"Once Upon A Time"- So begins many a story, but we rarely see once upon a time as part of our own personal story. But to our children it reasonates, after all yesterday feels like a life time ago to them. And as fast as they develop, it is. Storytelling can help you record that story or tell your own. Stories of lessons learned, heartaches, good times, and silliness that celebrate the wonders, hopes, challenges, and joys of your lives.
Telling stories seems easy for our kids, and reflects their imagination. However, as adults we often don't see ourselves as storytellers and so may not be telling stories to our kids. We may see our ideas as not being valuable, or meaningful, or worthy of sharing, and so it was with me. When I first began telling stories as a preschool teacher, I just took fairy tales and retold them with my own twist. Then I started putting myself and the kids into the stories, and before I knew it I was telling my own stories and starting to write.
That was because I realized when you tell a story to your child, it does not need to be perfect, or have the right words, or even be long, or even be entirely your own. It only needs to be from you even if it is just about your day. To get started, pick something that happened to you today, exaggerate a little, add some silliness, and you have a story.
Here is one that I made up the other day after watching my youngest, and rather neurotic, dog eat a piece of toast.
Today I made a piece of toast, but forgot all about it! Does that ever happen to you? Well, it happened to me just the other day! I forgot my toast and when I remembered it, it was cold. I don't like cold toast so I decided to give it to my dogs. Dogs don't care if their toast is warm or cold! I tore it into 3 pieces, because I have 3 dogs. I gave one to my oldest dog, Lucy, who took it and ate it up in one bite. Gulp- just like that! I gave the second piece to my middle dog, Xander, and he took it and ate it up in just one bite. Gulp- just like that! And I gave the last piece to my youngest dog, Rory.
Well, he took that piece, but didn't eat it up in one bite. Instead, he took it into the living room, laid down with his piece of toast, and then he tore off one bite and put it by his paw, and then he tore off a second bite and put it by the other paw. Finally, he held the rest of the toast in between his paws and took one teeny tiny bite. And he chewed and chewed that bite, and then he took another teeny tiny bite and chewed that bite (chew, chew, chew), then remembering that he had left a piece on the floor he decided to eat that one, and then the piece next to his other paw, and then he took another teeny tiny bite from the piece between his paws. He looked like a squirrel eating an acorn. Nibble, nibble, nibble, until he saw the other dogs looking at what was left of his toast. He didn't want them to steal it from him (they do that, but that is another story), so he ate the rest in one bite. Gulp- just like that.
Just an ordinary, very everyday moment, but with a bit of silliness, that is what makes a great story for your child. Before you know it your child will be telling you stories, and in the process of you both storytelling, they will be developing vocabulary, understanding a sequence of events, exploring emotions, learning about themselves, and discovering how the world works.
But most importantly, the two of you will be strengthening your bond and will always cherish those moments together making up tall tales about your days. In other words, you will be creating your own Once Upon A Time!
If you want more help or ideas getting stories started, or just want to hear some great stories, find your local storyteller’s guild here or read Storytelling with Children by Nancy Mellon. Or for inspiration from a couple great storytellers, check out Coyote &: Native American Folk Tales [Audible Audio Edition] by Joe Hayes or The Little Dragon and Orange Cheeks Audio CD – by Jay O'Callahan.