If you've watched Marvel's Doctor Strange, you'll know about that part where Dr. Stephen Strange puts the villain Dormammu in a time loop, and this particular scene ("Dormammu, I've come to bargain.") just kept repeating and repeating, with no end in sight.
Well, parents of toddlers will surely be familiar with that feeling. Anytime a young child opens his mouth to tell a story, there will always be 2,349 possible endings to it (I'm exaggerating, of course), and, just like Dormammu in a time loop, there's no way we parents could escape it. Our toddlers could just go on and on.
Of course, having our kids tell us stories is always wonderful — it only means their imagination is all fired up. "They start thinking beyond the here and now, and have a better sense of sequence and of the logic inherent in making up a story," developmental psychologist Susan Engel, author of The Stories Children Tell, told Parents.
How can we nurture their imagination so that they're able to use this skill productively in school and in real life later on?
Give ideas for a topic.
Although we doubt your child would need suggestions, thinking up ideas will be a good way to bond with your child, not to mention, an exercise in creativity. Topics can be as grand as the plot of the last movie you saw, or as common as the bugs you see in your garden. You'll be amazed at how easily your child could put together a character profile without much effort, and that brain power is a plus when she has to think on her feet in school.
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Turn it into a game.
Emily Neuberger, who authored Show Me A Story: 40 Craft Projects and Activities to Spark Children's Storytelling, suggests coming up with a bag that is filled with some random items, like a pen, a snack, a loose button, etc. Begin the "game" by pulling out something from the bag and telling a story about it. When it's your child's turn, she has to pick another object from the bag and add to the story you've already begun telling. Then it's your turn again, and so on. It will be hilarious how both of you will try to keep to the story using the object you got — and sometimes it will be a stretch — but that's why it's fun!
Why stick to imagined characters when your own childhood was filled with interesting anecdotes for sure? Kids love to tell and listen to stories from their parents and grandparents. Take it as an opportunity to pass down some tales from your family ("Did you know that your great-grandfather was a war veteran?"). See your toddler's imagination fly even higher from knowing she comes from a family with such a rich history!
For the most part, your child's stories will be about events and characters that are happening only in her head. But for you, the parent, your child's storytelling skills will come in handy when you want to know about her day, or would just like to catch up on what is going on with her life (you'll find this especially useful as they approach the teenage years). Fingers crossed, when you ask her how her day went, you'll get a response that is as enthusiastic as how she tells her fictional story.