Taking dictation: crafting stories with young kids

The following post is by contributor Amy Anderson of Let’s Explore and originally appeared in November of 2011.

There is really nothing like the imagination of a young child. Long before they can write their own stories, children are ready and eager to tell their own stories. It is wonderfully empowering for a child to see her words written down as a “real” story. So, what are you waiting for? Grab some paper and get started!

If your child needs a little inspiration to get the creative juices flowing, here are some fun things to try:

1. Mystery Box (or Bag)

Put 3 or 4 objects in a box. You can choose anything from around the house, such as a spoon, a stuffed animal, a toy car, a pencil, a pine cone, etc. Let your child discover and talk about the mystery items – then see if she is interested in creating a story! This was always a popular activity at my daughters’ preschool – the sillier the item combination, the better!

Photo by Amy Anderson

2. Sticker Stories

Stickers can be great inspiration, too. Decorate a paper with stickers and drawings, then write down what your child says as he tells you about his creation!

Photo by Amy Anderson

3. Playtime Stories

The next time your child is building a block structure or playing with her animals, sit down next to her with your paper and clipboard. Ask her to tell you about what she is playing. This is often a great way to record some of the pretend dialogue that your child makes up when playing. So precious to go back and read as they get older! Add a photo of the play session, too.

4. What Do You Think is Happening?

When you are finished with a magazine, pull out a few pictures or advertisements that might interest your child. Let your child choose one or two, and ask him questions like, “What do you think that person is doing?” or “What do you think might happen next?” Write down his story, then glue the pictures with the words, or make your own illustrations.

Here is a similar story project that Delaney did (around age 5) using a deck of Tell Me A Story Cards:

Photo by Amy Anderson

She chose four cards from the deck, sequenced them the way she wanted, then dictated her story to me. Add some illustrations, and you’re done!

5. Create a Scrapbook or Photo Journal

Personal experiences are, of course, the most meaningful inspiration for stories. Nature walks, family vacations, birthday parties, and special activities are fun things to talk and write about. This can be as simple as gluing a photo to a piece of paper, then writing down your child’s thoughts and memories about it. Even something as simple as watching the garbage truck can turn into a great narration!

A few final thoughts about taking dictation:

  • Keep a clipboard, paper, and pen handy so you can capture stories and narrations when the mood strikes.
  • Write down your child’s words exactly – bad grammar and run-on sentences are part of the charm of preschool dictation.
  • Start a binder to collect your child’s stories – as each story is written and illustrated, pop it in a sheet protector and add it to the binder. Don’t forget the date. This could become the most popular bedtime story in your house!
  • Even when your kids start writing on their own, keep offering to take dictations. It takes a while for the writing ability to catch-up to the stream of creative thoughts in your child’s head!

For more storytelling fun, check out my Storytelling with Kids inspiration board on Pinterest. I’ve gathered ideas from around the web for story stones, story dice, puppets, felt board play, and lots more!

Have fun capturing those sweet stories and memories!

Do your kids like to tell stories? Have you recorded their stories in writing or on video?

About AmyA

At her blog, Let’s Explore, Amy shares her family’s experiences creating, imagining, and playing together. You can read about her homeschooling journey at Early Bird Homeschool.

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  1. My kids like to commentate as they play. I sat by my child when he was 4 and scribed the story he was telling as he played. I didn’t tell him what I was doing so I really captured what was going on without him feeling conscious. It was such fun to read back on a couple of years later. Its hard work keeping up so I did it on the computer.

    Great ideas here.

  2. Love these ideas. Thank you!!
    Angie (TheActorsWife)´s latest post: weekday routine update

  3. Love these ideas! – I just wrote a sticker story post yesterday. Great minds . . . 🙂

    Have you seen the Thinkit Trinket bags? Those would be perfect for the mystery box idea!


    Melissa @imaginationsoup´s latest post: Young Writers and Stickers = Sticker Stories

  4. My five year old daughter is always dictating stories to me but she talks waaaay too fast so I started typing them on the computer instead. She loves that I can print it out afterwards and it’s much neater than my scribbled handwriting. I think I’m going to try having her dictate to the computer using my voice activated software, it’s pretty acccurate. Then I’ll just have to correct any errors and I won’t have to tell her to slow down every two minutes. She tells very very long stories…….
    Lisa´s latest post: With the Right Kind of Help Dreams Can Come True

  5. Fun, fun! I remember when my youngest daughter (who is now 18) loved to tell stories! She did not “write” well until middle school, so I would have her tell me stories and I would write them down. Then she would illustrate. Wonder where those are now…
    Successful Woman’s Resource Center´s latest post: 10 easy meals for busy nights

  6. I’ve done this with a bunch of other kids sometimes while working in preschool, but I’ve never tried it with my own – it’s a great idea, so I’ll try it with her too.

    Oh, and for older kids, you can have them draw their own illustrations, too, and maybe laminate it afterwards. Makes a great christmas gift for aunts, grandparents etc!! 🙂
    Jeanette´s latest post: Living a Natural Life: the Core Principles

  7. nopinkhere says:

    Rather than figure out #2 on my own, I found one of these eeboo books for my son. He thinks it’s great, but it would have been simpler to do it from scratch. My son has been writing his own stories, and I sometimes write translations. But I really need to see if he’d like to dictate. I’m guessing he’ll love it! Thanks!

  8. Fabulous ideas! My daughters (ages 6 and 8) have really taken off with writing their own stories. We’ve been listening to and telling them stories for years. I need to continue the investment in stories with my 4-year-old.

    My children also have enjoyed me telling stories from my childhood–an idea I got from a friend of mine. It’s been a great way to connect with my kids and model how to tell a story.
    Julia´s latest post: A Harvest of Green: Making Tomato Salsa Verde

  9. my son writes “books” that we’ve typed out onto the computer. he’s working on a few pictures to go along with it was well. i’d love to bind a few when he finishes so they look like real books.

  10. These are great ideas! My husband and I started making little animations of stories based on things are 2 year old likes and and it is fun for her to see them come “alive” (www.rainbootcove.com/balloon). I just love the idea of taking down the words exactly. It really captures things her way.

  11. Have just discovered your blog and love these ideas- thanks for sharing !

  12. I love taking dictation for my children, from when they are preschool age and on up. Thank yo for the new great ideas to get the creativity flowing!
    Debbye @ The Baby Sleep Site´s latest post: Happy Holidays! 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway for 2011

  13. I linked to the article, one of my favorites, in my 2nd ever blogpost! I love how encouraging it is to parents! thanks for such great information

  14. Amy, these are great ideas! They sound so fun and really help with language acquisition. (Would be great for ESL or delays too.)

  15. Great ideas! I have a few stories that I made up when I was 3 or 4 that my mom wrote down for me, and it’s so funny to go back and read them. All of them are about me, my brother, our pets, and things that actually happened in our life. I hope I can do the same for my own children one day!
    jaclynmariet´s latest post: Ridiculously Delicious Cheddar Biscuits


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