I bought this felt board at a thrift store the other day. Literally a felt board, with little felt figures for telling felt stories. Does anyone else remember Sunday School flannel graph? Like that…but, you know, with princesses and ballerinas instead of John the Baptist and baskets of bread and fish.
At first I just thought it would be some car ride entertainment. Then I started thinking about the storytelling possibilities.
Visual aids to telling stories are the best. The best. And I totally suck at them. If you’ve read this blog for a while (Congratulations! You are the one!) you know that it is massively lacking in the visual. I love photography and painting and drawing and paper mache and murals. I stalk them on the internet, and they make me very happy. But my brain just doesn’t produce on that level. I close my eyes to think of a picture and all that comes up are a thousand words.
So this seemed like it might be fun to try. I used it to tell one little short story to my kids. I wasn’t sure if they would even want to listen to it. They hung on my every word. Then something even more awesome happened. They took over.
They took turns, 7-year-old, 5-year-old, and 2-year-old telling stories with the felt figures. They all listened to the others’ stories. Well, until the littlest got carried away and refused to have an ending to her story.
Then a couple of days later, they got it out again when I wasn’t even paying attention and made up more stories. Then they got it out again tonight and told more stories. This time, my five-year-old helped my two-year-old with her turn and they told a story interactively.
“So where did they go next?”
“I no know!”
“To a cave or to the castle?”
“And then what happened?”
“Da witches came!”
You guys, I have never heard…or seen… anything so awesome. It went on for 10 minutes and only ended because I said it was time for pajamas. (I know, buzz-kill, but reality is reality. Story time may be magical, but not as magical as bedtime.)
So here’s the thing about stories for kids. They can be the simplest things. Really. Just wanted to show you the story I told them, just to show you how little effort I put into it. Not that I’m proud of being lazy. It’s just that if you wait until you have the energy to put a lot of effort into it, you’ll never tell stories. And you don’t need to wait for that. Story magic is pretty strong even without much help from you.
Once upon a time there was a little baby princess. She was little and sweet and everyone loved her.
She lived in a castle, of course.
As the princess grew up she got sweeter and smarter, and everyone loved her more than ever. But they did not love her pet.
Because her pet was a dragon.
“A dragon is a very dangerous pet for a little girl,” they all said.
But she loved her pet dragon, and she wouldn’t let anyone take him away.
Then one day a beautiful lady appeared in the kingdom. She was so beautiful that no one knew she was an evil ice witch.
She cast a spell that covered the whole kingdom with snow. The castle was covered and the people were covered. Even the dragon was covered in snow.
“Don’t worry,” said the princess. “My dragon will take care of it.”
And he did. He breathed fire on the ground, and melted all of that snow.
He cleared all the snow off the castle.
Then he very carefully melted all the snow and ice off of the princess and her people.
When all the snow was gone, everyone was so happy. “Hooray for the dragon!” they all yelled. And no one ever suggested getting rid of him again.
Told you it was lame. But it worked. It got the ball rolling. My kids stories were much, much better.