Thursday, November 08, 2012

Telling Tales

This post is for harried parents everywhere. The children want stories and you have a sinkful of dirty dishes to return to, a TV show to watch and a deadline calling your name. You haven't the energy to read a kiddy book but nor can your tired mind concoct a new story off the cuff. That's when you remember what you [are about to] read in this post. And yes, as always, you are welcome.

How To Make Up Stories for Children -- Guidelines for Parents

1. Use the events of your child's day. If he went for a birthday party, the child in your story also went for a party. Not the same party exactly, but similar enough to have your kid excitedly furnish half the details for you. We saw a family of seven monkeys in front of our house today so Rahul's story today had a monkey who visited the house of our young girl protagonist.

2. Use repetitive dialogues. Children love the rhythm such exchanges bring to a story and they makes it easier for the kids to chime in. It is a great idea to tell stories that repeat an event with varying characters or places. For example, when I told Rahul about the little boy who turned himself into a T Rex and went around eating up his family, the boy had a little give-and-take that was pretty formulaic with each family member before he gobbled them up. It's fun and it's easy for when your mind is not working.

3. Cannibalise from stories you've read or heard before. I don't do this much but my father does. Feel free to work in storylines, characters or events from stories all over the place. It's all good and your kid will enjoy the feeling of recognition when she encounters the originals one day.

4. Keep the stories positive. My T Rex got scolded by his grandmother and threw up his grandfather, father and then mother with great drama. The moral was ostensibly not to eat up one's family but it was actually a desperate effort to save a storyline that had become far more morbid than I'd thought when I first unthinkingly said, "So the boy ate up his mother." (It worked, by the way. That story's a hoot.) You can discuss death, destruction, procreation, religion, anything at all, but make it end happily. My son tends to nightmares so I do this but who doesn't like a happy ending?

5. Reach into your own childhood. The house the monkey came to visit was an actual house I lived in as a 5 year old in Selimpur, Kolkata. Since I knew what I was talking about, it was easier to make the action come alive in my post-lunch stupor. Use people and places you know and you'll find the story tells itself.

6. Dramatise. If you don't know this already you should: children love hearing stories with different voices and sound effects and facial contortions. Ask them questions they are prepared to answer. ("The caterpillar was still hungry. So, the next day -- can you tell me what day comes after Monday? Yes, so on Tuesday etc.") There is nothing so entertaining as a dramatised, interactive story. Ask any child. You don't need to jump up and down at bedtime, a few voice modulations will do.

I have been telling some fantastic stories this week. I know they are good because I enjoyed hearing them myself. Sometimes my stories are blah, but now that I've stumbled onto tip #1, there is always a story at the tip of my tongue.


Sri said...

Hahaha..loved this post..

even me and my hubby have been following ur rules somehow!

My stories are atleast a bit believable but hubby is so tired that his stories involve rabbits working on excel sheets but my daughter loves them!;)

MRC said...

Blogger was being a naughty boy so his mamma told him to go sit in the corner but then he became too hungry and ate up my earlier comment! OH NO!

Point No.1 is the ONLY way tales are told in this household, and they always involve a mamma elifant/munkey/giraffe/ 'pidaarr a baba elifant/munkey/giraffe/ 'pidaarr and a little boy elifant/munkey/giraffe/ 'pidaarr who went about his day being naughty and nice alternately and now hastogotosleep . One story leads to another, and the reigns are then taken over by the Artimator who makes up much more interesting versions also involving the three main characters, and umpty umpty or golgilox didi . All mamma and baba have to do then is insert "Oh Nos" and "Achha" at the appropriate pauses ;)

ITW said...

I like

mim said...

my stories are better if there's someone else listening other than my own sons:
that is my cue for my imagination to truly lift off...

i just told one about a niece who was scared to eat curdrice until her 23rd birthday... and totally used your point number2.

it works for the 4 y.o.
but the older child at 7, had wandered off...

Shankari said...

My daughter wants a story every night and she wants me to make them up and not read out from a book. Thanks for the tips on storytelling to make the process easier. :-)