This week, during my time with all of the Early Years children I have been taken into other worlds and observed the greatest story tellers of all – the children themselves. Continuously the children are using their imagination, like a laboratory for the space in between where they are and what they see and the possibilities of what might be. One of the two-year-old children role playing the story of going shopping, having many heavy bags of goods and needing to stop for regular coffee breaks. A pair of three-year-olds building a bendy train track with bridges and telling the story of two trains going very very fast. A group of four-year-olds playing out acting a story on a homemade stage with costumes, imaginary makeup and singing. There are so many more examples, even in only a week.
The poet Wallace Stevens once wrote,
“The imagination is the power of the mind over the possibilities of things.”
To neglect the imagination is also to impoverish children’s worlds and narrow their hopes. Everyday, we observe how the children’s imagination is sparked by the world of stories, how significant a role they and storytellers play in the lives of children, and how children naturally use their creativity and imagination to tell stories.
“Aside from its symbolic importance, the game of make believe and dress-up is always pleasurable because of the grotesque effects that result from it. It is theatre: to disguise oneself in the clothes of someone else, to play a role, to invent a life, to discover new gestures.”
(Rodari, Gianni., The Grammar of Fantasy, p.16)
The stories the children play can show us how they make sense of their world, and how they use this knowledge to give meaning to their experiences and that they can create, revise and replay endless hopes and possibilities.
Cathy Nutbrown reminds us of the importance of storytelling in the development of young children’s thinking and feelings,
“Stories are fundamental to human experience, and stories experienced in early childhood can extend children’s thinking, foster new knowledge and validate their emotions.”
(Nutbrown, C., Threads of Thinking, 1999)
Vivian Gussin-Paley informs us that,
“Children have a natural desire to tell a story, act in a story, listen to a story and expand a story.”
(The Boy Who would be a Helicopter, p110, 2005)
Children enter a world of storying from a very early age and we provide many opportunities for the children to enjoy the pleasures of storytelling as much as we have over the years. We are always in awe of people who can tell a great story and the children are the greatest storytellers of them all. They are so confident and adventurous in their storytelling and are able to invent engaging characters, settings and plots. Through storytelling, the world we can imagine is infinitely more vast than the one we can see, hear, taste, feel and smell. The children can learn a lot about the potential of the world they are experiencing, as well as the one they want to invent for themselves in the future and create the world of their stories and dreams.