The Three Billy Goats Gruff

For the third in our series of sensory stories to read at home that use ordinary household objects I have chosen the folk tale The Billy Goats Gruff. This satisfying tale lends itself very well to being turned into a sensory treat. The rhythm and repetition in this story make it perfect to share with a child with complex additional needs.

There are lots of versions of this book in print. One of my favourites is by Kaye Umansky, published by Bloomsbury, which has lots of interesting noises (and it comes with a CD).

Billy Goats Gruff book by Kaye Umansky for article about sensory stories.

And there is an extra-large version by Janet Brown (published by Armadillo).

Billy Goats Gruff My First Reading Book by Janet Brown

The text of the story is also widely available online, for example at: https://www.wattsenglish.com/comenius/soubory/stories-and-legends/norwegian-fairytales.pdf

It is not necessary to turn all the elements of the story into sensory props. I would concentrate on the following:

The Goats: I find that two plastic beakers banged together making a good trip-trap noise. (In the same way that coconut shells banged together make a clip-clop.) Experiment with doing this very gently for the little billy goat and then louder and louder for the bigger goats. Exaggerate the different goat voices as well making the little one very squeaky and the biggest one very deep and rumbling. I think the trip-trapping of the hooves is interesting enough by itself and it is not necessary to have other props to represent the goats. But if you wanted you could make very simple goat puppets by drawing the goats and then sticking the cut-out images on to sticks.

The Bridge: I think the most important thing about the bridge is that it gives the troll somewhere to hide. The surprise of the troll jumping out is a part of the story that children usually really enjoy. If you are using some sort of a toy troll you could hide him in a box or bag and make him leap out when one of the goats comes along. If you are being the troll yourself maybe you could hide behind a couch and jump out.

The Troll: Norwegian trolls are big and scary! I think the easiest way to convey this is to become the troll yourself. Put a blanket over your shoulders or pulled right up over your head as a kind of cloak, stomp around and use your best monster voice!

If you would prefer to use a toy or puppet then a monster toy would work well.

Some children might enjoy feeling the tactile qualities of the troll:

  • Sharp teeth can be made by cutting triangles out of yogurt pots.
  • A scrubbing brush can be the bristles on the troll’s chin.
  • A mop head can be his wild hair or if you are feeling really adventurous you could make him some slimy hair out of cold cooked spaghetti.
  • Two big wellie boots put on your hands (as if they were gloves) and banged together can be your troll stomping around.
  • Stuff the end of a cut of pair of nylon tights and tie a knot in it – this makes a good squishy nose.
  • For some reason I always imagine that trolls smell of onions. Cut an onion in half for the smell but be careful not to let anyone touch it (to avoid sore eyes).
Mop head

The green grass on the other side of the river: I like to use smells for this; they make a nice calm end to the story. If you have any nice smelling flowers and/or herbs in the garden you could make a little bunch, or maybe use some flower-scented soap. A pastry brush brushed on the back of a hand can make the swish-swish feel of long grass.

Plastic pastry brush

Remember – not all of my props recommendations are toys! The props I suggest should not be used by children unsupervised.