Stories are an integral part of life; whether you are a child or an adult, then stories give texture, meaning, joy and inspiration to our lives. Making them part of a child’s world from an early age is a critical part of childhood development. Especially in a world where the educational system is increasingly geared toward assessments and achievements, then inspiring children with stories for no other reason other than to spark joy, ideas and imagination has never been more important.
This week is national storytelling week which is a great way of reminding people of the importance of stories. And there are so many amazing children’s storybooks which capture their hearts and imaginations! However stories are much more than just in books; they are all around us!
They are in every part of life – from obvious mediums such as TV, film, theatre and events to the less obvious – and these are often where the most interesting stories can be found and learnt from.
Take a 90-year old grandmother; the stories she has about her life and experiences are something that a child can feast on as they are so rich in detail and experience. And what about stories of amazing achievements; ordinary people who have achieved extraordinary feats; explorers, scientists, artists and sports people. (the Rebel girls podcast is an amazing resource for these!)
With this year being a winter Olympic year, stories of sports achievements are accessible and inspirational for all our children! And then there are stories of people around us – from the man in the paper shop to the lady delivering flowers and the teacher at school. Everyone has a story and if you can encourage your children to be interested in the people and world around them they will soak up great stories and experiences that can only benefit their social, educational and emotional development.
A great skill to encourage children to engage in the world around them and discover the stories that will fascinate and inspire them, is the skill of the question. Greatly under- estimated, this is a skill that if learnt and incorporated by a child at an early age, they will use to discover what so many others in the world miss!
We’ve all experienced the curious toddler who asks a hundred questions. That moment when we are trying to remember the shopping list in the shops and our 4 year old keeps the questions coming about how many flies there are in the world or how many beans are in a tin! But actually, encouraging this love of questioning can be one of the greatest things you can do to encourage an open and creative mind as they get older. As we grow up the natural way is to stop questioning, accept life as it is and get stuck in our thoughts, opinions and experiences that we already know (or think we know!). If we have been encouraged from a young age to constantly ask questions and be curious then we will be more open to opportunities, people and experiences that will enhance our lives. And this is surely one of the most valuable teachings we can give our children.
So encourage their questions, open their minds, get them to look around them, look into peoples eyes and hearts and ask them about how they feel and what they know – their learning will be so much richer and more fruitful that way. And to do this involves getting their head looking up at the world rather down at their device! Real people’s stories are much more engaging than technological ones!
And try making up your own stories – you’d be surprised where your little ones imagination takes you. The next time you point out a plane, a digger or a tractor, ask your child where you think it is going, has been or what the person driving it is thinking. Tell them what you think and then ask them to join in and create the story themselves. You will be setting them up for a life that is rich with stories and experiences!