Telling your child stories is not only a great way to keep her engaged but also benefits her in many ways. Research has proved that telling your child stories can help her in her cognitive development.
Now, that vacations have started, make use of the time to tell your child many stories. But, there are ways you can make the storytelling session more interesting.
How to tell your child a story
- Narration: Proper presentation of a story is important to capture children’s interest. A simple story with familiar elements is good for narration. Read through the story several times to familiarise yourself so that you can comfortably make eye contact with the children while narrating or reading the story. As you narrate the story, learn to modulate your voice, depending on the character. If a story is complex having many important personalities, you can even dramatise it to the best of your ability.
- Allow interruptions: Allow the children the freedom to interrupt and share their thoughts, queries and excitement after each important sequence in the story. This will encourage creativity. Sometimes, children will even draw parallels between your story and something they had listened to earlier. It shows that they are paying attention to what you are saying.
- Visualise the stories: Pictures speak a thousand words. Even unfamiliar elements and complex stories can be tackled through visual aids. They avoid distraction among children during narration. Puppets, comic strips and flannel boards are helpful when story sequence, movement and relationships are important.
- Digitised storytelling: This works if you are a comfortable techie and have the patience to weave various elements of the virtual and the real world with the help of your digital gadgets into your presentation. Digitised storytelling involves static and moving images, and sound. Non-linear and interactive narratives are the new faces of stor-telling. Avoid too many videos in a tale as they hamper imagination in a child. This form of storytelling will be appreciated by children who are at least 11 years old, and who will find it ‘cool’.
- Participation: The following formats work best with short simple tales and simple plots:
- Active participation: With stories that have action elements, get the children active as they do during a game or a physical activity. As you narrate – they can jump, hop or laugh like the character. Keep them engaged through conversations.
- ‘Acting it out’: After telling the story briefly, let the children become the characters (or props like trees) and ‘act it out’. Usually, the children will want to take turns to be certain characters. It works best with younger school children.
- Choral, chants and “echo stories”: When stories contain repetitive elements, encourage the children to join in with their chants or sound effects - do so first with a pause, then with an eye contact in anticipation, and follow it up with gestures and body language. Continue to ‘cue’ them accordingly, building and varying the intensity and rhythm appropriately.
- Role playing: Role playing is different from acting out a story or dramatising it. It allows us to redo a scene under different conditions. In role playing, children take on various roles, but the outcome of the story will depend on them, and not on a script. These are helpful for exploring “What if…?” and preparing for real life situations. A discussion should follow the role play.
How to prepare your child for a storytelling competition
Although most of us think that only adults can tell stories, nothing can be further from the truth. Even children can become accomplished at telling stories. Here is how you can improve your child's storytelling skills:
- The art of storytelling is learnt through experience. So, tell your child a lot of stories and also buy him books with good stories to read.
- Encourage your child to choose the story that she wants to say. Ask her to read the story a few times for a better understanding.
- Make him practise telling the story in front of a mirror, with the expressions and gestures.
- If you think your child is good at storytelling, you can also enrol her in classes where they teach how to tell a story.
- The last but not the least — make your child practise the art as much as possible. But, ensure that it doesn't become a chore.
S Seshadri is a retired education consultant. Read The Art of Story Telling by the same author.
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