This post is a paid promotion by Fisher-Price and all opinions are my own.
When my oldest was a baby, a friend who is also a teacher and I were talking about the most important skills to teach young kids. One of the skills she said was crucial to encourage (in addition to, ya know, them wiping their own bums) is storytelling. She explained to me that this doesn't just mean getting your kids to verbally tell stories like they might read in a book (although that can be part of it). She said that it also means allowing them to use their imaginations and creative play to tell their own stories in other ways. This really resonated with me, and it's something I have made an effort to promote as my children have grown from babies to young kids.
When kids tell their own stories in different ways, it can improve their language skills, foster creative thought processes and imagination, and help with overall learning. Storytelling is a big deal, guys! Today I thought I'd share with you some of the ways I encourage this kind of creative storytelling with my little ones, and share more about our current favorite toy, Wonder Makers™ Design System by Fisher-Price!
1. Try fun ways to get your kids to tell you about their day.
It can be difficult for a small child to verbalize what happened in their day (how many of us get "nothing" or "I don't know" as an answer when asking your child what he or she did at school?), but encouraging them to do so helps their language skills and teaches them how to express themselves. We make it into a game, where I sit down with them, try to avoid asking too many questions, and express excitement in them dramatically telling me what happened at school, or even acting out parts of their day. (When my 5 year old daughter does this it's legitimately like going to a comedy show and I am 100% there for it. Best free entertainment around.) Or I have them use hands on toys to show me how their day went! Our new favorite hands on toy is called Wonder Makers™ Design System (only available on Amazon!). Through non-electric (yay!) elements made from wood, fabric, rubber, and plastic that fit together in unlimited ways, Wonder Makers™ Design System truly allows kids to use their imaginations and creative storytelling skills to build their own worlds. They include cues that are familiar from our everyday lives, like people, trees, vehicles, and buildings, but also allow for flexibility so the different pieces can be put together in any way your child likes - which is the perfect tool for kids to tell us about their days in a way that is fun for them.
2. Give your kids toys that encourage creative storytelling.
This builds on my first tip, and is so important! Kids learn through play. They express themselves through play. And I have found that there is no better way to encourage them to tell their own stories than through toys that allow them to do so naturally and with ease. This is one of the reasons we are such huge fans of Wonder Makers™ toys. The fact that include pieces of things kids recognize from their daily lives but allow them to build any way they like is such an incredible means for them to creatively tell their stories. My kids love following the suggested builds (Emmett adores the Lift and Sort Recycling System set and Essley is mildly obsessed with the Soft Slumber Campground™), but they get really excited when mixing pieces from the different sets to build their own worlds. And the different pieces can be used in different ways. Emmett loves to use the wood elements to create tracks for all of the vehicles that come with the sets, and Essley likes to incorporate them into unique buildings. The Wonder Makers™ sets enable the kids to not only verbally tell their stories as they're building both alone and as a team, but also nonverbally tell them through their finished creations and the act of creating itself. It's pretty great to watch.
From a design lover standpoint, I also have to point out how beautiful these sets are. The simple lines and artwork are just as appealing to me as they are to my kids! Woot!
3. Put on performances and be an audience.
Have your kids put on plays, musicals, or puppet shows where they are acting out stories, or even just encourage them to get on a "stage" (we use the area in front of our fireplace) and talk. Most children love performing to their families and close friends with whom they feel comfortable, and any excuse to turn their everyday stories into a performance is fun. My daughter thinks it's the most enjoyable thing ever to talk about things that happened in her day or construct elaborate tales through improvised song. (You should hear this child's exaggerated vibrato, too. It's lovely, endearing, and comical at the same time.) They also have so much fun putting on little shows to tell their stories using the characters and builds they've created with their Wonder Makers™ Design Systems. Essley put on a three act puppet show style play using their Wonder Makers™Soft Slumber Campground™where she using the wood characters and other pieces, and built and rebuilt the set with pieces from different sets as she went along. It was genuinely as fun for me to watch as it was for her to play.
4. Have your kids draw, paint, color, sculpt, or build.
As I mentioned earlier, storytelling doesn't have to be verbal. It can also be done by expressing their stories through art. My daughter is learning to read at school, and her teacher has them draw out their own stories about their days in journals that they bring home everyday. My son loves to tell his stories through painting and coloring. Art can an incredibly effective way for little ones to communicate. This is yet another thing we love about Wonder Makers™ toys - they are pieces of art that your child creates! When my kids build with their Wonder Makers™ toys, they are using their imaginations to make mini pieces of architecture and and beautiful, colorful scenes inspired by their lives. The interchangeable elements make this possible and encourage little ones to artistically think outside the box.
5. Read out loud and often.
This one may seem obvious, but reading stories together, along with exposing kids to regular story hours (like at your local library), is one of the best ways to encourage them to tell stories on their own. We always read at least two books before bedtime too, and often I will also make up an improvised story that I'll tell them right before they fall asleep. I have done this since they were babies. Now they take turns telling their own stories as well, which is so much fun. My kids also set up the characters from their Wonder Makers™kits as audiences using the elements from the different sets to create seating areas, and "read" to them. My 3 year old son's most recent story hour for his Wonder Makers™characters was an elaborate story about a dinosaur who ate red bananas, blue olives, and orange garbanzo beans, and as a result, pooped rainbows. Fantastic work, buddy!
If you have other ways that you encourage your little ones to tell their own stories, I'd love to hear! And if you're looking for a truly wonderful toy to help encourage your kids' storytelling skills, head over to Amazon.com and grab a Wonder Makers™ set or two (or more!). Their elements made from wood, fabric, rubber, and plastic are both high quality and beautifully designed, and your kids will have hours of creative fun fitting them together in unlimited ways! We have three Wonder Makers™ design systems so far, and they are high up on our holiday gifting lists too.