I have some experience coming up with stories. I’ve written poetry. I’ve written plenty of practical and philosophical content here. I was even the editor and a contributor to a literary magazine in college. I can write creatively.
But the day came when my children started asking for bedtime stories. I knew it was coming, and to be honest, I dreaded it. Coming up with something entertaining, long enough for their liking but short enough for mine, light and funny, not scary, not boring, and about 18 other qualifications is no small feat.
The first night I winged it. The stories were okay, but nothing spectacular.
After a few more nights of requests for stories, I knew I needed a plan. Here’s the structure I still follow for these nightly ventures into fantasy.
1. Start with a favorite character or setting. This can be as specific as Lego ninjas or as vague as princesses. Go with what your kid likes, and create the child as a character, either in place of or in addition to their favorites.
photos from Pixabay.com
2. Create a repeatable scene. For my boys, they are Lego ninjas. They live on their Lego ship and they always start out doing [some activity] while eating [one of their favorite foods]. An alarm goes off (the sound changes every night), and they find out that some villain has escaped and they need to track him down.
My daughters like to hear what clothes the princesses are wearing and what they’re bringing to their tea party or picnic. (To be honest, we rotate two different stories that they like to hear over and over again, which may just be an age thing – my three-year-old will sometimes even tell the story herself and I just listen and react appropriately. The boys like something different though.)
Whatever it is, pick a few details that you talk about every night. Food, location, clothing, activity they’re doing, sound effect…The details themselves may change – from wearing a pirate suit to dressing up like a police man – but you always talk about the same couple of categories.
3. Tell it again, but differently. Maybe last night your heroes saved a monkey at the zoo. Tonight they’ll head to the grocery store to stop the masked intruder from stealing all of the Cocoa Puffs. Think of something that happened that day and make it part of the story. If you went to the library, set the scene there. If you had a special food, tie that into the story. It’s relatable to your child, and it’s different than last night’s tale, but it’s within the realm of the same story structure.
4. Don’t worry about it being a hit every night. Some nights I get done with the story, and my boys will tell me flat out that they liked a different one better. That’s okay. Some nights are like that. They’ve also started to give me requests for where their characters should go tomorrow, or what they should be doing. I try to remember those and incorporate them when I can.
The biggest hit story that had them giggling long after I went downstairs? They were chasing a villain into a whoopie cushion factory, and every step resulted in sound effects, which I acted out for them. If you are a parent of young boys, this noise is hilarious.
5. Have your child tell the story instead. After several nights of the same story structure, they’ll understand the basic idea of the story, and they can make it their own. Jump in if they get stuck, but otherwise, enjoy whatever creative capers they come up with!
Did your parents tell bedtime stories when you were growing up? What was your favorite?