Spontaneous Storytelling with Children, Part 3: On Receptive Children Spontaneous Storytelling with Children, Part 3: On Receptive Children

Editor’s note: Today, we continue a four part series by Rhonda Ortiz. Find the first two parts here. LMH

Recently, Clare and Kate came up with a story that only tangentially involved Princess Annabelle and Princess Judy.  They told a story about Heracles. Yes, that Heracles.

You see, Heracles knocked over a bunch of buildings up on Mount Olympus, and all the female goddess – Hera, Athena, Aphrodite, Artemis – were furious.

“How shall we punish him?” they wondered.

Fortunately, the goddesses had Princess Annabelle and Princess Judy to turn to for advice.

“Have him watch eight children for a day!” exclaimed the Princesses (with copious giggles). “And two sets of twins!”  What could be a worse punishment for a man than watching a gaggle of unruly children?

The goddess agreed, and set Heracles to the task.  He spent a day watching eight wild children, feeding them, changing diapers, rescuing flying dishes and porcelain from imminent peril…

Princess Annabelle and Princess Judy giggled uproariously at the many antics the twins threw Heracles’ way.

And the moral of the story? No matter how strong Heracles might be, he’s no match for a woman with eight kids!

I didn’t give the girls this idea.  They’re homeschooled and learned about the Greek gods from their parents.  In other words, they received stories, received knowledge.  But, more than that, they were able to transform it into something new. They came up with the premise, the conflict, the complication, and the humor.  Especially the humor.

What made this possible?

We all know that parents reading good books to their children regularly helps form the breadth and depth of their imaginations.  We also know that children who have ample opportunity to explore nature, who haven’t had their imaginations crushed under the weight of sarcastic TV sitcoms and violent video games will be capable of greater enjoyment in a tale well told, and, perhaps, of telling their own.

But a child must have more than knowledge and experience, in order to become a storyteller.  Trust is necessary.  Before a child can tell a story, he must trust himself, his story, and his audience.

Children who know kindness can more readily trust themselves to a land of fantasy and make-believe.  And when we show them the kindness of letting them participate in creating those stories, they will respond, as best they can, wholeheartedly.  A show of mutual kindness allows the child to feel safe in taking the risk of storytelling.  There is no fear of judgment.

As they – we – grow older, it becomes harder to take the risk of storytelling.  We become self-conscious; we want to “do it right” or not at all.

This is why childhood is a great time for us, the parents, to present gentle opportunities to tell tales.  It can be another opportunity to build a bond of trust with our kids.

Copyright 2013 Rhonda Ortiz