If you are looking to help your child go to bed with a grin on their face, storytime is the way to go. Storytime embodies so much of what is right about growing up. It’s fun, and it’s engaging; it enthralls us. A good story will educate, teach morals, and it might even jump you out of your bed in suspense.
All of the above is why bedtime stories are great for kids. They teach, give parents and kids time to bond together, and help them wind down psychologically for bedtime.
But good storytelling is an art. Telling stories that are both captivating and engaging while still helping kids follow the Winding Down Principle takes practice.
Just imagine for a moment and think back to when you were a little kid. Perhaps you had a mom or dad or grandma or grandpa who was exceptional at telling a good story. Do you remember sitting down or lying down in anticipation? Do you remember paying attention and hanging on to every word?
You, too, can get that reaction from your children—with consistent practice and patience.
I want to share five storytelling secrets to increase engagement at storytime. Yes, you can make storytime an imaginative and bonding experience for you and your child.
Before we jump in, I’d like to clarify that these are specific to storytelling—there is a big difference between book reading and storytelling. Reading books does a lot of the work for you. Quite frankly, storytime with book reading is easier. Kids don’t have to pay attention as much to what is coming out of your mouth. They have visuals to teach and guide them rather than you.
There is nothing wrong with book reading, but it is very different from real storytelling. Storytelling has impressive developmental benefits, so make sure you are spending 10 minutes of your day telling and not just reading a story. The secrets I’m going to share can be used during book reading but are highly specific to storytelling.
>>Need a few starter stories to practice with? Check out our 4 bedtime story starter ideas to get your creative juices flowing again.
The first storytelling secret is eye contact! Eye contact with your child is the best way to engage them in the story.
Having eye contact 100% of the time, like a traditional storyteller, is the most ideal. However, not everyone can memorize a story or create one from scratch. Story Tyke was designed with these parents in mind, bridging the gap between traditional storytellers and modern parents.
If you are using Story Tyke, look up from our story frequently. Make a consistent effort not just to read the story. You need to tell it—and eye contact will do that. Look at your child frequently as you read. Allow yourself to interact with your child through your eyes. It will engage them and let them visualize the world through your words.
Along with eye contact, showing emotion matters. If the story is getting adventurous, get excited with your tone and voice. If the character speaking is sad, get a bit more quiet and reflective.
By showing emotion through the story, your child will learn emotional lessons. They will innately connect sad events with sadness, happy events with happiness, and so on. This is healthy and will aid in their overall childhood development.
Showing emotion will also make the story more engaging and interactive. This is where being silly comes into play. You can’t be afraid to get into it! Use different noises and voices while telling the story. Play the boy, the girl, an old grandma, and stuffy grandpa all at once! It will help keep their attention and make it fun!
You know your child best. Do they prefer being the main character like our Customized Tales? Do they like a long story, or want a short one instead? Perhaps they want to tell you what’s going to happen next?
One of the best things a storyteller can do is read their audience—in this case, your child. If they are getting sleepy, perhaps you can switch the tone and voice to a bit more of a softer and relaxing tone. If you can tell that they are looking for a long story tonight, perhaps you add a few more details than initially planned.
The bottom line is to cater the story to what you know your child enjoys and likes.
Showing emotion and using eye contact are likely the two more important components of helping our stories come to life through you. However, other non-verbal cues can be used to increase engagement. The reality is that your child is watching and learning from you regularly, including during storytime.
Here are a few considerations to keep in mind:
Even the distance between both of you matters. Perhaps you can get closer with eyes wide open to help get them in suspense for what is happening next. Or you can draw away from them slightly for a specific reason.
Just be mindful of non-verbal cues and how they engage your child.
There is nothing quite like a great question to help children get into the story. It helps them visualize themselves in the setting and a part of the plot. Questions will help start conversations. I can’t tell you how many conversations my daughter and I have had because I asked a question about a moral or life lesson I wanted to point out.
Never forget that questions will engage.
Inside Story Tyke, we’ve done this for you by adding ‘Tyke Time’ questions to promote conversation and bonding moments with your child.
Storytime should be about bringing parents and children together. It truly is an art, but you can improve your game by using eye contact, showing emotion and getting silly with your kids, catering to the story, using non-verbal cues, and asking questions to start conversations.
If you use these five storytelling secrets to improve your storytelling game, you will have increased engagement.
If you don’t want to create a bedtime story from scratch or search for one online, give Story Tyke a try. It’s 100% free, and you can focus on quality time with your child versus time spent trying to figure out what to do for storytime.