Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Stories for Younger Children – No. 2

Little Bear In The Snow

Here’s the story (as specially improvised for a snowy week):

Little Bear loved going out. One morning he woke up and looked out of the window and saw that everywhere was covered in snow.

Little Bear was very excited. He told his Mummy, ‘I’m going out.’ So he put on his boots, his hat and his gloves and off he went. (His Mummy watched him, of course.)

First he scrunched down the path leaving great big footprints in the snow. And when he got to the gate, he saw the long road in front of him all covered with snow.

Little Bear loved going along the long road. So he went through the gate and started to run. First he scrunched his way to the hill. In the snow, it looked all white and shining. He couldn’t wait to get to the top. And when he did, do you know what he saw?

His own toboggan! Someone had left his toboggan on top of the hill. So Little Bear got on it and slid down the hill. WHEE-EE-EE!

At the bottom of the hill, he carried on stomping through the snow – SCRUNCH! SCRUNCH! SCRUNCH! – until he came to the river. He was excited to see that the river was all frozen over with ice. So do you know what he did? Little Bear slid across it – WHOOSH!

And when he came to the other side, he carried on SCRUNCH! SCRUNCH! – till he came to the end of the road. And when he looked down, do you know what he saw?

He saw that someone had made a great big snowman with a carrot for a nose and pieces of coal for buttons.

So Little Bear went down to the snowman and gave him a pat and said, ‘When I get home, I’m going to make a snowman just like you.’

Then off he went, over the river and all the way to the hill where he picked up the toboggan and pulled it up to the top. Then he slid down the hill – WHEE-EE-EE! – and went home.

When he got home, he told his Mummy about all the things that he’d seen and then he made a very big snowman in his own front garden.

Oh yes, and his Mummy gave him a big mug of hot chocolate to drink.

Why I’ve chosen this story:

In my experience, children love snow. They also love talking about it. They’ll take any excuse to remember what it was like and what they did in the snow.

So because of the snow that fell last weekend, I wanted this week’s story to be a story with snow. Besides, I really enjoyed going into my garden and taking photos of the remnants of snow the next day. I’m including them as illustrations together with a photo of one of my paintings of Little Bear when he came to visit me in University College Hospital the summer before last.

I was still trying to decide which ‘snow story’ to choose when it suddenly occurred to me to improvise a special snowy version of Little Bear and the Long Road which – as many Early Years staff who’ve done workshops with me will already know – is one of my favourite stories for telling to younger children.

Where I got the original story:

I first heard Little Bear and the Long Road from the wonderful Japanese storyteller/librarian, Kyoto Matsuoka. Kyoko was the founder of the first children’s library in Japan and has been a great influence on storytelling for children in her country.

Kyoko first told me the Little Bear story over a cup of tea in the British Library tea-room. We’d met there to talk about the UK’s pioneering storyteller, Eileen Colwell, for a booklet on her work that I was producing for the Society for Storytelling. Kyoko had herself been greatly influenced by Eileen’s storytelling visits to Japan.

Over our tea, Kyoko described the work Japanese children’s librarians were doing to collect together and publish good stories for younger children. As an example, she demonstrated the Little Bear story to me right there and then in the tea-room. I don’t know what other people there thought: I sincerely hope they enjoyed it.

What you need for the story:

Any version of Little Bear and the Long Road needs the storyteller to provide a number of things. These include a little bear prop, good arm movements, engaging sound effects and opportunity for the children to participate.


Little Bear in the Snow could do with a few extra props. How about some kind of white sleeve that you could put on over your arm to represent the snow? Up in the dressing-up box in my attic, I’ve got a pair of white furry sleeves I cut off from an old bomber-type jacket I used to wear. That sort of thing would be perfect. Alternatively, could you create a sleeve out of paper or even a white carrier bag? And how about either making or finding a little hat and scarf for your Little Bear prop?

Arm Movements:

1. Start by raising Little Bear onto your shoulder and snuggling him up there while you talk about how he loves going out. (In my case, my left shoulder is where I put him. This gives me free use of my right hand for moving him about.)

2. When Little Bear first sees the long road (it’s magic!), make a bit of a performance of raising your left arm and stretching it out straight in front of you, the palm of your hand facing down. Hey presto! There’s the long road! Now start moving Little Bear along it.

3. Stick up your elbow as high as you can to represent the hill. Make Little Bear go up it. Slide him down the other side.

4. Pretend that your wrist (or your wristwatch or bangle) is the location of the frozen river. Show Little Bear getting across.

5. Move Little Bear to the end of your fingers and get him to look down over the edge to see what’s there at the end of his journey.

6. When he’s going home, do it quick.

Sound Effects:

Whatever the sounds – Scrunch! or Swoosh! or Wheee! – make them with enthusiasm. Repetition is good. So is an improvised sound to represent Little Bear moving along – for example, tumty-tum or tickety-toc or whatever you choose.

Audience Participation:

1. Children will probably volunteer all kinds of different suggestions as they get involved in the story. It’s good to hear them. But it’s also important to keep the story going so as not to let things get chaotic and risk losing their interest.

2. The point where you can profitably spend more time listening to children’s ideas is when Little Bear comes to the end of the road. What can he see? I’ve suggested a snowman in my version. But the children might suggest all kinds of other things. A group of children playing snowballs? A little lost cat? Who knows until you try it?

And remember:

Little Bear in the Snow is itself a recycled story. It can be kept in mind and recycled again and again. Different weathers, different seasons, different endings, different follow-up acitivities – it can go on a long, long time. But only as long as the children love it. Then it’s time for something else.

Also please have a think about my cardinal rule for storytelling with younger children (and older children too, for that matter). At the end of the session is NOT a good time. Or at least, it shouldn’t be the main time for stories. Children need to hear a story when they are fresh and when there’s time to absorb it, perhaps by following the story with the opportunity for some exciting drawing or retelling or re-enacting.  Stories are as important as good food. They should be a proper part of the children’s diet.

Next week: A third story for younger children


You can also read occasional blogs by me on the Early Learning HQ website.  Early Learning HQ offers hundreds of free downloadable foundation stage and key stage one teaching resources. It also has an extensive blog section with contributions from a wide range of early years professionals, consultants and storytellers. For details of the Society for Storytelling, click here.


Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply