Took an improv class. Loved it. Continued. Quit my full time, full medical/dental/eye, three week paid vacation job. Met a cute boy on the improv stage. Fell in love. Got married. Got two kids, ages 2 and 4. AWHAT?How the heck did that happen?But I am here to tell you that improv makes you a KICK-ASS parent, in every realm, but here today in that, “Mom/Dad, tell me a story.” department. At the end of a long day, you are usually exhausted and the last thing you want to do is to make-up a story. But I tell you there is such joy in watching your kids face light up, laugh, get serious as you tell the story.
7 key elements that you learn in improv that help you tell a story to your kids.
Tell them before bed, driving in a car, anywhere. Kids love stories.
1. Use the story spine
You cannot fail with this. Use it as a framwork but feel free to move away from it.
Once upon a time.... And Everyday.... Until One Day..... Because of that....(at least 3) Until Finally..... And Ever Since That Day...
2. Dare to Fail
My goodness, do not worry about your story being good. You are communicating with a toddler. You are already their hero, in their eyes, you cannot fail. By sitting there close to your kid and talking that is already a win-win situation.
3. Don't worry about making sense - Leap into storytelling
Say something, anything, what's in your brain, use what's around you, and the story will follow.
4. Color and Move on
If you are stuck, start describing the scene, talk about the pirate, how he has dark green eyes that flash gold when he's angry. When someone is bad, they are really, really bad and give an example of how bad they are. “When Cranky Frank started yelling, even the astronauts on the moon heard him!”
5. Tell stories you want to hear/tell
I have followed the advice that my friend Rebecca told me when I asked her advice on teaching improv to kids. She told me that kids have amazing bullshit detectors, teach what you like. They will see right through you and then eat you. Same goes for storytelling. Tell something that delights you. I sometimes find myself giggling at the very story I am telling.
6. Have same characters in different adventures/Repetition is your friend!
An easy cheat is to use the same characters in different stories. We have a favorite in our house. It's called, “Hank and Glick” Hank is a boy and Glick is a tiny little alien from Smallville. The bad guys are wakawakaians from the planet Waka Waka. Hank is the more sensible of the two and Glick is just so excited to be on Earth and experiencing it that they get into all sorts of trouble. They fly around in a bubble space ship. Don't be surprised if they remember the details that you have forgotten.
7. Say YES – Leave space for child to help tell the story.
My philosophy is if Henry asks a question about the story, the answer is always YES! It keeps me on my toes and leads me places I wouldn't have thought of. So take pauses in your storytelling, ask questions.
It is my absolute delight when I ask my kids if they want me to read them a story or tell them a story and they say, “TELL ME A STORY!” So go tell a story.