While older children may love stories of fantastic creatures in faraway lands, younger toddlers often prefer stories grounded in the real world. Books about getting up in the morning, getting dressed, eating breakfast, going for a walk. All those familiar events that they recognize for their real lives. Your toddler may like even better hearing stories about his own day, told storybook style…
On her Clear Parent blog, Cate Pane recently shared a post titled Please Tell Me a Story about how her husband would “spin a yarn” for their child – making up stories that include details from the child’s own life. I shared with her about “Ben stories” and she suggested I share them here…
So, I read a lot of books to my son. Really, a lot. It’s a good thing we’re walking distance from a library full of free books. But my bedtime rule is only two books at bedtime. That’s it. Not negotiable for more. (I don’t want to establish a habit for negotiation with him… I know lots of parents who get caught up in this and suddenly end up with hour-long bedtime routines they can’t break out of.)
But sometimes, I can see that 2 stories wasn’t enough to settle him, so I ask him if he wants a Ben Story. He always say yes!
All I do is review events from his day, or tell him a story of a recent event, like a trip or a class or a play-date with a friend. But I tell it story-book style: “Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Benjamin. And he lived in the town of Kirkland, in the state of Washington, in the United States of America, on Planet Earth. One morning, he woke up and put on his swimsuit and guess where that little boy went? He went on a short journey, out the door, down the sidewalk, past the magical Bee Bush, across the street with the walk light and into the park until he arrived at the swimming pool. And what do you think he did when he arrived at the pool?”
What do I like best about these Ben stories?
- Ben stories can be as short or long as I want them to be, based on how much free time I have, how long I think it will take him to settle, and so on.
- They can serve as a nice settling down routine. (Many experts recommend doing a ‘day in review‘ with your child to help them let go of the day and move into the night.)
- They help him feel knowledgeable and competent as he recognizes the things we talk about
- They can reinforce events and people I want him to remember. “Ben’s aunt Jamie was visiting and she read him a bedtime story…”
- They can reinforce new learning. For example, the other day when I told him the story of our hike in Big Finn Hill park I reminded him of how he helped us figure out which way was left and which way was right, and I had him show me again how the fingers on his left hand make an L shape for left.
- They honor that he is special and his story is special – it’s not just people in faraway land who have stories worth telling.
Some times I use finger puppets when telling Ben stories.
When he is in his bedroom, supposed to be napping, I often overhear him with the puppets, using them to tell the story of his day.