We often think of story time as adults telling kids stories, or reading storybooks. But we probably less often think of story time as an opportunity for kids to be creative. There are benefits to kids telling their own stories, however.
In this article, we’ll explain the pros of allowing kids to be the storyteller, and to make up their own stories to tell you, the adult.
1) Kids telling their own stories fosters creative thinking
This is probably the most obvious point. When kids get a chance to make up and tell their own stories to adults, by necessity, they have to get creative. They have to come up with an interesting plot, some unique characters and their traits, and they have to think ahead of ‘what happens next’ in this story.
Imagination is a wide open world when kids tell their own stories – and that means that they can be the main protagonist, with untold, desired abilities and then go through experiences they dream of having. Or they can name characters after their best friends or siblings, out of affection. Or tell the story of their pet’s adventures in the outdoors when nobody’s watching. Making things up means coming up with ideas that no one has told them before. And this can be the starting point to even more creative thinking.
And, as Albert Einstein has said,
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.”
Of course, you can start kids off with the first sentence or two if they’re feeling stuck! But encouraging imagination through kids’ own storytelling can help open their minds to new creative ideas, according to Einstein.
2) Kids being the storyteller can develop language skills
But, stories don’t have to be made up to encourage creativity. Even finding the words to retell what really happened can encourage new ways of being able to express oneself. This is described as a benefit of a writer whose mother encouraged storytelling as a child. In addition to language skills, and exercised creativity, the writer realized about his mother’s strategy that:
“What seemed like just a game to us was really a fantastic learning opportunity. She was teaching us to translate the information and knowledge we had picked up throughout the day into words.”
3) Kids can learn presentation skills and organizational thought when telling stories
Part of the skill of storytelling is being able to maintain audience interest. This involves at least two things:
- Being able to dramatize the story verbally through bodily actions, or tone of voice and use of descriptive language.
- Being able to organize a story with a clear beginning, middle, climax and end. Sometimes this also involves coming up with a morale to a story, which takes planning and deeper thought.
Being able to read out loud a story that a child wrote and illustrated can also result in self confidence. As adults, we know it’s hard to put ourselves out there. But when we take that risk, and then see that people loved our work, and it wasn’t so scary after all, we can get better at doing it again. Thus, kids can learn to be good presenters and articulators of information through the practice of telling stories.
4) Telling stories helps kids with learning other subjects
You may have heard this quote in your lifetime, which rings true for all learners, not just little ones:
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”
So, based on that logic, it makes a lot of sense that when you make kids the storytellers, they can learn easier. According to this essay, “the process of constructing stories in the mind, is one of the most fundamental ways of making meaning, and thus pervades all aspects of learning.”
In other words, encouraging kids to tell stories helps them remember things. Let’s take vocabulary for example. It is a literacy skill that all adults will need in their life, according to the article above. So if you learn a word, that is one thing. But if you then find a way to use it in your own story, you have made it ‘yours,’ in a sense. It’s more likely you’ll remember that word in the future, especially having used that new knowledge in a real-life application or context. And in storytelling, you are, in a sense, teaching what you’ve just learned.
But far beyond that, as the essay linked to above notes, you can use storytelling to help kids memorize facts about any subject. If they are learning a science lesson, telling stories about that subject can help them “internalize” it.
Kids telling their own stories can happen anytime of day
The great thing about storytelling with kids is that it can happen anywhere. You can encourage the benefits of kids telling their own stories while driving them somewhere, at night before bed, during bath time or even at the dinner table to spark conversation. Storytelling can be a way for you to bond with your child, and to keep them engaged with you. It can also be a great ‘downtime’ activity, if you’re tired of chasing them while playing more active games!