In my first article, I spoke about the Five Imaginations and how, once youve become comfortable with them and learned how to use them, they can help you learn to tell stories to your kids at bedtime.
Thats all well and good, you say, but what do I tell stories about? I dont have any ideas. Im not a writer or a storyteller.
Maybe so. Ill try to help you become a storyteller at the very least. Remember, these dont have to be profound stories. They dont have to be epics. Just the fact that you yourself are telling them to your child will make them glorious. As for ideas, heres an easy way to find some. Try looking around your childs room, right where you are, since bedtime is a great time to nurture the bond of imagination and joy with your child.
What do you see? What patterns are on the bedclothes? What toys are scattered on the floor? What would it be like if the bed magically floated up and became a magic bed--one that could take your child on adventures?
Ill follow a sample train of imaginative thought using what I hope are reasonable examples of things in an American kids room, and offer a few directions to take.
First of all, use your childs name as the protagonist of the story. At least try this out. Some children adore this approach, while others would rather have somebody else experience the thrills. Lets assume for this example that your child, Anyone, who is four and a half years old, lights up when Mommy or Daddy begins the story like this:
"Once, on a dreamy night, just before bedtime, Anyone was in her bed, all comfy and ready to go to sleep. Just as she closed her eyes, though, she heard a tiny voice."
At this point, look around the room and choose which toy or image or stuffed bear or whatever youd like to use for this story. This character will become "the guide" or the "magical helper" in your story (the classic fairytale works best if somewhere along the line, a magical helper appears). Lets say you choose a stuffed bear for the guide, and the stuffed bears name is Clooney (or, ask your child to name the character; by asking questions of your child, you can bring her into the creative process and keep the story comfortable for her).
Back to the story.
The tiny voice was Clooney. Clooney had never said anything to Anyone before, but tonight was a magical night all right.
Clooney whispered: "Try the bed." (At this point your child might conceive a sudden wish to hold Clooney and move the toy along with the story youre telling, or else you yourself might do it.)
"What do you mean, try the bed?" asked Anyone.
Clooney answered: "The button is under your pillow. Its a soft button. Youll have to feel around for it."
(At this point, expect your childs hand to start searching around under the pillow.)
"Thats it!" said Clooney. "You found it!"
All at once, Anyones bed began to gently float up from the floor. Anyone crawled to the edge and looked down. Sure enough, she was floating.
"Use your pillow to steer," suggested Clooney. (Your child will probably hold the pillow like a steering wheel and turn it. Watch your childs actions. If she steers to the right, follow that.)
Anyones bed began to turn to the right. Oops! It bumped gently into the wall.
Clooney said, "Youd better open the wall, if you want to go anywhere."
"How do I open the wall?" asked Anyone.
"Oh, thats easy," replied Clooney. "Squeeze your pillow. Theres another soft button inside."
Anyone squeezed her pillow and all at once, just like a garage door, up lifted the wall of her room. Up went the dresser. Up went the closet. Up went the posters. And there, twinkling outside, Anyone saw the starry night. A warm breeze that smelled like roses blew in.
"Are you ready to go?" asked Clooney.
"Where are we going?" asked Anyone.
"Anywhere youd like," answered Clooney.
(To direct the story at this point, ask your child where shed like to go. If no answer is forthcoming, figure out where youd like to go. Lets say on tonights voyage were going to the beach).
"I want to go to the beach!" said Anyone.
"All right, " said Clooney. "Tilt your pillow forward, and off well go!"
Anyone steered her magic bed right out through the open wall, into the stars and the rosy breeze. Trees and cars passed below. The bedclothes began to flutter.
"Not too fast," said Clooney. "Beds dont come with seat belts."
Anyone tilted her pillow back just a little and they sailed along, high above the world. Up above, the moon shone.
(Perhaps at this point, your child might express a wish to go to the moon instead of the beach. If so, go to the moon. Abandon all notions of actual space travel, no air in space, all that reality, and let the bed fly swiftly to the moon. Remember, young children see the world in a simple, semi-magical manner, so just about anything they suggest is doable in a simple bedtime story.)
Who do Anyone and Clooney meet on the moon?
When do they fly back?
There are thousands of possible directions to take, as you can see. As a parent, you are the best "director" of any storys contents, since you know your child.
In a childrens story, anything can come to life. Even the moon can smile and say hello if you like.
Once parents begin this process with their kids, certain characters often become favorites. They return, night after night, with fresh adventures. Often your child will want to hear the same story, over and over. If thats the case, try to remember what you told her the night before.
If you cant, the chances are pretty good that your child will, probably better than you.