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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

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Tell Me a Story, Dad

To me, one of parenthood’s many joys is as an outlet for creativity. Specifically, in the case of bedtime stories. Reading from a book to your kid is wonderful, and you should do it as much as you can. But if you’re feeling creative, making up a bedtime story on the fly is a fun challenge that’s rewarding for you and your child. I’ve been telling stories to my son for a while now and have a few good tricks up my sleeve that I’ll share with you. Note that these strategies work for my 5-year-old-son, Benny. Your mileage may vary based on your kid’s age and demeanor.

Include them in the story!

If Benny is any indication, kids his age gobble that up. Maybe go fanciful with a fun story about them flying to outer space, or being a princess or brave knight. Or you can keep it realistic and tell a story about them going to school or shopping at the store. In any case, Benny’s favorite stories are always the ones where he’s the main character. I like the ones where Brave Knight Benny travels across the land and outwits ne’er-do-wells. Benny’s favorite is the Mirror World stories, where he travels through a magic mirror in his room to a world where everything is backwards and silly.

Make it funny!

I love trying to get a giggle or even a belly laugh. Defying expectations usually gets a laugh for me. (“Then he jumped up and walked on the ceiling!”) Then there’s the ever-popular bodily functions brand of humor. Use at your own risk because it goes against any “no potty language” rules you might put in place. But if you can it make it clear that stories from daddy are an exception? Man, it KILLS. “Benny smelled the mac and cheese but YUCK it smelled like FARTS”: comedy gold.

Make it interactive!

Let your kid give some input on the story so they can make it their own. Sometimes you can pause and prompt them for input, like “What food did Benny buy from the grocery store?” But sometimes they’ll throw their own suggestions in. Don’t let them throw the story off kilter too much, but if it’s reasonable then run with their idea! I like throwing in spots for improv that are the same in every story; in my Mirror World stories I always pause and let Benny jump in at the same point. (“In backwards world, instead of pillows, they have … Pumpkins!”)

Plan it out!

Have a general idea of how the story will go in your head. If you really want to be fancy, have some thoughts on what the main conflict will be and what resolution you want to work your way towards. For instance, in one of my stories, the conflict is that Brave Knight Benny’s way is blocked by an ogre, and Benny needs to outwit him. But it can be much simpler, like your character goes to the store or goes to school.

Maybe you’ll try some of these out. Maybe you already have your tried-and-true storytelling tricks that you use. In either case, think about trying to tell your own story during your next bedtime—it’s a great way to get some quality time in with your kid. Have fun!

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