them and others first in play. The book was there but it was more about the play. After the boys had been engaged in play I sat down next to the tray and offered to read the book. They were happy for me to do this and listened while they played. I read it again and observed that the play was similar to the story line. I then joined in becoming a play partner. I had the tuff storytelling tray out for 3 days. I changed the book and some of the items.

On the fourth day I offered a medium sized storytelling tray inside and outside. You can see the medium sized tray in the tuff tray. In fact the medium sized tray is the bottom for a large pot that you can get at a hardware store (mine was around $8).

Finally, I offered a small storytelling tray. This had sensory opportunities with different materials to move around as the deconstruction and construction was developing into a transportation schema. Making the storytelling trays smaller and smaller was a way that I could use proximity to see how they engaged with them and make the book more prominent.

When it came to there being two small trays, I heard rich language being used and some of the story being retold. I was also very excited when I was asked to read the book by one child and as I did, they played with the items in the storytelling tray. I was tempted to go to one small storytelling tray but I noticed that a BIG part of the play its social aspect and I thought one tray may change this. Ot it might have meant that the boys would not have participated as it would have taken away the social and friendship aspect which I felt was integral to the learning.

As the trays got smaller the play and language got richer and then I saw the children being more engaged in the books read in group times and even asking questions about them. I was then able to add more complex books about construction and vehicles in group times and even user guides for vehicles and construction.

Through storytelling trays creative play and exploration happened and this led to children engaging in essential skills that will serve as a stepping stones to future literacy.

Until next time.


P.S. there are affliate links that if you use won't cost you anything but may get me some moolah

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