Start by asking your child what she wants the story to be about. Tell her to come up with the very first idea that comes into her mind. Do you know what she will say? I do, because kids always say the same thing at first: “I don’t know.” But don’t let your child off the hook. “Come on, guess. Give me the first idea that pops into your mind.” And your child will.
Even when you come up with a good idea for a story, you’re probably going to get stuck part way through. Many times I’ve gotten to the halfway point of a story with no idea how to finish on a high note or with a flourish. What do you do? If you get stuck part way through the story, stall for time by asking your child, “Guess what happened next?”
If your child gives you a good idea for a direction to take your story, use it. She’ll be very excited to hear that you liked her idea and that she’s contributed to the story. Even if your child’s idea doesn’t work, the pause will give you time to think of a new direction for your story. Or perhaps your child’s idea isn’t on the mark, but close. You can say, “That’s a good way to end the story, but here’s a similar idea I came up with. Let me know what you think.”
If you would like more tips about how to tell stories with your children, please look for my forthcoming book, “Dad – Tell Me A Story” How to Revive the Tradition of Storytelling to Your Children, to be published in late 2010. The book contains a collection of 25 bedtime stories I’ve made up with my two sons. Each chapter and many of the stories begin with notes offering suggestions and examples for plots, themes, beginnings, endings, morals, and storytelling games, along with some parenting insights.