Improving children’s literacy through pointing and karaoke style closed captions

Improving children’s literacy through pointing and karaoke style closed captions

My daughter is learning to read and write at school and her teachers have said that she struggles at times and may be a little behind in her literacy.

In an effort to improve her reading and writing skills, I’m obviously spending more time with her practicing writing and reading books, spelling out words and playing I spy.

None of these are easy for my daughter (or me and we’ve had an argument or two about it) and for some reason elephant still starts with an ‘H’…

We can help our kids learn to read by pointing at the words as we read children's stories with them Continue reading Improving children’s literacy through pointing and karaoke style closed captions

How to make a Princess Birthday Cake from scratch

Making a princess cake from scratch…

This post contains the complete recipe and methods from start to finish that I used to make my daughter’s Princess Birthday cake.

It was a tough challenge to set myself for my daughter’s 5th Birthday party but it meant a lot to her, so it meant a lot to me too.

I know this is completely off topic for this website, but it may be useful/interesting even if it’s only to mock my poor cake decorating skills 😉

I hunted for a recipe or in fact recipes around the internet and they all either lead to spam sites or overly complex and just-plain-weird sites.

But I did it in the end and it was certainly extremely popular! (One mum even said to me “Ben, you’ve set the bar very high for Birthday parties among Olivia’s friends…”)

 

Making a princess cake from scratch can be difficult. Here's the full recipe to make a beautiful princess birthday cake

I should point out (in case it wasn’t obvious from the photo) that I’m not a professional cake maker; I’m just a regular dad who loves his daughter and loves a challenge 🙂

In case you fancied a go at making one too, I brought together several recipes for the different elements for you here on this page (original recipes referenced as well). Continue reading How to make a Princess Birthday Cake from scratch

Is TELLING children’s stories more beneficial than READING them?

Is TELLING children’s stories more beneficial than READING them?

I hope that the fact that reading to children is essential for their literacy and language development is no surprise to you. One thing that I’m quite keen on is telling stories to my daughter and it occured that there is some discussion around the pros and cons of both.

There should also be no confusion that reading stories to your children and/or classroom is an integral part of their educational platform and that storytime in schools is a standard in most education establishments from an early age.

Research shows that even babies benefit through hearing, seeing and touching books during the crucial stages of their development.   The first four years of a child’s life is when they learn at the most breathtaking speeds and absorb the most new information with ease.

It is through books that children become aware that words even exist  and how they can relate to pictures or events.  For children to excel at literacy and the written word, reading books is a must.

Reading children's stories with our kids is important, but what about telling stories with our children? Continue reading Is TELLING children’s stories more beneficial than READING them?

9 tips to help parents of children who are fussy eaters

9 tips to help parents of children who are fussy eaters

And how to introduce new foods to your kids

OK, I know this article isn’t strictly in the storytelling arena, but my daughter is a fussy eater, so I thought I’d share some tips that may or may not help if your kids pick at their food and pull silly faces and make disturbing sounds at something as ordinary as brocoli or a roast potato.

Children can often be fussy or refuse their food. Here are 9 tips to get them eating Continue reading 9 tips to help parents of children who are fussy eaters

Why you should tell a childrens story rather than read one

Story Telling Vs Reading Stories

There is more to telling stories than meets the eye.

I spend a good deal of time and effort finding and recommending books for you guys to read with your kids and parents and teachers around the world are likewise encouraged to read stories to their children and classrooms to enrich the imagination and introduce literacy.

However…

There is so much more to explore through storytelling than simply reading the words aloud off the page of a good book!

Of course, reading is essential to literacy development but storytelling delights and encourages children to listen to the music of words in different ways.

There is more to storytelling technique than might at first meet the eye

Why Tell a story as opposed to Reading one?

 

Both reading and telling are great ways to communicate stories to children but the differences between the two are quite considerable for both the parent/teacher and the children listening.

When reading stories, the reader must always be focused on the printed words while occasionally looking at the audience.

In contrast, telling a story gives the teller freedom to speak directly to the children, remaining in eye contact while having the opportunity to watch for their reactions to the story.

It is the teller who makes the story come to life through the sound of their voice and personality combined.

The storytelling becomes almost a personal experience for all involved.

 

3 Basic rules of children’s stories

  1. There are three essential elements involved in storytelling;
    • the story
    • the storyteller
    • the audience
  2. The story itself should be a narrative short enough to be told in one sitting.
  3. It can be a fiction or non-fiction but more importantly something that the teller is interested in and enjoys.

There really are no limits to what type of story can be told.

Before the written word, storytelling was the only way a person could relate events to other people.

Traditions were passed down from one generation to the next with the use of oral stories.

Even today, libraries are filled with books containing the different folk tales from cultures all over the world.

If it were not for storytelling, these may have been lost and never recorded.

Linking the story to your audience

Linking the story to the audience is up to the storyteller.

The best stories are personal stories because they come from within the teller and I find that my memory (and imaginative additions) is much clearer and provides a wider base for everything from descriptive surroundings to sub-plots and hidden lessons.

However, an experienced teller can learn any story and make it their own (and reading and practicing the tips and hints in the free storytelling technique course will set you on the right path).

The beginner may feel more comfortable with a traditional well known story like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, or Little Red Riding Hood.

Personal stories however, usually hold the greatest interest for a teller and have the potential to produce the inner most enthusiasm while reciting remembered events – plus : The audience will enjoy the story just as much as the teller enjoys telling it.

Some people are natural born storytellers, but anyone who is willing to practice and devote time and study can become a good one.

In order to become a great children's storyteller, there are various skills you master and attributes you must gain.

There are certain characteristics that a natural storyteller may possess that gives them an advantage.

A creative imagination and a flair for drama will help bring a story to life so the children will be able to visualize in their own minds the characters and setting of the story.

It is also better to be prepared for the sometimes unexpected tidbits the children will want to add to the story themselves.  Including their ideas and engaging with the audience will truly make for a successful storytelling session.

There is clearly more to telling children’s stories than one at first thinks and indeed the same can be said of reading stories, but you have to start somewhere right?

I want you to be able to feel confident to tell stories to your children from your memory or made up from your incredible imagination that speak directly to the third piece of the storytelling : your audience!

The great thing is that generally we know our audience quite well which gets us off to a great start and I hope that in coming weeks you’ll start to gain some ideas and confidence and a structure around how you can formulate and tell your own stories to your kids.

When is bedtime not bedtime and how to create an easy bedtime routine for your kids

Learning the difference between bedtime and sleep time and giving a child some autonomy

Why does a bedtime story have to lead immediately to lights out and the inevitable “but I’m not tiiiirrrred!!!” from your son or daughter?

How many times did I battle with my daughter and how many stories do I hear about other parents struggling to get their kids into bed for their designated bedtime!

Don’t these kids know that we are looking forward to a (small) glass of wine and some adult time?

Why can’t they understand that day after day, when we say “it’s 7 O’clock, bedtime” that we’re trying to give them some consistency!

After all, we are told that consistency and bedtime routine (although I don’t necessarily agree with it all) is crucial to our children’s development!

Get kids to bed with ease and without fuss by disociating bedtime and sleep time and giving a child the opportunity to choose when to sleep

I’ve written before about bedtime routines and bedtime stories and something that I’ve been having with great success with as far as reducing bedtime frustration and argument is concerned, is removing my idea that bedtime must mean sleep time.

The dawning reality of an easy bedtime routine

I realised some time ago that my daughter’s bedtime is also daddy’s evening-time. I get to sit in peace and read my book or watch a film (or write content about children, stories and parenting for this very website). But my daughter often isn’t tired and from spring though to autumn; it isn’t even dark outside at 7pm.

Looking back on it I’m not sure why it took me so long to work this out, but it dawned on me just to tell my daughter that it was Daddy’s evening time.

Adult time

I told her that she could do what she liked as long as it was in her bedroom and she didn’t disturb us adults.

It was a bit of a gamble, but I like (at least attempting) to treat my daughter as an adult as often as possible, so I explained exactly what I was doing and why.

I explained that I understood that she was probably not that tired and wanted to stay up and play some more. I also explained that I needed some time for me too so that I could do the things I wanted to do.

She said that was fine and I left her to her toys in her room and went off to have dinner.

I had assumed that it wouldn’t work the first time and that, having a new routine and all, she’d be in and out and demanding things of me. I was mostly wrong!

The first night, she stayed awake playing until 9.30 and I had to go in and suggest that it might be time to sleep otherwise she’d be grumpy and tired in the morning and wouldn’t enjoy swimming.

She actually agreed! And went off to sleep pretty quickly.

The next night I could hear her playing at 8.30 but by 9 she was asleep.

Ever since then we’ve had a (mostly) really easy time of it at bedtime! We bath, brush teeth and have 15 minutes of quite time on the sofa before she chooses a couple of books to read in bed.

Once the books are read, she knows that she’s allowed to get back out of bed if she likes and play with her toys as long as it’s not too noisy or disrupting to whatever we’re doing in the living room.

Why does separating sleep time and bedtime work?

One of the best things about this bedtime routine is that, for me, it also ticks several other learning/teaching points :

  • I get to give her direction – She is told that it is bedtime and I set the expectation that she’ll go to sleep. I still control the end result but…
  • I also get give her control over her own destiny – She can choose when she goes to sleep.
Daniel Pink's amazing book 'Drive'. Learn about how to get the best out of and for people.

Autonomy and Direction. Two key ingredients in generating motivation and I can’t recommend Daniel H Pink’s book “Drive” enough if you want to learn about how to motivate people (children or adults). It’s aimed at adults and the world of business, but the principles can (and should) be applied to everyone at any age. This book really has changed how I approach the world.

Anyway, I digress (though I couldn’t write an article on Kidmunication without at least 1 reference to a book!).

The end result is that my daughter no makes no fuss when it’s bedtime in my house (although trying to get her willingly brushing her teeth is another matter). We have an agreement.

“Ah yes, but I bet she’s up ‘til late every night!” I hear you say. Well I can assure you that, now that she’s used to it (and it did take a couple of weeks if I’m honest), sometime she really does put her head straight down and other times she’ll play for 10 minutes and then go to sleep and other’s she’ll stay up later. It really depends on how she’s feeling and what she’s been doing in the day.

As far as I’m concerned, I’ve given her an important bit of independence allowing her to choose her own sleep time and I’ve gained a less stressful and argumentative bedtime routine with my daughter!

Win Win.

Give bedtime not sleep time a go

If you want to have a go, here are the bullet points:

  1. Commit to giving this a proper go – at least two weeks. Remember you child has to learn how this works too, so do expect them to take a couple of weeks to work out how to identify for themselves that it’s time to sleep.
  2. Explain to your kids that you understand their point of view about bed time. This is surprisingly important and will get “buy-in” from them.
  3. Explain to your kids what you want and why you’re doing this. You listened to their point of view, they’ll respect yours too.
  4. Set expectations. No loud games, bouncing beds etc. but quiet playing is ok.
  5. Keep your normal “bedtime” routine. Bath, teeth, books, bedroom (or whatever works for you).
  6. Have patience and remember to check on them before you go to bed (they might need the light turning off and covering with the duvet – I haven’t yet had to pick my daughter off the floor where she’s fallen asleep mid-game).
  7. One tip can be to ask them that when they come and see you, it must be to tell you that they’re ready to sleep. I didn’t need this, but I hear that it can help with some kids.

And remember to come back here and tell me how you get on!

Why do kids lie and how to deal with lying children

Why do kids lie and how to deal with it?

Kids lie for similar reasons parents do: to be acknowledged communally, to get rank, to upset somebody, or because they dread the cost of telling the truth.

However, younger children don’t know the idea of truth and lies in the way that adults do.

Let’s enter the world of the kid to know why children can bend the truth so effortlessly.

Children lie all the time, so what can we do about a lying child? Continue reading Why do kids lie and how to deal with lying children

Telling Children’s Stories Using Storysacks

Telling Children’s Stories Using Story Sacks

In this article about story sacks (also known as “storysacks” without a space), we’ll look at what they are, why they help us tell stories, what is in one and how you can make your own!

I don’t think anyone viewing this website will disagree that one of the most important gifts children receive is a love of stories and reading.

Young children often find it easier to relate to stories and concepts if they have something concrete in front of them that help them understand what’s being discussed or told.  This is one reason picture books and books with plenty of simple illustration are so popular for this age group.

Use storysacks to help illustrate the themes and lessons in a children's story and to help get kids to engage in storytelling Continue reading Telling Children’s Stories Using Storysacks

Giving Children Confidence and Helping them Stand Up for Themselves

Confidence and self-assertion for kids

Many children suffer from low self-confidence. Symptoms can include excessive shyness, separation anxiety, as well as a negative attitude toward themselves and others.

Life is more challenging for a child that lacks confidence.

As parents, we are there to show them what confidence looks like and how they can be assertive without becoming aggressive.

It is important to give children the tools of confidence, because many behaviour problems come from a lack of self-esteem.

Sharing stories about confidence can help to improve behaviour and the way your child thinks

“If we tell children what they should or shouldn’t do, it doesn’t have as much impact on them as a story because a story builds in the experience. It’s a way of teaching them about life.”

Psychologist Richard Landis

Build a child's confidence and self assurance through storytelling, books and play Continue reading Giving Children Confidence and Helping them Stand Up for Themselves

Storytelling and children’s stories for Divorce and Separation

Storytelling and Difficult Subjects: Divorce and Separation

With more and more families breaking up with parents separating or divorcing, there is an ever increasing need to help our children understand what is going on and why, should they find themselves in the middle of one. Even if your marriage or relationship is as solid as a rock, you can bet that your child will have friends in their class whose parents’  are (or have) separating/divorcing. Children’s stories and storytelling are great tools for broaching this stressful subject even if only to explain what your child’s best  friend at school is going through.

Divorce and Separation are tough on children. Stories can help them understand and provide you with a conversation starting point

There are many concepts and subjects that can be particularly stressful and even scary to address with our kids, and some which are just a little more difficult to know how to broach with children – which can also be communicated through storytelling techniques.

Using Storytelling to Start Conversations

Some of the subjects covered in contemporary children’s stories are undoubtedly the same that parents of all eras have wrestled with. Others may be unique to contemporary culture. Either way, storytelling techniques can be used as a way to touch on the more difficult lessons children have to learn. They can give you a way to easily bring up the subject with kids and can also be a means of generating additional conversations with your kids on those hard subjects.

Don’t underestimate your kids’ ability to handle these harder subjects. It’s all in how you approach topics with them. They learn from you and the methods you use in communicating about difficult topics can strongly influence how your children respond to these kinds of subjects. Putting good children’s stories to work for you is one of the best ways to broach more uncomfortable subjects with your kids. These books have been specifically designed to help you deal with difficult topics in terms that children can easily understand. Continue reading Storytelling and children’s stories for Divorce and Separation

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