This week we’re sharing some thoughts on one of our favorite activities at Kids Nook: Storytelling!
In today’s world when kids know how to operate an iPad before they can even walk, storytelling is an important tool in helping develop a child’s imagination and play. Imagining a magical world of stories and fighting with witches, giants and pirates is something attractive and fun for all children. Through oral storytelling, parents can not only engage a child’s mind through listening and imagination, but they can create a special memory that their children will always treasure.
Like with most activities, children respond well to rituals and structure. Taking care to create an atmosphere for storytelling will go a long way in making this time with your children a special one. For example, use an old carpet or a blanket to “fly” to story land. Make horse noises or clap when the character in the story is walking or running. At Kids Nook we use sticks to create rhythms for silly songs we make up, but clapping can also do the trick.
If you don’t have a lot of faith in your storytelling abilities, then get your kids involved! They probably have a lot of ideas about what an elephant or a snake sounds like, and you can ask them for their help in telling the story. For example, whenever you mention a Big Bad Wolf, ask them to make some kind of noise or motion that goes with it. That keeps them involved while you’re talking.
Another tool is to break up the story into different parts. Most traditional stories can be divided into three parts (check out Jim Henson’s The Storyteller for examples), and you can use these natural cliffhangers to your advantage. In Cinderella, when you reach the part where the evil stepsisters go off to the ball and leave Cinderella alone… stop. Ask your kids if they want to hear the rest of the story, or if they just want to leave it at that. Most children will want to continue.
Some parents might be concerned with how scary some of these old stories can be. They’re worried that their children will be scared by the things they hear. This is a valid concern of course, and you can choose stories at your discretion. However one way of handling this is to give your child an “invisibility cloak.” Give them a special blanket that they can wrap around themselves, and tell them it will keep them safe from any bad guys they might meet in the story. This way the children can listen to the story safely, as an observer.
Storytelling is a fun activity for both parents and children. It gives children the attention they crave from their parents, and it creates special memories for them. In today’s culture, when it’s easier to hand your child a tablet, taking some time to explore magical worlds and having daring adventures together will have a huge impact on your children and your relationship to them.