A child is a human being who lives with one or more parents and is younger than an adult. Usually, children are dependent on their parents or guardians for support, protection and care. Children often have fewer rights and responsibilities than adults and are considered too young to make serious decisions for themselves.
When a child tells a story, it isn’t just that the words mean something, feel something, or refer to an event; the most important thing is what the stories do. Stories not only reveal a child’s inner life; they shape it. A child’s stories reveal what matters to him and what he believes in. They help him to communicate who he is and connect with others.
Storytelling is a powerful way to build relationships with children, particularly when they are young. When children are able to create meaningful narratives they are able to share what is important to them, communicate their values and beliefs, and develop empathy with other people. Storytelling is also an excellent tool to use when a child needs to work through difficult emotions such as frustration, anger and sadness.
Children’s natural inclination to create and tell stories means that they have a unique ability to be open to the experiences of their listeners. As children listen, they are able to make meaning of what is happening and can learn from the responses of their audience. Consequently, it is important for adults to listen to children and to take their concerns seriously.
Until recently, it was widely believed that toddlers were firmly rooted in the here and now, unable to think about things that have happened or will happen in the future. However, new research shows that toddlers are more interested in the past and the future than we originally thought. In fact, they often talk about the past and the future even if they cannot understand what they are saying. Rather than trying to teach them about the past and the future, it is often easier for adults to engage with them in their play and join in.
When we do this, we can create a strong relationship with children based on something that interests them and give them the space to explore their own ideas. By crouching down to their eye level and joining in on their game, we can show them that we are interested in what they have to say, and can help them to understand the context of their experiences.
Children are like sponges – they soak up all the information around them, including the things we say and don’t say. They can’t always understand the full meaning of what they hear, but they are able to use tone, rhythm and imagery to help them to make sense of what is being said. The best way to understand what they are thinking and feeling is to be open to listening to their point of view, even if we don’t agree with it.