Many studies have shown a connection between narrative development, or learning to tell stories about real or imagined experiences, and early literacy. More recent research has found that narrative development can also serve a broader purpose of helping people organize, interpret, and understand the world around them.
Children as young as three show early signs of narrative development through their descriptions of events, imaginative inventions, and play. In fact, there are many similarities between socio-dramatic play (which involves acting out scripts and scenes adopted from familiar stories) and narrative, including fictional characters, invented “realities,” and linked events.
Of course, connecting these aspects into a coherent story is still hard for preschoolers. You can help guide your child’s “narrative play” by:
- Incorporating thematic play into everyday chores (e.g., when clearing the table, you can be workers at a restaurant)
- Encouraging play based on books or movies
- Suggesting the use of figurines to represent objects and characters
- Asking questions that relate to narrative coherence, including questions about motivations, outcomes, or relationships between events
These approaches encourage children to reinforce and build on existing knowledge, focus on a central topic, and make connections between events (and characters’ reactions to events) by organizing them into relevant pieces of a whole. In other words, not only is this narrative play fun, but it also helps your learner develop important thinking and reasoning skills so they can make sense of the complex world around them!
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