Saturday, June 1, 2013

Storytelling with little ones

If you tell bedtime stories to your kids, you're making them smarter!

My parents are incredible storytellers. Growing up, we snuggled in their bed and listened to the adventures of Tubby Turtle, Ricky and Rhonda Robin, Moo-Moo the Cow and the Doodah Bear. Sometimes the bad guys were The Troggs who would try to make Tubby into turtle soup. We later learned they were the band that sang "Wild Thing." Nice. My parents told stories slowly and with lots of detail. And we were rapt.

The benefits are numerous. Selfishly, it's a great excuse to lay down and rest and cuddle with my boy who doesn't always want to stay still these days. But also, he is forming the story in his imagination - no pictures in a book, no screen to dictate the action that he sees in his mind's eye. And it doesn't take much. Not a super complex storyline. Just a not-too-scary problem, lots of sillies, and the good guys winning at the end.

Now we are trying our hand at some storytelling. We let James name our characters and each character is a member of our family. Jim is Bobalob the Bear, I'm Hubbly the Owl, James is Funny the Fox, and Anna is Honky the Horse.

We're a blended family, obviously.

Mainly, their adventures occur in the woods with other woodland creatures. A baby mouse with her tail stuck under a fallen rock; Funny the Fox comes to the rescue (yea, forget that Funny would probably make a snack out of baby mouse.) Bobalob the Bear has to climb waaaaaay up in a tree to rescue Honky the Horse because she climbed up but, Hello! she's a horse and now is stuck.

But honestly, the very best stories are when James gets us started. Riveting plots such as, "...when Bobalob takes everyone out of the forest to eat at Papas and Beer!" or "...when Funny the Fox asks Hubbly if he can play a game on her phone."


And of course you can always do the sneaky parent move where you reinforce a moral or solution from  reality. You know, when Funny the Fox didn't want to go to bed or Honky the Horse knocked down Funny's tower...

There's a reason storytelling is so powerful. Check out a bit from this incredible article:

It's in fact quite simple. If we listen to a powerpoint presentation with boring bullet points, a certain part in the brain gets activated. Scientists call this Broca's area and Wernicke's area. Overall, it hits our language processing parts in the brain, where we decode words into meaning. And that's it, nothing else happens.
When we are being told a story, things change dramatically. Not only are the language processing parts in our brain activated, but any other area in our brain that we would use when experiencing the events of the story are too.
If someone tells us about how delicious certain foods were, our sensory cortex lights up. If it's about motion, our motor cortex gets active. 
In short, telling stories makes meaningful, creative, and lasting connections with our children. And it's really no surprise to me that, once upon a time, Jesus did the same.