True Thomas the Storyteller

Investigate a true classic



Frequently Asked Questions
Aliens and Irishmen!
Attack of the Plastic Patty's
Beyond Green Beer and Leprechauns
Celebrating the Saint of Ireland - St. Patrick
Celtic Cats - Magical Mystery Purr!
Celtic Love, nothing short of Epic!
An Interview with a Faerie in the 21st Century
Five Miracles of Storytelling
Halloween, the Celtic American Holiday!
Irish Standard Time
Kerns + Galloglass. Scariest Team on Earth!
One old Biddy you don't mess with
The Problem with Fairies.... NEW!
Saint Preserve Us
Shaggy Dog Stories - a Celts best friend!
St. Patrick's Day: A story of celebration and survival
Storytelling for Kids
A Tough Act To Follow - Mystic, Legend, Saint,… Patrick.
Tying the Knot, Celtic Style

Storytelling for kids

A workshop by True Thomas! (For Mountain Lion Retreat 2001)

Those of us who feel like telling stories, want to share of ourselves and share in the experience of being a kid. And we want to share our love of stories as well. Give in to this impulse and don't give up. And tell stories to kids whom you might not even be related to.

It is sad that we have become so fearful in our lives - of strangers and neighbors, and the pedophile around the corner. The news media wants us to live in our own little fortresses, watching the nightly parade of horrors. Storytelling can connect you to the ones you love and make friends of neighbors and find our common humanity. Storytelling civilizes and expands our mental borders (culture, morality, compassion, etc.) - things we need today, now more than ever.

It may not be that kids have incredible imaginations (although they may) but that they have open minds, and are not holding us to rules that we have imposed on ourselves through the years. Feel free to expand on everything in this class!

For those of you who are already telling stories, kids can usually sense that spirit, that feeling of play - they know who you really are! And will get you to play with them.

Things that are important when telling any story:

Know your audience
Age, likes, dislikes, current themes and so on. Be sensitive about current issues if at all possible. What do they talk about?

Establish a rapport
Talk to the kids, play with them if possible.

Know how much time you have, and what their attention span is. Is this a good time for stories?

Make certain it's cool with the parents teachers, etc. Some parents may not like their kids told ghost stories, or stories with certain characters (the devil) etc. If possible find out.

Get the adults involved
Whenever possible - this is how the adults learn to tell stories as well. Plus, this keeps the storytelling from turning into babysitting. Plus, kids look to adults for the lead. So many adults are looking for a chance to ham it up, and kids love the absurdity of their teacher clucking like a chicken (or whatever.) Make certain you ask and prep the adult first.

It is a privilege
Storytelling should be a treat. It may take you a while to get established, but kids should be asking to be told stories after the first few times. If they start goofing around, stop telling. If they are too unruly, invoke the parents, teachers, etc.

Make a Space
Even if you are telling scary stories, kids need to feel taken care of. Create a space, give them a non-distracting environment, make it inclusive to those who behave, and exclusive to those who don't.

Rope in the Ringleaders
If you involve the kids, get the noisy ones and the quiet ones, and get them to help you. If one of them get's rowdy or goofy, call them on it. Swing the energy towards the ones who are behaving. And when the wilder ones behave, reward them.

Pick a story that you like. Find some kids.
Now, take a deep breath. Relax. Look them in the eyes, smile, and see the story in your head. Tell them what you see. Don't rush, but don't dawdle. When you get finished, smile, and remember -

The right story in the right time and place can change the world!

Things to try, ideas to get you started:

Strangely enough, as a professional storyteller I run into the "so you are a storyteller? What books do you read to the kids…." But, if you want to make the jump, to "sans-book" you can start by "telling" the book- how many times have we "heard" a story, and when we read the book, were vaguely disappointed? That's because it was "being Told" not read.

Reading from books - try some of these things…

  • Different voices
  • Different tempo's
  • Different Rhythms
  • Playing with the books
  • Putting the book away


  • Attention getters: Anything from props, to music, to funny noises. Let them know you are there - then wait.
  • Props: Props can be your hands, a sock, almost anything. If you want, you can include something from a corresponding craft workshop, and then you get the fun of Making Them.
  • Co-opting: Ask a kid what a magical thing is, or a scary animal- or how something should be - tie it into your story. Asking opinions (is this a well behaved frog? Is that a nice person?)
  • Dealing with enthusiasm: Kids love stories. They imagine viscerally, so when they imagine, they are into it. Keeping them in their chairs is an art. Be firm. Have everyone talk at once? Can you hear me? No? Why not? Etc. I use raise your hand if you want to talk, in larger gatherings of younger kids. Older kids are more difficult. Work with the ones who are responding, ignore the wisecrackers, and if they get too annoying, call in the adults.

Interactions (Kids love them)

  • Repetitive: Kids like rhythm - especially in a story. Stories like Gunniwolf, the Bear went over the Mountain, the Golden Arm, etc. are rhythmic stories. Start slow, speed up, lose description for action. A story can be like a roller coaster - twists, turns, and over before you know it.
  • Story Theatre: Kids as characters in the story - you tell it, they act it out. Takes a bit of practice, but worthwhile, and very interactive.

Interactive stories are probably one of the best ways to get the kids involved.

  • Forms of interaction can be anywhere from metalanguage (mugging, mimicking, waiting for response, being startled by response, looking for eyecontact, etc.)
  • To questions (How do you feel, what do you think, what happens next, has this ever happened to you, etc.)
  • To repetition/response ("and the bear went over the mountain, the mountain, the mountain", that can include gestures, dance, and more)
  • To objects (props, for instance a story bag that has objects in it, or a cool object that the kids can handle, etc. Likewise, you can have kids make masks, wands, or whatever can be tied to a story)

Things Kids like

  • Repeated stories: When they stop asking, it's done!
  • Playing games with repeated stories; (Deviating from the course - So the little red Horse… {kids- NO! Little red Hen!!!})
  • Silly Faces: (I am honored to be the "Silly Papa")
  • Theatre of the absurd: Take a pair of pants (not yours) and put them on your head - voila, bunny ears - shoes become hooves, or whatever - toys around the room, etc, used in different ways than intended.
  • Storytelling time: the importance of ritual; Try to keep the same time and place. This gives their universe bedrock, and helps you get things going. Starting and ending with the same rhythm.

My teacher - RJ Ryan Seutter!
(This is his- "you're gonna tell me a story" face, Right? Right.")

We probably won't have enough time, but here are some things we can discuss!


Creating stories with them; Pick three items- weave a story.
Using the theme of the evening- been watching a pokemon show? Tell a Pokemon tale, with their help.

Getting Goofy
Talking to the inner child-(under the blankets, popsicle bats, and more)

Older Kids
Scary Stories
Personal Stories
Dealing with death- no right answers
Bringing Morals (and avoiding moralizing)
Fairy tales
Picking the Moment
Timing and Distractions
Co-opting the adults

Things to check out

Go here!
and Go here!

(on how to tell stories!)
I recommend everything by Margaret Read MacDonald

Storytelling Tapes: (video and audio)
Also available at August house, and at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and more;

Your local Library can be a great resource, and a place where many a teller has found stories, and a love to tell them!

Let your love shine! -True


Don't be afraid of the tickle break, or the wiggles. Plan for them, include them!
Don't give up.
Less is More!

Margaret is the guru of kid-telling, and here's a snippet of some of her info!

"From The Parent's Guide to Storytelling by Margaret Read MacDonald.
Why Tell Stories?
Once you have begun telling stories, the sheer joy of the act is all you will need to move you to tell again and again. For those who need a good reason to start, here are some of the benefits of storytelling.
Passing On Values. All societies use storytelling to instruct their young and to gently admonish each other. Storytelling is a way of "saying without saying." When Anansi the Spider acts in a greedy manner and gets himself into trouble, we all laugh. But a point is taken by the listeners: Being a glutton is not acceptable behavior. Watch for stories that speak to issues you want to confront and add those stories to your list.
Developing Literary Skills. In addition to its use in the teaching of values, storytelling makes other educational contributions. Through storytelling the child is exposed to fine language. Children's literary sensibilities are refined and their vocabulary is expanded. A sense of story structure is developed, which serves well when the child begins to compose written pieces. And as children begin to join in the telling, their oral skills are developed.
Recording History. By telling the stories of our personal, family, and community histories, we are able to make sense of our own past. The things that stick in family memory are the incidents that have been made into stories. To help your child develop a strong sense of family and community, tell and retell their stories.
Emotional Development. Storytelling can also play a useful part in the emotional development of your child. Through stories such as folktales the child can encounter danger, overcome obstacles, and share adventures . . . all at a safe distance. The tale's hero or heroine experiences all this for the child. Psychologists suggest that such stories help children gain confidence in their own ability to handle frightening and difficult situations. The stories provide role models for encountering and overcoming adversity.
Stretching the Imagination. There is nothing like a story to stretch the imagination. When you use words alone to weave images, the child soon learns the way into the rich world of the mind. Add stories to your repertoire to take your child to even further realms, and spend time letting your child share his or her own imaginings with you.
Intimacy. Last, but perhaps most important, is the intimacy that grows from the story moment. There is a special magic in the sharing of a story with your child. The child cuddles close, you both look away into your imaginations, and the story begins: "Once upon a time . . ." This is a gift you give your child, a gift of time, energy, and caring. The story can be an elaborate fantasy spun from your own dreams, it can be a simple folktale remembered from your childhood, or it can be a story found in a book like this. No matter what the source, the gift is the same . . . a gift of shared imaginations. You need no special skills to share stories with your child. You need only a caring heart and the time to tell.
©1995,2001 Margaret Read MacDonald. All rights reserved."