Sourcing Story Props
When selecting story props, consider the listener’s needs and abilities and how they interact with objects, as this will give you an indication of the texture, weight and shape of a prop to use.
Try to be as imaginative as you can when choosing your prop. E.g. if you are representing an animal aim to use a sound effect or pick its main feature e.g. lion’s mane, tiger’s stipes, shark’s teeth rather than using a plastic or stuffed toy.
Choose props that cover the five main senses, sight, touch, taste, hearing and smell.
Most of the props used in the sensory stories can be found around the home, garden, nursery, classroom or residential home.
Raid the recycling and upcycle! Re-use parcel packaging such as bubble wrap, corrugated card, foam wrap, polystyrene packing 'peanuts', air pillows, foam, shredded paper, Kraft roll and tissue paper.
Gift bags and pretty boxes are excellent for placing props in to create an air of mystery or when doing 'What's in the Bag/Box?' activities.
Plastic containers can be recycled for use as plant pots, paint/glue pots, measuring scoops and sand and water play toys (punch holes through the bottom for an instant waterfall effect) They are excellent used in craft activities such as junk modelling, making bird feeders, and when filled with glitter, confetti, and food dye (don't forget to seal!), make excellent sensory bottles.
Cardboard boxes can become castle, dens, houses, shops, trains, cars, buses, boats, airplanes, rockets, a dolls house, post box, theatre, ice cream van, or a guitar. The imagination is the limit!
By being creative, you can build up a bank of resources on a very tight budget. Charity shops, jumble sales, car boots sales and £1 shops a are all good sources of story props.
Take advantage of the sales e.g. buy Christmas props in the January sales.
Herbs & Spices
Build up a store of herbs and spices. They are available dried or fresh, are cheap, and a little goes a long way!
Herbs are fun and easy to grow from seed in containers on a sunny windowsill or if you prefer, potted herbs can be bought from supermarkets. Dedicating a small area of your patio or garden to herbs will reap rewards and provide you with a year round supply of herbs.
See if your town has a community herb garden or take cuttings or swap herb plants with friends and neighbours.
Here are a selection of fast and easy to grow herbs.
Mint is the fastest growing herb. It can grow up to 3 feet in height and spreads in abundance. There are many varieties to explore such as spearmint, lemon mint, apple mint, peppermint and even chocolate mint!
Fennel is hardy and easy to grow, it has bright green, feathery, fern-like leaves and aromatic large yellow flowers. This plant will grow three to four feet tall. The foliage and seeds are both edible and have an anise-like flavour.
Rosemary is an edible evergreen bush so you will be able to use it all year round. Its stems are woody and brilliant blue flowers produce a piney fragrance. (excellent used as a prop when learning about the Romans, Greeks or Egyptians or to represent a forest or woods in a story.)
Lemon balm is a citrus-scented, aromatic herb with tiny white flowers. Its leaves look similar to mint. It is native to the Mediterranean and was used by the Ancient Greeks as it attracted bees.
Lavender is a wonderfully fragrant plant from the mint family, with delicate grey-green foliage and beautiful, edible, flowers that keep their fragrance when dried. The herb originated from the Mediterranean, Middle East and India so is great for using in stories based around those regions.
Thyme is a strong smelling and tasting herb native to Europe, North Africa and Asia. Most species are evergreen, so you will be able to utilise this herb year round. Their stems are narrow, their tiny leaves fragrant. Thyme has tiny, edible, white, pink or purple flowers. The herb thrives in a hot, sunny location with good draining soil. The Ancient Egyptians, Ancient Greeks and the Romans all used thyme so this herb is great for linking into historical sensory stories.
Chives are native to Britain and grow rapidly in clumps that can be divided to make new plants. Belonging to the onion family, they have tall, hollow leaves and when they bloom in the summer they have wonderful, deep purple or pink pom-pom like edible flowers!
I love using edible flowers in my sensory stories! They are pretty, delicate, colourful, tactile and versatile providing a perfect sensory experience.
Here are a a selection of my favourites!
Lavender leaves and flowers are beautifully scented. Place dried leaves and flowers into small cotton bags to make your own lavender bags.
Nasturtiums The round, edible broad leaves of the nasturtium have a wonderful peppery tang and are high in vitamin C. They are excellent used as a story prop for a lily-pad when teaching about frogs or fairytales! Used to garnish salad, their exotic edible flowers are coloured bright orange, red and yellows. Nasturtiums are cheap, easy to grown and will spread, climbing up walls and fences and provide ground cover. Their seeds can be harvested for planting the following year.
Sunflower seeds and petals are packed with nutrients. The tiny seeds are crunchy with a nutty flavour There are two types of sunflowers seeds, the seeds encased in black and white striped hulls are used for eating (discard hull), the seeds with solid black shells are used for oil. The petals of the sunflower have an artichoke like taste. Sunflowers are exciting for children and young adults to plant. Position in a sunny spot, keep watered and watch them grow!
Rose petals Roses belong to the same family as strawberries. Their delicate, silk-like, perfumed petals have a soft feel on the tongue.
Courgette flowers. These wonderful, large, bright yellow/orange flowers are very tactile and packed with nutrients. I use them when teaching about Christopher Columbus who bought the courgette over from Central and South America.
Pea shoots are the tender tips of the vines, their leaves, flower blossoms, stems and tendrils make a fresh, grass-like tasting salad greens.
Other edible flowers include fuchsias, marigolds, cornflower petals, violas, chives and pumpkin flowers.
Engage learners by planting the seeds together and nurturing them as they grow.
Link the flowers to areas of learning.
Add to homemade playdoh.
Freeze inside ice cubes for sensory play.
Press flowers and use them in artwork.
Dry the flowers and make home-made pot-pourri.
Practice flower arranging or set up a role play florist shop area.
Weave into flower headbands or crowns.
Make scented bags.
Use as ingredients when making 'potions'
Use as cake decorations or to garnish salads.
Conduct a colour changing science experiments by placing white flowers in a clear container with food dye.
The Health & Safety bit!
Only use plants and flowers you know are safe to eat.
When picking the flowers ensure they are clean, mould, bug and disease free, have not had insecticides used on them.
Be allergy aware
Sound effects create atmosphere in a sensory story.
A quick search on the internet will provide you with access to a library of free audio clips and sound effects that can be played via your phone, iPad, Kindle or recorded on a Dictaphone.
There are also sound effect apps available.
If you have a budget, it worth investing in a set of voice activated talking tiles. These are single button voice recorders that record and playback 80 seconds of speech, music or sound effects. They have a removable clear lid that allows you to create pictures, symbols, numbers, words or letters to match your recordings. They present the listener with great opportunities to explore cause and effect, practise listening skills, record themselves, enhance the sound effects in a story and are an excellent tool for retelling a story.
Explore making your own sound effects. Here are a few fun suggestions!
Glass smashing: place small metal objects (coins, screws, bolts) into a fabric bag then gently drop the bag into your open hand.
Squelch: canned mushy peas coming out of the can. make a wonderful quelching and sucking sound that occurs when the air on the outside of the can is sucked into the can to fill the airspace.
Bats flying: open and close an umbrella rapidly.
Crunching: break dried pasta, spaghetti, celery stalks.
Footsteps: Hold two shoes and tap the heels together, then tap the toes. Try using different kinds of shoes on different surfaces. For instance, walking in cat litter sounds like walking on gravel or snow.
Bird's wings flapping: wave a pair of rubber gloves up and down rapidly.
Breaking ice: slowly twist polystyrene until it squeaks and snaps.
If you have any ideas for sound effect ideas you would like to share I'd love to hear them then we start to build a sound effects library!
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