Einstein is often quoted to say that reading fairy tales increases kids’ intelligence. Fantastic stories stimulate creative imagination and introduce the notion of abstract into little concrete minds, which develop by observing the world around them. However, I believe there’s also something to be said about letting the kids come up with their own stories.
Their Own Adventure
When I was a kid, I loved the Choose Your Own Adventure book series, re-reading my favourite “Who killed Harlowe Thrombey” as many times as it took to make sure no ending was left unchosen. Ah, “By Balloon to the Sahara”, “Mystery of the Maya” and “The Forbidden Castle” bring back so many grand memories.
Apparently, the father of the series, Edward Packard, came up with the concept when he ran out of ideas for the bedtime tales, so he started involving his daughters in storytelling by letting them decide what the main protagonist, Pete, would do next in his numerous adventures.
After years of lullabies, fairy tales and folk tales, legends and myths, famous stories and even more famous storylines (from “Romeo and Juliette” to “Coppélia”), I recently decided to make our bedtime routine a bit more interactive. Instead of telling the whole story, I stencil out a basic scenario and let the kids imagine the rest, fantasizing themselves to sleep. It really works like magic.
Here are four templates that work for us: Close your eyes and imagine…
- A ride on a cloud. You are sitting on a flowery meadow, watching the clouds float and change shape. Not far from where you are, you notice a stairway, leading up to the sky. You start climbing it, carefully, with your eyes on a cloud you want to reach. You step on your cloud and it takes you on a ride above the meadow. What do you see?
- A favourite book. You are entering a big, colourful library. There are so many books on the shelves around you. What colours are the shelves? Which shelf will you approach? What colour is it? On top of it you see your favourite book. You reach and take it off. You go to a nearby sofa, make yourself cosy, open the book and start reading it.
- A rainbow slide. It is raining outside. You want to go out and jump in the puddles. You take your raincoat and rubber boots and out you go. While you are having fun, the rain slowly easies down. A magnificent rainbow appears. You decide to find where it begins. Once you reach the spot, you start climbing the rainbow, pulling yourself up. You get to the top and then start sliding down. How does it feel? What do you expect to find on the other end?
- The four doors. This one is our favourite, for all its simplicity and endless potential. Picture four doors in front of you. What colours are the doors? What is behind each of them? Which door do you choose to open? Open it and step inside.
Let the kids ask you questions. Feel free to ask them in return about details of their visions. But try to keep the introduction short.
I’ve got two kids and I let them take turns telling me what they imagined. I also prefer them to have each their own fantasy, so they can continue adding features in their minds once I leave the room. This way they stay quiet and rely on their own powers to come up with a good bedtime story.