Have you ever noticed how children become completely awestruck when you're telling a story about something ordinary or mundane? We as humans are storytelling creatures and, perhaps, out of all of us, children love to tell and hear stories and oral histories most. In Waldorf pedagogy, an emphasis is placed on stories of this sort because of the transformative effect they have on children.
Storytelling From the Heart
The evidence is clear: children benefit immensely from hearing stories. Listening to a story sparks brain development in children of all ages, including the youngest infants. Listening to a parent or caregiver read can also develop a child's language, imagination and memory. Children often encounter words they wouldn't have otherwise learned in books. The way books offer windows into completely new worlds is truly magnificent thing!
Sarah emphatically advocates for what she calls "storytelling from the heart." This means, telling stories that are genuine and personal. Stories that are recalled from memory but not necessarily recounted verbatim. Children connect especially to these types of stories due to their personalized nature.
By no means does this mean that books should be shunned. Books can offer perspectives that caregivers don't have. Now more than ever, books written by people of color and other historically marginalized groups are valuable additions to any bookshelf. Stories from the heart are not replacements for print books, but another form of stories that are invaluable to children.
Getting Started With Storytelling
Start with your own experience. You don't need to be a particularly creative person to be a heartfelt storyteller. You can tell your child a story about anything! Start with a story about your childhood. Point out the similarities and differences to your child's own experiences. Childhood anecdotes help children feel connected to a family history that is larger than themselves.
Another idea is to tell a story about your child's day. You can disguise your child as a made up character or even an animal. Recount the day by beginning with the sunrise and ending with the last thing your child did before bed. This is a fantastic way to help your child process their day and feel a sense of closure. It is also a creative way to teach your child about sequencing (first, second, last etc).
Take a Playful Approach. Play is a powerful learning tool and exploring new stories through natural toys offers children an enriching way to engage with storytelling. Additionally, using characters can offer children a degree of separation that will allow them to absorb the story and it's meaning. Wooden peg dolls, animal figures or soft Waldorf dolls will allow children to take an active role in the story. Use play silks and other wooden or wool toys to create engaging scenery.
It's never too late to start telling stories from the heart, even if your children have aged out of bedtime stories. Older children and teens also appreciate the occasional anecdote. If you're felling stumped, make sure to check out Storytelling with Children by Nancy Mellon. To get better at storytelling, you have to practice and every day is a great day to exercise your storytelling muscle!