Category Archives: Telling Stories

When is bedtime not bedtime and how to create an easy bedtime routine for your kids

Learning the difference between bedtime and sleep time and giving a child some autonomy

Why does a bedtime story have to lead immediately to lights out and the inevitable “but I’m not tiiiirrrred!!!” from your son or daughter?

How many times did I battle with my daughter and how many stories do I hear about other parents struggling to get their kids into bed for their designated bedtime!

Don’t these kids know that we are looking forward to a (small) glass of wine and some adult time?

Why can’t they understand that day after day, when we say “it’s 7 O’clock, bedtime” that we’re trying to give them some consistency!

After all, we are told that consistency and bedtime routine (although I don’t necessarily agree with it all) is crucial to our children’s development!

Get kids to bed with ease and without fuss by disociating bedtime and sleep time and giving a child the opportunity to choose when to sleep

I’ve written before about bedtime routines and bedtime stories and something that I’ve been having with great success with as far as reducing bedtime frustration and argument is concerned, is removing my idea that bedtime must mean sleep time.

The dawning reality of an easy bedtime routine

I realised some time ago that my daughter’s bedtime is also daddy’s evening-time. I get to sit in peace and read my book or watch a film (or write content about children, stories and parenting for this very website). But my daughter often isn’t tired and from spring though to autumn; it isn’t even dark outside at 7pm.

Looking back on it I’m not sure why it took me so long to work this out, but it dawned on me just to tell my daughter that it was Daddy’s evening time.

Adult time

I told her that she could do what she liked as long as it was in her bedroom and she didn’t disturb us adults.

It was a bit of a gamble, but I like (at least attempting) to treat my daughter as an adult as often as possible, so I explained exactly what I was doing and why.

I explained that I understood that she was probably not that tired and wanted to stay up and play some more. I also explained that I needed some time for me too so that I could do the things I wanted to do.

She said that was fine and I left her to her toys in her room and went off to have dinner.

I had assumed that it wouldn’t work the first time and that, having a new routine and all, she’d be in and out and demanding things of me. I was mostly wrong!

The first night, she stayed awake playing until 9.30 and I had to go in and suggest that it might be time to sleep otherwise she’d be grumpy and tired in the morning and wouldn’t enjoy swimming.

She actually agreed! And went off to sleep pretty quickly.

The next night I could hear her playing at 8.30 but by 9 she was asleep.

Ever since then we’ve had a (mostly) really easy time of it at bedtime! We bath, brush teeth and have 15 minutes of quite time on the sofa before she chooses a couple of books to read in bed.

Once the books are read, she knows that she’s allowed to get back out of bed if she likes and play with her toys as long as it’s not too noisy or disrupting to whatever we’re doing in the living room.

Why does separating sleep time and bedtime work?

One of the best things about this bedtime routine is that, for me, it also ticks several other learning/teaching points :

  • I get to give her direction – She is told that it is bedtime and I set the expectation that she’ll go to sleep. I still control the end result but…
  • I also get give her control over her own destiny – She can choose when she goes to sleep.
Daniel Pink's amazing book 'Drive'. Learn about how to get the best out of and for people.

Autonomy and Direction. Two key ingredients in generating motivation and I can’t recommend Daniel H Pink’s book “Drive” enough if you want to learn about how to motivate people (children or adults). It’s aimed at adults and the world of business, but the principles can (and should) be applied to everyone at any age. This book really has changed how I approach the world.

Anyway, I digress (though I couldn’t write an article on Kidmunication without at least 1 reference to a book!).

The end result is that my daughter no makes no fuss when it’s bedtime in my house (although trying to get her willingly brushing her teeth is another matter). We have an agreement.

“Ah yes, but I bet she’s up ‘til late every night!” I hear you say. Well I can assure you that, now that she’s used to it (and it did take a couple of weeks if I’m honest), sometime she really does put her head straight down and other times she’ll play for 10 minutes and then go to sleep and other’s she’ll stay up later. It really depends on how she’s feeling and what she’s been doing in the day.

As far as I’m concerned, I’ve given her an important bit of independence allowing her to choose her own sleep time and I’ve gained a less stressful and argumentative bedtime routine with my daughter!

Win Win.

Give bedtime not sleep time a go

If you want to have a go, here are the bullet points:

  1. Commit to giving this a proper go – at least two weeks. Remember you child has to learn how this works too, so do expect them to take a couple of weeks to work out how to identify for themselves that it’s time to sleep.
  2. Explain to your kids that you understand their point of view about bed time. This is surprisingly important and will get “buy-in” from them.
  3. Explain to your kids what you want and why you’re doing this. You listened to their point of view, they’ll respect yours too.
  4. Set expectations. No loud games, bouncing beds etc. but quiet playing is ok.
  5. Keep your normal “bedtime” routine. Bath, teeth, books, bedroom (or whatever works for you).
  6. Have patience and remember to check on them before you go to bed (they might need the light turning off and covering with the duvet – I haven’t yet had to pick my daughter off the floor where she’s fallen asleep mid-game).
  7. One tip can be to ask them that when they come and see you, it must be to tell you that they’re ready to sleep. I didn’t need this, but I hear that it can help with some kids.

And remember to come back here and tell me how you get on!

Why do kids lie and how to deal with lying children

Why do kids lie and how to deal with it?

Kids lie for similar reasons parents do: to be acknowledged communally, to get rank, to upset somebody, or because they dread the cost of telling the truth.

However, younger children don’t know the idea of truth and lies in the way that adults do.

Let’s enter the world of the kid to know why children can bend the truth so effortlessly.

Children lie all the time, so what can we do about a lying child? Continue reading Why do kids lie and how to deal with lying children

Telling Children’s Stories Using Storysacks

Telling Children’s Stories Using Story Sacks

In this article about story sacks (also known as “storysacks” without a space), we’ll look at what they are, why they help us tell stories, what is in one and how you can make your own!

I don’t think anyone viewing this website will disagree that one of the most important gifts children receive is a love of stories and reading.

Young children often find it easier to relate to stories and concepts if they have something concrete in front of them that help them understand what’s being discussed or told.  This is one reason picture books and books with plenty of simple illustration are so popular for this age group.

Use storysacks to help illustrate the themes and lessons in a children's story and to help get kids to engage in storytelling Continue reading Telling Children’s Stories Using Storysacks

Giving Children Confidence and Helping them Stand Up for Themselves

Confidence and self-assertion for kids

Many children suffer from low self-confidence. Symptoms can include excessive shyness, separation anxiety, as well as a negative attitude toward themselves and others.

Life is more challenging for a child that lacks confidence.

As parents, we are there to show them what confidence looks like and how they can be assertive without becoming aggressive.

It is important to give children the tools of confidence, because many behaviour problems come from a lack of self-esteem.

Sharing stories about confidence can help to improve behaviour and the way your child thinks

“If we tell children what they should or shouldn’t do, it doesn’t have as much impact on them as a story because a story builds in the experience. It’s a way of teaching them about life.”

Psychologist Richard Landis

Build a child's confidence and self assurance through storytelling, books and play Continue reading Giving Children Confidence and Helping them Stand Up for Themselves

Storytelling and children’s stories for Divorce and Separation

Storytelling and Difficult Subjects: Divorce and Separation

With more and more families breaking up with parents separating or divorcing, there is an ever increasing need to help our children understand what is going on and why, should they find themselves in the middle of one. Even if your marriage or relationship is as solid as a rock, you can bet that your child will have friends in their class whose parents’  are (or have) separating/divorcing. Children’s stories and storytelling are great tools for broaching this stressful subject even if only to explain what your child’s best  friend at school is going through.

Divorce and Separation are tough on children. Stories can help them understand and provide you with a conversation starting point

There are many concepts and subjects that can be particularly stressful and even scary to address with our kids, and some which are just a little more difficult to know how to broach with children – which can also be communicated through storytelling techniques.

Using Storytelling to Start Conversations

Some of the subjects covered in contemporary children’s stories are undoubtedly the same that parents of all eras have wrestled with. Others may be unique to contemporary culture. Either way, storytelling techniques can be used as a way to touch on the more difficult lessons children have to learn. They can give you a way to easily bring up the subject with kids and can also be a means of generating additional conversations with your kids on those hard subjects.

Don’t underestimate your kids’ ability to handle these harder subjects. It’s all in how you approach topics with them. They learn from you and the methods you use in communicating about difficult topics can strongly influence how your children respond to these kinds of subjects. Putting good children’s stories to work for you is one of the best ways to broach more uncomfortable subjects with your kids. These books have been specifically designed to help you deal with difficult topics in terms that children can easily understand. Continue reading Storytelling and children’s stories for Divorce and Separation

Completion of the storytelling technique course


You’ve completed 15 weeks of storytelling training!

You’ve had 19 separate sets of homework!

Thank you for sticking with it and we hope your kids and you have discovered some awesome new ways of sharing story time together!
If you missed a week or you would like to revisit any of the ideas and homework, here’s the full list of articles and guides you have been sent:

Good storytelling technique leads to happy, peaceful children and happy, rested parents

We truely hope you got a lot out of this free course and we would love to hear about any story time experiences you’ve had or changes you’ve noticed as a result of reading and practicing the content here.

If you’ve had any ideas or think there’s stuff that should be added or raised questions in your mind, we’d love to know.

There’s more to come!

Please stay tuned and keep an eye on the site for new articles and content. Here’s a few things you can expect to see going up:

  • Great articles and advice for specific areas of storytelling (storytelling with autistic kids for example)
  • Instructional articles from choosing books to creating your own stories.
  • Recommendations from us and other parents and childcare professionals
  • Guides and How-to type information
  • Exclusive/Special offers for stuff that is relevant to the site.
  • Free children’s stories and poems to share with your kids

Learning can be tough and wading through armfuls of stuff you already know or isn’t of interest can definately take the fun out of it. Putting this course and website together has certainly had its tough moments I can tell you. One thing always got me back on course though: Why I am doing it.

I want the time I spend with my daughter to be the best I can make it. I want to be a great dad and storytelling is both a fantastic way of entertaining her and also an amazing way of teaching her about the world, it’s ideas, difficulties, issues and how to deal with all of those.

The stories that I share with my daughter, be they made up or read from a book, bring us closer together both physically and emotionally. For me, there’s no greater pleasure, after the bustle of the day and the stresses and strains of working or entertaining my daughter than to snuggle quietly and comfortably together on the sofa and spend twenty minutes engrossed in a story or two.

The amazing thing about putting all the stuff from this course into action is that it’s actually made me a better play mate as well. I’ve managed to shake off some of my adult-ness and engage more in the made up characters and roll-play that makes up a lot of my daughter’s (and her friends) play time.

Stay in touch

I’m open to guest posts and discussions, so please do get in contact if you would like to share your own stories or ideas.

Thank you and see you on Twitter, Facebook or here on the Kidmunication site.

A Free Children’s story with a lesson – Perseverance

A children’s story with a lesson about Perseverance

The following story I wrote for my daughter to help her with learning to stick at something and keep trying even if it is extremely frustrating and difficult.  I wrote it because my daughter is being taught to write at school so we’re practicing at weekends though she’s struggling to find the ability to keep at it and it’s turning into a bit of a battle.

We actually started this story together and the two young fairies were named by my daughter. She loves it when we tell stories together and she’ll often suggest which direction the story should go or what the characters are doing or what they’re like. It’s a great storytelling technique and I’m constantly amazed at where my daughter’s imagination takes us!

Creating stories for and indeed with our kids isn’t really that difficult and can be both educational and fun not to mention the closeness that imagining together fosters between us. Continue reading A Free Children’s story with a lesson – Perseverance

Tools of the Tale – getting to grips with how to speak with our body

Tools of the Tale – getting to grips with how to speak with our body

Your entire body tells the story with you which is why learning about body language is so important

Body language is generally mostly an unconscious process, but with some simple understanding you can quickly create huge changes in your story telling by consciously bringing in some key gestures.

The discipline of controlling our gestures can be quite challenging. Most of our movements are reflexive in nature, automatically matching up to what our minds are thinking at any given moment.

“We speak with our vocal organs, but we converse with our entire bodies; conversation consists of much more than a simple interchange of spoken words.”

Elements of General Phonetics. David Abercrombie

There are three different ways that we use body language to communicate with others

  • As a direct replacement for words.
  • As a reinforcement of our words – we gesture to emphasize speech.
  • As a mirror of our inner emotions and attitudes – people read our faces, body angles, distance etc.

In the art of storytelling, you can use all three of these ways to communicate effectively with your audience, be they your dearest offspring or a class of sullen teenagers.

By now, you are aware that you are always communicating with your children through body language.

Think about what you’re communicating to a child when you give them a big smile, crouch to their level and open your arms wide.

  • You are pleased to see them.
  • You are going to give them some of your time.
  • You are offering a place of safety, warmth and comfort in your embrace.
  • You are going to give them a dose of love and affection.
  • You are telling them that they are good, appreciated and a joy to know.
  • You consider them an equal.

I’m sure you can think of more, and you’ve not even said a word!

There are lots of subtleties to the language of the body.

If for example, you’d bent at the waist instead of crouching, you’d be telling them that you don’t consider them an equal, you’re not going to give them much time and the incoming hug will be brief and a little distant.

You’ve probably seen such hugs in action.

Thinking about it, what do you read from that sort of hug?

You don’t need to verbalise the invitation for your child to understand.

By focusing on your voice and facial expression, you’ll probably find that you naturally start to gesticulate and use your body more, so why not put even more focus on dramatizing the story?

By adding in this element you quite literally bring movement into the story.

Your story moves into a new realm of expression, similar to acting where everything you are communicating to your audience is congruent and their young minds can absorb the story and let any lessons sink in.

Think what an open and fluid kind or person they’ll think you are and what an amazing role model you’ll be for them.

“What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Storytelling homework

  • Observe. Now that we’ve introduced body language in storytelling, the first piece of homework is to keep an eye open in your everyday encounters with people (adults and children alike) and notice what kinds of body language gestures accompany different situations. Pay particular attention to the body language of people sharing stories of events or things they’ve done.
  • Think. Consider the gestures you use with your kids. What do you notice about them? What do you think your kids will get from your gesture?

Head back to the start of this chapter on using body language in storytelling and keep an eye on your inbox for the next section on how to use your head as a prop in your stories.

Using your head as a prop in storytelling

An old head on young shoulders – Attitude and using your head as a prop

So far, we’ve looked at why body language is important and the three main ways we need to aware of it in terms of telling and sharing stories and books with our kids.

This next section starts off with a recommendation that many will find difficult to do. Do try it though, even if it’s just in a small way : it will make a huge difference to story time with your kids.

When telling a story to your son or daughter, the first thing you need to do is shrug off the ‘adult’ in you.

Put away your sense of decorum and your maturity and embrace your inner child!

We were much more fluent in body language as children. The first lesson in learning to master it is to let go.

Cliché as that may sound, the most successful part of telling a story to your child is to become over indulgent to your humorous, silly side.

No matter what genre of story you want to tell; horror, adventure, mystery or fairy tale, all require you to be willing to pack away your inhibitions and put on your playful side.

If you are unwilling to do this, then you are unlikely to be able to successfully manipulate your body language for your tale, and any actions you do attempt will come across as rigid and stiff.

Children love to see their parents turn into this crazy ridiculous person who will ‘become’ a monster, a witch or a cowboy.

It fills them with giggles to see this complete change in you.

Even teenagers love to see their parents try to seriously impress them with convincing acting during a story (though they’ll deny it all of course, mostly because they’re too busy trying to learn to hold it all in like real “adults”, but that’s somewhat off topic).

focus on speaking with your head as a body language skill when telling stories

Let’s take a closer look at how you can use your head during your story

  • How would you show a dog is listening to something with curiosity or interest?
  • How would you show that Pinocchio is ashamed when he is caught lying?
  • How would you show that you that are thinking deeply about something?
  • How would you show that the student is feeling inspired?
  • How would you show the nervous excitement of Lucy as she discovers that there is no back to this cupboard?

The way you move your head combined with your facial expression is an excellent way to dramatize your movements and make them more pronounced.

Subtle movements and expressions should be used deliberately, when the time is perfect for them, such as during a scary scene or when your character is up to mischief.

A superhero who tilts his head back and narrows his eyes conveys deep suspicion…

Father Christmas throws his head back with a deep bellowing laugh…

A bored, slouching school student propping up their head on one hand

A princess resting her head on her hand with fluttering eyelashes and a smile for the prince…

Captain Flint might quickly flick up his head to express a surprised interest into a discussion he overhears in the sailors’ tavern about a journey to a Treasure Island…

Your characters can even impress a range of meanings and attitudes into simple ‘yes’ and ‘no’ by using head gestures.

  • A powerful king may give just a curt nod of approval (my mother is particularly good at this one), retaining distance and words from his lowly subject, who bows their head low in a gesture of submission.
  • A panicking girl may give her friend a very subtle shake of the head with wide eyes to silently discourage her from telling the secret truth to the mother looming over her with arms firmly folded.

Don’t forget that your hair (if you have any – I have sadly run out) is also a useful device that you can incorporate into your body language brilliance.

  • A woman’s deft flick of the hair can indicate a sense of superiority or even arrogance. Even if you don’t have any hair, kids will know what you mean and a man pretending to be a woman in a story is always guaranteed a laugh.
  • A teenage girl chewing and twirling a lock of her hair immediately conveys attitude or stupidity depending on the accompanying facial expression.
  • Become the mad scientist or crazy person with wildly messed up hair.
  • Tossing your head and hair back with arms folded gives a great impression of stubbornness (think Princess Fiona from Shrek).
  • Scratching the back of your head is a typical look of confusion or uncertainty which can be hilarious when combined with a hapless expression of bewilderment.

When telling your story, try to engage as many possible head gestures into your characters.

They don’t necessarily need to be speaking; they could be performing an action such as searching for something or simply sitting exhausted with a sagging heavy head.

Include a head gesture into the action and accompany it with an appropriate facial expression (you can learn more about these in the chapter on facial expressions) and you will imbue life and energy into your characters.

When your children see you not only telling a tale but acting it out colourfully, they will be truly ‘in’ the tale.

Storytelling homework

  • Try it out. Quite simply try out the above ideas when telling stories and as you come across particular characters with certain traits or attitudes, see if you can compliment the words (and possibly pictures) on the page with some dramatisation using your body.
  • Share your results.
    • What have you observed?
    • What have you experienced?
    • How do you overcome the adult and release the inner child?
    • What do your kids think about it!?

It’s really not as hard as you think and it can be a lot of fun to bring into every day fun and play with your kids.

Head back to the start of the chapter to find the next section on using your hads, arms, legs and feet as storytelling props.

Reach out to your kids – Using your arms and legs in storytelling

Reach out to your kids – Using your arms and legs in storytelling

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In the last section, we talked about using your head in storytelling. Now we’re going to bring some of your other appendages into it.

Have you ever punched the air with delight for winning a race or beating your competition?

Have you ever patted your child on the back in pride?

Have you ever stood angrily with your hands on your hips?

Have you found yourself holding your hand in front of your mouth in nervous reservation?

You are already armed with the best body language tools in the business of storytelling and you unconsciously use them all the time in your life to exhibit your emotion, even just gesturing normally during a chat with your friend.

Your arms and hands can be very versatile tools for communicating your emotions during a story. Exploit these tools during storytelling and you avail of a huge opportunity to elevate your story into real entertainment.

Use your arms more in the stories you tell. You hands and arms convey a huge array of messages

You can use your arms and hands to invite, reject, persuade, control, comfort, approve, ask or accuse and to show fear, anxiety, aggression, domination, submission, boredom, pride, joy and love. They’re pretty handy for playing animal characters too!

Imagine how you might use your hands and arms to convey any of the meanings listed?

A nervous criminal is wringing his hands, while having a finger pointed at him accusing him of the crime.

A demanding princess might be crossing her arms and stamping her foot when she doesn’t get her own way.

The football legend might clench his fists and punch the air in satisfaction as he scores another winning goal.

The forgiving mother might open her arms wide, inviting her child into her close embrace.

The scared little piglet might be shaking and trembling, afraid that the farmer is coming to take him away.

The exasperated teacher might throw her hands up in the air, palms up, while glowering at the mischievous child.

  • The big brother might put his hands on his hips and berate his little sister for telling lies about a snow covered land she found in the back of the wardrobe.
  • The happy child might clap excitedly, delighted at the magician’s trick.
  • The angry tiger might whip out his claws to scare the little mouse away.
  • The baby bird might flap its wings madly as it plummets out of the nest for the first time.

You can effectively embody almost every emotion conceivable using your hands and your arms.

Your audience will love your physical expressions, not only are you the teller of the tale but you transform into each and every character effectively.

You’ll also make the story unforgettable so they can share it with their friends.

A step in the right direction

A rarely considered facet of body language in storytelling, your legs and feet are just as capable of expressing emotion, albeit perhaps through a more limited set of movements.

You may wonder how you could possibly incorporate any leg gestures into your stories but here a few suggestions.

stamp your feet, cross your legs, hop on one foot. There are a million things you can communicate through your legs and feet when telling a story
  • Tapping your foot off the floor is a great way to convey impatience.
  • Sitting with your knees tightly together indicates anxiousness.
  • Give your peg leg pirate a limp and increase his authenticity.
  • Shifting your weight from leg to leg will show how nervous or confused your character is.
  • Stretching your legs out in front of you when sitting shows your character is relaxed and care-free
  • Your Wild West cowboy may slap his leg in satisfaction when he finally figures out a problem.
  • Stamping your foot shows frustration or stubbornness.
  • Kicking the ground can show frustrated defeat.
  • If your character is dragging his feet, it shows his unwillingness to do something.

By involving your legs in your body language you can create some pretty convincing or hilarious effects for your child.

You are become an actor, not just a storyteller.

Storytelling homework

  • Practice. As for the section on using your head as a prop when telling a story, practice the ideas above and keep an eye open for opportunities to use your arms, hands, legs and feet to make the story you’re sharing with your kids that much better.

Oh, and remember to have fun!

Now head back to the chapter summary or wait for the final part of this storytelling course to arrive in your inbox.