Saturday, September 7, 2013

Bedtime Stories for Wee Littles

Q & A WITH LISA
once upon a time

Dear Lisa, I have heard that it is important to tell stories, especially fairytales and I have been thinking about telling them to my children at night. I am worried about frightening them with the scary parts and have been considering paring them down and sweetening them up for bedtime. Yet I am not sure if I can memorize such long stories and remember all the parts when I am tired in the evening. Do you have any advice for me or ideas for bedtime stories?

You are right on the mark as storytelling and fairytales are very important in Waldorf education and parenting. So much lives within the spoken word and the act of one person telling a story to another, in this case, the parent to the child, conveys so much more than reading from a book or listening to a recording. Stories can be healing and reassuring. Stories can help us make sense of life.

The bedtime story need not be same kind of story as the fairytale told in the light of day by the wise and enchanting storyteller. Here's the thing with "sweetened up" fairy tales - they can be unsettling at any time of day because we lose the archetypal context for the imagination. That's important to consider when we want to protect our children, quite naturally from scary images. The fairy tales cast a dreamy archetypal fairy cloud where things are possible that do not take place in daily life and in the end, good wins out. But this is for a separate conversation.

Children are so deeply nourished when we use our imagination and create something for them. In the olden days children were told simple household stories of house brownies and elves who get up to all  all sorts of merrymaking and mischief. 

We can do that too.

For the wee littles (under age five) simple nature and household stories that you make up that involve simple archetypal gestures of comfort and soothing, with actions from Mama and Papa, can send children off to dreamland feeling protected and secure. In our family we have had adventures of Mama and Papa Redbird for years (as we have cardinals who over winter each year.)

These animal family adventures are simple and nurturing, gathering twigs to build a nest, laying eggs, seeking food, waking, sleeping and caring for the young. Then the baby Redbirds, oh my, they can have great adventures, testing the boundaries of the nest and their world, all in the comfort and security of Mama and Papa.

We've also had little night time story adventures of Woody Woodchuck for we have had a big fat furry woodchuck around for a decade, well probably numerous woodchucks over the years, babies too. Boy do those mamas become bold when they are out with their young. You can intertwine characters from the animals you see outside your window and in your backyard, raccoons, birds, an owl, kangaroo, wallaby, fruit bat... what have you.

Sometimes it is just too much for us to be alert enough in the evenings to make up a story at bedtime. We are fortunate to have many simple picture stories with comforting text and repetitive language. Simple repetitive rhythmic stories "read" often become known by heart to the children. You know the day when the three year old says, "I can read!" and gleefully tells the beloved story that has become memorized and known by heart. Goodnight Moon is one that comes to mind. Oh and another is The Napping House, that was well loved here. Anything soothing and comforting and rhythmic will help the child settle into sleep. Those repetitive verses lull the child to sleep.

I have a piece on Storytelling with Young Children over on Rhythm of the Home that goes into more detail here
http://rhythmofthehome.com/2010/11/storytelling-young-children/ and once again I will be offering a month long look at Storytelling with Children over on my Program for the month of September. This year I am honored to bring Connie Manson of Starlite Puppets to you. Connie will co-teach storytelling with me in September.

To learn more about the eCourse or sign up, click here.

Celebrate the Rhythm of Life 
Harmonious Rhythms ::  Parenting with Soul :: Waldorf Homeschooling

~living curriculum program to support parenting and homeschooling


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