Last week, I talked about my passion for Waldorf education. And today, I want to get a little bit more specific by sharing what is currently one of my favorite aspects of the Waldorf approach.

Storytelling.

When I first heard about the fact that Waldorf schools don’t use picture books to read to their students, I thought to myself: “I wonder what that is all about.” I did some research and it quickly became apparent that storytelling is a big deal. I read about the beautiful language used in Waldorf stories and saw the simple yet enchanting props Waldorf teachers used for their stories.

Storytelling Props

One afternoon, I had a few minutes before my kids were getting up from nap and searched for stories online to get a better sense of what they are like. I was instantly hooked. It was clear as day, why Waldorf schools value storytelling so much. Yes, the language was beautiful but more so where the stories. Stories about rolling rivers, whimsical animals, delightful fairies, Jack Frost and Lady Spring.

That night, I suggested to my daughter that we tell stories instead of reading a book for bedtime. She was intrigued. (And I was not convinced that I would have the skills to make up and tell a half-decent story.)

She loves fairies and my husband had recently mentioned a mystery fairy. I forget how she came about but mystery fairy was going to be my main character. She was new in the woods and didn’t know any of the other fairies. She was a bit shy but when a sudden rain shower surprised her and she quickly sought cover in an old tree stump, she bumped into another fairy that had escaped the rain. A new friendship was born.

Each night, mystery fairy went on new adventures that often correlated to our own experiences during the day.

I enjoyed telling the stories. My daughter took in every word I said. It was a wonderfully relaxing bedtime routine for both of us.

What makes storytelling so powerful?

When you are reading a picture book, your brain processes the words as well as the pictures. When you are listening to a story, your brain processes the words and paints a picture about the story. Different areas of our brain light up when we do that. And the richer the language the more active our brain is.

I began using the art of storytelling in my nature classes and immediately saw a difference in how the children perceived the stories. They were more attentive AND they retained many more facts than from reading a book. Last September, I told a story about a squirrel that was getting ready for winter. In February, two children that had heard the story, retold me parts of the story almost exactly like I had told the story. I was amazed. But that is what storytelling does. It creates a lot more connections in our brains that make it much easier to retrieve information later on.

So, how can you begin to incorporate storytelling into your children’s lives?

Waldorf Stories Book

Here are 3 steps to get you started:

Read Waldorf stories to get a sense of the characters, how they are structured and the kind of language they use. Reg Down’s website has a list of free stories for you to read and download. Most of them are for children ages 5 and up but many stories can be simplified for younger ages.
Attend a Waldorf story time. Our local Waldorf School in Kimberton, PA hosts a monthly story time for young children and their parents. I’m sure other Waldorf Schoosl have similar events.

I will be at KWS’s story time this month on Saturday, March 21st. Want to join me?


Start with a simple story at bedtime. Think about your main character ahead of time. Use something that is already familiar to your child. For my daughter, it was a fairy. For my 2-year old son, it was a truck. For your child, it might be a favorite animal. And then come up with a basic storyline. What did the main character do? Our fairy was caught in a rain storm and made a new friends. My son’s truck went to the grocery store and bought bagels. Yes, he made up his own story right away. So, you might only need to get your children started and they will be off telling YOU stories.

~ NEW: Check out the “Sophie & Max – Secrets of the Garden” series for short stories to get you started and comfortable with storytelling. ~

Storytelling has become a very natural part of our days. We come up with stories when we walk to school, are out running errands or go for a hike through the woods.

And don’t worry, if you don’t think you have the skills for storytelling. I never considered myself to be a good storyteller. But you get better as long as you’re having fun with it.

Did you know that the art of storytelling is becoming more and more popular in business? (Here is one example in the Harvard Business Review)

We have all sat through mind-numbingly boring presentations, right? Now, think of a time when you listened to someone, whether in a professional setting or with friends, and were so drawn in that you just couldn’t stop listening.

That’s storytelling. It has the power to shape what we think and do.

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