A child learning to speak their first words is one of those magical times and once they start, there’s usually no stopping them. But, children need to know how to put those words into context and there’s no better way of doing that than with a story!
As Philip Pulman said: “Storytelling is one of the most important, most humane, most liberating and most democratic things that human beings can do.”
Reading to their child from a young age is one of the best things a parent can do for them (as well as feed and love them obviously). But sadly, not all parents can or do. This can be for any number of reasons. It may be that they weren’t read to as a child, so they don’t associate the benefits of reading to their children or maybe they struggle with their own literacy skills and are frightened to admit it. But being able to make up stories can help to overcome some of those issues and it’s not as difficult as you might think. Believe it or not, we tell stories every day, it’s what make us human!
THE BENEFITS OF A GOOD STORY
Listening to stories helps us put things into context and this is how we learn best. It can also invoke a love of language and develops vocabulary. After all, who doesn’t like trying to use a pun or two?
Children with the biggest emotional and behavioural difficulties respond best to stories and it’s a great way for parents to bond with their child too. It’s spending that special time with them that’s so important.
Stories develop our thinking and reasoning skills. They help to develop imagination and help us to paint a picture as well as developing our memories.
Social & emotional
Stories help us to understand emotions, they give us an insight into the minds of others and can be used to help us deal with difficult situations.
Stories help children develop their capacity to think about moral issues as they have an innate interest in fairness.
So, if you would like to help the parents of the children in your setting be more engaged, there are lots of ideas you can suggest to them:
HOW TO CREATE STORIES
- What toys does the child have? Get them to make up a story about what their favourite toy does when their child is at nursery. All our stories feature a little dog called Pojo, who gets itchy paws when his owner, Sam, goes to sleep or school. Children will love making up a story about their toy going on an adventure.
- Are there stories from within the family that the parents can retell? Children find it fascinating hearing stories of what their parents or grandparents did when they were little.
- Use props. Puppets are great as it allows the child to act as the storyteller. Or why not get a box and put a variety of random things into it such as jewellery, candles, bus or train tickets and a toy and then make up a story incorporating those things in the box. It’s amazing to hear the stories they come out with.
- Why not adapt some well-known fairy tales by changing the characters so, for example, change “The Three Little Pigs” to ‘three little spacemen’ and see how it changes the story.
Play a story relay – one person starts the story with one sentence and the other follows on; keep it going until you’ve finished your story. If they’re out for a picnic, why not use the location and a person they can see and incorporate them into a story?
SO HOW DO YOU RUN A SESSION TO ENGAGE PARENTS?
- Put parents at ease by starting off with a short, fun game such as the storytelling relay (mentioned above), by getting everyone to say a sentence of the story – we often use “Cinderella” with some hilarious adaptations.
- Give them enough time to practice one game before going onto another; this will build confidence.
- Why not start a storytelling club after school/nursery and make it a regular social event?
- Be prepared – plan what activities and stories you want to cover.
- Make sure you tell parents why stories are important and make sure they know their role.
The key to it all is to have fun with making up stories. The more you do it, the easier it gets, I promise!! I’ve lost count of the times someone has come on one of our workshops thinking they couldn’t make up a story and by the end, they are usually some of the best storytellers.
So go on, have a go and see what you can do!
If you would like us to come into your setting to run a workshop on how to engage parents, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
We also run a free, same-day, parent workshop following any of our paid workshops.
About the author
Tonya Meers is the Chief Storyteller at Little Creative Days. Tonya believes that stories are the most versatile and powerful educational tool you can use and there isn’t anything that you can’t teach through a story. She is co-author of the multi-award-winning Pojo series of educational creative storytelling kits, which have won awards for their promotion of communication and language skills for early years and primary school-aged children. In addition, she and her storytelling sister/business partner also deliver training and workshops for early years practitioners, local authorities and primary schools. They offer a range of interactive workshops to encourage, engage and enable children to develop a love of literacy.