Once upon a time, we all grew up listening to stories from our parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.
Sometimes powerful, sometimes meaningless, sometimes moral-based and sometimes just hilarious!
Remember how much you enjoyed this storytime?
How magical it was… and how much it made you wonder?
Now answer this…
Today, as parents, how much time do you spend with your child, telling them stories?
Vidya Ragu, a psychologist, learning & development expert, tells us about the crucial role that stories play in the lives of our children – and how you can become a great storyteller!
Children love stories.
It’s a given.
At any point, at any time, stories simply have the power to flip any situation for the better.
Is your child not eating? Tell them a story and they will!
Is your child bored sitting at home while it’s pouring outside? Tell them a story and they’ll be entertained!
Want to calm your child during a tantrum? Tell them a story and it’ll do the trick!
Unfortunately today, storytelling is slowly becoming obsolete because parents prefer to just hand their kids a gadget to fidget with, rather than to escape with them into magical castles.
And here’s where this becomes a problem…
Without stories, children miss out on a lot of developmental milestones.
So first, let’s understand this…
Why do we need to tell stories to children?
Storytelling plays a very important role in the cognitive development of infants and young kids.
It helps improving key areas like memory and language skills, it sparks curiosity which increases the child’s imaginative skills, and it gives the child new perceptions to the world around them every single time.
Reading stories from different cultures will open a child’s mind to the variation around them and create a deeper understanding of people.
In fact, over the years, storytelling is a major means of passing on tradition and history to the next generations.
Storytelling is also a really interactive and fun way to spend quality time with your kids which will thereby strengthen the bond you have with them.
This will make them feel loved, cared for, and just a lot closer to you than before.
Says Deepa Gandhi from KreativeMommy, “Story reading can be made fun and interesting for small children by including little puppets or enactment as different characters. As a big fan of creativity, I feel reading helps a child to be creative and imaginative. My tween daughter is a good story teller herself and can make up a story on any topic instantly.”
Through stories, you can teach your child ANYTHING! Don’t want them to play with fire? Want to teach them about good touch/bad touch? Or how airplanes fly? Tell them stories! Simply put, stories teach a child about cause and effect.
Says Priya Sachan from Shishuworld, “Stories are more than just entertainment. They are a wonderful way to bond, a way to communicate your message without being overly preachy. Stories can also make shy children comfortable in new surroundings and improve self-esteem. Stories are used to teach values, explain complex themes and simply have fun.”
What kind of stories can you tell children?
a) Go back in time:
Start off by thinking about the stories you heard while growing up, turn up your nostalgia, and pass that feeling on to your child.
Think about why stories such as your favorites have been told and re-told over and over again and what it is that makes them such classics.
Explain the morals to your child.
Most of these stories are folktales that point out certain cultural aspects to your child, increasing their awareness of worldly cultures.
b) Folktales from other cultures:
You can also spend your time looking at folktales from other cultures, and share those with your child while pointing out the major differences to them.
c) Personal experience:
This can mean experiences you’ve had in the past that you want to pass on to your child, as well as experiences about which you’ve heard from your friends and family.
Especially stories of your ancestors are something that will really enrich your child with his/her familial history.
Tell them about their grandparents and their great-grandparents. These are stories that kids are always greatly interested in.
d) Books you loved as a child:
You can also think about the kind of stories you loved hearing as a kid, be it about animals, Christmas, or stories that have a moral.
Pick out these stories for your kids and read it to them because chances are that you share a few of those likes with your child.
e) Your child’s interests:
Think about what interests your kid the most and pick stories based on those things to read to them.
If your child is a dog lover, get stories that revolve around dogs.
Especially if you have a pet, find stories based on the animal you have as a pet, and replace the name in the story with your pet’s name!
Look at what characters your kid loves on TV as well. I’m sure you can find some written story versions of them.
Ask your kids to pick out stories they think they’ll like. Take them to the local library or to a bookstore, and have them pick out stories they like.
When they feel like they have control over the stories they’re hearing from you, it’ll automatically make them more involved and interested in listening to it.
If your child isn’t much of a reader, pick books that have pictures on them, and simply tell the story by explaining the pictures.
This will get your kid more into it, while not having to pay much attention to the words, as the pictures will be telling them most of the story.
PRO TIP: You can also try activity boxes like Flintobox which have fun story adventures inside every box. The best part about these stories is that they are age-appropriate, they introduce children to various concepts and are based on new themes every single month! In fact, with the fun characters in the book, they make for great storytelling experiences! For more information about Flintobox, visit this link >
What are some alternative methods of storytelling you can adopt?
There are a few more fun ways in which you can incorporate storytelling with your kids.
Let’s have a look at them…
a) Storytelling through videos:
Putting on a story with narration, characters, and a moral in video format for your child to watch is a lot better than them watching mostly meaningless television shows.
While this is true, as far as ‘story time’ goes it’s better to actually sit with your child and watch the story with them, while talking to them about it along with the story.
This ensures the quality time you’re going to be spending with them.
Here’s a famous story that Flintobox recreated with colourful illustrations and animations! Your child is sure to love it 🙂
b) Interactive storytelling:
If your child has a favourite story, every time you tell it, make sure you stop at certain points and ask your child to fill in where you stopped.
This makes your child exercise their memory well. If it’s a new story, you can stop somewhere and ask your child to make up the story from that point and continue it in the way they would like to.
This will let their creativity flow like never before!
c) Storytelling games:
Another absolutely great way to incorporate storytelling into your child’s life is by playing storytelling games with them.
Let’s have a look at a few popular ones that your tots will love!
a) String-along storytelling:
Be seated in a group with your child. It can involve their friends or your family. Or, if you don’t have a group, you can just play this game between your child and you. Start off a story and only say about, one sentence. For example, “Once upon a time there lived a boy.”
Then ask your kid to continue the story with one sentence and you’ll alternate turns this way. In a group, of course, everyone participates.
b) Tale Twist:
For this game, ask your child to combine any two of their favourite stories to form a meaningful new story. You can also ask them to take a classic story and add their own modern twist to it. Ask them how they would rewrite it.
c) Picture-based storytelling:
Show your child random pictures of any kind and ask them to build stories around each one. They can form a continuous story based on a bunch of pictures, too. Another way to do this kind of storytelling is by asking your kid to draw out a sequence of events and form a story.
This one would work best with a group of your child’s friends.
d) Object-based storytelling:
Ask your kid or a group of your kid’s friends to go outside and collect any objects they think would make for a good story. They then come back with their bags of objects and sit around in a circle.
Each object that a child puts forward, they have to form a part of the story’s scene with it.
Each child takes turns to put forth an object and continue the story.
e) Passers-by storytelling:
This is one of my personal favourites because I, as an adult, do this all the time. When you’re in a vehicle with your child, point out random people doing different tasks and along with your child you can either discuss how you think they’re feeling, what their interests might be, what they must do for a living, etc; or you can consider them a character in a story and build a short story around them.
It’s a great way to keep kids occupied during a long car ride!
How stories can change your child’s life:
Vidya Ragu goes on to tell us about how stories can be used as a great motivating factor with your kids.
If your child’s low on confidence in certain areas, instead of just asking them to gain confidence, you can find stories of inspiring people to tell your child in a way that your child believes they could be that person and adapt their strategies and ideology.
She also talks about how storytelling is now being used in various fields of business, in relationship building, etc, primarily because storytelling releases the hormone oxytocin in us.
Oxytocin helps us feel happy and makes us feel connected to the storyteller. This again, makes the bond between you and your child stronger.
Our neurons fire information at 5 times the normal speed when we’re listening to stories.
Isn’t that interesting?
How to tell stories to your child:
- Vidya tells us how to respect storytelling as both an art and a science. Make sure you’re emotionally expressive and excited while you’re reading the story.
- Use actions and exhibit a positive and happy body language, too. Read quotes by different characters in different voices and make your kid laugh!
- Pick your moments to tell them these stories. It can be during bedtime, while travelling, while spending time out with your child, when they’re eating, etc.
- Read them stories in English, in their second language and even in a third language sometimes. You can include words from different languages when you’re reading stories from different cultures to them!
You’ll begin realizing that putting in this much energy into telling a story will excite you and make you enjoy it.
You’ll begin to feel more productive and just overall satisfied with the way you’re speaking. Enjoy all the storytelling fun!
Enjoyed the article? What stories were you told as a child? And what kind of stories does your child enjoy? Drop a comment below and let us know!