Have you ever tried storytelling in nature? Honestly, I feel like this is not my strong suit. That’s why I’m especially happy to welcome Noreen Greimann of Entangled Harmony to the blog today. Noreen is an expert storyteller in nature, and she is sharing four steps that can help you get started as well!
It was a brisk fall day when I sat under a big oak tree with a group of young children. I had decided to tell them a story instead of reading one from a book like I usually did. A recent performance by a wonderful storyteller had inspired me. While I did not consider myself to be a storyteller at all, I hoped that a group of 3- to 6-year old’s wouldn’t be too critical. The story I told that day was about a busy little squirrel getting ready for winter.
To my delight, the children payed more attention than they ever had. The following spring, one of the children from that class attended another session. We discovered a chewed open walnut shell and concluded that one of our squirrels had enjoyed it for a snack. Almost immediately, the little girl told ME the story about the busy little squirrel. I was amazed that she had remembered that story after so many months and had learned so much from it.
You see, when you READ a storybook to a child, they will enjoy the story and look at the pictures. They are mere observers. But when you TELL a story, the child has to create the image in their own mind. That is when imagination is nurtured, connections are made and your child’s brain lights up like 4th of July fireworks. It’s a beautiful thing.
Most of us don’t consider ourselves to be storytellers. And that’s okay because storytelling is a skill you can learn. The key is to start simple. And then PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. You will quickly realize that it gets easier and easier. And before you know it you can whip up a story at the drop of a hat.
Here are four simple steps to get you started:
Step 1 – Seize the Opportunity
When you are outdoors with your child, keep an eye out for a story prompt. They are literally all around us. A hole in a tree, a caterpillar crossing the trail, a stick, a creek, etc. Don’t overthink it!
Step 2 – The Beginning of Your Story
You don’t need to have the whole story thought out before you start telling it. Only aim to tell 3 or 4 sentences at first. Yes, that’s it! That’s your first little story. Think about where your story prompt may have come from or how it ended up? Who put the nest on the ground? Who made those tracks? What is the butterfly looking for?
If you are really stuck and can’t think of anything, share a memory from your childhood. Again, don’t overthink it. It doesn’t need to be grandiose. Talk about your walk to school, your grandmother’s garden or the flowers you loved to pick.
Step 3 – Slow Down
Your story becomes more intriguing to your child when you slow down your regular pace of talking. Just like children react when you raise your voice, you will quickly get their attention when you slow down and talk a bit more quietly. It gives you time to think and your child time to absorb the words and paint the picture in their minds.
Step 4 – Invite your Child
After you have told the beginning of your story, you can invite your child to continue the story with you. “I wonder what happens next…” is a good way to encourage your child to became part of the storytelling adventure. Of course, some children are natural storytellers and know exactly where that little caterpillar is off to.
Bringing it all together
Telling a story is a wonderful way to add a bit of wonder and magic to a walk through the woods. You can also use a simple story to introduce an activity. Let’s take Linda’s Nature Hearts Activity for example. An introductory story could go something like this:
Once upon a time, there was a little bird who lived in a bird nest with his mama high up in the oak tree. Valentine’s Day was coming and he wanted to surprise his mama. He flew through the forest to find little twigs. One by one he gathered the twigs in his beak and laid them out on the ground next to the oak tree. He worked diligently all day while mama was out looking for food. When she returned, little bird was waiting in the nest for her and said “Look what I made mama!” Mama bird looked down and saw a beautiful heart made out of twigs.
As you can see, stories can be very simple and still bring joy to your child. Don’t worry about telling a bad story. We are always our worst critic and I have yet to have a child tell me that they didn’t like a story. If anything, they will take charge and turn the story into what they would like it to be.
And there is one last reason you will want to start telling stories. Ready? The stories you tell will often become a part of your child’s independent imaginary play and help your child play…independently…for longer periods of time. What’s not to love about that, right?
Let the storytelling begin…
Noreen Greimann helps parents fill their children’s life with magic and joy with her Back-to-the-Basics approach. Her short stories and activity series have become a popular resource for parents, and encompass 20 years of her experience coaching families with young children. When she is not writing, Noreen runs a nature program for children in Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband, two kids and several colonies of honeybees on an acre filled with gardens, tree forts and fairy houses.