Once upon a time a toddler asked for another story…
A good bedtime story. There’s nothing like it. With a well-crafted tale, your children can venture into enchanted woods, discover fairytale lands and sprout wings to soar through a colourful sky. Bedtime stories help them to relax, make them feel secure and send them off to la-la land in a contented state. If you tell a safe enough tale, your child’s sleep will be free from any bad dreams and they’ll awaken like the happy, affectionate little people they should be.
You may already know this about bedtime stories; of course, you may even recollect some of the better ones from your childhood! But did you know that bedtime stories are also a quick and easy way to help your kids get smarter?! Well, they are.
Bedtime stories aren’t just a trick that parents keep up their sleeves to speed up their own quiet time. They have all kinds of benefits for a child’s development. Here are just a few of these benefits:
They help to develop speech
Research undertaken by Growing Up in Scotland showed that children who were involved in activities like storytelling with their parents from an early age developed more quickly, particularly in their language processing skills. If the book contains pictures that represent certain words – like “butterfly” or “dinosaur” – your child will learn to recognise what these words mean, helping them to expand their vocabulary.
Children seem to really enjoy these long words and also onomatopoeic words such as “tick tock” and “splash”. You’ll probably notice that they want you to repeat these words several times and will join in for words that sound fun to say. This helps them to exercise their speech muscles, particularly if the phrases include difficult sound combinations. It may not send them into a sleepier state immediately but it is improving their language skills and even preparing them for reading skills later. You’ll notice this if you dare to change a word in the text – they’ll anticipate what’s meant to be next and quickly call you out on it!
They build memory skills
This is particularly true for bedtime stories with a lot of rhyming and repetition. Hearing your voice make these sounds over and over can strengthen your child’s ability to remember words and phrases. This is because the pathways that link neurons in the brain develop so rapidly during our early years, a process that is enhanced through repetitive experiences and actions.
So while making up a tale of great adventure and conquest can help grow your toddler’s imagination, creativity and language skills, make sure to read the same short story many times over when they’re still a tot. It may feel monotonous to you but it really helps those brain pathways to develop!
They include life lessons
While your child mightn’t see the connection between a witch, a princess and the real world, there’s life lessons to be learned in all of these tales. Lessons about right and wrong, doing good for others and being strong in the face of adversity will all sink in unconsciously. So try making up a story yourself, featuring a good ol’ dose of morality – as your child grows these lessons will become ingrained in the mind. And this early influence can help them to make more responsible – and yes, smarter – decisions when they grow up.
Note: If you do decide to go the “creative storytelling” route then this might be a job best left to Dad. (Sorry, Mom!) Because it seems that children whose fathers read to them before bed develop better language skills than those whose moms take on the tales. This is mainly because mothers tend to ask more factual questions like “What is the Prince’s name?” Fathers, on the other hand, often ask more open-ended questions like “What do you think he’ll fight the dragon with?” They also seem a little more capable of improvising from a known narrative, which encourages the child to do the same and poses more of a cognitive challenge. Again, all of this is great for creativity, imagination and confidence in speech.
And they all lived happily ever after.
So whether you’re travelling with your baby or in the comfort of your own home, make sure you have a good bedtime story to hand. Read from a book or make one up, whatever works for you. Stir their imagination in this way and watch them flourish as a result.