Since ancient times, human beings have used stories to teach lessons, instill moral principles, and entertain each other. Stories foster imagination and help children cope with the challenges of growing up, facing their fears, and becoming more independent. Infants can benefit from stories as soon as they begin to respond to faces, voices, and pictures. Here’s more information on the importance of storytelling and some tips on how to connect with your baby using storytelling.
Stories Build Language and Communication Skills
Babies respond to sounds and facial expressions. Telling stories helps your infant’s ears recognize emotional expression. Stories also begin to build an infant’s language skills by capturing their interest in how sounds make words and how words are associated with colors, animals, and numbers. Plus, stories encourage infants to listen and sort out words. Best of all, when you tell or read a story to your baby, they associate storytime with time cuddling, closeness, and going gently to sleep!
As your baby begins to show more interest in pictures and objects, your storytelling can become more interactive. Baby can point to a picture, and you can tell a very simple story about the cow or the kitten they see in the picture. As your baby begins to make sounds, you can model the back-and-forth of conversation by pausing and giving baby a chance to “moo” or “meow.”
Stories Help Babies Make Sense of the World
Storytime soothes babies as they begin to understand that they are separate individuals from their mothers. Stories build confidence and offer reassurance—Mommy comes back, the lost toy is found, the sun comes up again in the morning. Anything can be the prompt for a story, from the tale of the tiny t-shirt to the rhyme of the rollicking rocking horse. Narrating your everyday activities as you wear your baby around the house in a carrier or a sling keeps your baby listening and plants the seeds of language and play.
Tips for Getting Started With Storytelling
While storytelling comes naturally to many new parents, some get a little tongue-tied beyond animal sounds or rhythmic noises like rumpety-tumptey-tum. Infants don’t care about a scintillating plotline—they just like to hear their parents’ voices; they delight in changes in pitch and cadence. If you aren’t confident making up stories on the spot, start with the classics you remember from your own childhood. Other ways to get started with storytelling include the following pointers:
- Use old family photos to tell your infant about a fun time you had as a child with your own parent or grandparent.
- Use a favorite toy, like one of our cashmere stuffed animals, as the prompt for a story. What has Liam the Lion or Penelope Poodle been up to today?
- Sing repetitive story songs, like “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt” or “There Was a Hole in the Middle of the Ground.” These songs demonstrate how stories build, by adding to what has gone before. Infants and toddlers love to anticipate the refrain and join in when they can.
Your baby’s delighted reactions will be motivation enough to learn more about how to connect with your baby through storytelling; you may even discover that you’re a natural storytelling entertainer.