Google “how to teach my child_____” and most of the answers you will come across will involve telling them a story, or reading books on the topic you want to cover. Stories can help educate our children on everything from essential social skills like kindness and empathy, to STEM and more traditional curriculum like telling time and learning the life cycle of insects (Hungry Caterpillar anyone?)
We’ve been learning through stories for as long as language has existed, and while we can easily understand that stories will help our children learn, we aren’t all practiced in how to go about using stories to our advantage when trying to teach.
Here are 5 tips to use storytelling to teach your children:
Select The Right Story
This might seem like a no-brainer, but it is the first step in maximizing the benefits you can gain from narrative based learning. Depending on the age of your child, you’ll want to choose a story with an appropriate level of complexity, and an age appropriate lesson. When teaching any topic, it is important to set everyone up for success. That means selecting a topic, and story that YOU are comfortable and familiar with as much as one that your child will understand.
Experience The Story Together
Whether you are the one telling the story, reading the story to them, or having a mini book club with your pre-teen or teen, find a way to experience the story together.
It can be very tempting to jump right to the conclusion of a lesson, and give your child the answer you want them to take away from the story, but doing so would be a disservice to them, and you. Instead, try asking your child questions about what they learned from the story, and what things stood out to them. Younger children might need more prompting here, and asked more multiple choice style questions. Older teens may appreciate questions about favorite characters, or what they think happens next.
Engage in some imaginative play with your child involving the story and lessons you want to impart. Dress up like your favorite characters, or recreate the story for your child to experience and explore. You can use everything from paper and crayons, to draw out your play time, to puppets, to dress up parties, and cosplay. The key is to find a way for your child to experience being a part of the story for themselves. Allow them the opportunity to make similar choices/discoveries to the characters, and continue to ask them questions about what they’ll do next. This is where the Story School excels!
Revisit, Revisit, Revisit
You’ve probably heard that repetition is the key to memory, and it’s true. If you want a lesson to stick, you cannot set it and forget it. You need to help your child recall the memory/story/lesson so it will be there for them in their minds when they need it. For young children, this may not be a problem. If they had enough fun with the above tips, then they’ll be asking to repeat them again and again. However you’ll still want to find time to recall the lesson in everyday situations. Point out how a situation is like the story you two read together, or ask how their favorite character might handle this new challenge.
We hope this tips and tools of the trade (stories!) have been helpful and wish you luck in all of your teaching and learning.