Storytelling is a tradition that spans centuries—in fact, oral stories passed through generations are some of the earliest historical records we have. In today’s world, communicating and storytelling are great ways to engage and bond with your grandchildren, but also help them develop crucial skills. 

Wendy Miller, a retired Speech Language Pathology Assistant in Custer, gave us some tips and tricks to engage with your young grandchildren.

Start Early

Even before they’re born, children benefit from story time. Hearing voices from the womb introduce babies to their family’s voices, and it’s also a fun way to bond with your children as they go through a new phase in their lives.

Once babies are born, talking to them becomes even more important, as hearing a familiar voice can be soothing, not to mention they’re already picking up on speech patterns. Now is a great time to build your storytelling skills, so as your grandchildren grow up you’re ready to dive in.

Building Language Before Books

Young children and babies like short storybooks and bright pictures, but they don’t always have the attention span to get through one. Nonetheless, there are activities you can do together that will help them build communication skills. 

Walking around the house and narrating your actions—or describing what you see—are great vocabulary builders for babies. As they become toddlers and start forming basic sentences and speech patterns, Wendy says to encourage them by following their lead: “when children point something out, or say something, extend their comment. If they say ‘horse,’ say something like ‘yes, that is a brown horse.’ You’re building on the knowledge they have already and helping them expand.”

How Telling Stories Helps Children Grow

Once your grandchildren are old enough to sit through more than a short picture book, the real fun begins. Because you are familiar to them, children will engage with you more than they will a screen, which holds their attention longer. 

Have a talker who likes to interject? Wendy says to gently focus their interruptions by “using open-ended questions, or use anticipatory voice inflection and then take a pause in your story—they’ll start thinking about what comes next!” By letting children express themselves, you help them build their confidence in speaking. By asking them questions or letting them finish sentences, you also give them a chance to hone their critical thinking and processing skills. 

Guiding Their Future Success

Storytelling is also a great foundation for childrens’ future learning. By listening to you, they pick up on language patterns such as tone and inflection, and they learn more vocabulary words. They also learn how to concentrate and determine meaning from someone who is speaking—all skills that will serve them well and boost their academic success. 

The benefits expand beyond the classroom, as well. By detailing your past experiences and struggles you’ve overcome in life, you also instill virtues they carry with them for life. Sitting down and telling a story helps children understand the world around them, and learning through your experiences solidifies their sense of family connection. 

How to get Started

To get you started with telling stories, we came up with a short list of activities you can propose to your grandchildren: 

  • Children love hearing about themselves, tell them a story about when they were young(er) and have them tell you their favorite part.
  • Create a fun place to tell stories, such as a pillow fort, or a blanket tent. Setting the scene to be different and fun can make story time more magical and memorable. 
  • Let them interview you. Have them think of questions about you, about them, or life in general, and see where the conversation goes. 
  • Get out the photo albums! Kids tend to be visual learners, so letting them flip through pictures and ask questions is a great way to open up the conversation.
  • Read the same book again? Try taking pauses in the story and let them finish—filling in familiar words is a great way to reinforce memorization skills. 

We hope these tips give you confidence in your abilities and get you thinking about ways to bond with your grandchildren. They grow up so fast, so enjoy spending quality time with them and the magic of storytelling.

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