Kathy: Hello, everyone. We are once again, talking with child psychologist, Dr. Connie Eslinger, about the importance of fostering creativity in our children. Welcome back Connie.
Connie: Thank you for having me, Kathy. I’m so glad to be back.
Kathy: This is a continuation of the last Homeschool 5 in 10. So if you missed that episode, I encourage you to backtrack and take a listen because it provides a great foundation for what we are going to be talking about today.
That said we are going to hit things off by discussing some creative ways to engage your child in storytelling activities. Charlotte Mason followers, you are going to especially enjoy today’s episode because there are so many things you can do to make storytelling fun. So, Connie, what are some creative activities we can do to encourage our children to think creatively through storytelling.
5 Activities That Encourage Creative Thinking Through Storytelling
Connie: Kathy, before I get started with five great ways to engage your child in storytelling, I want to just backtrack a little bit and tell you why and how storytelling actually promotes creative thinking in kids. Let me start by just sharing that when I was a child story time was when my sister and I would snuggle next to my dad after he came home from work for lunch and he would tell us stories. We didn’t have a lot of books, but my dad was a great storyteller. I remember him telling famous story tales like Hansel and Gretel, the Bremen Town Musicians, that was one of my favorites, and the Three Billy Goats Gruff. But I really think his favorite stories were from the Uncle Remus stories.
Share Family Stories
You might know them as a stories of brer rabbit, brer fox, and brer bear, but Kathy, in today’s culture, we often think of story time as adults reading books to kids. And that’s a great thing. And I encourage you to read to your kids every day if it’s possible, but most parents probably don’t think of story time as an opportunity for your child to be creative through storytelling activities.
But there are a lot of benefits to kids just engaging in storytelling activities. When they get a chance to make up their own stories, they’re really forced to think for themselves. There’s no illustrations. There’s no visual aids. There’s no written story words. But, they really have an opportunity to imagine things like characters and settings.
And as I get older, their stories will become more detailed and more complex. You’ll find your kids will start developing interesting plots and more complex characters. And they’re really going to think ahead about what happens next in the story. And all these things are so important to develop creative thinking in kids.
And one of the great things about storytelling is it can happen anywhere. You can engage in storytelling while driving the car, at night while you’re getting ready for bed, or during bath time, or even at the dinner table, just to kind of spark a little bit of conversation. It’s a really great way for you to bond with your child and just really keep them engaged with you.
It can also be a great downtime activity if you’re tired and need a break and your kids do too.
Kathy: I totally can relate to this because, and I think we should also be said that storytelling is developed often by modeling. Just like your dad used to tell stories, by the way, those of you that are tuning in this week and don’t realize this, Dr. Connie Eslinger is actually my aunt, and her dad was my grandpa. And he could tell stories like no one’s business. It was amazing. For one of his gifts, he recorded 12 CDs of stories to give to us, which is a great cherished memory. But one of the things that I did when the girls were little, they were learning to use the restroom. And so we would go in and they didn’t like going to the restroom. And so one of the things I would do, I’m sure the people on the other stalls thought I was crazy, I would be telling them stories, made up stories and the girls loved it. And then they’d go back to the car and they’d want me to finish their story. Those are some of the most special memories cause it would always involve them as characters in a fairy land kind of story.
But as they got older and on our third daughter came along. It’s been fun because now the older girls, they sometimes take turns telling the youngest daughter stories in the same style that I did whenever they were little, as we go to church or come home because it’s a little bit of a drive.
And so those are, those are fun things that they think of creative stories to tell. And sometimes it’s just the retelling of a fairy tale with a few changes to the storyline, but sometimes it’s something totally imaginative and of their own.
Connie: You hit the nail on the head, so to speak the importance of modeling storytelling, and that ties in with the first storytelling activity that I was going to share today. And that is just personal storytelling. And this is telling stories about trips you’ve taken as a family, maybe holiday celebrations or birthday parties. This is just a great way to begin. You tell stories. And then once your child is familiar with storytelling and they are telling you stories, something you can do is just encourage your child to create a story around a daily event. Let’s say for example, that you’re taking a trip to the store because you’re having a party and you’re buying supplies and your children go with you.. Well, you can have them tell a story later about the trip. It can be a quest to find balloons for this special party.
And then when they begin telling the story, this is the time when you might start asking carefully for details, especially if they’re new to storytelling themselves. Questions like where were you and who was there and how did you feel and what did you do? And if you were a part of that event, you can even join in this activity by becoming one of the characters and engaging in conversation with your child.
And that is the first tip for today of a storytelling activity.
Kathy: I think that’s fantastic. It’s so simple for them to tell their own stories and their family stories and using a photo albums is a great way for them to tell stories too, because it gives them a visual. So that’s a really good idea as far as helping them to remember family stories to tell. I love it.
What’s another thing that they can do to help foster some creative thinking with storytelling.
Create Stories Around Props
Connie: Well, you just mentioned one of my ideas and that is storytelling with props. You can always create a story around a picture. It can be a familiar family picture or just a picture you’ve taken on your camera or a picture in a book you can even tell stories around a special object, a stuffed animal that a child has or, different types of props you can tell stories about and puppets, if your child loves puppets, that’s a great way to encourage creative thinking through storytelling. And as we mentioned in the first idea, you can help your child get started by telling a story about a prop or a picture, or you can even help them get started at least with a sentence or two. And then you can help them, of course, add details to the story by asking some questions, you know, about the pictures or the puppets or the objects. And you can even take some creative pictures of your own and start a scrapbook of stories for your child.
Kathy: Oh, that’s so much fun. I think. I, one of the fun things that I had with my girls when they were younger is we played a game called Story Cubes. I’ll include the link in the show notes, but they’re just little cubes with different characters and props all on the different sides of the dice and you roll them. And however, those dice land, you have to use what’s on the top to tell a story. They can put the dice in any order they want to tell a story. And that was a really fun way for them to learn storytelling. Another thing that’s really fun is you can tell your kids, “you have one minute to gather any seven things around the house and come back.” And then, who knows what they’re going to come and show you, but when they come back with those seven things, then they have to tell a story using those seven things. And it’s so much fun because the fork is talking to the spoon and, and they went with the knife to the ball and there’s fun ways for that to go. That’s a great idea. Give us another tip.
Creates Stories Together
Connie: Okay. This is a familiar one. You have probably engaged in this storytelling activity when you were a child, but I don’t know how often you do it with your own kids. It’s Round Robin storytelling. It’s just a typical round robin activity where you or your child starts a story by saying “once upon a time.”
And then you each take turns adding to the story. What I like about round robin storytelling is that it can be done with just two people or it can be done with your entire family. This is really a great family activity to do if you’re taking a walk in the neighborhood or if you’re traveling somewhere in the car.
You can make it more fun and interesting if you begin to incorporate people and objects and buildings around you as you’re either taking a walk or in the car, and after you’re finished, you can ask each other questions about the story, and this really encourages your child and you to pay attention because more difficult to remember the storyline when there’s more people adding to the story. This is one of my greatest challenges with round robin storytelling. Nevertheless, it’s just a lot of fun to do.
Kathy: So if we were to take an example of a round robin story, Give a Mouse a Cookie would be one that’s actually written so that people know what we’re talking about when we’re talking a round robin story. A lot of times we call it popcorn. So when we’re telling a story, one person will start and then we’ll say popcorn and somebody’s name, and that person has to pick up. And so that’s a fun activity and it usually ends up in laughter because it doesn’t make quite as much sense when there’s a whole bunch of different people.
It ends up turning into more of a Mad Lib kind of a story, but it’s really fun. That’s great.
Sand Tray Storytelling
Connie: That’s what I like about storytelling, because it is so much fun and kids love engaging in it. Well, let’s get onto another idea. This is really one of my favorites. It’s sand tray storytelling. You don’t need a lot for this activity.
All you need is a little bit of sand. It can be any kind of sand and some tray or small plastic container, and then gather a few small objects, like plastic animals and vehicles. Some open-ended objects, like some small blocks or craft sticks or rocks. Gather as many small items as you can, and then invite your child to make a picture in the sand using any of the objects that he or she wants.
And when they finish and you can ask some follow-up questions to encourage their imagination and creative thinking. You can start basically with just saying, tell me about your picture. Other questions you can ask would be, “what do you like best about your picture” or “choose one object in your picture and tell me more about it.” But one of my favorite ways to encourage imagination with sand tray storytelling is a little bit different. It’s really kind of outside the box. It’s where you would ask your child to use their imagination and pretend to be one of the objects in the picture. And then tell me about yourself and you can give them a prompt by saying “start by saying, I am a…, and then continue….” Now, for some kids, they’re just going to take this and just start telling you about it. But some kids might need a little bit of help. And this is where you have an opportunity to model how to do this. Let’s say there was a car in the picture. You might say, “I am a car. I am bright, red and shiny. I really love to zoom fast.” And then go on and elaborate and tell a little bit more. What I like about this activity is when you ask them to start being an object and tell you more about the picture, many kids will automatically just start moving the objects around in the sand, and they will create their own moving picture, which is a more advanced storytelling activity.
But I love that because it’s so much fun to do with kids. And of course, at the end, you can always ask them, what would you like to name your picture? And don’t forget to take photos.
Kathy: That’s right. Don’t forget to take photos. You know, sometimes people call these sensory bins in which they put a lot of different props and you’ll see a lot of sensory bins on Pinterest and things like that.
But I think what this does is it extends sensory bins farther than just an object to play with and to be creative with. It helps them develop again, their storytelling abilities and creativity. So I really like the enhancement that this provides a sensory bin. I love it.
All right, so we’re on one more, right?
Record Your Child’s Stories
Connie: We are number five is publishing your child stories. I think this is such important part of developing creativity in children. You can write down your child stories. You can give them markers or crayons so they can illustrate it. As they get older children love to create cartoon strips of their stories. And after you’ve written them down, you can have them retell the story, and you can gather some props, have them include sound effects and facial expressions, and you can even act out the story together if you want. But one of my favorite things to do is to record these stories to share with family and friends. Kids love to watch themselves as they are telling a story that they created.
Keep in mind that regardless of what medium you use or what storytelling activity you try, there’s no right or wrong way to engage in storytelling activities. The purpose is just to help your children begin to use their imaginations, develop creative thinking, and, as you mentioned earlier, Kathy just have fun.
Kathy: That’s exactly right. A couple of things to go along with what you’re saying about recording your stories. When my oldest daughter was three and a half, we actually made her first digital ebook you can actually buy on Amazon. I think it’s still there, but it’s really easy to upload books on there.
If you want to share them with family or friends. And then another thing we just did this year with my youngest is there is a book of story prompts. It will tell you a little bit of a story and then it gives lines for the adult to fill in what the child is saying. And so this year that’s one thing we’ve been doing for our creative storytelling time is she’ll tell me a story and I just write down. It’s so much fun because she wants me to go back and read all the stories she has created and she loves that.
So, thank you so much, Connie, for joining us for this mini series. You are giving us some great ideas and resources to add to our homeschooling tool belts.
So for those of you who are planning to homeschool your preschooler next year, I encourage you to check out my Encompass Preschool Curriculum. It is one fat notebook filled with everything you need to teach preschool bookless reinforcement worksheets, lots of enrichment activities. Some like the ones we are talking about today, and you can find it in my store at CornerstoneConfessions.Com or on Amazon. Then tune in next time, because we are going to continue talking with Dr. Connie Eslinger about fostering creativity, specifically through block play. See you then.