many families, a bedtime reading of "Twas the Night before Christmas" or Festival
of Lights is an annual holiday tradition. But what about stories of the shy Christmas
tree or the Hanukkah dreidel that got dizzy from spinning? According to experts
at Bradley Hospital, original bedtime stories that mom or dad make up can actually
play an important role in a child's development, and do much more than help the
child go to sleep.
Telling original bedtime stories isn't a hard skill to learn and it can boost your
child's imagination and also help them form mental images from words, an essential
skill for reading, says Margaret Paccione-Dyzlewski, PhD, director of the department
of behavioral education at Bradley Hospital. They can also enhance a child's verbal
skills and promote social-emotional learning, and it is a meaningful bonding activity
for parent and child.
An individually tailored bedtime story also can gently teach life
lessons while offering some valuable insight into what the child may be feeling.
While some nights call for a silly story, some tales are opportunities for parents
to incorporate morals that they want to teach their children, such as honesty, perseverance
and faith qualities that heroes in stories often use to resolve a conflict, says
The conflict in the story a key storytelling element can also be a way for parents
to subtly address a problem their child may either be facing or can identify with.
A bully, for example, could be disguised as an angry storm or an annoying insect
in the story, she says. The child's reaction to this character, or the situation
the character is in, could be very telling in terms of his or her own experience
with the situation or how they would overcome this issue.
It's possible a child may ask questions during the story or even contribute to the
storytelling, a good sign that he or she is engaged and interested. Using imagination
and words to add to the story or ask questions is a much more meaningful developmental
exercise for a child than simply listening to a story, Paccione-Dyzlewski adds.
This is also a perfect prompt for parents to have meaningful discussions with the
child about their questions or why they suggested a particular change.
Stumped about how to make up a good story? Most stories have
a similar blueprint: a setting and location (whether it's real or fantasy), characters
(including a hero/protagonist - be it a human, animal or a physical object - a child
can identify with), a conflict and a resolution. Fill in these blanks and a plot
will emerge. Other tips for telling bedtime stories include:
Keep it fun. If parents want to weave in a serious topic like bullying or moving
to a new home, don't bog the story down or make it too serious. Give the characters
silly names or have the story take place in a funny location, such as the surface
of the moon or a gingerbread forest. Subtlety goes a long way.
Give the child an opportunity to direct the story. Involve him or her in making
up the plot or naming the characters.
Hit a roadblock in telling the story and not sure where to go next? Ask the child
for input: What do you think happens next?
Be silly. Use different voices for the characters and be demonstrative or dramatic
with hand gestures.
Make eye contact with the child throughout the story.
Children are not looking for polished, professional stories. It's the connection
with their parents that they are most interested in.
For parents still feeling a little gun-shy, Paccione-Dyzlewski
suggests trying to tell original bedtime stories for one month, alternating with
traditional picture book stories, and see how the child reacts. The holidays are
a perfect time to test drive your storytelling skills; you have dozens of ready-made
characters and a variety of settings to choose from that your child will already
be familiar with, she says. This could be the beginning of a new holiday tradition
with your child. Editor's note: Some information provided by www.Teachwithmovies.com