Storytelling — Developing Life-Skills Through Stories

How is it that pre-schoolers, who’re yet to develop their knowledge & language skills, easily grasp the rudiments of storytelling within the first three years of development? What attracts toddlers towards an expressive narrative? Why babies stare at adults with fascination when they’re speaking? How did Abhimanyu from the Mahabharata learn the art of warfare in his mother’s womb?

The answers to the above questions corroborate the fact that children have and will continue to love hearing stories, regardless of age, gender, generation or cognitive development. Nonetheless, perpetuating their love for stories as they grow up, and developing it into life-long learning is the real challenge that we face in the age of technology where kids get easily distracted by gadgets!

It’s a tested-and-tried fact that storytelling is important for children. Here’s how we can develop their love for stories into essential life-skills.

How To Develop Essential Life-Skills Through Storytelling

1. ‘Story Bag’ For Cajoling Their Inner Storyteller

Stuff your child’s “story bag” with random objects and stickers. Create your own stories together, using the little knick-knacks from the bag. Even if a tot’s mind hasn’t fully developed creativity or thinking skills, they can still create more ideas and thoughts in their minds using random cues, than we can possibly imagine. Creating stories makes them feel good!

2. Problem Solving Tales

A child’s perception of the world is largely based on curiosity, discovery and magic. Stories evoke self-discovery through questions and answers. Present a real-life problem to munchkins & encourage them to think and narrate possible solutions in the form of a story.

It drives their curiosity to an imaginary world, where solving a real-life problem and uncovering mysteries become more important things. They don’t seem to quit until they’ve reached the end point, just like detectives who don’t rest, until they’ve solved a case.

3. Enacting Famous Tales On ‘Story Dates’

Age groups one to five respond the best to storytelling, as they slowly assume the role of a storyteller themselves. Since it’s difficult to hold their attention for long, enacting stories in a group keeps the fascination alive. Together, little ones gain confidence by living their favourite tales and are able to comprehend the plots and characterisation in a better way.

1. Considering the ‘What Ifs’

What if Cinderella hadn’t left her glass slipper behind? Would Wendy realise her thirst for adventure had she never met Peter Pan? How would the evil stepmother act towards Snow White in today’s time?

Fairy tales provide a more simplified view of life, including the right amount of magic blended with a lesson. The ‘wow’ element interests them.

Compelling kids to think an alternate ending of their favourite fairy tale, asking them ‘what if’ questions or relating stories to different times and instances, open their young minds to a world of possibilities where fairies & superheroes exist together with regular people and pets. A world, where using their creativity & imagination, they think and predict what will happen next, or how things will affect them in real life!

2. Re-telling Everyday Episodes

‘A story needn’t always have morals and happy endings. Sometimes it just needs to be real!’

A 4-year old that we know of loves narrating an incident when the elder brother saved her from falling down the staircase. The story was once told by the parents but the expression and depth of narration changes each time the little girl describes her own version. What fascinates her? — Probably the fact that she was the central character in the plot and her brother a ‘knight in shining armour’ who saved ‘the princess’ from her ‘tragic fall.’

Tales become enlightening when they’re realistic and relatable. Motivating children to find stories in everyday instances sharpens their observation, interpretive and organisational skills.

Coming back to our question- why stories captivate children? The answer is —

Unlike adults, a child’s mind creates visual interpretations of things they read, watch and hear. When it comes to skill development, it’s better to engage children in the art of storytelling- an activity they love, at an early age, than enrolling them in training programmes later.