When a child falls in love with a story, she’ll likely read it—or ask a parent to read it to her—time and time again, until she can recite each word by heart. While seeing your kid develop a love of books is exciting, the monotony of a repeat story can eventually bore parents to tears. Help your child develop fundamental storytelling skills and exercise creativity by dreaming up her own narrative. These five create-a-story games will encourage your little reader to think outside of the box, learn new vocabulary, and put her imagination to work by providing guidance through the creative process.
- Let objects speak for themselves. Fill a box with objects from around your home—such as toys, tools, food items, and clothing—then allow your child to rifle through the box, choose three or four items, and invent a story or a fairy tale about them. Shy away from branded toys and food, which can limit your child’s creative boundaries. Instead of handing her a Little Mermaid figurine, include a doll that doesn’t already have a well-known story attached. Afterward, create your own story from the same objects, and then talk about how your stories were alike and different.
- Same animation, different story. Once your kid has gotten the hang of dreaming up stories for different objects, challenge her by asking her to come up with a new adventure for Winnie-the-Pooh, Dora the Explorer, or another beloved cartoon character. Watch the movie or TV show together, and talk about different ways the character’s life could be different. Asking questions, such as, “What if Snow White lived in your neighborhood?” will provoke your child to think about an old character in a new light.
- Rewrite the “happily ever after.” Snuggle up with your child and read a fairy tale together. When finished, ask about her favorite event from the story—then ask her to change it. This may seem daunting at first, but with your encouragement, a plot will slowly take shape in her mind. Take note of the new plot and ask her to change other events she liked from the story. Afterward, pull out the crayons, colored pencils or markers and invite your little one to draw her favorite character from the changed event.
- Get creative with clothes. Choose a variety of clothing items from different family members, then ask your child to invent a character for each of them: an old jumpsuit may belong to a marathon runner, a prom dress to a sweet young princess, etc. When every piece of clothing has been assigned a character, encourage your little one to invent a story based on the characters she came up with. To add more fun to the project, invite her to dress up like a character, and act out scenes from her story.
- Eat some inspiration. After enjoying a family meal, ask your child to come up with a story inspired by the food she just ate. Whether the spaghetti and meatballs is the supper for an alien family, or the veggies in your salad spring to life, this exercise will push her to think about everyday food items in a completely new light. Pay attention to how your kid views food in the story, and help her name unfamiliar foods, and even look up the origins of different delicacies. Take the project a step further and cook a meal with your little sous chef, inspired by her narrative.
- Invent a birthday tale. Birthday parties are a popular theme in children’s books, so why not have your child pen their own party story? After a friend or relative’s birthday, sit down together and jot down notes your kid can use for inspiration, including how the cake looked and tasted, the candles, the decorations, presents for the guest of honor and party games or favors. Help out by explaining what she may need to know for the story, such as how cakes are made, how invitations are sent, etc.
- Revamp holiday favorites. Everyone knows the story of Santa’s beloved red-nosed reindeer, but Rudolph’s history doesn’t have to be set in stone. Every holiday comes with corresponding fantastical stories waiting for a rewrite. Have your budding writer choose her favorite holiday, a corresponding symbol, and create a story around that. For example, if she’s crazy about Halloween, have her write a tale about where Jack-O-Lanterns come from. Once she’s finished, read the traditional folklore about carved pumpkins together, and compare the tales.
Once your child develops a story idea in her mind, help her get it on paper. She’ll love the chance to illustrate her ideas, so give her crayons, markers, pencils and other craft supplies to work with. Laminate and bind her books to add to her library. Playing these games with your budding writer not only kick-starts her creativity, but also results in more reading material for the family to enjoy.