Strictly Come Dancing Sensory Story

It’s that time of year again! Here’s a fun short story for those of you (adults and children) who can’t get enough of Strictly!

Child's glittery dance shoes

You can tell this story with one pupil as the hero/heroine or you can tell it about the whole class. The props are very adaptable – feel free to add in or change to other things that you think your pupils will enjoy. (Depending on your Covid rules you may need to use individual sets of props for each pupil.)

At the beginning you could let the star (or one of the stars) of the story choose between two different types of dance music (e.g. Walz music and rumba etc.) It is probably best to do this before the story starts so as not to lose the flow.

You might also want to record the ‘No!’ on to a BIGmack (or similar) communication device so that the star(s) of the story can join in with a big loud ‘no!’

Encourage all the staff team to join in with the repeated parts of the story so that the pupils are surrounded by the sound.

Black bowtie

The Props:

Music (see above)

Mobile phone, or toy phone

Nail polish brushes

Make up brushes

‘Fancy’ shoes (ballet shoes, any party shoes, or smart shoes)

Sequins and beads in a jar, a glitter wand or some sequin fabric

Lots of scarves or bow ties and waistcoats etc

Fold-up or mini electric fan

Strictly ‘score cards’

Confetti

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

The Story:

One day the phone call came! [‘Answer’ mobile phone]

The BBC wanted X [pupil’s name, or class name] to go on Strictly [Choose a pupil, or the whole class to be the star of this story.]

‘X!’ said everyone, ‘You’re going on Strictly!’

‘No!’ said X, ‘I’m not going on Strictly! I haven’t got any nail polish!’

‘Here’s your nail polish X!’ [‘Paint’ the pupils’ nails with the nail polish bush – with nothing actually on the brush!]

‘Now it’s time to go on Strictly!’

‘No!’ said X, ‘I’m not going on Strictly! I haven’t got any make up!’

‘Here’s your make up X!’ [‘Paint’ the pupils’ arms and/or cheeks with the make-up brushes.]

‘Now you’ve got your nail polish and you’ve got your make up. it’s time to go on Strictly X!’

‘No!’ said X, ‘I’m not going on Strictly! I haven’t got any fancy shoes!’

‘Here are your fancy shoes X!’ [‘Clap’ the fancy shoes together and maybe do a little ‘dance’ on the wheelchair tray with your hands in the shoes.]

‘You’ve got your nail polish and your make up and you’ve got your fancy shoes X. Now it’s time to go on Strictly!’

‘No!’ said X, ‘I’m not going on Strictly! I haven’t got any sequins!’

‘Here are your sequins X!’ [Show the pupils the sequin fabric or shake up a jar of sequins and beads or glitter wand.]

‘You’ve got your nail polish and your make up, you’ve got your fancy shoes and you’ve got your sequins X. Now it’s time to go on Strictly!’

‘No!’ said X, ‘I’m not going on Strictly! I haven’t got any fancy clothes!’

‘Here are your fancy clothes X!’ [Swoosh the scarves around and drape them around the pupils’ necks and laps. Or use bow ties and waistcoats etc.]

‘You’ve got your nail polish and your make up, you’ve got your fancy shoes, you’ve got your sequins and you’ve got your fancy clothes. Now it’s time to go on Strictly X!’ [Say this more and more definitely as the story goes on.]

‘No!’ said X, ‘I’m not going on Strictly! I’m too nervous!’

‘Never mind X! We’ll fan you! [Fan the pupils with a fold up or small electric fan.]

‘We’ll massage you!’ [Give the pupils a mini hand-massage.]

‘We’ll cheer for you!’ [Cheer!]

And so X took her nail polish and her make-up and her shoes and her sequins and her fancy clothes…

[Put on music]

And she danced!

And danced!

And danced! [Pupils all dance to the music for several minutes.]

And the judges said: 10, 10, 10! [Hold up ‘scores’]

Hip hip hurrah for X! [Throw confetti at the end as the music fades away.]

Remember…Keep dancing!

A Sensory Poem for National Poetry Day

National Poetry Day is coming up on the 7th October. Why not mark the occasion by taking a few minutes to read some poetry aloud in your classroom, letting everyone enjoy the sensory language? Look for poems with a strong rhythm and try clapping or stamping out the beat. Or you could try these sensory explorations of one of my favourites, the traditional poem, ‘There was an old woman tossed up in a basket’.

I use a big piece of Lycra (stretchy fabric) to create an activity around this. (A parachute could also work). Everyone gathers around the Lycra and holds it by the edge so that it is stretched out between the group. Then I use a very simple ‘lady’ and ‘basket’ cut out of thick felt. (A soft doll or even a teddy would also do for this.) We make the lady jump ‘as high as the moon’ by bouncing the Lycra as we chant the rhyme.

There was an old woman tossed up in a basket
Nineteen times as high as the moon;
Where she was going I couldn't but ask it,
For in her hand she carried a broom.
Old woman, old woman, old woman, quoth I,
Whither, O whither, O whither so high?
To brush the cobwebs out of the sky!
Shall I go with thee? Aye, by-and bye.

Have fun with this, recite it a few times over, softly with small bounces and loudly with great big bounces. Maybe you can get the lady to jump right off the Lycra! Calm things down at the end by ‘rocking the lady to sleep’ in the Lycra.

You could put some yellow dusters onto the Lycra as well for the lady to use in her cleaning! These are very cheap and look great against some dark Lycra.

A yellow cloth duster to use as a sensory prop.

Be sure that any props you put on the Lycra to bounce are soft as they do tend to go flying through the air!

If you do not have any Lycra or parachute you could make a more traditional sensory kit for the poem. Any kind of basket would do; give your pupils plenty of time to explore the interesting wicker texture. Then you could also ‘brush’ the back of their hands with a nice soft brush like this one:

Three soft wooden duster brushes

Add in some other cleaning props such as mop heads and feather dusters. And use some pretend cobwebs as well:

Fake spiders web with plastic spiders attached.

Repeat the poem a few times so that everyone can enjoy the language as you share the props. You could also record different parts of it onto communication devices and ‘conduct’ you pupils as they each press their device in turn. Try adding in some sound effects as well (maybe some ‘whooshes’ and ‘zooms’). Think of this activity as making a poetry stew; the words and props do not necessarily have to be in a certain order, you can just put everything into the pot and have fun. (Try this approach with other poems as well!)

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

My Top Five Sensory Props for Autumn

Another list of my favourites for you – and hurray for autumn – the sensory season! Autumn provides us with so many sensory props: conkers, seed heads, leaves, berries, apples…but here are a few others to add to the mix:

1) ‘Crinkle’ fabric in a bag

We definitely need to hear the scrunch of leaves in Autumn – recreate this in your classroom by putting some crinkle fabric into a little drawstring bag. You can buy crinkle fabric here: https://wwwhttps://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/473338712/baby-safe-crinkle-material-en71?ref=yr_purchases.

A roll of 'Crinkle' fabric

Or a cheaper alternative would be to collect unwanted baby toys that have a ‘crinkle’ feature and cut the crinkle fabric out of them. You could also experiment with crinkly packaging.

If you give every pupil in your class a small piece of crinkle fabric in little bag then everyone can join in with the crunching! Simply hold the bag in your hand and squish and squeeze. Small fabric drawstring bags can be purchased quite cheaply online. (Try looking for wedding favour bags.) Jute ones like these have a nice texture:

A set of small brown jute drawstring bags.

2) A gentle brush for leaf sweeping

If you are re-creating some leaf sweeping in your classroom then I recommend this brush:

A hand brush with soft bristles.

It is beautifully soft and creates a lovely feeling if you are ‘sweeping’ on the back of a child’s hand. It is a wee bit pricey but will make a lovely sensory addition to your classroom.

3) A Squishy Mushroom!

Autumn is mushroom time! I love this mushroom toy because it is so soft and squeezy!

A squishy toy mushroom.

4) Swallows chattering

Swallows chattering as they gather to leave for Africa are one of the sounds that mark the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. There are some nice videos of swallows gathering to migrate on YouTube. This swallow toy makes the noise of a swallow when squeezed:

A swallow (bird) soft toy.

5) Squirrel tails!

This is the time of year to see squirrels busy in the garden, parks and woods. A woolly duster makes a great squirrel tail!

A soft wool duster with a wooden handle.

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

My Top Five Props for Seaside Sensory Stories

Here are some fun props to add to your seaside stories along with the buckets and spades, shells and sun lotion! These props would be useful for many sensory stories set at the beach.

1) Seagull

A seagull that makes a seagull noise! How lovely!

Seagull soft toy that makes a seagull noise when squeezed.

2) Spaghetti seaweed

Why not try dying some spaghetti or tagliatelle with green food colouring to create seaweed. (There are lots of instructions for how to dye spaghetti online.)

Tagliatelle pasta that has been dyed green.

3) Lobster Claw Oven Mitts

Turn yourself into a huge lobster with these fun mitts!

Oven mitts in the shape of lobster claws.

4) Handwarmers re-create the heat of the sun

I use the disposable kind of handwarmers – they are a little wasteful but very easy to use. I simply pop them into a little drawstring bag and knot the bag up tight and then tell the children to ‘feel the sunshine’. You can find handwarmers like these all year round online, or stock up from outdoor/sports shops in the winter.

Packet of disposable hand warmers.

5) A stretchy octopus

Nice and tactile! Jellyfish are also available in the same range.

Stretchy octopus toy and image of girl playing with the octopus toy.

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

My Top Five Intriguing Sounds for Sensory Stories

An unusual sound is great for getting people’s interest in a sensory story. There are some noises that I love to include in my stories. My feeling is that if you know a noise will help a story along shoehorn it in to your story if you can!

Here are my top five noises!

1) A Slide Whistle

It is a very funny noise! Why? I don’t know – but for some reason it makes everyone laugh. Use it for someone/something falling, jumping, flying, growing, shrinking…

Acme slide whistle

The Acme Slide Whistle is a bit more expensive than most but will last you for years and years – it’s the Rolls Royce of slide whistles!

2) Bird Song

BIrd song can be added to almost any story that takes place outside. I often use it at the beginning of a story – it’s a soft inviting noise that captures people’s attention in a gentle way. Try using the RSPB soft toy birds with real bird sounds:

Robin soft toy which makes sound when pressed.

I sometimes cut the sound-box out of these toys and put it in a little drawstring bag instead (knotted up tight). The bag is simpler to press to get the sound and also more age appropriate for older children and/or adults.

3) A ‘football’ rattle (or ratchet)

These make a good tick-tock (of a clock) if you spin them very slowly. I also use them to make the sound of drawbridges going up or down, a drip of water, knitting needles clicking and crowds celebrating.

Football or ratchet rattle

Be warned – they can be very loud! If I am handing them around for people to join in with I usually use ones that are a bit cheaper as these tend to be quieter.

4) A bicycle bell

These make such an appealing noise – I often put the hero/heroine of my story on a bike simply so that I can include some ting-tings! Who’s to say that Little Red Riding Hood didn’t visit Grandma on her bike! Or the littlest Billy Goat didn’t cross the bridge on his scooter!

Bicycle bell with 'one-touch' design.

This one-touch type of bell is much easier for a child to ‘ting’ than a traditional bicycle bell. (Especially if you hold it for them.)

5) A rain stick

Any story set in the UK can include a shower of rain! It must have rained on Jack’s magic beans to make them grow. And I bet it was raining when Cinderella waved her sisters off to the ball.

Brightly coloured rain stick musical instrument.

This Goki rain stick is one of my favourites because you can see the beads inside – there is something quite mesmerising about watching them fall – sometimes they distract me from my own story!

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

The Little Red Hen, a sensory story about plants and growing things

Here is a sensory story version of The Little Red Hen – last in a series of sensory stories for The Wigtown Book Festival. I have kept all the basic elements of the traditional tale, but changed it to make the Little Red Hen grow tomatoes rather than wheat. The story follows the tomatoes from seed to plate and would be perfect if you are exploring a gardening/growing things topic.

This is one of my favourite folktales. As a mother I find that I can very much identify with the Little Red Hen working so hard! I have changed the ending slightly to allow the other animals the chance to ‘come good’ and to promote the value of sharing.

Hen in a field

The props are all things you can find around your house/school – check out the short intro video for details. And the script can be downloaded.

Script and intro both available here (under Sensory Story for April):

https://www.wigtownbookfestival.com/library/a-sensory-story

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

The Big Sneeze, Ruth Brown

image of book to turn into a sensory story - The Big Sneeze by Ruth Brown

Sticking with the farmyard theme The Big Sneeze by Ruth Brown lends itself beautifully to becoming a sensory story. It has a simple narrative, clear actions and only a little bit of text on each page. It’s perfect for a farm theme as it includes a barn setting and lots of farm animals.

The story starts with the farmer and all the animals snoozing in the barn. Put some snores on BIGmack communicators (or similar voice recording switch devices) and encourage everyone to join in with the snoring! If you like you could also use some bunches of straw or raffia, some old sacks and spider’s webs to create atmosphere. Raffia and sacks are easy to find online (search for sacks for garlic or potato storage) and if you search for ‘stretchable spider’s web decoration’ you will find the kind of webbing people put up at Halloween.

The action of the story starts with a buzzing fly. Unsurprisingly it is not very easy to find fly toys – you could try adding felt wings to adapt a caterpillar puppet:

Caterpillar finger puppet

Or you could simply use the tip of your finger and make a buzzing noise. ‘Fly’ your finger around the class and land at various spots, maybe on the back of a child’s hand or even on their nose (if you think they would enjoy that). Encourage the children and other adults present to ‘shoo’ the fly away. The buzzing of the fly can be pre-recorded if you prefer – kazoos make an excellent annoying buzz but are probably not advisable to use ‘live’ during Covid times. The same goes for the farmer’s enormous sneeze – even fake sneezing is probably not advisable at the moment – so record your sneeze onto a communication switch device before you start.

I like this type of ‘trick’ spider that has a nice wobbly sensory quality!

Sensory spider toy

You could use some feathers for the bird, the kind that are used for trimming hats:

A bunch of white feathers

I sometimes use a pastry brush as a tactile prop for a cat as I think they tickle in the same way as cat’s whiskers!

These noisy toys would also work well for this story:

Three small noise toys, a chicken, a pig and a rooster

If your budget stretches to a few chickens that would be good.

I think you could get away with using a mouse finger puppet instead of a rat (rats are harder to find). A finger puppet could work well as it could run over the children.

A mouse finger puppet

I think a nice weighty large toy donkey could work well for this story. This one looks lovely (but is a bit pricey!).

Donkey soft toy

Of course a donkey noise on a switch would be lovely as well!

When you get to the part of the story where the hens startle you could repeat some of the noises and tactile stimuli all at the same time to recreate the feeling of pandemonium that we get from the book! I have mainly suggested inexpensive tactile props so that you could have one set for each child if you are not sharing props at the moment. You could also individualise the sets of props to suit the needs of each child; some children might prefer a purely noisy story others might enjoy more tactile input. Other children might enjoy something very visual in which case you could use puppets throughout.

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

A Spring-time Sensory Story

Lambs, chicks and ducks…enjoy some spring-time sensory storytelling!

Follow this link to Big Dog Children’s Book Festival for the story (Skip to about 3 minutes in for the story):

https://www.wigtownbookfestival.com/programme/event/428325902/

All the props are ordinary household objects. See this very short explanation of how to tell the story here:

And scroll down here to download the script (with lovely illustrations by Kate Leiper:

https://www.wigtownbookfestival.com/library/a-sensory-story

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

Kite Flying, Grace Lin

It’s been a week of wild March winds here – and this is the perfect book for windy weather!

I love Grace Lin’s books and think that they are very suitable for turning into sensory stories – the stories are beautifully simple and the illustrations so clear. She has written about Chinese New Year (Bringing in the New Year) and the mid-autumn Moon festival (Thanking the Moon), Chinese food (Dim Sum for Everyone) and Chinese vegetables (The Ugly Vegetables).

My favourite book of hers at the moment is Kite Flying, published by Random House and also available as an e-book.

Kite Flying, picture book by Grace Lin

This would be great as a simple sensory story. It would tie in well with any Chinese theme, or dragon or weather theme…And of course it would be the perfect story to accompany actual kite-making – maybe afterwards as a way of re-calling the activity.

Start with some fans to make the ‘wind’ blow.

Selection of folding fans

Then have some sticks to bang together. (You could just use claves from the music box – they would make the right sound when banged together even if they are not the right length.) An empty glue bottle would be a fun prop to squish and then you could flap some huge sheets of coloured paper or kite fabric and wave some streamers around. ‘Paint’ the back of the children’s hands with a clean paint brush. And finish with a kite – or even better – lots of kites!

Tip: If you are not actually going to take your kite outside to fly then this type of windsock spinner will probably be easier to use as a prop than an actual kite (not so breakable):

Fish windsock spinner

It may be easier to snip off the strings and simply ‘fly’ it around the room by holding it at the ‘mouth’. You may be able to find a Chinese dragon shaped one:

Chinese dragon windsock spinner

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

A Sensory Story for Mother’s Day

Here is a story that would go well with a Mother’s Day theme when we celebrate the power of mums! Mums and are always ready for anything. And this mother certainly is – with a little help from her magic handbag!

Old-fashioned black handbag

I like to use a big old-fashioned black handbag as a prop for this story – large enough for all the different props. But if you can’t get hold of this kind of handbag you could use any kind of bag and just change the words accordingly (mum’s shopping bag, mum’s backpack etc.).

I use the following props: raincoats or rain ponchos (the kind that pack away into a pouch are quite intriguing for children), oranges in a net bag (the net bag adds tactile interest), a torch, a hand warmer in a little bag or a yellow silk scarf (for the sun) and a little music box or tinkling bell or something similar (to represent peace and quiet).

Small bells and chimes

But this story is very adaptable – you can make changes to the contents of the handbag so that you can use props and objects that you have to hand and/or to suit your child or class.

If you think it will confuse the children to hear a story about ‘mum’ you could change it to being about your own mum…

[Prop directions are in square brackets]

Mum’s Handbag

Mum was getting ready to take the children out for the day.

‘Right’ she said, ‘I’m all packed up and ready to go.’

But her handbag gave a little shoogle…and a shake…and a jump [Make the handbag shoogle, shake and jump]

and flew off and away, through the air and out of sight [‘Fly’ the handbag around in a circle and then bring it back. If you are telling the story to a group of children you could let them see and feel the bag as you fly it around.]

A little while later it flew back and landed at mum’s feet.

‘You forgot to pack…raincoats in case it rains!’ said the handbag.

And sure enough the handbag had fetched everyone’s raincoats. [Take the raincoats out of the bag and let the children see and feel them]

‘Right’ said mum, ‘I’m all packed up and ready to go.’

But her handbag gave a little shoogle…and a shake…and a jump [Make the handbag shoogle, shake and jump]

and flew off and away, through the air and out of sight [‘Fly’ the handbag around in a circle and then bring it back]

A little while later it flew back and landed at mum’s feet.

‘You forgot to pack…a bag of oranges in case anyone gets hungry!’ said the handbag.

And sure enough the handbag had fetched a bag of oranges. [Take the oranges out of the bag and let the children see and feel them]

‘Right’ said mum, ‘I’m all packed up and ready to go.’

But her handbag gave a little shoogle…and a shake…and a jump [Make the handbag shoogle, shake and jump]

and flew off and away, through the air and out of sight [‘Fly’ the handbag around in a circle and then bring it back]

A little while later it flew back and landed at mum’s feet.

‘You forgot to pack…a bright torch in case of emergencies!’ said the handbag.

And sure enough the handbag had fetched a bright torch. [Take the torch out of the bag and let children see it]

‘Right’ said mum, ‘I’m all packed up and ready to go.’

But her handbag gave a little shoogle…and a shake…and a jump [Make the handbag shoogle, shake and jump]

and flew off and away, through the air and out of sight [‘Fly’ the handbag around in a circle and then bring it back]

A little while later it flew back and landed at mum’s feet.

‘You forgot to pack…a little bit of sunshine in case we get cold!’ said the handbag.

And sure enough the handbag had fetched a little bit of sunshine down from the sky. [Let children feel the heat pad]

‘Right’ said mum, ‘I’m all packed up and ready to go!’

But her handbag gave a little shoogle…and a shake…and a jump [Make the handbag shoogle, shake and jump]

and flew off and away through the air and out of sight [‘Fly’ the handbag around in a circle and then bring it back]

A little while later it flew back and landed at mum’s feet.

‘You forgot to pack…a wee bit of peace and quiet in case things get too noisy!’

And sure enough the handbag had fetched a wee bit of peace and quiet. [Take the music box or bells out of the bag and let the children hear them]

‘Right’ said mum, ‘I’m all packed up and ready to go.’

‘Yes!’ said mum’s handbag ‘OFF WE GO!’

And off set mum and the children and the handbag, with the raincoats, the bag of oranges, a bright torch, some heat from the sun and a little bit of peace and quiet. [Finish by rattling the handbag and then use the music box or bells again]

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