How to Write a Speech for Kids

How to write a speech for kids is straightforward, truly! Once you've gained some experience you'll find it fun as well as hugely rewarding.

You follow exactly the same steps as you would when preparing a speech for adults but with minor variations. So you'll plan, make an outline, write up your notes, prepare cue cards if you need to, rehearse and then deliver your speech.

However because you are speaking to children you will need to adapt some of the processes. Follow my 3 part outline below, and you'll be fine!

How to write a speech for kids - Part 1

child's blackboard with stick figure and 1 +1 = 3

Your first step is to consider your audience.

  • What age are these children?
  • What backgrounds do they come from?
  • What background do they have in relation to your topic?
  • What common experiences do they share that you use as stepping stones into your material?
  • What level of vocabulary will they readily understand?
  • What grabs and keeps their attention?

To get all the answers, ask the person or people, who invited you to speak.

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  • How long you're expected to speak for
  • What the purpose is behind inviting you to speak
  • If the group has members with special needs you should be aware of like children who are deaf, sight impaired or emotionally fragile

Once you've got that information you're ready to begin shaping your material.

How to write a speech for kids - Part 2

Bear in mind the following as you plan:

  • Keep the structure simple and clear: introduction, body of speech, conclusion.
    Kids, just like adults, appreciate knowing what is going on and knowing why they're being asked to listen.
  • Use conversational language rather than formal. In your mind choose a child to address your speech to. This will help you keep it 'real'.
  • Limit the number of main points you wish to make about your topic to one or two.
  • Keep the formal part of your speech brief.
  • Allow time for, and encourage questions.
  • Relate the topic back to them from the beginning. This gives them an anchor, a place they know and understand. It lets them know you understand them too.
  • Use humor and personal storytelling to get your points across. This is an extremely powerful technique. Children of all ages love stories, especially personal ones. A story told well, with humor, will grab attention faster and hold it longer than any other technique I know. Make it relevant, add characterization and you'll have every child listening.

    You can find out more about incorporating stories into your speeches on these pages:
    storytelling, storytelling set-ups (How to integrate a story into your speech.), and characterization techniques to make it come alive through gesture and voice.

  • Use specific examples rather than generalities. 'I love being outdoors' is less evocative than 'I love puddle jumping, building a bonfire at the beach...'
  • Use inclusive words: 'we' and 'our' as well as personal ones: 'yours', 'you'
  • Use questions to ensure they're following you throughout your speech. 'Have you got that? Nod your heads if you have.'
  • Vary your sentence length and your vocabulary to keep it interesting to listen to. Children, like adults, appreciate variation.
  • Where possible incorporate 'showing' as well as 'telling'. Take along things children can see and perhaps handle. This gives your speech another dimension. Check this page on using props well in speeches. how to use props

Once you have the basic outline of you speech planned you're ready for the next step.

How to write a speech for kids - Part 3

Now you're going to trial your work.

Rehearsal will help you identify what you've done well and where you need to fine tune.

If you can, practice in front of several children of the same age and background you're going to talk to. If they're old enough to understand, ask them before you give the speech, if they can help you make it better and collect their feedback at the end.

If they're not old enough, look for cues like looking away, looking puzzled, talking through it etc. If it's too long and without relevance or connection to them they'll soon let you know! Before you go on to finalize your speech incorporate your changes.

If you'd like pointers on how to rehearse you'll find them here:
how to rehearse

Do try and give your speech without a word-for-word script. It might feel safer for you but for children, listening to you read is not as effective as you talking to them directly.
Use cue cards if you can and rehearse until you know it fluently.

And finally run through the checklist below.

These are the pitfalls I've either fallen into myself or watched others tumble down. Knowing will help you avoid them.

How to write a speech for kids - as a kid would say, 'NOT'

  • assuming that because a child is a child and you're an adult you automatically know more than they do
  • patronizing your audience through using either over-simplified or baby language
  • talking over their heads by using either non-explained jargon or a vocabulary beyond their experience
  • not rehearsing and then finding that your speech doesn't flow logically, it's too long, doesn't have enough relevance so the kids are bored, or that the props you brought don't work as you wished and the stories you planned fall flat.
  • introducing subject matter that is inappropriate for the group or an individual in the group. Always check.
  • trying to fit too much information into the time allotted.
  • inadvertently making fun of a child's comments and concerns therefore shaming them in front of their peers.
  • exploiting their trust and naivety by presenting material persuasively that is ultimately of no benefit to them and at worst destructive
  • getting flustered by bit of spontaneous child behavior (talking while you are talking, wriggling ...) and not knowing how to handle it and move on with ease

There is a common sense remedy for all of them. Trial your speech in rehearsal!

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"Words are of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind."
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