Sharing stories with 3 to 5-year-olds is vital to their learning and creativity, and a great way to connect.

Storytelling is in our history

The article about Storytelling for tamariki 19–24 is still relevant at this age. Children’s interests grow as they do. Some people say that telling stories is one of the most important human activities. Our histories, dramas, tales of heroism, fables, proverbs, and cautionary tales have all come to us through the generations by way of our wonderful ability to tell stories.

Long before written language, knowledge was conveyed from one generation to the next through storytelling. Our tīpuna had amazing memories, being able to recite lengthy tauparapara, oriori, karakia, pakiwaitara and whakapapa.

Stories are an important aspect of preserving culture and sharing values with others. Children learn language and improve their listening skills. Storytelling encourages the development of emotions. It also helps a child’s creativity – especially in imagining the characters and action.

An enthusiastic adult makes all the difference

A storytelling adult provides a role model for the tamaiti that storytelling is a valued activity. They can also encourage a child to tell their own stories, or enjoy making up stories together.

A simple trip to the shops or park can be turned into a story with a little effort and imagination. Everyday occurrences become bedtime stories, or stories to tell nana at the next video chat session.

Stories might be about ‘the day you were born’, or, ‘the day you came to live with us’, or, ‘the time we went to our marae’, or, ‘when our kitten joined the whānau’. These are all rich beginnings of family stories.

Balance technology

With the increased use of digital technology within families in the modern world there is a risk that many tamariki are unlikely to have stories told to them. For children who live in households where most of the entertainment is via a device of some kind, it’s only natural that they will want to engage like this too. They’re probably more likely to prefer to hear and watch stories on an electronic device.

This lack of opportunity to experience the enjoyment gained from storytelling can be compounded if neither parent was told stories at home growing up. In this scenario it may take a conscious effort to promote shared storytelling within the whānau.

Of course, digital devices are only going to increase in number and in the range of activities they can offer. But they’re unlikely to develop to the extent to which they can cuddle a child, laugh at some funny whānau story with them or determine if the child is being frightened by an unsuitable story. This requires another human being, preferably one who loves and cares about the child.

Balance is the answer. Some supervised time on a device is an opportunity for one style of learning and entertainment for tamariki, and having a story read or told to them is another. Children benefit from experiencing both.