All children and adults use storytelling to communicate with others, store memories and build relationships.
Young children learn to tell stories by listening to the stories of others. Sharing books with adults and engaging in imaginary play scenarios are key foundation skills for developing story telling in young children. When playing, children often start by reproducing familiar life events and gradually learn to attach spoken language to these events.
Young children also learn about story telling when they are introduced to picture books. The pages of the book represent a sequence of events including a beginning, middle, and end. The carer’s spoken description of the events and relevant vocabulary teaches young children how to tell stories and that sharing a story together is enjoyable and fun.
Later on when children talk about what they have done at school, or want to tell you what has just happened at the park, they are giving a factual recount of their experiences – this is also ‘story telling’.
Often children require a good imagination to create fictional stories however the most effective way for children to develop the story-telling skill at home is by listening to and re-telling familiar stories to their family and friends. Opportunities to expand or change familiar stories can enable children to build confidence with developing their own ideas for fictional stories.
Good storytelling skills enable older children to produce interesting, engaging accounts of events from their lives (e.g. talking about a film they’ve seen, or a funny situation they experienced). Storytelling skills also underpin written work at Secondary school, as the ability to include all of the key information in a well planned and organised piece of written work is crucial in essay and report writing.
Avoid asking your child to say something ‘properly’. Concentrate on what your child is saying, rather than how.
Instead of correcting, give your child good ‘speech models’. For example, if your child comes up to you and says ‘I drawed a tat’, accept it by saying ‘That’s a nice cat’, ‘It’s a fluffy cat’, emphasising the word ‘cat’. In this way, you are showing your child you are listening to them and presenting them with the correct ‘speech model’.
Stop and wait – give your child the space to have a go, and see if they repeat it on their own. Many children will, but it’s important that they do not feel forced to repeat the word.
If you have difficulties understanding what your child is saying, ask your child to ‘show you’ what s/he is talking about, encouraging him/her to point or gesture alongside what s/he says.
Build your child’s self-esteem by repeating back the parts of their speech that you have understood. This shows them that they have had some success and may encourage him/her to tell you more. Give praise for other things the child does well.
Children enjoy listening to familiar stories repeatedly at this age. Children may have a favourite book which they ask the adult to read or retell frequently. They will now be beginning to enjoy imaginary play, acting out real life scenarios.