My father is a gifted storyteller. I have very precious childhood memories of laughing until I cried as I listened to the stories he would make up, of going on walks with him and listening transfixed as I fell into the worlds he would create, weaving stories as if by magic out of thin air. My husband has the same gift, creating wonderful, rich stories for Frida out of nowhere with apparent ease.
I do not share this natural gift for storytelling. I find it hard work, my stories often feel forced or clunky, and although I know the multiple benefits and joys that come from oral storytelling it’s still something that I have to remind myself to do rather than automatically reaching for a book every time I want to tell Frida a story. I’ve made peace with the fact that I’m never going to be able to conjure up magical worlds in the same way that my father and husband can, but it’s important to me that I keep practising and developing my storytelling skills.
SIMPLE STORYTELLING TIPS
If, like me, you’re not a confident storyteller, you could consider:
Telling a story about yourself as a child. Children love to hear about when their parents were the same age as them, and all the adventures (and mischief!) they got up to. This can also be helpful if your child is facing a change or something they are worried about, as you can empathise by telling them about how you found the same experience as a child and describe how you overcame it.
Telling your child a story about themselves when they were younger. Frida loves hearing stories about herself when she was a baby or toddler. She is especially delighted when we tell her how she used to pronounce different words.
Swapping your child for a little animal (eg. a mouse) and then talking about their day. This is a really effective way to help your child process their day or any other experiences they may be going through. Pick a character that your child loves, be it a dinosaur, tiger, or rabbit, and then you can tell a simple story which retells your child’s day or which reflects eg. starting nursery or going to the dentist, whatever is on your child’s mind. “Once upon a time there was a soft little grey rabbit called Hoppy. She woke up early one sunny morning and bounced out of her bed, through her sandy burrow to her mummy and daddy who were still fast asleep and snoring…”
Using wordless picture books as inspiration. “Reading” wordless picture books with children is a wonderful way for both parents and children to develop their storytelling skills, and even the least confident storytellers will be able to make up a simple story using the illustrations as prompts. I love Gerda Muller’s seasons collection as well as Ronald Heuninck’s beautiful books. You can also ask your child to tell you the story, asking them questions about what is happening.
Retelling a fairy tale, fable, or story you know well. I’ll happily admit to not being the most confident storyteller, but even I can retell Goldilocks and the Three Bears or Stone Soup in my own words.
Using story cubes, stones or cards as prompts. Sometimes we just need a nudge or two to give us some ideas and get those creative juices flowing. There are lots of ideas online, and you can either buy them or make your own.
Setting up a little “puppet show” with a few simple props. This was something I picked up when Frida and I attended a Waldorf parent and child group: each week the leader would set up a simple, seasonal scene with the same two dolls named Rosie and Sam, and their little felt dog Pip. She would tell the simplest of stories accompanied by a seasonal verse or song – the dolls would collect a pumpkin for soup, or walk in the snow, or notice a daffodil growing – but the children would be transfixed.
MORE STORYTELLING INSPIRATION
A book I love and have found really helpful is Storytelling with Children by Nancy Mellor. Waldorf-inspired, it aims to give confidence to parents in sharing stories with their children.
Sarah Baldwin’s blog is always a wonderful source of Waldorf-inspired ideas and inspiration and I really like her posts on storytelling.
If you’re on Instagram, Jill Wignall from Little Oak Learning shares so many ideas – not just on storytelling but on crafting a rich, rhythmic life rooted in nature and creativity with young children (she also sells a wonderful curriculum for young children – you can download a free sample on her website).
I don’t have this book myself so I can’t attest to how good it is, but Show Me a Story looks like an interesting resource for supporting children in their storytelling.
Are you a confident storyteller, or do you shy away from telling stories by heart in favour of reading books? What are your favourite stories to tell?
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