Mythological stories are beautiful. They have cultural and moral values embedded inside them. However, mythology and folklores are often complex and have multiple plots that children may misunderstand or miss the point completely.
Stories help children understand the world around them and also help us to develop a bond with our children. To gain the best out of the mythology stories we must help children understand the stories told in bite sized formats.
Please note we are talking about preschoolers here only i.e. children around 5 years and less in age. After 5 years children understand and rationalise more as their cognitive and thinking abilities grow. Here are few tips to help explain and enjoy mythological stories with your preschooler
- Focus on the Moral: Focus the story on morals not on the vividness of the story – Lets take the example of the Story “Woodcutter and the Axe”. The moral of this story is to be honest. If we tell the children the story in full vividness and describing how the woodcutter prayed to God and God appeared to help the woodcutter, children may question you on how the god appeared in front of a praying person? Children might miss the honesty aspect of the story altogether.
- Simple stories without magic Children have a natural ability to first analyze the physical characteristics of any situation or story. Generally young children, all they hear and see (in life or on TV), they think it is real. In mythological stories that have vivid metaphors about arrows turning into clouds to rains may not be good for children as they might think the arrow trick of turning clouds to rain is real.
- No long lectures on right and wrong Generally avoid long stories about right and wrong – Children of this age have an ability to distinguish between right and wrong depending upon consequences. They worry about right and wrong only if they will get in to trouble or get found out. The greater the damage the greater the perception of wrong. Hence lecturing children with stories about right and wrong will not be grasped by them. Till about 5 years children don’t seem to understand right and wrong from other person’s perspective, they can only understand from their own perspective. You can read this beautiful article by Dr. Sandra Crosser about Emerging Morality: How Children Think About Right and Wrong.
Amar Chitra Katha has great stories about historical figures and their life stories. Panchatantra also has some good stories with morals however try to avoid the ones in which animals talk. These stories have simplified narration style and are of Indic nature. These will help children understand a bit about Indian history, mythology and also help you talk about values to your child.