Interactive Storytelling for Every Age

5 min read

Last Modified 28 February 2024 First Added 31 August 2023

Storytelling introduces pre-school children and younger to the fundamentals of literacy, forming a vital part of the early process of learning to read. Language development in the brain begins from birth, so it’s never too early to begin sharing stories with your little ones. For babies, a familiar and soothing voice stimulates the language learning centres in the brain. For slightly older children, storytelling serves as an opportunity to reinforce their developing knowledge of the alphabet and numbers, introduce phonics, and grow knowledge and interest around their favourite topics. 

In our busy modern world, finding time to sit down with your child and tell them a story has significant benefits both within the home and as your child moves into education settings. It’s an excellent way to carve out positive quality time as well as improving language and literacy skills, teaching how sounds can go together and what words mean as well as social and cultural conventions. 

family reading

Why Is Storytelling So Important? 

Since the beginning of human interaction, storytelling has been an essential part of language development. Early literacy skills are important if you want to give your child a head start at school. A recent study by the Early Intervention Foundation discovered that more children than are starting primary school without the expected levels of speech and comprehension than just a few years ago.  Getting your child involved in sharing and recounting stories is a fantastic way to reinforce early literacy skills and ensure they are starting school with the best possible breadth of knowledge around language – giving them a real headstart. 

How To Do Interactive Storytelling 

Adding elements that your child can interact with into your storytelling makes bedtime (or whenever you chose!) more fun for you both. Here are some of our favourite ideas for adding interactive elements to your storytelling: 

  • For very young children, holding the book and turning the pages is the first time they interact with a story. Making books and reading more familiar is the goal, so don’t worry if they get it wrong the first few times, hold the book the wrong way round or turn the pages too vigorously – it’s all about getting them involved! 
  • Many children’s books have built in interactive elements, from lifting the flap (ask them what they think is underneath) to slide-outs and pop-ups. Look for books around their favourite topics with these features for a really fun way to get your child involved in telling the story. 
  • Ask questions as you go through the story – even if they are too little to answer. Simple questions that encourage thought around the subject work best “What do you think she’s going to do next?” or, for slightly older children, more conceptual questions can be an interesting talking point – “How do you think she felt when she lost the ball?” 
  • Chants and singing are another positive way to encourage interactivity. Rhyme and rhythm  with lots of repetition allow your child to sing or chant along from memory, which can be an excellent confidence-grower. Try familiar stories with rhythmic elements, alliteration, poems or stories with silly rhymes – Roal Dahl is especially good at these. 
  • Vary the pace and tone of your voice. If you feel confident, you could also create voices for characters, children often react well to adults sounding silly and you may find they ask for the story again just to hear your impressions. 
mum and children reading

More Interactive Storytelling Ideas 

You don’t have to read from a book to create an interactive storytelling experience. We love the idea of creating a photobook (use a printer and craft paper for a budget-friendly option) and telling a story through pictures of friends and family.  

Acting out stories is another way to add interactive elements to familiar tales. You might try finger puppets, or creating a puppet show set up with a cardboard box. Socks make great instant puppets if you glue on some googly eyes and add a few accessories cut from card. You can also use dolls, teddies or other small figures to act your story out. Allow your child plenty of freedom to deviate from the initial story – encouraging imaginative and creative play that builds confidence. 

Make Reading A Habit For Life 

Repetition is an essential part of the human learning process. You might find your child wants to read the same book over and over, allowing them to do this can be really positive to several areas of their language development, as each re-reading of a familiar story teaches new skills, new words and brings about new questions in their growing minds.  Make it a habit to read a bedtime story, or if you are pressed for time, record fun stories with your own voice or familiar family members to play on long journeys in the car. However you bring interactive storytelling to your child, it’s a habit that will set them up for a lifetime of reading, writing and loving literature. 

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