Acting out stories is an incredibly fun and rewarding method for parents to increase their child’s interest in stories before they are old enough to read. Encouraging your child to pretend that they are part of the story makes the characters and themes come alive. Adding props or costumes to the mix immerses the child even more into the story’s woven threads. Your child becomes part storyteller, part character while they bring the pages of the story into the real world to give it new relevance and meaning.
In the end, the child will have a better memory of the tale and feel like they had a large part in its recreation. This type of active learning stokes creativity while also giving children a chance to learn about the importance of information sequencing and retaining the most relevant plot points within a narrative structure. The child can also use the story as a springboard to gain confidence in creating their own tales and giving deeper meaning to a series of ideas.
Interaction Makes an Impression
Stories are all around us. Any time we answer a question like “How was your day?” or “Where did the television remote go?” we are constructing a central meaning out of a series of seemingly disconnected elements. The concept of narrative helps drive the most basic functions of communication, both spoken and written. Children who start to wrap their head around the process of telling or even creating stories have a huge advantage in their ability to communicate and process vital information.
According to Dr. Faith Polk, a childhood education consultant, when a child acts out a story, their “oral language skills — vocabulary and narrative understanding — are enhanced. These skills are identified as key predictors in reading skills; they are the basis for comprehension.”
By introducing them to a text like “Little Red Riding Hood” and then asking them to act it out on their own, they are forced to reconsider the story. They must come back to the story either in their head or on the page, and they are likely to notice certain new details that faded into unimportance before.
The child also has a chance to make a story partly their own. In classic tales, there is always an element of reinterpretation when adapting a story to a new setting. A child can take pleasure in this process by using something old to create something new. After all, the building blocks of creating metaphors and conceptual relationships come from an ability to understand stories.
An Activity Plan
Take a vivid, memorable story like “The Three Little Pigs” and read it aloud to your child or let them listen to it being narrated. Stories with repeated elements work best to teach children a sense of narrative structure.
During reading, pause to have them act out the story as best they can using body movements, props or symbolic representations like cut out pictures. For larger groups, have each child represent a different character. When they are done with the story, ask questions about what happened during the tale or what they felt the most interesting, funny or sad parts were.
You can later have the child act out the story on their own while helping them to remember some of the plot points. You can also let the child be creative and come up with their own adaptation, changing elements like setting, character names or even how some situations turn out. Remember to always be very positive and encouraging to the child, and take time to point out parts that they had a firmer grasp on, such as a good wolf blowing down a house impression or a funny way to change what happened.
For ideas to help begin the exciting process of acting out stories, take a look at our selection of free children’s books and let the fun and learning begin.