Storytelling can be intimidating, right? Some parents worry that they won’t know what to talk about, how to craft the story, that it won’t be interesting enough to hold their child’s attention. Let’s face it: in this animated, electronic, mini-series world it can feel like we’re in a tough competition for our kids’ attention.
Sometimes, even if storytelling does come very naturally to us, by the time bedtime rolls around, we’re simply too tired from a day of parenting to come up with something creative and engaging on the spot. I don’t know about you, but I often think of the perfect thing to say after the moment has passed and this happens when I’m put on the spot to tell a story sometimes, too.
So, most parents rely on books, which are totally wonderful and you’ll never catch me being down on reading to your kids. No way! Full bookshelves, reading the classics and discovering new favorites with your kids is a terrific thing.
However, I think we miss a valuable opportunity for creativity, self-expression, and an opportunity for bonding with our kids if we never branch out into storytelling and make up our own stories to tell our children.
Plus, making up stories is a great excuse for silliness and who doesn’t need more of that in their life?
I know that “tell me a story” can be a phase that parents begin to dread. But, the truth is, this is one of those areas where I think parents tend to over-think the task. We worry too much about perfection, but no elaborate plots or theater degrees are needed.
Children love simple stories and they love it when we are the ones telling them.
So, today I am going to share some very simple ideas for storytelling and give you a few story starters, too.
A Familiar Name
Name the main character after your child. Give other characters names of family members, pets, or friends. A recent hit with my son Max was a story about going to the zoo and every animal was named Max: Max Lion, Max Elephant, Max Monkey, Max Dolphin, etc.
Once upon a time, a bear cub named Max was walking through the forest with his mother …
Use a story from your child’s past.
When you were two years old your very favorite thing to wear was your red sparkly shoes. One day, you put on your red sparkly shoes and …
A few ideas:
- Tell the story of how your child got their name
- Tell them the story of their first birthday
- Tell them about foods they liked to eat as a baby, toddler
Once upon a time, when you were a baby, you ate a bite of banana for the very first time. It was so soft and squishy and you didn’t know what to think! You stuck out your tongue and squinched up your eyes and made a zzzzzzrbt sound with your lips! Daddy and I didn’t know if this meant you loved it or your hated it.
Tell stories from your own childhood. Kids love to hear about when their parents were little!
Once upon a time, when Mommy was a little girl, she went to the train museum with her Grandpa. While we were there we saw …
When Daddy was a little boy, his very favorite game to play was …
With a Twist
Tell a favorite familiar story with a twist or combine two of your child’s favorite fairy tales.
Once upon a time, Little Red Riding Hood and her Grandmother invited the Three Little Pigs to tea …
Kids love repetition. It is comforting and familiar. Don’t be afraid to use the same characters or the same basic story outline over and over again. Before long, they will be like old friends.
Our story of the Rainbow Dresses is a favorite my oldest daughter knew by heart as a young child and it often found its way into her artwork and daily play. It has been woven into the fabric of our family through the telling and re-telling. She tells it to her younger siblings now.
It is a simple story and even though some of the details might change, the basic framework stays the same predictable repetition that my Jillian loved as a young child, “On Mondays, Jillian wore her red dress to the circus …. On Tuesdays, Jillian wore her orange dress to the seashore … On Wednesdays, Jillian wore her yellow dress to ….”
You can repeat the same plot line, too. Classic stories like The Enormous Turnip are still making kids giggle today, in part because of their repetitive nature: by the time the Farmer’s son comes along to help the Farmer and his wife pull the enormous turnip from the ground, kids can predict what happens next.
Being able to anticipate what happens next is part of the appeal for young children, so use that repetition in your own stories. What may seem overly simple to you will probably be a plot point whose familiarity will delight your child.
To Be Continued
Stories don’t have to have a nice tidy ending. Let the story weave itself in installments night after night. Let your child take over and tell parts of it, too.
Ask your child, “What do you think happened next?” and let them give you the ending … or is it just the beginning of another adventure?
In Your Home
Hopefully at least one of these story starters appeals to you and can be something that you can rely on the next time your child puts you on the spot with the phrase “tell me a story” – maybe even at bedtime tonight?
Do your kids have a favorite story that you tell? What are some of your tips for storytelling?