This weekend marks the end of the 13th annual National Storytelling Week, organised by the Society for Storytelling to promote the oldest art form of oral storytelling. Before humans were writing, all knowledge had to be passed down orally and storytelling formed a fundamental part of knowledge transfer. Even with writing, storytelling plays an essential role in learning for our little ones - children learn through stories long before they are able to read or write.
Make sure that you are telling stories to your little ones all the time, and not just during National Storytelling Week! Even babyies who are too young to understand what is being said will benefit from constant exposure to oral communication. They will hear words and they will hear expression, and this all helps on that long journey towards being able to communicate themselves.
Find time in your daily routine to sit down with children and read stories. Make up stories and retell familiar tales in your own words. Older children might have fun by telling you stories in return, or by changing tales they are familiar with to give them a surprise outcome.
If you haven't done naything for National Storytelling Week so far then see if you can catch any activities at the weekend. See if your local library has some events on and go and join the fun...
Children can be very inquisitive, often asking very good questions, and it's easy to brush off or ignore ones we can't answer, but if they ask a question that you don't know the answer to, seize the opportunity to explore the topic and both you and your children will learn something new!
The internet gives us the most amazing resource imaginable - at our fingertips are the answers to almost any question on the planet, and certainly to any questions that our children will pose! If a challenging question comes your way, take time to research the answer, and encourage the inquisitive, learning nature of your little ones.
The internet is not the only resource at hand. Perhaps a question might lead to a trip to the library, a museum or the zoo? You don't have to answer just a single question, take the time to explore the topic area more broadly and that way your children will learn so much more. Young children absorb facts in an astounding way, but they also need to hear the conceptual reasons behind something as they build up their knowledge and understanding of the world more broadly.
Of course, your children won't understand scientific reasoning behind complex answers, your job is to couch explanations in terms that they will comprehend. Reference things that they do understand, and explain things using examples and experiences from everyday life that your little ones will understand.
Well, why is the sky blue and why do fish live in water?
The sky appears to be blue because air molecules scatter more blue light than other colours, until the sun sinks on the horizon at which point the light is coming indirectly and more red, yellow and orange light is scattered, sometimes leading to glorious sunsets!
Fish don't have lungs, but gills - these have developed to filter oxygen out of water rather than taking oxygen from the air.
Now, try explaining those in terms that a four year old will understand!
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