Sensory Storytelling Resource

Inclusive sensory storytelling Header photo

Sensory Storytelling Resource

Stories help us make sense of the world around us and to share that understanding with others. 

 By incorporating sensory moments within sensory storytelling we can aid the understanding and context of the story for children and young people with complex additional needs. 

Sensory stories are fun and unique in that their participatory nature (the sensory moments/ interactions) afford opportunities for the storyteller to watch for and react to the response of the listener and incorporate this into the story very easily creating opportunities for creative engagement. The story may stay on course narratively or go ‘off piste’ and follow the lead of the child or something somewhere in between.

Through the stimulation of the senses sensory storytelling can deepening the experience of the story bringing extra joy and wonder and also allowing for processing time within a story. 

Sensory stories can facilitate access to stories, participation in and creativity by different members of the family. You can create moments that you know will appeal to specific people and in this way these stories can create valuable shared communal time, enjoyed by all.  Sensory stories can provide a one to one experience between parent and child or become an event in which many members of the family participate in taking on different role or just listening together.

As a play structure sensory stories can be easily adapted to suit your situation and your children’s needs.  If your child is always on the move try keeping the props in a bag and using lots of repetition to create access points and anchor the story structure if the storytelling is continuously interrupted. If your child experiences PMLD bring elements of the story to them through sensory moments that are immersive such as sensory umbrellas or create a themed immersive sensory storytelling space full of sensory possibilities and comfortable to inhabit and rest in for longer periods. 

Sensory storytelling

Tips and ideas for telling sensory stories:

When starting out choose a story that you know either from a book, one that you tell of have heard, a nursery rhyme or a section of song.

• Choose a story with a spacious simple structure that has plenty of room to add interactive moments

• What are the sensory access points in the story – what are the moments in the story that can be translated into a sensory moment to either:

• Beforehand Get assemble your props and resources and check that you are confident that they are safe and suitable. 

 

1.  aid in the understanding and context of the story, 

2. provide a moment of participation for the listener while immersed in the sensory moment

3. or deepen their experience of the story through sensory stimulation

 

• How might you use the senses to do this? Which aspect of the sense will best animate that particular moment in the story? For each sensory access point decide what is going to happen and try and engage a range of senses either within each sensory access moment (these usually provide the engagement of more than one sense) and also within the story as a whole.

• Choose 4- 6 sensory access points per story and experiment with what works and what doesn’t.

• Think about what props you can use to make the connection between the story and sensory access points. Puppets, toys or objects representing the main characters are really useful but don’t need to be expensive or complicated and might be something you already have at home.

Examples for experimenting with how to use the different senses within sensory storytelling:

Sound:

Using rhymes, rhythm and repetition works well either created through our voices, found objects or instruments. Musical instruments and found objects are great look for the different qualities in the objects and the sounds that they might make – metal might create a sharp and hard sound or a bell like sound for example, water a dull or splashing sound. Our voices are great for creating soundscapes and atmosphere. We can use varying volume to create effects. The internet is great for soundscapes especially for environments whether natural or manmade that can be played through speakers. These can be used to set the scene for the story especially if the story is being told in a multisensory storytelling environment.

Please see our short film on sound effects in the Music & Sound Online Resource.

Touch:

Try experimenting with different interesting textures in either materials, objects or toys and puppets, contrasts work well as do objects/ elements that have different properties. For example, you could create elements of a snowstorm with a fan, ribbon attached to the fan, ice or child-friendly synthetic snow.

Visual:

We can use materials with different textures, colours, lights – either torches, battery operated fairy lights, standalone LED toys and lights. Contrasting light and shadow also works really. Using visual communication aids within sensory stories can also help with the telling of a story.

Taste:

Food, liquid sprays to be sprayed on the tongue for those enteraly fed

Smell:

Think about how what smells or has an aroma in the story that would enhance the telling of the story. For example, the mood of a story may be communicated through the atmosphere or energy that a smell provides e.g. lavender is relaxing. Or you might give different characters in the story different smells through the use of essential oils or scented cream both added to toys that represent the characters. Please check for allergies and check that essential oils and creams are safe to use, if in doubt use another sense! Elements from the environment that the story takes place in may have an aroma, damp autumn leaves or pine cones for a forest. 

Creating our own stories:

Stories that we know and love form books or that we have heard are great for sensory storytelling as are nursery rhymes or songs but we can also make up stories. This can be a great activity for all the family to do together or an opportunity to include characters or objects that our child already knows and loves. The Six Part Storytelling Method synthesised by Mooli Lahad can be great for this. Please see our little storytelling film for instructions on how to use this simple format and see the ready formatted story making grid here.

We are all storytellers

We are all always communicating and telling stories every day without thinking about it. When telling:

Known structures, repetition and are our friends they allow listeners to anticipate and join in and create more space to develop the sensory interactions.

Be committed and believe in the story it’s probably one of the most important things. 

Be expressive and think about your energy when telling a story, you can use both to inform the listener/ participant what is happening, set story atmospheres/ tones and create wonder!

Incorporate Makaton and visual aids if they help.

Most importantly enjoy it and have fun!