Storytelling 101: Tell Stories Your Kid Will Love

Stories are a medium that have conveyed truth and love from parents to children throughout history. Getting kids to sit still for a story is rarely a problem, but many parents struggle to think of stories to tell. Here are some tried and true tricks for great storytelling that have worked with my kids that I hope will inspire you to tell stories too!

10 Tips for Telling Stories that Kids Love.

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1.  Retell the best stories of all time in your own words.

Fairy tales, myths, and fables all began as oral tradition (meaning that older generations told and re-told these stories perfecting and shaping them for each younger generation.) Revive these stories by telling them to your own children in your own words. Need some inspiration? Try these classics (all available for free though the Kindle app.)

2.  Develop a story plot template.

I have developed several story plots that never fail to entertain my preschooler. One involves a magic fairy that appears right when he drifts off to sleep and transports him to a magical land (for example: candy land, glow-in-the-dark land, rubber land). The possibilities are endless, and often I allow him to pick the theme.   He also loves stories that have him magically entering fairy tale land or book world and interacting with his favorite characters. Kids never tire of these sorts of stories.
Don’t be intimidated thinking that your story plot must be brilliant. Pick a topic your kid loves and run with it!

3.  Let pretend play inspire storytelling.

Open ended toys are great for storytelling. Some of our favorite storytelling toys are: play dough, blocks, sticks, and cardboard boxes. Kids naturally tell stories when playing with these sorts of toys. Play with your children and tell a story together while playing.

Dress-up clothes are worth the dust, space, and money that they cost. Let your kids dress up and act out a story together. If you don’t own many dress-up clothes, just explore the closets and create your own costumes.

4.  Read books worth rereading. Read authors that know how to speak to children.

A random list of some children’s authors that we love: E. Nesbit, C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, James Marshall, Mo Willems, Kevin Henkes, Richard Scarry, and Sally Lloyd-Jones (for Bible stories).
You can then expand on these books by retelling the stories in your own words or making up a new story based on the characters in the book.

5. Encourage participation.

Kids love telling stories. I often will pause and ask my child questions while telling him a story. For example, if I were to tell him about a magical land where everything glows in the dark, I might ask “What kinds of food do you think you might eat in a glow-in-the-dark land?” “What would your car look like?”
Open-ended questions can also lead to an impromptu story.
  • What would you wish for if you had three wishes?
  • If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and what would you do?
  • If you could be mom or dad for a day, what would happen?

6. Use old magazine pictures, free eBooks, and the pictures on your wall (or computer background) to inspire storytelling.

Find a beautiful photo or combination of photos and allow the photos to inspire a story. Ask your child, what is happening in this picture? Why do you think it is happening?

7.  Watch and mimic your child’s play and talk.

I’ve heard that the best children’s writers know how to talk and think like children. Watch your kid’s pretend play. Who do they dress up like? What do they pretend? How do they describe the worlds in their imagination. Take their ideas and incorporate the ideas into a story of your own.

8. Tell a story using your children’s artwork. Chances are they already have a story that their art represents that they can’t wait to tell you.

While we draw together, I encourage my child to tell me a story as he draws.  Sometimes we take turns drawing on a piece of paper to create a story together.
Don’t forget to write down the story and save it in a special place.

9. Start your own oral tradition.

Tell your child your family’s history, your ethnic history, and your religious history. Don’t forget to pass on the family’s tall tales. Make up a couple tall tales of your own.

10.  Include storytelling in every day. Have a special time when you always take time for stories, whether you spend a couple minutes cuddled up before bedtime in the dark or swap tales while washing the dishes together.

What would you add to my list? I would love to hear your ideas on how tell stories that kids love!

Bethany Winston: No Twiddle TwaddleHi! I’m Bethany. I’m a mom, weekly Greenville News columnist, and blogger also at Kidding Around Greenville SC. Welcome to my parenting blog No Twiddle Twaddle, all about adding a little magic to kids’ lives through play and reading. If you are new, don’t miss my popular posts: 10 Tips for Reading to Babies, Skin Therapy Play Dough, and 10 Lessons Motherhood Taught Me.

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  1. says

    I love your list! My grandmother is an expert storyteller, and I hope to gain a small fraction of her talent someday.

    Thank you for sharing with Learning Laboratory, too :)

  2. says

    I love to re tell stories to my children which my dad used to tell me. It’s like living them once again and he was very creative!I love to see the delight on their faces and this reminds me of my childhood.

  3. says

    Fantastic suggestions, Bethany! I admit that storytelling doesn’t come naturally to me so these tips are going to be put to very good use in our house. Thank you for sharing!! Malia {Playdough to Plato}

    • says

      Thanks, Malia. I thought I wasn’t any good at it either, but after just trying I found that my kid loves stories (even if they aren’t very good.) The more you tell though the easier it gets! (By the way, I love your blog. I follow through email. : ))

  4. says

    what a great post, you have given me some really great ideas – I love the idea of revisiting a theme, and also using magazine pictures to develop a story. Thanks

  5. says

    Great post! My oldest son 3yr loves for me to make up stories for him. My mom started it one night she helped me get him to bed. the great thing is that she did this for me as a child and now I do it for him:-) FSPDT

  6. says

    We need to do this even more. These are great tips!! My son loves hearing stories that I make up… so now I need to get working on telling them!

  7. says

    This is beautiful! Especially love number five. Also, many stories that rhyme can be turned into songs with morals. Our own family wrote a book about the “band aid” family as a way to teach our kids not to make a big deal of every little fall. We learned as a family through laughing through our writing adventure.

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