How to start telling family stories with your toddler

Jan 20, 2016

Today I’d like to share a magical way to captivate your toddler, and introduce him or her to the joy of storytelling through a simple daily ritual. All you need is one small prop: a dollhouse family.

 

family storytelling toddlers

Here’s a picture of our doll family: Aba, Ima, and the two little boys. I bring them out in the evening, as the kids finish up their tea, or occasionally at odd moments in the day when crankiness sets in. This activity seems to be soothing for my sons. As soon as they see the doll family they quiet down to listen to the story.

I always start in the same way, by introducing the dolls: Here’s Ima, here’s Aba, etc. Most of our stories begin with all the dolls lying down sleeping, then waking up to start the day and a new adventure. Usually I retell something that happened in our day. For example, I might talk about how we put on our boots, went outside and jumped in puddles. I mention any memorable details, such as how big brother jumped in a big puddle and splashed little brother’s face, so he had to get cleaned up. My boys pick up on these details and use them when they try to repeat the story to me, or tell it to their dad when he comes home.

The doll family is effective for talking about any strong emotions we may have experienced during the day. If something was especially fun, or if one of the boys cried for any reason, I might mention that in the story.

My oldest usually asks for another story as soon as the first finishes, but I then tell the same one over again. This gives me a chance to improve it, and helps both boys to pick up more meaning, as well as some of the structure and how the story works. I then give them the dolls to play with as they choose for a little while.

So far I haven’t asked anything of my little ones during this activity: I don’t pose questions, nor ask them to tell a story themselves. If they want to tell one, that’s great, but I try to make this ritual relaxing and safe for them, without pressure to perform. In the future, as their language skills grow, perhaps I will encourage them to join in more. For now I enjoy the ritual’s simplicity and the mesmeric effect it has on them. I think they enjoy hearing our names and adventures retold just like a story in a book, and that it helps them to process what they’ve experienced and learned that day.

Want to try it out? All you need is a group of figures to represent your family. Ours are from Melissa & Doug, joined by a second little boy from Selecta. After our story and a little free-play I put them away, so they don’t get mixed up with all the other toys and lose their impact. Happy storytelling!


If you’re looking for more ideas to get talking with your toddler, check out my book: Word Boosting: A practical guide to encouraging your toddler’s language skills, with 365+ easy playtime activities. The book includes hundreds of fun, simple activities, and practical strategies for encouraging toddlers’ speech development.

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This post is shared at Let Kids Be Kids, Sharing Saturday and Hip Homeschool Hop.

7 Comments

  1. Kathleen
    February 23, 2016

    This post is shared at: http://letkidsbekids.co.uk/let-kids-be-kids-linky/let-kids-kids-linky-23216

    Reply
  2. Sharon
    February 23, 2016

    What a lovely activity to do (particularly at the end of the day). It’s such a great way to go over things that happened during the day. I love storytelling activities. Thanks for sharing! Visiting from #LetKidsBeKids

    Reply
    • Kathleen
      February 23, 2016

      Thanks for your comment!

      Reply
  3. Let Kids Be Kids
    February 23, 2016

    What a wonderful and lovely idea. That is such a good way to help children process their day, to spend time together, teach them valuable listening and language skills. Love it!
    Thanks for sharing with #LetKidsBeKids

    Reply
    • Kathleen
      February 23, 2016

      Thanks for your comment – I’m glad you like it! And thanks for hosting the great link-up!

      Reply
  4. Claire Potter
    February 25, 2016

    Love this.

    I have been telling my children a ‘true story’ (from my own childhood or life before kids) every night at bedtime for years. They give me a word to ‘trigger’ me off (could be anything – ‘cheese’, ‘swimming’, ‘hamster’) and I rifle through my brain to see if I have any real life stories on that topic!

    Reply
    • Kathleen
      February 25, 2016

      That’s a lovely idea! Thanks for sharing – I’m going to try it out 🙂

      Reply

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