Telling Stories With Kids

How do you teach children creativity and the art of story telling? With the digital era firmly enshrouding their lives at a very young age it’s becoming harder and harder to get and keep their attention. In spite of this hurdle it’s so important that we allow kids to be kids and to be as creative in their play as possible. The problem as I see it is that so much of their “creative” play is just children repeating what they see on television, social media, and from shadowing what their friends are doing. How then do you really teach them creativity and to not just plagiarize or regurgitate what marketing firms bombard them with?

This site is my attempt to not only hone my craft of story telling but to also put into words my thoughts, ideas, and random revelations along my journey. The above observation and my reaction to it may not be typical but the result was certainly interesting. On to where I was going with this …

I was sitting down one night reading to my children when I was struck by how limited the stories were that I had been reading to them. It’s no fault of my own, I to am influenced by marketing, top ten lists, and recommendations by friends.

When I was reading the books I realized that my kids weren’t themselves being creative. They were reading a story who’s purpose was usually to teach them a lesson or perhaps to educate them about something new. What they weren’t doing though was thinking for themselves.

I know my kids are young and I’m not expecting them to narrate to me the next great american novel but I would love for them to be involved in creating, asking question, and discovering right from wrong rather than just consuming everything. So to start them off I decided to read the next book to just near the end and then close the cover. After the shock wore off I asked them “what happened next?” Given that we read to them each and every night they were able to quite surprisingly narrate the remainder of the story almost word for word. It was scary actually, I’ll admit it, but impressive still.

I then challenged them with another question … “and then what happened?” A simple question but they weren’t sure how to react to it at first and responded with “nothing, that’s the end”. Continuing on I said “But that certainly can’t be the end. Character X didn’t just disappear did they? Wouldn’t they keep on chugging along or go on a new adventure to meet some friends right?” They didn’t know what to say to this so I helped them along a bit and made up a new extended ending.

They were smiling from ear to ear and laughing so hard. They hadn’t imagined that something else could happen and certainly not something like that. The next night when I read that same story again (on purpose) they wanted the same ending but I didn’t give in. “I don’t think that’s what happened this time” I said. This time I made up another completely different ending and again they were so excited they were practically bouncing out of their beds. They actually added some bits of their own to the story which was great.

To see the excitement and spark in their eyes as we were doing this was amazingly rewarding. Something as small as making up a new fun ending to a previously stale story changed story time into exploration time. Within days we weren’t even using books any more but were instead making up entire stories from scratch.

I won’t deny that their stories often have a similarity to something they’ve read or heard me tell but as they become engulfed in their own storyline and relax into their own voice things change. They start to show their creativity and ingenuity making up entirely new characters, words, worlds, and plot twists.

You could argue that there are no new stories being told any more. That they are still just regurgitating things they’ve already experienced but I’ll argue otherwise. When they’re sitting there consuming media they react and absorb things differently than when they’re creating that content. The spark and excitement is present when it’s their voice, something that’s never there when they’re just consuming.

So my suggestion to you, get out there and tell a story to your children. Their age doesn’t matter … just tell them something they haven’t heard before. Make it something from the heart, something exciting and creative or perhaps an interesting life lesson you’ve went through. Instill in them the passion you have for experiencing life, telling stories, and enjoying the art of the spoken word.

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