A few weeks ago, I visited Ruth Harley’s “Small Saints” toddler group in High Wycombe, along with one of our Diocese’s Children’s Workers. The group happens at the same time as a cafe in the church, so there were people of different generations using the church in different ways.
I managed to capture a bit of the storytelling – they were doing Jonah and the whale. Here are a few tips I noticed from how Ruth told the story.
- The children are involved – they’re touching the cloth and moving it. Under-5s are very physical.
- She keeps it short. The video is 90 seconds, and I’d only missed about a minute of the story. Toddler attention spans are not long.
- She asks questions. “What do you think happened next?”
- She lets the story be a story. She finishes by saying “that’s our story for today” – she doesn’t turn it into a moral. Children’s imaginations are sparked by stories – immediately repeating a moral can ruin the story’s power for them. (Wondering together about the story in an open-ended way is different, but difficult with a group primarily of 2-and-3-year-olds.)
Another brilliant thing Ruth did was have several of the songs in singing time be Christian songs that were sung to familiar nursery rhyme tunes. This made it much easier for the mums and dads to join in (and repeat the songs at home) since they already knew the music. Here are two.
To the tune of “London Bridge is Falling Down”
God is with us when we sing, when we sing, when we sing,
God is with us when we sing, God is with us.
(repeat with “jump, stamp, clap, etc” – doing all the actions as you sing them. If you need to calm the children down, you can finish with “sleep.”)
To the tune of “Row Row Row Your Boat”
Worship God today, worship with a clap!
Joyfully, joyfully, joyfully, joyfully, worship with a clap!
(again, do the movements as you sing them – repeat with whatever movements you like, including suggestions from the children.)