As parents, we spent a lot of time asking our kids if they are telling us stories when we’re trying to determine if they are telling us the truth. Children are natural storytellers, and while it can be frustrating when the story is coming out while they are trying to explain why the vase in the living room is broken, it’s an important skill for literacy that we should be encouraging.
One fun way to encourage storytelling is to go for a story walk. Not only do you get to work on this important skill, you also get to spend active quality time together and with lots of fresh air, something that’s very important to me as a Together Counts™ Ambassador.
Getting into the storytelling groove can take some time, but once your little ones have caught on, the stories can be shared anywhere. You can make up short ones with new characters every time, or keep the same characters going for years. My son has had elaborate stories going for almost five years. The characters have become part of our family and some of the stories get told over and over just like favorite books are read many times over.
Need help getting started? Here are my favorite tips:
1. Be free from distractions. This is why I think going for a storytelling walk is perfect. Get away from the TV and other competing forms of entertainment and into the quiet and beauty of nature for some inspiration.
2. Go with it. Stories don’t have to make sense. The best ones usually don’t. They are filled with imagination and wonder, and stopping our children to make sense of the magic they are sharing will often bring the storytelling to a screeching stop. Go with it.
3. Ask questions; they prompt more storytelling. Use open ended questions about the story like, “Tell me more about this character. Where did he come from?” and, “Why is the witch so mean?” This supports them in continuing the story, but it’s also teaching them to dive into characters, backstory, and other elements that will also support their reading comprehension later on.
4. Bring up the story outside of storytelling activities. One of my daughter’s favorite stories is about a Princess named Jane and her big brother, and often if we see something about princesses, I will ask her if she thinks Princess Jane would like it. This simple act of playing along keeps the character alive and makes it easier to jump back into the story next time you have time to share.
5. Tell your own stories too. I use storytelling to share cautionary tales with my kids. I use it to teach empathy and to bring up subjects that aren’t always easy to talk about. We stop the story, and I ask my kids what they think the characters should do in situations that are hard, like being bullied, lying, and talking to strangers. This tool has been incredibly useful for us.
Combine all of this with lots of activity. Fresh air has been proven to help boost creativity, and we all know that activity boosts health, so get outside and tell some stories!
Allison McDonald is the mom and former preschool teacher behind No Time For Flash Cards, a blog filled with learning and play for young kids. When she isn’t blogging about crafts and learning you can find her running with friends or exploring the forests around her home with her two kids. Allison lives outside of Seattle with her daughter, son and husband.