Getting Started with Storytelling in Kindergarten

February 21, 2014

One of the hallmarks of Waldorf-inspired homeschooling, especially in kindergarten and the early grades, is storytelling. Storytelling can sound like a lot to take on but with some basic information and a bit of practice (plus a leap of faith!) you’ll start telling stories like a pro in no time. Storytelling is central to who we are as human beings so even though it isn’t something we do very often in modern life there is a part of you that already knows how to do it.

Storytelling is an important part of teaching in the Waldorf way because learning is both more efficient and more memorable when the lesson is conveyed through a story. And for young people who are living through their imaginations, stories are deeply nourishing for their hearts and souls. The stories in the Waldorf curriculum are chosen carefully to really speak to the children in each stage of development.

Kindergarten children (ages 4.5 to 6.5 or so) enjoy hearing stories all day every day from all around the world. They are especially captivated by fairy tales because these stories mirror the developmental struggles of children who are transitioning out of early childhood. Fairy tales use archetypal characters and imagery to reflect the wide range of possibility within each human being. They portray human potential and hope, characters who overcome challenges and obstacles that seem impossible, and good triumphing in the end. “All’s well that ends well” is important to the kindergarten child.

How to choose stories

When looking for stories to tell, start with the ideas below and check out the resources at the end of this post – but be sure to use your intuition as well!  Remember that storytelling is about connecting with your children and nourishing their imagination.

Kindergarten children enjoy:

Fairy tales and folktales from around the world
Nursery stories with lots of repetition
Nature stories
Festival stories
Stories that you make up
Stories from your child’s life and your own

How to tell stories

Children love to hear stories anytime! It’s also really wonderful in the kindergarten years to start telling a special story as part of your daily rhythm.

Choose one story to tell at a time, and decide when it will fit into your rhythm.

Make this a special part of the day, perhaps with its own song, lighting a candle, or anything else which sets a reverent and quiet mood.

To learn a fairy tale, read it to yourself enough times that it lives in you. You don’t need to memorize every word – it’s more important that you tell the story from your heart. But do pay attention to the imagery and word choice in the story. It can be very helpful to read it to yourself three nights in a row before you go to sleep, and to read it out loud. You don’t have to learn every story by heart, but notice how much your child loves it when you tell a story directly from yourself!

Tell the same story each day for at least a week. The younger the child, the longer you can stick with the same story.

You can make the story into a puppet show if you like and use little dolls and props to set the scene, or you can just tell the story all snuggled up on the couch.

Notice how the story shows up in your child’s play. Young children learn through doing so they will play with a story that has captured their imagination.

You can also expand on the story through other activities – drawing, dressing up and acting it out, painting from an image, feeling, or mood from the story, modeling, or crafting. In the kindergarten years, you can let your child learn through activity, imitation, and play, and save intellectual exercises (such as answering questions, recalling, or summarizing the story) for homeschooling in the grades.

Further resources for storytelling

Storytelling with Children by Nancy Mellon

Healing Stories for Challenging Behavior by Susan Perrow

More Stories to tell:

There are lots of free stories on this blog

Tell Me a Story ed. by Louise de Forest for WECAN

Juniper Tree Puppets an amazing resource from Suzanne Down – story collections, a free newsletter with stories, and puppetry workshops

Wynstones Kindergarten Series

Lavender’s Blue Kindergarten Curriculum

Main Lesson a free online collection of many nature stories and traditional stories

Grimm’s Fairy Tales Pantheon edition

Your library of course!

The leap of faith

Storytelling can feel intimidating – as modern people, we are no longer steeped in oral tradition, and reading aloud feels much more natural. But I think you’ll find that it only takes a few tries before telling stories to your child comes naturally and begins to be a habit. I know that you’ll find it’s a powerful way to connect and teach!

I would love to hear about your experience with storytelling!

Do you tell stories from your own imagination? What stories do your children ask for the most?

Do you tell fairy tales as part of your rhythm?

Do you feel nervous about telling stories and need more encouragement?

Please share with us in the comments below!

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Deborah February 21, 2014 at 10:11 am

Here is a link to the website for the Northeast Storytelling Conference (March 28-30, 2014 in Amherst, MA) sponsored by Keene State College called Sharing the Fire http://lanes.org/storytelling-conference/sharing-the-fire-2014/ It seemed appropriate for the subject if people were interested in building skills. Thanks for your blog and making this info accessible to folks at home!
Best,
Deborah

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Kelly February 21, 2014 at 1:14 pm

Thank you for sharing Deborah!

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Chris February 21, 2014 at 2:53 pm

Thank you for your enthusiasm and support on your blog for storytelling! My daughter is three and a half, so I am telling her very simple short stories, and she absolutely loves it. Any nervousness I felt in the beginning is long gone, because it’s clear how much she loves the attention, calmness, and imagination of the stories. Again, at her age, really, really simple little stories about our life or when she was a baby, plus a few classic stories, such as The Three Little Pigs and The Three Billy Goats Gruff. I like to work with repetitive phrases and sounds in the stories, as well as a few super simple, basic hand motions. Phrases and hand motions that are simple enough for her (at her young age) to pick up on (not by my “teaching” them to her, but just through her observation). It’s amazing how the stories are woven into her play all day long. I tell the same story for several weeks at a time, and for our weekly rhythm it works to do Circle Time and Storytime three times a week. After storytime, she generally (but not always, of course!) plays for a long time by herself. This allows me to do any prep for dinner that would be hard to have her “help” with, and I can get most of my dishes washed. By the time her play starts to wind down, it’s perfect timing to have her help me finish washing the dishes and make dinner together.
Thank you so much for all of the wonderful resources on your blog!
Chris

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Kelly February 21, 2014 at 6:59 pm

I love it! Thank you so much for reading along and sharing Chris! :)

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Candice February 21, 2014 at 3:50 pm

As kids my sister and I would beg our Dad to tell us stories from his childhood, especially if he was naughty.

The first story I’ve recited to my toddler was the Gingerbread Man, I was surprised how fun it was. You really get into the moment, playing up the bits of the story you know they like best.

I’m keen to learn more and practice my skills.

Remember Sparkle Stories audio books too as an example of quality story telling.

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Kelly February 21, 2014 at 7:01 pm

Yes! My girls are always asking for stories of when mama and papa were young and did mischief! So glad you’re having fun Candice! :)

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Kristy February 21, 2014 at 10:55 pm

My daughter, age 4, and I created “story cubes”. She told me a list of places, things, animals and emotions for the cubes. The game is to roll the dice and tell short stories using the pictures that pop up. She is “bought in” because they were her image ideas. We often use the cubes when dining out (waiting for dinner) or when company comes over. They have been great fun and a good way to engage adults who are not sure what to say to a 4 year old!

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Tatiana February 22, 2014 at 3:30 pm

My son is 4 and I have been telling him made-up stories about “little bunny” for the last 2 years. Sometimes little bunny just does whatever my son did that day or something we are planning on doing in the next day or two. Sometimes little bunny goes through a struggle that we have been struggling with lately. Sometimes little bunny goes on an awesome adventure, or a pretty mellow walk. The stories are not always great, but my son loves them and I tell him them almost every night when he is getting ready for bed.

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Kelly April 15, 2014 at 4:32 pm

Aw, I love that Tatiana!

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