What happens when you read bedtime stories to your toddler?
"We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories."
― Jonathan Gottschall, The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human
Reading The Storytelling Animal shifts a lot of how we perceive stories. Storytelling, fairytales, and bedtime stories have been around since who knows when?! But they've been around long enough for us to take them for granted.
It's impossible to determine when the first story was told, but scholars believe that humans have been sharing stories since they could communicate. Storytelling was a method of survival and sharing experiences and tales within generations.
So what do we mean when we say we take stories for granted?
There are reasons why we've been telling stories to our children long before we could even read and why we will continue telling them in the future.
So let's talk about what telling stories do to our children's brains and how they affect their development and growth.
Stories help master language and build vocabulary
Aside from talking to your children, you can expose their brains to a wide range of words by reading and telling them stories.
A study conducted in April 2019 at Ohio State University demonstrates a significant gap in vocabulary between children who are read to and children who didn't get acquainted with books.
"Young children whose parents read them five books a day enter kindergarten having heard about 1.4 million more words than kids who were never read to."
The study also talks about the benefits of early exposure to books and stories. Children who listen to stories are more likely to pick up reading skills more quickly and easily.
Experts agree that in time, reading or telling stories to a child will enhance their inner dictionary even more than just talking to them. Daily conversations revolve around daily occurrences and the environment. Stories can help expose your child's mind to new ideas and concepts (such as different animals, foods, places, and more).
Storytelling develops creativity and imagination among children
It'd be wonderful to be able to look inside our brains while we're listening to a story. You'd be amazed by the process of how our brain creates images in our head while we hear the story.
In 2011, Mikkel Wallenting, Andreas HøjlundNielsen, and their colleagues studied how emotionally intense parts of stories affect different regions of the brain. It seems that neural circuits are involved in the processing of the story, and brain networks that process sound and movements were activated during more active story listening.
In simpler words, as you hear the story, your brain creates images in your head, allowing you to depict the story that the storyteller is unfolding.
Some studies even touch on the subject of predictions. Our brains are masters at deciphering sentences, meanings, other peoples' motives, and more. It is supposed that while we listen to stories, our brains predict the following information and the ending, resulting in developed imagination.
Build and grow your toddler's imagination and creativity with these books for preschoolers we've gathered for you in our article.
Who am I? - Identifying ourselves, finding our values and morals through stories
Every person goes through the process of identifying their persona, rebuilding their character, and redefining their sense of self through the years. “Who am I” is an important question that every human asks themselves. Often, we stand in front of tough challenges that come from being unable to answer that question.
Storytelling can help children form a stronger sense of personal identity. Children form connections with stories, characters, and situations.
We're sure you've seen a lot of little Spidermen and Elzas around. Maybe even your children want to dress up as certain characters from their favorite stories?! As a parent, you might have already noticed how children form connections with stories and characters.
Storytelling can help children form a stronger sense of personal identity. It's a process through which kids can acquire new knowledge and think about their values and morals.
If you're a parent of a toddler, you already know a ton of TV shows and stories for children. And you might have already noticed how these shows and stories use lovable characters to deliver the messages of kindness, tolerance, cooperation, friendship, belief in oneself, empathy, respect, and more.
TV shows, stories, and mobile games for toddlers utilize their resources to educate children through examples. It's a first step for your baby to start building a sturdy system of values, morals, and sense of self.
If you'd like to help your child develop a healthy self-concept, start reading stories to them. We can recommend a few books for toddlers, approved by American Psychological Association.
Listening to stories can aid children's mental health
European Journal of Language and Literature Studies published a piece on the impact of storytelling on young ages. Research shows that stories influence children's deep feelings, helping them with challenging decisions, understanding the differences between good and evil, and more.
While all this is amazing and already makes you wonder what book you should read to your toddler next, did you know that storytelling increases oxytocin and decreases cortisol?
"When we connect with the characters in a story, our brain releases oxytocin. Oxytocin is associated with empathy, a building block in helping us connect and deepen our relationships."
― Barbara Field, Daniel B. Block, MD
It's no secret that stories can change our moods pretty quickly. How we tell stories also can control and uplift a child's mood. Positive emotions and optimism can help toddlers cope with challenges and obstacles they face throughout their lives.
Bedtime stories are wonderful soothing mechanisms that help children shift from one state to another and sleep peacefully. It could be a happy ending to your toddler's daily routine and even make the list of favorite activities for your children.
We love reading and telling stories here at Bebi Family. And we believe in the power of storytelling. You can use it to teach your children about new concepts, new words, names, foods, and more. Storytelling can be a great tool for parents who want to help their children build stronger characters and a sense of self.
So dive deep into this subject and find books that work best for you and your baby.