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:

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Storytelling Day: The True Story of the Biting Bedbugs

Good night,

Sleep tight,

Don’t let the bedbugs bite!

Not so long ago, and not so far away, there stood a happy house filled with happy people. The happy family spent their mornings together, busying themselves with orange juice and crossword puzzles and playing tag in the front yard and making their beds. They spent their days apart, busying themselves with kindergarten and second grade and going to work. And they always spent their evenings together, busying themselves with setting the table and finishing homework and playing a little basketball in the sunset. The details of the days sometimes changed, but every day in the happy house ended right back where it began, with the happy people climbing in their nicely made beds, and going to sleep to chase some happy dreams.

That’s not so different from your house, right?

You know that we share our lives with all kinds of tiny creatures we can’t see, and so did the happy family. Deep inside the mattress of one of those nicely made beds lived a little bedbug family. Bedbug families are not so different from people families. (They’re not so different: except they usually have more kids, and they prefer to stay in the dark.)

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March’s Storytelling Day: The True Story of Fuzzy Wuzzy

Our storyteller, Robin, is back with a wonderful story for you to share with your kids …

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear.
Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair.
Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t very fuzzy,
Was he?

Fuzzy Wuzzy was the oldest bear in a big bear family. He didn’t know for certain, but he thought he was the grandpa bear. He speculated that he might even be the great-grandpa bear. He contemplated that he might even be the great-great-grandpa bear, but there was no real way to know. It’s hard to count that high with paws. What he knew for certain is that he loved all of the younger bears in his family very much — and that they loved him just as much, and that that was all that mattered.

Bears know that family is one of the most important things a character can have.

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Storytelling Day: The True Story of Hickory Dickory Dock

Hickory dickory dock

The mouse ran up the clock

The clock struck one

The mouse ran down

Hickory dickory dock


Mouse families aren’t so different from people families.
Mouse families live together and love each other and play together and support each other. And just like you do, every mouse in the family has a job or two. Yours might be to set the dinner table or put away your clean socks. Most mice don’t wear socks, but they do still have responsibilities.

Field mice divide their responsibilities between managing the burrow and collecting food. Field mice are interesting, of course. But this is a story about house mice.

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Storytelling Day: The True Story of Rock A Bye Baby

birdsinnest Photo by Lin Pernille  Photography

We will be back on track with What We’re Reading Wednesday next week, but for today I wanted to share this charming story from the Simple Kids storyteller – Robin.¬† I’ve read her telling of Rock A Bye Baby several times now, and I still get a little choked up at the end.¬† As always, thank you, Robin, for inspiring us to weave our own tales for the little ones in our lives:

Rock a bye baby on the treetop
When the wind blows the cradle will rock
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall
And down will come baby, cradle and all!

This one of of the first nursery rhymes I adapted for my girls. I remember these lyrics upsetting me as a child, and when my own child learned the words and felt bothered by them, I crafted a positive vision for her from the ominous phrases. Now both girls enjoy the song’s calming tune without feeling disturbed by its imagery. As the winter swirls around us where we live and the winds start blowing, this song always comes back to mind, bringing with it (in our version) uplifting images of the promise of spring.

The little girl asked her mama, “Mama, how do birds learn to fly?”

And the mama answered the little girl, “Well, they learn to fly just like you learned to walk. They start slowly and stumble. They go short ways and return. One day, they realize they can go great distances. For you, that was walking. For birds, that’s called flying.”

“But how?” asked the girl. “Kids don’t have to be in the air to walk. What if the birds fall down?”

The mama smiled, hugged her girl close, and began humming a comforting tune. “Do you know the song we sing at bedtime? It’s a song about learning to fly.”

The mama pulled her daughter on to her lap to explain how baby birds learn to fly, and this is what she told her:

When a mommy bird and daddy bird build their nest, they build it high in the top of a tree. They build it high so that their eggs will be safe, and so that their baby birds will be born right into the sky. The sky, you know, is a bird’s real home. A nest is just his bed but the sky is where he soars.

When baby birds are little, they don’t leave their nest. Their mommy and daddy come and go, bringing them food and tastes of the bigger world. They watch their parents soar. They wait. They grow, and they watch, and they wait.

When the babies are strong enough to leave the nest, their bodies know what to do. They know how to fly just like you know how to walk. Your body knew inside you what to do — you just needed to take those first steps. We watched you hold onto tables, lean forwards, teeter. We were there to catch you and we sat right there to help you let go, to try on your own. We sat on the floor; we held out our hands.

Mama birds can’t sit on the floor; they can’t hold out their hands. So they talk to the winds and they work with the trees. The winds blow harder, lifting the baby birds just slightly out of their nests, just enough so they can feel the air move around them. The trees shake, so the baby birds can feel their balance and the strength of their wings. And one day, when the mommy bird and daddy bird know that the babies are ready, they whisper to their tree. They say in hushed chirps and cheeps: “Now! It’s time!”

And all the trees holding nests with baby birds feel the signal chirping at them from the sky. They speak to each other, sending tremors from root to root to root, far underground where you and I will never feel it, in the secret language of nature: of dirt and water and life. They know when baby birds must learn to fly.

All at once, on the very same minute of the very same morning of the most sunshiny day of spring, the mommy and daddy birds give their chirping signal and the trees talk through their barks and all at once:

DROP!

Every tree that is honored with a bird nest in its crown does the same secret tree dance. The branches twist and shout and giggle and shake and down drop the bird nests, tipping those babies out. The babies find themselves in the air, with nothing beneath them, feeling for the first time what it’s like to be hugged by the sky. And then the shaking stops, and two branches lower, the trees catch those nests, and those nests catch those baby birds.

But the baby birds will never again be quite the same, because now they’ve taken their very first flights. And they like what they’ve felt, so every day they fly further and further until the day when they soar just like their mommies and daddies.

“Have you seen the trees dancing, Mama?” asked the girl as she looked up with wonder.

“I think I might have,” said the mama with a twinkle in her eye. “It happens so fast but if you hear all the mommy and daddy birds chirping at the same time on a sunshiny spring day, look up and watch the tree tops. You might see the baby birds take their first flights.”

“I hope I see it, Mama!” said the girl. “I love the spring.”

And the mama, thinking of sunshiny warm days and babies who grow up, smiled, kissed the girl on the top of her head, and answered simply, “Me, too.”

Robin blogs about satisfying the curiosities of her inquisitive family at Not-Ever-Still Life with Girls.