‘ You can’t read stories to babies, they don’t do anything’! I ask you, are you as shocked and saddened by this question as I am – I really hope so.
I love telling stories to babies ( and by babies, I mean 0-12 months – or ‘non walkers’). I enjoy sharing books, songs, rhymes, puppets and toys with them. Storytelling allows babies to explore, develop and extend new skills in the areas of gross and fine motor skills, social emotional skills plus being able to experiment with a variety of sounds through the use of a variety of musical styles and instruments. I use puppets and toys to enhance interactivity and sing songs and rhymes over and over again to allow for familiarity. Babies are far more ‘switched on’ than they are given credit for! They remember cues, specific songs and tunes, items that require a particular reaction and are able to act accordingly.
For book stories, I prefer large, brightly coloured picture books – preferably pop up or lift the flap books as they work so well to focus their attention. Babies readily respond to familiar sounds and verbal cues. When telling book stories, I use a specific phrase in order to gain attention. My phrase is simply ‘ are you ready’? I say this slowly, fairly loudly in order to gain their attention and then immediately open the flap or pop up section as they are in the act of turning in my direction. Babies are then presented with a picture to look at as they look at me. Since I use the phrase every time we have a session with books, babies become accustomed to it and will actively participate in the action of the story. Over time, storytelling becomes a familiar activity, their focus and attention spans improve and it’s amazing how much interaction they are able to achieve. I have seen many wonderful, talented storytellers in action who all utilise different cues, including : ‘look now’, ‘here it is’ ‘ open your eyes’ and ‘WOW’! Whatever phrase is chosen ( or dreamed of ), the important thing is to say it every time a book is used – familiarity is the key.
Babies happily accept and react to familiar songs and rhymes, don’t forget that many mums sing them at home, and these may be further extended with the use of musical instruments, soft toys and puppets.Babies are very tactile, they learn through all their senses. Sight, sound, touch, smell and taste are all vitally important for babies as they learn and grow. These interactive and tactile tools allow them to explore familiar activities through all their senses ( so don’t worry if they suck on the toys and puppets, they can be washed ). If a soft toy is gently rubbed across their cheek as you all sing ‘soft kitty’ it highlights the song and allows babies to explore it in a different way. Music ( I use bells )allows them to ‘hear’ the ‘Twinkle, twinkle little stars’. There are so many, many, ways to expand experiences through storytelling with babies.
Another aspect of storytelling with babies is the experience and social gains that parents and caregivers are able to achieve. Networking opportunities, asking questions of other parents in a safe and easy setting, the chance to get out of the house on a regular basis or, in my case, the chance to use words over one syllable! Don’t under estimate the importance to mums of storytime sessions – after all, their happiness and well being directly impacts their baby’s happiness and well being.
As a true believer of the concept of sharing, I am always happy to answer questions, provide suggestions and generally assist where I can. Remember, its all supposed to be …. just good fun!