I’d like to share with you a handy parenting tool that is easier to use than it might sound. It’s nothing brilliant or novel – just one of those things sitting under your nose all this time. It’s called “stories.” Yup, that’s it. Nothing new, right? Well, let’s talk about how you can use them.
Of course, reading bedtime stories is certainly one way to use stories as part of your parenting approach. Enough has been said about the benefits of reading to your children on a daily basis that I won’t go into it at length here. Instead I’ll focus on some of the other ways they can be used to your advantage.
Stories can come in very handy when it’s already time for lights-out and you want your child to be going to sleep in the dark, not engaging in more stimulating activities. It’s even more low-key than reading a book and it can be done lying down with the lights out, which is an excellent way to move your child in the direction of not being conscious anymore.
“But,” you may object, “I am not a creative person at all! I don’t know how to make up stories!” Have no fear. This really requires about as much creativity as deciding what you’re going to have for breakfast. Of course, if you really are a very creative person, you can certainly use that strength to drum up more elaborate tales – but the truth is that young children don’t need brilliant narratives to keep their interest. Here’s one simple formula you can use: pick an animal and give it a name. “Once upon a time there was a pig named Susie.” I just made that up now. Didn’t take much. Then you find a very generic topic to work with, something you already encounter in your life all the time. “Susie loved carrots,” or “Susie’s favorite thing to do was go on the swings.” You can pull from anything you do with your kids. And then talk about what Susie did – say, she went shopping to find carrots. You can talk about how she found the apples first, then the grapes – you can really draw it out as necessary by describing each fruit and adding in a whole lot of them. If your child loves the checkout experience, go into that a bit – and you don’t have to make anything up! Just say what it’s like and that should do the trick. Whenever you need to end it, you can just say “and then Susie’s mommy took her home and it was time for bed. The end.” Of course, you can draw that part out too with more details about brushing teeth, getting into pajamas, etc.
If even this procedure sounds daunting for you, not to worry. There’s an even easier method: tell a story about your child’s day: “Once upon a time there was a girl named [your daughter’s name]. She was [your daughter’s age]. One day she woke up, got dressed, and went to eat a delicious breakfast of [your daughter’s favorite cereal] with her mom and dad.” You can go through her entire day without having to embellish anything – just tell the story of her routine activities. You’d be surprised how engaging this can be to a child.
Another foolproof story idea is to tell a story from your own life. Kids love to hear about what their parents did when they were kids themselves. Anything you can remember from any time in your life is great story material. Tell them about the park you used to go to as a kid – what kind of swings did it have? How many slides? Or talk about a sleepover party you went to once and what movie you watched. Again, it can be as banal as can be and you can still get great mileage out of it.
Those are some starter ideas for adding this tool into your bedtime routine. It’s also good for car rides, long lines, and any other time you need to entertain your children without resorting to your smartphone! If you have any other ideas about kinds of stories to tell or ways to use them, please feel free to share in the comments below!