Roll the Dice… Once Upon a Time, Four Million Words Went Missing!
Today, some of the children were introduced to story dice. If you haven’t heard of them, they are a regular dice shape but instead of numbers, each side holds a simple picture. The idea is that the children roll the dice one at a time and each takes turns making up a part of the story.
Activities like these enable the children to build confidence, use their imagination, practice patience, learn about sequence, use new language and learn more about each other’s cultures. This one activity covers every area of the curriculum, yet the children have absolutely no idea. They are so busy having fun and learning in the moment, that it doesn’t feel like work at all.
Stories that are made up and designed by the children are much more personal to them. It allows the children to express any ideas, concerns or experiences that they may be having, in a much more relaxed way. For us as practitioners, it allows us to get a glimpse of what is important to the child, what their real interests are and more importantly, how we can support them and their development. We use these moments to try to resolve concerns and offer ideas that perhaps the children might not have thought of. And we are lucky enough that whilst all this is going on, we also get to hear some wonderful stories, like the following:
"Once upon a time there was tent in the middle of the forest where all the children in Happy Turtles lived. As the children came out of the tent one morning, there was a giant magnet which had a big, creepy eye attached to it. The children wondered ‘Where did the eye come from?’. They set off on a hunt to see if they could find out. Suddenly, an alien appeared shouting ‘That’s my eye!’. The children all ran away screaming and they jumped onto an aeroplane to keep them safe. As they were flying in the sky, the alien came onto the aeroplane. The children all found a mask under their chairs and after ‘1,2,3', they all shouted ‘BOO’ and scared the alien away. But they were stuck in the air. Luckily, they had a magic wand so they made a wish to land the plane at Happy Turtles so that they could all go home. The End."
Did you know that children that are read to (or have opportunities to hear and tell made-up stories) in the home, have at least a four million, (often rising up to 30 million) word gap between them and those that don’t have these opportunities?* This is huge!! It demonstrates quite simply that a bedtime story serves more purpose than simply helping the child get to sleep. It's more than just an easy way to pass the time. It is an essential part of a child’s everyday life. Children need to hear and feel the importance of the words they speak so that they can use that language in other areas of their lives.
So next time you hear ‘Tell me a story’, or ‘Just one more’ or ‘What does that say?’… take that extra moment and just do it. Be in the moment with your child. And make sure you take the time to listen to their stories too. You will love what they have to say!
Written by Karen Paterson, Manager, Happy Turtles Cinderford
*The Early Catastrophe: The 30-million-Word Gap by Age 3 (Hart and Risley 2003)