30 Jun, 2011

The Art of Telling Bedtime Stories

Posted in: family 1 Comment

I spent all of last week at Kid’s Camp. We took a group of 18 children from our church to spend 96 hours praising God, hanging out with their friends, diving into scripture, staying up late, and eating a combination of camp cafeteria food and way too much candy. Needless to say, it was a blast!

One cabin, full of our younger campers, requested that I tell them a “bedtime story”. I couldn’t think of one off of the top of my head, so I asked them to help me out. This was a HUGE hit. It was such a hit that they asked me to come back 3 nights in a row.

Here’s how we “wrote” the story. I took out a piece of paper and gave each girl a chance to decide one detail about the story.
1. Main Character- Name, object/animal/ person, gender, special talent
2. Main Character’s best friend- Name, object/animal/person, gender, special talent
3. Setting
4. Main Character’s Problem

After I jotted down all of the details, the girls put their heads on their pillow and the story began. I would fill in the gaps with my own imagination. But the kids LOVED hearing the part that they contributed to the story. Each night, the story was completely different and as silly as the night before.

Here are some storytelling tips:

1. Be free to be silly. There’s nothing worse than a storyteller that is afraid of embarrassing himself/ herself. The more “into it” you are, the more kids will love it.

2. Involve your audience (even if you have an audience of 1). Let them contribute to the plot details, make sound effects, or tell a  story where each person takes a turn adding 2-3 sentences.

3. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. When you tell a story (especially a bedtime story), your voice is your best tool. Vary the level of your voice- whisper and a little bit loudly, speak slowly to add mystery, talk quickly to speed things up, or add excitement or comedy. Pause to add drama and suspense. Add accents- even if you’re not really great at them. Try making up different voices for each character. Avoid filler words like “uh” and “um”.

4. When kids begin to giggle at something you’ve said, try to repeat that funny thing once more. But don’t overdo it by saying it too many times.

5. Paint a picture with your words. Instead of saying. “This story takes place in Paris”, paint a picture with your words. “Ah, Paris. It’s a city full of romance, little cafes, street musicians and… alley cats.”

6. Keep it short. It’s always better for kids to beg for one more story than to risk becoming boring.

7. Steer clear of anything scary or embarrassing. (Even if you think your child can handle it.)  End on a happy, sincere, sweet, silly or inspiring note. Your story should help to set the tone for a peaceful night of rest.

If it’s been a while since you’ve told a story at bedtime or around the campfire, give it a whirl. It’s a powerful, simple, and free way to create memories together.

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So, what do you think?