The Art of Telling Bedtime Stories to Children

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We all in our childhood days have been told stories by our parents and grandparents. Not only we used to refuse to sleep unless a story was told, we would be eager to hear what would happen next. Aesop’s Fables, Fairy Tales, Arabian Nights and many others have become the famous tales children love to listen to. But one doesn’t need to have read these books themselves or even remember them. Parents can create their own stories from thin air. Here’s how.

Few things are more enchanting for a child than to be told a story. And for adults, there are few things more satisfying than telling one. Telling one, not reading one. “Me? Tell stories?” I hear you say. “I’m no good at that sort of thing.” But you are. We all tell stories to friends. It’s only a short step from there to the world of imagination.

Getting started is the first and only hurdle. Curiously, it is often shyness that holds a parent back—or a fear of being unable to finish something begun. Easiest to start with are stories from your own childhood and remembered tales your parents told you. These have a special magic because they take you back to an innocent world and help you wash away some of the problems you face each day, even get a better perspective on your life.

“What was it like when you were little?” Imagining this can lead to a closeness with your own children that nothing can match. Drift back to those beloved old toys, the games you played, your adventures and disappointments, and take your children with you.

Once you’ve become relaxed with story-telling, you can really let your imagination rip: stride through forests, ride wild horses, fly to the moon. Keeping children’s attention is easy if your tale is very imaginative. When interest flags, you can quickly drop in a dramatic element: “Then, the princess saw a huge foot. It was a giant coming over the hill!

If you’re still struggling to keep the narrative going, ask the child for help in developing the next stage with “And what do you think they did?” This kind of audience participation can be extended to create a multiple story: one person starts the narrative and gets it moving; then someone else takes over. You need a few rules about who goes second—is it by age or alphabetically?

Karen Blixen, who wrote Out of Africa, used the improvisation technique to tell stories. At parties, picnics and on forest walks, friends would listen, mesmerized, as she wove fascinating, labyrinthine tales. By letting her mind drift away, sometimes even to arrant nonsense, Blixen was instinctively using the creative right side of her brain. Try it. Let your imagination take over, and you’ll probably surprise yourself. You may stumble or reach a dead end, but it doesn’t matter.

There is no one testing you, no editor waiting with red pencil, no one, to sue you for misrepresentation. If you feel you’re getting stuck, simply look about you. A flowering tree, a dog, a word may take you in a different direction. If all else fails, just stop . . . to be continued tomorrow. Stories have more influence than any amount of lecturing and hectoring which is why educators use anecdotes so freely.

Stories work their magic on bored children too. Your child is the most ephemeral of creatures, who will be grown and gone in the falling of a leaf. Tonight at bedtime, forget the news on television; it will always be there with its load of unhappy information, forget the ironing, which by its very nature is never done. Sit down with that fresh little questing mind, and forget the everyday things you can’t change. Relax into that dreamy world you once inhabited yourself.

To conclude, we can say that bedtime stories surely can become the stepping stone to a healthy parent child relationship.

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