Interactive Storytelling: How to get Children to engage in story time
Although bed time has traditionally been a big time for telling tales and reading to children, getting kids to participate in storytelling during other parts of the day is also important.
Children learn through stories, including everything from basic syntax and grammar to more complex concepts like moral and ethical behavior and concepts of cause and effect.
Kids learn through stories
Children’s ability to learn through dynamic storytelling is one of the reasons story time is a big part of daycare, preschool, primary (kindergarten in the US) and early elementary learning environments.
Making story time a consistent part of your home routine is important as well, and you can set the routine for storytelling activities at home for whatever works best for your schedule.
We’ve talked about reading picture books and building a story time routine before, so it’ll come as no surprise to see us advocating story time at other times as well (though we do acknowledge that these can be considerably harder to organise – which is why a schedule is a good idea).
Many parents find that reading to their children at bed time is most convenient and provides children with a good winding down activity just prior to lights out. Using more traditional storytelling techniques during these sessions makes it possible to have storytelling be a normal part of your daily routine without a lot of extra work or planning going into the process and without getting kids worked up just before bed.
Incorporating more interactive and engaging storytelling activities into your weekly schedule is likely the most practical way to include additional learning stories and storytelling related activities into your home routine.
Making a regular thing of interactive storytelling at least one day on the weekend is what most parents find most plausible for their schedules.
Techniques for Engaging Kids in Storytelling Activities
To effectively involve children more in the storytelling process, all you need to do is look at the creative play in which your children now participate, or think back to your own childhood and consider the ways in which you brought an imaged story to life.
Perhaps your children build forts out of pillows, couch cushions and blankets.
Maybe they play dress up using your clothes and those of your spouse.
They, of course, spend time drawing and coloring.
And they likely recite dialogue or singing songs from their favorite children’s television shows or movies.
All of these creative play activities can be incorporated into your interactive storytelling activities.
Putting on Plays Based on Favorite Stories
The most popular methods parents use to get gets more engaged in storytelling is to make a “play” or performance of favorite stories.
You can undertake crafting projects (checkout the Baker Ross banner for some great ideas and products to get you started) in which you and the kids build simple sets and illustrated backdrops for your stories.
Get kids involved in selecting costumes (maybe it’s time to find a dressing up box if you haven’t got one already…)
Practice dialogue and acting out different scenes in the stories.
And finally, if you’re feeling brave enough (because we all know that it’s not our kids who are shy eh?) invite over family friends, grandparents and others for a monthly performance of a favorite story.
Using Familiar and Favorite Tales for Interactive Storytelling
One of the reasons parents use tales for interactive storytelling that kids are already very familiar with is because children don’t need a lot of guidance on the dialogue in the story or the details of the storyline.
In fact, many children have their favorite stories memorized, having heard them dozens, perhaps hundreds of times already. You probably have pretty much memorized the stories as well, having been the reader all those times.
Other Interactive Storytelling Methods
There are many other ways in which to get kids engaged in interactive storytelling, including using books that have a “call and response” theme or which can be used in that manner, and books which are specifically designed to be interactive in nature.
The call and response process keeps kids in the story, asking them to repeat dialogue or sounds at regular intervals throughout the story.
Some excellent children’s books for use with this interactive storytelling technique include classic Little Golden Books and other such lasting tales.
There are some really great books that are available in a pre designed interactive storytelling style include:
Perfect interactive storybooks for babies and toddlers:
Where Is Baby’s Belly Button? by Karen Katz is a great storybook for babies and toddlers where you can get them engaged and taking part in the story by allowing them to point to bits of themselves. A great way to help them learn about themselves and others and full of giggles and fun. There are flaps behind which the various body parts can be found, so you can engage your kids in both lifting the flaps and pointing to their own body parts when they’re found!
Animal Hide and Seek (Farmyard Tales Touchy-feely) by Stephen Cartwright is one that my daughter grew up with and loved (perhaps a little too much judging from it’s torn and grubby pages). The book is again aimed at the younger market with both an interactive element of opening tags and revealing the animals, counting and introducing various textures and visual effects throughout the book.
Role play books for use with young children
For those of us who are looking for ideas outside of a story book, or for those who have noticed our kids role playing on their own, The Little Book of Role Play: Little Books with Big Ideas (Little Books) is filled with ideas and techniques on how to get involved, play along and instigate role play games. While not strictly “stories”, role playing is still an essential learning and life practice skill that is worth getting involved and having fun with your kids.
Boost your child’s self confidence by making stories interactive and engaging them
Just Because I am: A Child’s Book of Affirmation by Lauren Murphy Payne has received fantastic reviews for helping children who suffer from confidence issues. The key to making this super effective is to make the book interactive with your child : talk through each affirmation, engage your kids and ask them to think of times when they’ve achieved things. Getting them to think (and talk) about when they were confident is possibly the best way of changing their internal self image of powerlessness and insecurity.
Remember, make it fun! After all, the best time is story time.