In my last post I reviewed the book Tell Me a Story: Creating Bedtime Tales Your Children Will Dream On by Chase Collins, and I spoke a little about her reasons and strategy for making up your own tales. In this post, I want to share my experience in telling stories to my son.
Telling stories has always been a passion of mine. I used to write fiction, though I wasn’t very good at it or at least not good enough to get published. Oral storytelling is also a passion, especially since I met the late J.J. Reneaux. I can’t wait until my boys are old enough to go to the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesboro, TN. I have been once, and it’s a wonderful experience.
But it took reading Tell Me a Story to get me started on making up tales for my own children. Since I am a busy mama and often exhausted, I had felt like most of my creative juices were used up, but Chase’s book is inspiring. When I read it, I began wishing I had someone like her to tell me stories! She knows how to bolster confidence. If you want to do anything creative and think you can’t do it, you might want to read the first part of this book.
It also frees my creative side to know that I’m telling stories to a five-year-old who will be happy with anything I come up with. I don’t have to tell publishable stories or stories that adults or even other kids might like. I just have to tell something! My child is thrilled that I’m taking time to tell him a story that is just for him.
As Collins suggests, I think about what happened to my son that day or what he’s interested in at the time, and I incorporate those things in the stories. Even though it’s only been a few weeks since I finished the book, I have told dozens of stories to my son. Many of them had different characters and were in different settings, but then I came up with Jack and Piper. Jack is a little boy who lives in the forest in a log house with a large garden full of vegetables and flowers. Piper is a troll with big feet and shaggy hair that lives down the path in a tree, and he’s Jack’s good friend. Piper doesn’t talk, but Jack and Piper have no trouble communicating.
My son seems to love Jack and Piper because he’s been requesting a story about them every night. He’s starting to tell me who they meet in the woods too. I adore my son’s input because I know his creative juices are flowing, and he’s starting to see all the possibilities….
Best of all, he told me his first story the other night! His story was very similar to some of my stories, but he put in his own character and changed the setting. I was so proud.
A few observations about my storytelling since I read Tell Me a Story:
- When necessary, I have tried to come up with stories that might give my son a message I want him to hear. This is something Collins talks about in her book, and I love the opportunity to teach my son in a fun way instead of hitting him over the head with a lecture. Once I told a story about a little girl who babysat a very naughty puppy. The puppy chewed up her favorite toy and wouldn’t do anything she needed him to do. I hoped that on some subconscious level, my son might start to understand why there are times I need him to obey, be calm and not so difficult.
- In my last post I shared Chase Collin’s “nitty-gritty story structure,” which she claimed, if followed, was an easy and full-proof way of coming up with a good tale on the spur of the moment. Well, it’s not as easy as she makes it sound, but it definitely helps. I have created some decent stories using this structure. But then other times it’s so hard. I can come up with a journey and a threat, but figuring out a hero-inspired way out can be tricky! Luckily my son doesn’t mind my lame endings. However, I have found that I enjoy telling stories more if I just let go of the structure and tell, which brings me to my next point…
- Sometimes my stories are more like a “slice of life.” Just a simple moment, a walk in the woods, what the hero encountered, what the hero liked and didn’t like, and then he went home. After telling a few of these, I realized they relaxed me tremendously, my son enjoyed them, and I think they impart a great wisdom: to notice life, our surroundings, feelings and to appreciate nature. And sometimes after telling these stories, I would think back and realize that it did indeed follow the nitty-gritty story structure after all! Just in a very subtle way.
- Finally, I have observed how happy storytelling makes me. Take away the pressure to create a good story and simply speak about what you love, where you would like to be, what you’d like to be doing and with the kind of people you love, and you create a beautiful fantasy that both you and your child can dream on and keep with you throughout your day. And then, of course, you might start to notice how your life parallels the lives of your characters…
Please come back again because in my next post, I might get brave and share one of my stories!
Note: To find more resources on how to start telling stories to your children, see my Storytelling Page.