5+ Ways to Practice Storytelling (with Puppets!)

 This post is provided by guest contributor Sara McFall of My Merry Messy Life

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As we have begun homeschooling our children this year, I have learned in my research of the importance of storytelling. Until the days of “Beowulf” and the “Odyssey,” stories weren’t written down like they are in modern times. Storytelling was used to communicate, preserve history and culture, share knowledge, teach morals, and for entertainment.

So how is it relevant today? I think it is still a very powerful tool to communicate with our children because it is fun, non-confrontational, engages the imagination, can heal and build relationships, and can help us understand and appreciate the world around us.

My Father Was A Storyteller

Growing up, I have many memories of my father’s stories. On weekends, we would set up a tent in the basement and pretend we were camping out. It was a blast because Daddy would join us and we got to stay up late giggling and listening to his silly stories. He would create stories off the cuff, usually having to throw in the random things we requested, like a bicycle, dolls, and baseball (for my brother) and they were always silly.

He also liked to put on puppet shows before bedtime with our stuffed animals and would use the silliest voices. Some of them are recorded and we treasure those videos and the memories my father created. That’s why I love our puppet theater  – it invites creative play and reminds me daily to spend time with my children.

Here are some other ways you can use storytelling with your kids:

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A Way To Discuss Difficult Subjects or Concepts

As parents, we can use storytelling to talk with our children about something that’s bothering them, or a difficult emotion or situation like bullying, the death of a pet or loved one, a sickness, hurt feelings, and loneliness. For my children (who are four years and younger), we can use puppets to demonstrate a concept like sharing, which is a difficult one to grasp for young children. If there are stories in your family you want to make sure your children know, puppets are a great visual tool that can help them to remember, especially if told more than once.

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To Imitate and Understand The World Around Them

In the early years, children learn by imitating. They watch and listen to everything we do and end up using our actions as material for their pretend play. Puppets would help them to act out and, therefore, understand the world around them.

Early Reading and Writing Practice

When my kids play with their puppets, it is fascinating to watch them think as they tell their stories. Storytelling is an excellent early reading and writing tool where children learn how to weave together information to create the fabric of a story. If they can be taught to tell stories before they can read and write, it will make the transition to writing smoother.

Family Time

Do you have a regular family night? I know many families who do and I love the idea of having time set aside on a regular basis to strengthen the bond of the family, especially as kids get older and are more scattered. Our children love playing with the theater the most when my husband and I are involved, especially when we use a puppet like the chef because it’s something to which they can relate (they love to cook and bake with us).

Use Props for More Creative Play and Imagination

Telling stories on its own takes a great deal of thought and creativity. Just like writing, it takes practice to become an engaging storyteller so it will take time for children (and even adults, for that matter) to really get the hang of it.

To help the process, I have a prop box next to our puppet theater that, in addition to the puppets, also has cowboy hats, a cape, old Halloween costumes and other dress up toys. It also encourages the kids to be the actors in their own plays. My kids love putting on their construction hats when we have the construction worker puppet out, and they also pull out all their diggers and dumpers. It becomes interactive theater!

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Get Crafty and Make Your Own Puppets!

  • Sock Puppets – socks, felt, wiggly eyes, fabric glue, and fabric paint or markers
  • Clothespin Puppets – pom poms, fabric glue, and clothespins or crafts sticks
  • Finger puppets – take an old glove and cut off the fingers, then glue pieces of felt to it
  • Draw your own background scenery (with a roll of paper) and tape it to the wall behind the theater

Let’s keep the art of storytelling alive by using it as a fun way to communicate with our children, educate them, share family history, talk about difficult concepts, bring the family together, encourage creative play and let their imaginations run wild.

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Sara McFall is the owner of My Merry Messy Life where she shares her passion for crocheting, green and non-toxic living, recipes, crafts, and homeschooling. She can often be found out romping around the yard chasing after her three active and messy boys during the day, and crocheting at night. You can find her on active on Facebook, Twitter and see what she finds interesting on Pinterest!