Headstart for Life

A Look Into Your Child’s Storytelling Skills

We are all storytellers. We all live in a network of stories. There isn’t a stronger connection between people than storytelling. – Jimmy Neil Smith

Welcome back to HeadStart For Life’s Blog, Beyond Therapy!

In today’s blog post, we want to take a look at narratives – in other words, storytelling. People make sense of their experiences, claim identities, interact with each other, and participate in cultural conversations through storytelling. Storytelling is an integral and consequential part of daily life not just for adults, but also for children.

Children develop language skills from birth as they participate in interactions with other, more mature language users. These interactions teach children about the meaning, structure and use of language, which is typically expressed in a conversational format. As children progress to the age of 3 or 4 years, they begin using another language format – storytelling.

There are different types of stories that a child may share:

  • Scripts: This form of narrative is used to express knowledge of a familiar, recurring event. It is usually told using the second person pronoun “you” and the present tense.
  • Recounts: This involves telling about a personal experience when prompted most often using the past tense.
  • Accounts: We explain a personal experience without a prompt. The experience is usually not shared by the listener.
  • Event Casts: This explains an ongoing activity, reports on a factual scene, or tells about a future plan.
  • Fictional Stories: The stories relate past, present or future events that are not real. The events being described focus on someone or something attempting to carry out a goal.


As a speech and language pathologist, one of the main areas that I examine when I look at a child’s language skills is his/her narrative abilities. Several of the children whom I have seen in the centre, performed within average limits on standardised testing but still display significant difficulties on narrative production during spontaneous conversation. Although they are able to formulate grammatical sentences or respond appropriately to questions presented in structured tasks, such as in play and pictures, they often have difficulties recounting events of the day or in the past. Most of the time, they do not spontaneously retell stories they have heard in school or at home, as well as makeup stories on their own.

In order for a child to be an effective communicator, we also need to consider the development of his/her narratives. There is a variety of strategies that I use to help children with their narrative skills, and parents can easily implement these strategies at home as well!

1. Reading a storybook together with your child

You can use picture books with or without words, but the book should have a storyline consisting of the main characters, a plot and a resolution/conclusion. As you read the book to your child, discuss the details on each page, such as what had happened, who was involved and where it happened. By doing so, you are highlighting the important elements of a story. After telling the story, discuss these questions and review the events in the book again.

storytelling by parents

2. Reviewing a photo album

Revisit past events telling the story of the day your family went on holidays together or about the different family members. You can even print out some pictures of any fun occasion, such as a birthday celebration, and ask your child to arrange the events in order while you discuss the details of the events with your child.

photo sharing

3. Retelling events in your child’s day

Remember to keep it simple. Review the main events that happened in your child’s days while using sequential words such as “first”, “next/then” and “last/finally” to highlight the chronological order in which the events occurred. You can also work on sequencing daily routines, such as your child’s morning routine of getting ready for school.


4. Retelling events during a specific activity

Activities such as working on a craft, baking cookies or making sandwiches together are not just ideal as parent-child bonding time, but also useful in teaching your child how to narrate the steps involved in the activity. For example, if you are working together on a craft, review how you created the craft – “First, we cut the shapes out, then we glued the shapes together, and last, we cleaned our mess up.” In this way, you not just help to build up your child’s exposure and knowledge of how things work in the world, but also expand his/her vocabulary by discussing the meaning of new words that you come across.

making a sandwich

5. Story Telling/ Make-believe stories

During your child’s bedtime, make it a routine to tell stories involving a central theme, the main characters and the plot. You can make up a story about their favourite cartoon characters or toys. For example, if your child likes racing cars, you can invent a story centred around a racing car as the main character, such as “The adventures of Miles, the racing car”. Your child will definitely love the story that you came up with!


Have fun trying out some of the above strategies with your child! Thank you for reading and stay tuned for our next post at Beyond Therapy!



Hedberg, N. & Westby, C. (1993). Analyzing story-telling skills: Theory to Practice. Tucson, AZ: Communication Skill Builders.

Hutson-Nechkash, P. (2001). Narrative Toolbox: Blueprints for Storybuilding. Eau Claire, WI: Thinking Publications.

Langellier, K. & Peterson, E. (2004). Storytelling In Daily Life: Performing Narrative. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Stadler, M. & Ward, G. (2005). Supporting the Narrative Development of Young Children. Early Childhood Education Journal, 33, 73-80.



"All the information on this site is for educational purposes only and does not replace the assessment and intervention of a registered speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist or any other medical or education professional."

About Danica

Danica believes that working together with parents and professionals will uncover the full potential that every child possesses. She is thankful for the opportunities to work together with each child and their families, and feels privileged for being able to witness and celebrate every step of progress that the child makes along the way.

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