Jane De Suza, author of bestsellers like the SuperZero series, tells us why good old storytelling is a timeless learning tool for children.

Author Jane De Suza

Jane De Suza,
Best-selling Author

Stories are essential to a child’s overall development.

Listening to a story sparks a child’s imagination – he has to visualise the place, the characters, their expressions and the actions. Telling a story isn’t about what happens in a fantasy land, but getting a child involved and making him a part of that fantasy land. It’s about drawing a child in through words, actions and expressions, so that it all comes alive. In the 15-20 minutes that it takes to tell a story, we can transport a child into a completely magical place.

Listening to stories builds language skills.

It helps with new words, sentence construction and creativity, and fires up the imagination. Stories hone a child’s perspective, and help him appreciate different points of view and that’s where great ideas come from. Often, parents tell stories that they’re interested in, but the children aren’t. Let your child have a say. Make it fun and freewheeling, not result-driven.

Technology can’t replace storytelling and interaction.

Often, parents use tablets and phones as babysitters, so that they can work on something else while the child plays. This translates to no parental attention or interaction. When the child is watching a movie or a cartoon, the visuals and story are very linear, and they don’t exercise the child’s imagination enough. When parents tell a child a story, on the other hand:

The child has to listen, pay close attention, and visualise the setting and the characters

– There’s also scope for playfulness and personalisation, which keeps the child immersed in the story.

– Parents can even measure how receptive the child is to new words and ideas, and that’s crucial to teaching.

Great stories aren’t told, they’re acted out.

– First, take off your adult hat. Don’t be embarrassed to be silly and spontaneous and come down to the child’s level. Storytelling should always be fun.

– Keep the storytelling interactive and innovative. Add your own points, use local words, and stop often to ask your child questions so that he can also participate in the flow of events.

– When telling a story, stop a little and let the child tell a bit of it and add his own elements. The idea is to let the child adopt the story.

Cuweeosity’s PuppetPhonics combines storytelling and playtime.

It’s quite an irreplaceable way to bring the child and parent together over an experience that both will enjoy equally.

– As characters, the three monster puppets are very unusual. Most children’s stories feature people or talking animals, so cute monsters like these conjure up a whole different world for the child.

– The fact that phonics lessons are woven into these stories, as well as the need for the parent to participate, makes them quite unique.

– Parents will find the stories easy to act out (thanks to the puppets) and personalise them to the child.

Fantasy is necessary in a child’s life.

Fantasy is becoming increasingly important these days. When today’s parents were kids, most of our playtime was spent outdoors, playing cricket and marbles, climbing trees and flying kites. Today, it’s about going to a structured play class, where everything is timed and scheduled. There’s also an overwhelming amount of information online, and kids are increasingly looking for an escape. Kids
now need to believe in something beyond the real world.

Children are natural storytellers and we need to keep this alive.

– The first stories that kids tell are more imaginative than realistic. Take that with a pinch of salt but don’t nip it in the bud.

– Allow them to daydream. Give them time and space, and you’ll encourage their storytelling skills.

Ask open-ended questions that let kids fill in the details. Instead of asking “Did your bus come on time?” ask “What happened on your bus today?”

Ask them questions related to how they feel, since that will increase self-awareness and empathy.

Be a good audience. Don’t do something else while kids are telling stories, and give them your full attention. Encourage them to share small stories.

Look at the world through their eyes and you’ll appreciate their sense of wonder.

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