There is nothing my kids love more than a great story. Our family is steeped in storytelling tradition. For example, when we are out of town on vacation, and we are staying in a hotel, Dad had just better tell a "Popeye" story at bedtime. When we are in a tent, it is a story about Geoffrey, their favorite make believe precocious seven year old. And the latest innovation is a made-up super hero, BananaMan. In our family, Dad is the storyteller king. Some of my stories are better than others; but all the really good stories that my kids rave about for days have some common elements. With a little thought and practice, you can join the ranks of the truly great Dad storytellers.
Why Tell Stories?
It is fun. Dads love to have fun with their kids, at least the great ones do. Creative stories are a chance to build a great and loving memory. One of my favorite characters is Mr. Green, who is really a green security blanket wrapped around a hand. Mr. Green is a little irreverent, with a scratchy little voice, and he believes that all that is good in the world must be green if it is good. He sings songs, tells jokes, and generally makes bedtime a little relaxing. Having fun with a little creativity goes a long way. It teaches values. With your stories, you can make your values come alive to your kids. My vacation Popeye stories always show the futility of being a "Brutus" and the equality that comes into the world by eating "spinach" or living right and making right decisions. Popeye wouldn't be Popeye if he only ate chocolate cake to get his strength. And while little Geoffrey is always getting into mischief, he also finds a way out by working through a mess, not hiding it.
It gives children practice with challenges. As children use their imagination to get into a story, they often put themselves in the role of protagonist who has a problem to solve. This is one of the reasons why I love Tom Clancy novels–I always try to be Jack Ryan and figure out how to solve a major world crisis. If the main character in a story is lonely, scared or in trouble and works through that challenge, children learn how to work through challenges. And doing it vicariously is often better than the real thing.