The Brain Benefits of Storytelling

Brain Benefits of Storytelling Ages 2-10

Stories activate the senses in the brain: motor, auditory, smell, visual.

Stories use words that stimulate the senses and make it easier for the brain to imagine and remember.

Each student or family develops their own experience or story based on their culture, language, environment and identity.

Stories are easier to remember due to the power of association with the senses. Stories create characters easy to remember and with whom we identify.

Stories evoke emotion and emotional associations which overpower other forms of neural processing.

Stories come in recognizable sequence:

Introduction, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, Ending. They are predictable, easy to remember, easy to repeat, expands thinking. Storytelling solidifies working and long-term memory. Storytelling lets the child embody the emotions of others which fosters compassion or the ability to ‘walk in someone else’s shoes’. Phones, screens, social media, interfere with a child’s ability to engage with dramatic play which impedes identity development. Children need to engage in dramatic play which catalyzes identity. This is done successfully through storytelling and dramatic play. Storytelling and dramatic play is crucial for cognitive and identity development. Stories Motivate Action.


3 Simple Steps for Storytelling


The goal of storytelling is to build relationships, develop identity, share culture, and nurture cognition.


How: Parent begins by telling a story about him/herself, the family, extended family, special event, past history, family background and/or the family culture. Parent can share pictures that are relevant to the story. Have children ask questions about the pictures or the event. Parent encourages child to ask questions about the story. Some examples include: who is the main person in the story, where did the action in the story take place, what happened during the story, how did it end? Have child repeat different parts of the story. Ask child, what part of the story he/she liked best and least. Parent can ‘act out’ a specific memory from the story. Have child act out the story with the parent. Parent can have child draw a picture of something he/she thinks is important or something they learned from the story. Let child discuss the pictures.


 Children’s Story


Ask child to tell a story. Listen intently. Ask child, who is the most important person in their story- grandparent, sibling, parent, friend, neighbor. Ask child what they think is the most important part of their story. Have the child tell you what he/she thinks is a special moment in the story. Ask child what events took place in the story and why the events are important. Have child draw a picture of their own story. Children can act out their stories- in small groups or with family members. Assign characters to play the different parts of the story. Develop short simple lines, the child or children can repeat. Act out the story long or brief. Add costumes (homemade) if desired. If you’re feeling ambitious, set-up a ‘stage’ use cardboard boxes (free). Video-tape the story and let the children watch the video. Ask the child questions about what they saw in the video. Now that all the ‘actors’ have seen the story- ask what would they change. Repeat the process with all children or family members involved. This activity can extend for weeks or months. Can be used at home, in play groups, with older children as well as younger children and in school.

NOTE: if children are reluctant to tell the story themselves, use hand puppets or fingers and/or finger puppets. The story does not have to be logical. It can follow the child’s lead and thinking and modify as you go. Most importantly, have fun!

For more information: The Education Neuroscience Foundation or Kathleen Leos (202) 731-0391

Kathleen Leos
Author: Kathleen Leos

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