Toddlers and Stories

My daughter and I started a “family preschool” class this fall, and as part of the class we get to listen to a gifted storyteller share a Bible story a la Godly Play or Young Children and Worship.  It’s been an incredible experience thus far, and has provided me with lots of food for thought regarding how young children interact with stories in general and Scripture stories in particular.

For instance, after each story is told, the children (ages 2-4) are given the opportunity to do an art response.  The first week we heard the story of the circle of the church year, and in response my daughter drew a bunch of circles.  “A fluke!” I thought to myself.  I mean, come on, she’s barely 2 1/2.  The next week we heard the story of the creation of the world; my daughter drew a bunch of scribbles.  I figured she was just, well, scribbling, but I asked her anyway what she was drawing.  “The whole world,” she replied.  I was shocked – and I also realized that my assessment of her first drawing was wrong.  Another week, after hearing a story involving Abraham and Sarah, she told me she was drawing Sarah and God.  Yes, it all looks like a bunch of nonsensical scribbles.  But it’s not.  It means something to her, and now that I know that, it means something to me, too.

Being part of our family preschool class has given me a much greater respect for what’s going on inside my daughter’s young soul.  She may only be 2 1/2, but she’s really paying attention.  She listens.  She thinks.  She remembers.  She interacts with books and stories on a level much deeper than I usually giver her credit for.  Knowing this helps me pay more attention, not just to her art responses at preschool, but to the workings of her mind and soul day in and day out.

When we realize that children – even very young children – truly are whole persons, it affects all sorts of parenting and educational decisions.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on how it’s affected your own family.  One of the ways it’s affecting me right now is to (surprise, surprise) reinforce my desire to expose her to the very best that the world of kid lit has to offer.  If we think our kids as not being deeply engaged in their world, it won’t matter as much what they read.  If we assume it goes in one ear and out the other, who cares what goes in in the first place, right?  But if we know that they’re paying attention and reflecting on what’s going on around them, then it certainly does matter.  It’s why I tuck great booklists into our library bag and it’s also what keeps Sarah and I motivated to continue working on the Aslan’s Library project.  Our children are paying attention to what they hear; let’s honor that by giving them the very best stories we can find.

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6 thoughts on “Toddlers and Stories

  1. absolutely. I am so encouraged by your efforts to post about only the best of the best kidlit. And I agree…we cannot take this task of exposing our children to literature lightly as they soak in every single word! Keep posting, Haley and Sarah!

  2. What a great story. I will never forget driving with Kate (then 2.5) in a more rural area and having her pipe up and say, “Look, it’s the good grass like in the good shepherd story from Godly Play!” And I asked her “who do you think is a good shepherd?” and she replied, “you and daddy.” She understood shepherding and she wasn’t even 3. It is amazing how much they can understand. (I did follow up and ask who shepherded our whole family and she said Jesus…)

    • It really is amazing what they take in, isn’t it? I love when I get to see glimpses of what she’s thinking about and processing. It doesn’t happen every day, but when it goes, it’s precious.

  3. Thanks for sharing your story! Your work on this blog inspires me.

    My son Emeth (he’s three) lives in stories, and he lives out stories. Stories make his world. They draw boundaries. They give him people and things to love. I am well aware that one of the biggest advantages I have over all the other voices in his life is that I get to tell him his first stories. As this blog promotes, we must tell the right stories, and we must tell them well.

    Cheers to creating new worlds!

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