How to design new engaging bedtime stories for a 5 year old
“Pumpkin decided to marry the pretty looking guava which was kept on the fridge, which i think you should leave it alone for now. It has to prepare for the elaborate marriage celebration.”
“Is the function tomorrow? what happened?”
“Pumpkin and guava sat together in front of the sacred fire, where the priests performed the rituals.”
“Who were the Priests ?”
“Carrot, radish, onion, jackfruit and the apple”
“Carrot started to chant the vedic hymn, the mantras. It sounded something like khar kutch, kar, kutch, swaha. Radish was softer, puss, tuss, puss tuss swaha. Onion cried, Jack fruit prepared the flowers and apple?”
“Said kar kar kar swaha”
“Excellent! The guests arrived and started to stand in a line to bless the couple.”
“Who are the guests? let me guess…. Cucumber family, Beetroot brothers, the big pumpkin family, the coconut, tomatoes with children, pine apple!”
“Pine apple? God who sat next to him?”
“No one dared, he is so thorny! Hehe….same to Jackfruit, bitter gourd and chilli! ”
“Thats super! They blessed the couple and went directly to fill their bellies. They had cooked rice, sambar, chutneys, pineapple gojju, 3 types of salads, ghee, sweets and lemon rice.”
“All the guests finished their food, thanked pumpkins father and went back to their respective trees and attached themselves to the branch”
“You mean, cucumber climber?”
“Yes, they loved the function and slept happily. Kissing you now, good nite”
“I liked the story!”…….(after a while) “ What happened to priests?”
“The story of the great priests tomorrow!, good nite”
Yes this works for me! If i cannot engage my kids i cannot engage anyone! Storytelling is a living performing art. It lives as you are living it. Even if you are reading out a story to kids, they expect you to be living the story actively. Any story excites kids if told with honesty, involvement and creativity. I like inventing unusual situations with unusual subjects doing unusual activity. Kids are open to these relationships and simply support your imagination.
I like to use the following techniques of Creativity to create interest, curiosity and feeling of happiness which i consider are key pillars for stories.
1. Mimic the story space
The story space in the above example is “Marriage” as it gets real in real life. 5 year olds know how the reality works, he has seen and experienced a marriage function.They take great joy to explore reality in their own ways. So make the background of the story a piece of reality that helps to build the interest from the start. In the above story the activities of the marriage are also a part of the reality. The events of reality are not often questioned allowing you to explore on other elements of storytelling.
“Copy a reality, make it a backdrop”
2. Alternate key characters
The humans are replaced with vegetables who gain the life of new character by themselves showing up in a realistic situation faced by humans. This creates new situations for which you are forced to think for solutions that the characters might face. This questions our current Dogmas versus heresy. Any given situation can be reduced to few set of variables that tend to get culturally accepted over a period of time. It becomes a dogma.
What if we distance ourselves from those predominant assumptions and explore a world that intentionally contradicts them, that proposes exactly the opposite of prevailing tendencies? This achieves differentiation. For any given element in a system, being different does not necessarily make it better, but for the system as a whole, variety is a strength. It’s also infinitely more interesting.
“Replace key nodes of the story with a contradicting character”
3. Allow “Chances”
If the first step there is selective inheritance from the reality, the second is the search for something new. In evolutionary terms that’s variation, of which the most basic cause is mutation. Genetic mutation may be induced (caused by radiation, chemicals, viruses, etc.) or spontaneous (caused by errors during replication). Either way, the result is an imperfect copy of the original. Again, there’s an interesting lesson here: random chance is the simplest way to ensure variety. Taken another way: mistakes are an integral part of the creative process.
“Pumpkin and Guava sat in from the sacred fire” came out of nowhere but from a chance of the event that determines the storyline.
4. Combine reality and fantasy
Combination can create excellent novelty for the story. If we focus on alternating between the reality with fantasy characters, it is like combining and playing with figure and ground in a typical visual representation. The goal of the figure is to show the ground which creates the delight for us to build faith in the storyline. As the guests finished their lunch and headed back to their (Homes) plants! here, there is conscious shift from real to unreal. You can go home in real, but can you get attached back to a plant? But this is considered normal event by the listeners comfortably shifting to fantasy.
5. Context — End to sleep
It's important to bring back the attention of the jolly ride back to the moment around. Kids enjoy the idea of being in the moment. Else he may find his mind wandering in fantasy that may disturb his sleep. Making his aware of the situation of the night, darkness, the silence around, the bed and such things is a responsibility of the storyteller. It's not just a trip, but also an expansion of oneself that helps to build a sense of security and happiness within the child. Do not overthink. Stop with bringing the attention to the moment.
Thanks for reading my post, hope it helps in trying new self created stories come alive with your kid :-).