Storytelling with children is a powerful activity, especially when our little ones are navigating big emotions and feelings in their lives.
We all know that it helps teach vocabulary and language development, encourages creativity and boosts imagination. But, the benefits go far beyond academic skills.
Exchanging stories and reading to our kids can build emotional intelligence that helps them recognise, express, and manage their emotions.
While that doesn’t necessarily sound that impressive on the face of it, storytelling can really help when those big, uncomfortable questions get asked and we, as parents, don't have the answers!
This simple habit can help you have big conversations with your kids and empower your little ones to communicate constructively – a capability that will serve them for life.
So, how do you do it?
Well, read on as we are going to explore the amazing benefits of storytelling and discover why it’s such an essential tool to have in our “parental toolbox.”
The Power Of Storytelling For Helping Kids Deal With Their Emotions
Why Storytelling Is Important For Emotional Development
We only need to look around us to see that storytelling isn’t just for kids. It’s an innate part of pretty much any culture on the planet. From early cave paintings to blockbuster movies, stories entertain, inform, connect, and educate us.
But for children, storytelling has even more value.
Kids are not born with the quality of empathy. It is something that must be learned from those around them. When very young, kids are emotionally illiterate, which means they don’t know how to identify and relate to their own, or other people’s – emotions.
Many adults find it difficult enough to handle unpleasant emotions, so imagine how little kids feel – especially if they can’t name, comprehend, or talk about what they feel. No wonder there are temper tantrums and crying fits to contend with!
Luckily, emotional literacy and empathy can be taught, and storytelling is a great place to start the conversation.
Research shows that when children listen to and share stories about emotions, they gain a deeper insight into their own feelings and learn to value the emotions of others.
Choosing The Right Stories
The best stories to develop emotional intelligence involve relatable characters facing real-life situations. They may model coping strategies, problem-solving, or feature different perspectives that help teach children acceptance or empathy for others.
For babies and toddlers, you can select picture books that teach emotions. As your kids get older, opt for books with messages about how to label, manage and respond to emotions.
Storytelling is more than just a bedtime ritual. It can be an impactful tool that helps your children cope with difficult times – not just now, but for the rest of their lives, and we think that’s a pretty incredible gift.
If you would like some inspiration on great books that can help you start this journey with your kids,browse the selection on our website. We particularly love the series from talented NZ author Rebekah Lipp.
Aroha Knows shares how well-being and nature are connected
Aroha’s Way can help your children navigate emotions especially ones like anxiety
Let It Go encourages children to explore what emotions feel like
How Do I Feel? the newest edition to this gorgeous collection, a dictionary of over 60 definitions to help children identify and understand their emotions
This whole series addresses how to manage emotions through the eyes of child characters and is beautifully illustrated. Happy reading!
Reading With Your Kids
Studies reveal that along with oral storytelling, the right kind of children’s books can “provide a space for children to learn about empathy tolerance and friendship.” Reading helps provide a more extensive vocabulary to help kids express what they are feeling.
Stories that kids can relate to can be powerful. If a child reads about other children facing similar challenges or situations as theirs, they are empowered to identify and even mimic the coping mechanisms expressed in the story.
While reading to your kids is a valuable first step, it’s often more useful to continue the conversation once the book is finished (or even pause and chat about the content during the storytelling). Discussing the events and feelings in the book provides children with the opportunity to explore and discuss their own feelings and help them better understand themselves.
Try pausing every now and then to ask questions about the story, such as what might happen next, what “x” character might do, or why they think “y” character behaved in such a way.
Encourage Your Children To Tell Stories
It’s blatantly obvious to any parent that children experience intense emotions, which they are not always able to process, let alone verbalise.
Along with listening to stories, allowing kids the opportunity to tell their own stories is a great idea. You can work on this activity together, asking questions to help develop the story, or let your little one have free reign and tell you their own tale.
When kids tell stories, they may depict animals or other people instead of directly talking about themselves. This allows them to express emotions in a safe way, so keep an eye out for symbolic language that may reflect how they are really feeling.
We hope that story time becomes, or deeps as a family practice and that through the magic of story-telling we may also find the answers to some of life's big questions for our littlest ones.
If you enjoyed this blog you may also be interested in our blog Every Time Kids Play They Are Learning.
Every time kids play, they are learning. Supporting child-led learning helps them learn independence and so many other valuable skills, while you still play a role in their education.
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