Everyone has a tale to tell – this is the heart behind Storynation, and a personal conviction of mine as well. From my boys’ fantastical tale of imaginary dino-friends and superheroes, to a lifetime of experiences shared with me by my grandmother. Stories are truly an integral part of all our lives, and yet too often, we don’t take the time to listen, to tell, and to discover.
I believe that story-telling doesn’t necessarily come naturally to everyone though. For me, I must say that I do enjoy story-telling – whether it be listening to others or sharing my own experiences, but I also recognise that it can be a struggle for many fellow parents who are not sure how to engage their children, especially restless, active ones like my Daryl, with a book. If that’s you, you’re certainly not alone.
From babyhood, my older boy, David, has loved reading books the way I do, i.e. sitting on the bed or sprawled on the sofa with a book on his lap, and being read to (then) or reading to himself (now). However, from babyhood, Daryl has pretty much been the polar opposite in this respect.
When he was younger, it frustrated me a lot. I couldn’t help comparing at times, and worrying that he would have a hard time learning anything at all, if he couldn’t even sit still to listen to one short book. But over the years, I’ve come to realise that this little boy simply has his own learning styles and preferences.
He can sit still with a book at home – for a long time, at that – but only when left on his own to flip the pages and look at the pictures and words. Once someone (me or the hubs) reads to him, it’s like he’s got ants in his pants – he can barely stay in his seat for more than a minute! And yet. Somehow when he’s in school, the teachers tell me he is one of the best listeners during story-time. Hmmm…
And yet, even when my Daryl is not sitting still, I’ve discovered that he is actually listening very intently to a story or song. Lesson learnt: my expectations of what a child engaged in a story looks like is not necessarily the only way children show they are interested.
Someone like Daryl, and many other young children I know, loves hearing and creating stories, but not sitting down with a book. Perhaps it’s the sitting still that takes the joy away from the story-telling experience sometimes. I was reminded of this at the Storynation x Kaboodle session we attended during the holidays. Seeing my boy completely enjoying the world of stories and make-believe while NOT sitting still sure made my day.
If you’re wondering, Storynation is the brainchild of three dads who want to foster a love for stories and story-telling in the next generation. It is primarily a community platform for parents to learn the art of storytelling, be part of a co-creation environment, and to practice their craft in a professionally facilitated environment. You decide the pace and level engagement that fits your schedule and needs. Storynation‘s goal is to help you connect with the most important audience of all – your children.
During the session, I learnt a lot from watching how master storyteller Roger Jenkins related the story to the children. For his first story, he used a felt board and felt characters to tell his tale of the naughty monkeys who stole a shopkeeper’s caps. He didn’t just tell the story as is, but injected it with all sorts of gestures for the children to do, and asked them questions along the way. For example:
“Look at all the different colours of caps the man is selling! Now I wonder, what’s your favourite colour? Who likes the red caps?” he asked the children.
Or “Every time the monkeys saw the man do something, they would copy him. Like if the man did this [he clapped his hands], then the monkeys would do…?” And the children would become the monkeys, copying his actions.
Now I typically try to be extra expressive when I read to the boys. But from Roger Jenkins’ example, I saw that there are other ways be a lot more interactive with Daryl, and think of ways to make the story more “physically” alive for him.
Roger’s second story involved a pop-up book, and again, with the use of a variety of questions and actions, all the children were drawn to its tale. Daryl was beginning to get restless, I could see, but something was helping him stay in his place and listen, instead of running around. What was it?
It turns out that the fun people at Kaboodle have this fantastic range of Bobles furniture, and Daryl loved his donut “chair” so much that he was gently bopping up and down the whole time he was listening.
After the storytelling time, it was time for Part 2 of their session. Rogers brought the kids over to the huge main play area, filled with all manner of shapes of these blue foam blocks! Daryl vaguely remembered them from his first time at Kaboodle two years back, and was thrilled!
First, Rogers coached the kids into how to build some basic structures – for example, a cake. With a combination of thoughtful questions and suggestions, he got the children to create structures of their own. Then, by asking questions again, he helped them to craft a story about their structure. Eg “What is that you’re building?” or “What is this part for?”
Through this activity, the children were given the opportunity to bring their ideas to life, and guided to think about why they were building what they were building in that particular way. I thought that was a fantastic learning experience -for them and us parents too.
All in all, the little boy had a wonderful time at the Storynation x Kaboodle Holiday Programme, and I gained a lot from our time there too. Check out more fun videos on the Storynation FaceBook page, and see if you can spot Daryl there!
Stories and big blue blocks are quite the perfect match, I must say. 😉