Long ago, before stories were written down, the only way to learn a new story was to listen. Stories were passed down from generation to generation. Shared throughout communities, a story spread as far and wide as a storyteller could travel, in this way archetypal stories traveled the globe. With each telling, these stories took on a slightly new shape. Storytellers were free to adapt their stories to changing times, seasons, cultures and events. They were skillful in creating new stories to both entertain and impart their wisdom to the listener. The act of storytelling brought people together for a shared experience.
Today many of our stories come from books or movies, but are still drawn from the same pool of archetypal stories that the storytellers of the past drew from. While we can enjoy stories in these static forms, freeing them up from the confines of someone else's interpretation offers us a new realm of creative expression and helps encourage our children to develop their own unique imagination in an organic way.
Children love to listen to stories! Instead of reaching for a book tonight when you tuck your child into bed why not create your own special bedtime story? The characters can be ones you've read about before, people you know, complete strangers or new heros and adventurers. . .whatever you wish. Don't feel like you need to have the whole story planned out start to finish. Start with a character and describe his surroundings, her friends, their activities and so on. It's fun to set the stage for your child ("He didn't know where to turn, if he took the road to the south he might run into the frog prince but if he takes the road to the north there's sure to be a storm. . .") and then ask for their input ("Which way do you think he should go?")
Another great way to start a story is with a favorite toy or doll. This can be especially fun with a group of kids. Introduce the doll to the children, give her all the details of a real person, a fairy, princess, etc. Then create an adventure for your main character by having her explore the immediate surroundings - this works well if you've got some blocks to create little rooms, beds, etc. and also works well outside in nature. Feel free to let the kids interact in the story. Another good story starter can be a favorite painting - or a page from your calendar.
Whether you tell your child a new story of your own, create one together or simply retell a favorite traditional fairy tale in your own words, share it will love and joy. Both you and your child(ren) will reap the benefits!