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Storytelling isn't just for campfires!

“I’m bored!”

“Are we there yet?” 

“How much longer is this going to take?”

Sound familiar?  As a mother of two active boys, it does to me!  Whether we are on a car trip or sitting in the doctor’s office, it doesn’t take long for one of my lads to chime in with one of these phrases.

Today, it is too easy…and tempting to find an electronic babysitter, be it the TV, DS, i-everythings, Wii, etc, wherever you are.  Our family tries very hard to do as directed and “limit the amount of on screen time.”  We are not always successful.  Now confession time - as I write this, my kids are playing a video game!

That being said, there are some great “old fashioned” ways to keep the young ones busy, having fun and maybe even learning something at the same time. 

Before becoming an author, I was a storyteller.  And it’s still one my favorite things to do.  By definition, storytelling is the conveying of events in words, images and sounds, using improvisation or embellishment.  Stories have been shared in every culture for centuries.  They are used as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation and to instill moral values.  Storytelling isn’t just for campfires.  On the contrary, it is a wonderful way to engage your children and get them to use their imagination.  The added bonus is that kids secretly learn along the way too!!

It all started when I was a little girl.  My father was an amazing raconteur and loved to introduce me to his characters, transporting me to the exotic locations of his stories.  I found myself dreaming of faraway places and reenacting the stories.  Convinced there were “little people” living in our heat vents, I talked to them and brought them useful tools (spools of thread, dental floss, whatever) to use in their “little homes.”  My Barbies even traveled to the places my dad would talk about.  I almost couldn’t wait for car trips in the old Buick Rivera!

When my first son arrived, I told stories from the very beginning.  As he grew up and his little brother came along, the stories where adapted to incorporate their interests.  I still make up stories today and they can’t get enough.

Here are some of my tips for storytelling


  • Have your children be the main characters. 
  • Give them funny names that incorporate your child’s name.
  • Keep them short or tell in “chapters” so you can continue on at another time (the return trip perhaps).
  • Convey your stories in different accents! Si, you heard me correctly… don your best Spanish accent and tell your daughter the story of Betty the Burro that comes to your back yard for a visit!
  • Get your kids involved in making up the story by telling the story sentence-for-sentence or paragraph-for-paragraph.  You start out and then have them come up with the next sentence or paragraph.
  • Use stuffed animals to do the talking!  (My nine year old still asks me to do this almost every night!)


Having trouble coming up with ideas?  Stories are everywhere, I promise!  Take some to time to look, listen, smell and taste what’s around you.  There are characters waiting for a story at every corner! 

Make up stories about what your kids are doing or interested in at the moment.  For example, my boys are both really into Tech Decks (the little finger skateboards) right now.  So, I made up a story about my kids shrinking down in size so they could actually ride their boards and go into the skate parks they’ve built.

People-watching is another great place to start.  Let’s say you see a person riding a bike.  Create a story about a purple alligator named Ally, who is riding a pokka-dotta bike that can go on water, land and through the air…now, where is she going?   Use your imagination and you’ll be amazed at where you and your kids end up!  

Honestly, there are times when the creative juices aren’t flowing.  Here are some of the things I keep in the reserve “bag of tricks”:

1.     Have them make up a story for you. 

2.     Take a favorite book of your child and have them act it out…perhaps in full costume!

3.     Turn on the music and have a “dance off!”  You’re the judge!

4.     Remember Mad Libs?  Well they are still around and still as funny as ever.

5.     Have your kids make a comic strip with illustrations.

6.     Story-time at the library is always a sure winner for kids of all ages.  Our local library has loads of great events for the older kids too (Lego night, book club, etc).  You might even squeeze in a minute or two of browsing for your own book!


Storytelling is a fun, creative and inexpensive way to keep you children occupied…at least for a little while!  So even if there is no campfire, keep the flames of imagination burning and tell a story!

1 comment | Add a New Comment
1. Terry | October 15, 2012 at 04:15 PM EDT

Great piece; thanks for sharing these ideas with all who will find and read this page <3.

I remember years ago doing student teaching in a first grade classroom, and using random felt scraps to create abstract creatures for storytelling/circle time. The kids loved to make up stories for the scrap creatures.

Storytelling is such shared fun!

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