Stories are an amazing tool to teach children about different concepts and circumstances in life. They are also excellent for supporting children through difficult times. If you are going through a hard time yourself, it is always easier if you know someone who has been through something similar. The fact that they have experienced the same thing and come out the other side is reassuring and shows you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Characters in storybooks can be that ‘friend’ for children. At big moments in their lives, like starting school for example, stories can help to not only prepare children for what is about to happen, but also reassure them they’ll be okay and take away the fear of the unknown, which is linked to anxiety.
By reading the story and then taking the time to talk about the different characters and their feelings, you can also give children the opportunity to identify with them and therefore explore their own thoughts and feelings too. This is fantastic because it develops children’s own self-awareness, which has a huge impact on their emotional well-being.
I stumbled across a simple, yet amazing way to use stories when my daughter was 3 years old. Like many parents, I was hit by the dreaded ‘witching hour’. At 4pm on the dot, my daughter would go into an almighty meltdown. Being a former teacher, I just couldn’t understand how I could control a room full of children, yet I had zero ability to navigate afternoons with the beautiful little human that I had created. It was completely new territory at the time and I have to say that it had me in a frenzy! Having worked with children for years, I understood that there were many reasons for the meltdowns – she was tired, she wanted my undivided attention, but I was running around trying to do the 1 million jobs that needed doing before bedtime; she was hungry – the list goes on! However, despite knowing this, I still found myself struggling to get through this time without feeling like I was going to have a meltdown myself. I decided that the only answer was to put my teacher’s cap back on and try to approach it from a different angle. I always made my own resources and had written and illustrated storybooks from my daughter being 4 months old, so I decided to try to create some fun resources to keep her entertained. Because I already had the illustrations from my books on my computer, I quickly downloaded them and used them to make some fun craft activities.
Not only did this work and our afternoon went without one single cry or scream, something else amazing happened. My daughter was familiar with all of the books that I had written, so when we were doing a craft activity based on one of my characters called Bunty Bee, my little girl started to talk about her. She started to tell me that Bunty had helped the fairy to find magic dust and that she was kind. I then asked how she thought it made the fairy feel when Bunty helped her and why it was important to ask for help. I then asked open-ended questions that related the story back to my daughter’s life and she proceeded to tell me all about the times that she is kind and how she helps her friends at pre-school. We’d had so much fun together doing the craft activity and had developed so many different areas of learning. However, because this activity also linked to a story that my daughter was familiar with, it gave us so many opportunities to explore the characters and storylines as we were doing it, which allowed her to explore her own thoughts, feelings and actions!
“I then asked open-ended questions that related the story back to my daughter’s life and she proceeded to tell me all about the times that she is kind and how she helps her friends at pre-school.”
I know myself, if someone said to me that we were going to talk about feelings, I would probably clam up and feel a bit uncomfortable. However, if I was with a friend doing something fun and just chit-chatting about life, I’d probably naturally open up more because the focus wouldn’t be on me. By creating activities that could stand alone and that were fun, but that also had a theme underpinned by a story, this provided a similar safe space for children to do the same.
The moment I realised the amazing power of this, my business Early Years Story Box was born and I created a range of resources to go with every book I had written. To this day, my children love to do the activities and I’m always blown away by the wonderful conversations that take place as we are having fun together as a family.
If you don’t have the time to create your own storybooks and resources you can access all of mine for just £9.99 per year using the code PARENTA. I will also send you 2 free storybooks as a welcome gift!
Find out more here.
About the author
Stacey Kelly is a former teacher, a parent to 2 beautiful babies and the founder of Early Years Story Box, which is a subscription website providing children’s storybooks and early years resources. She is passionate about building children’s imagination, creativity and self-belief and about creating awareness of the impact that the Early Years have on a child’s future. Stacey loves her role as a writer, illustrator and public speaker and believes in the power of personal development. She is also on a mission to empower children to live a life full of happiness and fulfilment, which is why she launched the #ThankYouOaky Gratitude Movement.
Sign up to Stacey’s premium membership and use the code PARENTA20 to get 20% off or contact Stacey for an online demo.