This week I will be doing my first 5-day series where I post for 5 straight days on a specific topic. To kick it off, I will be sharing 5 days worth of tips and tricks that you can incorporate into your everyday routine to boost your toddler’s language skills!
Today I’d like to talk about storytelling skills.
Storytelling has been around ever since humans learned to speak!
All stories, whether it be a book for kindergartners or one for adults, are characterized by a certain organizational pattern. This consistent pattern is called story grammar. It has been found that regardless of culture or age, people follow a particular story grammar pattern when retelling stories they have read or heard. Kids of all ages use their knowledge of that structure to help them remember and organize important details.
If you think about it, we use stories on a daily basis to share our experiences with others whether it be to entertain, inform, or simply to socialize!
Did you know that we all think in terms of stories too? We understand the world in terms of stories we’ve heard and the way we interpret relationships and personal problems are influenced by the stories of other people who have had similar experiences. Kinda crazy right?
Research shows that children’s early mastery of narrative skills is increasingly recognized as helping to lay foundations for their acquisition of literacy and long-term academic success (Reese et al. 2010).
Since stories are SO very important, it is critical that we set our children up for success by seizing opportunities to emphasize that grammatical structure or vocabulary throughout our day.
Here are some ways you can do that:
Read, read, read!
There’s really no way around this one. The more your toddler hears stories, the better they will tell stories! They begin to internalize the overall structure and pick up on the grammatical details and vocabulary too. Try not to disrupt the flow of a story by asking too many questions. Focus on the enjoyment of reading!
Be sure to make reading a part of your child’s bedtime routine. It’s a great wind-down activity that you can do to get some quality one-on-one time! Establish a set number of books that can be read each night (we do 2) so that it doesn’t go on forever and push back bedtime. If your child knows early on that there is a 2-book maximum, they will be less likely to fight the transition to bedtime!
Pro-tip: Read the same book over and over and over and over! I know it can get annoying BUT your toddler will greatly benefit from the repetition and predictability.
Wordless picture books
Here’s where reading gets REALLY fun! Wordless picture books are my absolute favorite tools for strengthening narrative language skills. They give your child the opportunity to create the story and draw inferences from the pictures.
If you think about it, we live in a world that is dominated by visual images whether it be on television, billboards, computer screens, etc. Because wordless picture books convey a story entirely through pictures, they are perfect for encouraging children to use visual literacy skills. You’ll be amazed at the details they are able to pick out that even YOU didn’t notice!
Young toddlers won’t be able to create a cohesive storyline just yet, but they WILL be able to label and describe what they see in the illustrations with your guidance. If your child isn’t speaking yet, encourage them to use sounds and gestures.
As with reading a regular book, it will be important for you to provide models by making comments on the characters and plot.
The most meaningful connections between written and spoken language are made through pretend play! It allows kids to act out familiar narrative scenarios that they hear and participate in every day. It also helps foster creativity and imagination.
Here are some pretend play scenes your toddler will love:
- Post Office
- Grocery shopping
You may not be too excited to watch Frozen for the millionth time in a row, but your toddler sure is! And that’s okay! The good news is that they are actually gaining a lot from watching movies in terms of learning story structure.
They get to see their favorite characters in action while they come across problems and then go through a series of events to find solutions to those problems. After watching a movie with your toddler, talk through the plot together. This doesn’t have to go super in-depth or anything but just a general summary of the movie.
You’ll want to include:
- Main character
- Setting: Where did the story take place.
- Problem: What problem did the main character run into.
- Plan: How did the character plan to solve the problem.
- Actions: What did the character do to try and achieve the plan.
- Resolution: How did the story end. Did the character achieve their plan.
Keep it brief and simple. Encourage your toddler to retell the story with you and then tell it to another family member!
There Ya Go!
Highlighting story grammar elements and vocabulary throughout your day will really give your child a head start with this very important skill! Once they get into school, you will really be able to see how it strengthens their reading, writing, and speaking skills.
This is day 5 of the 5 Days of Speech and Language Tips series. Hope you enjoyed it and learned a lot from it!
Tell me in the comments if you incorporated any of the strategies into your playtime!