Storytelling with children

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I am very lucky to be married to an excellent public speaker. I think what makes him such a good public speaker is that he’s actually a natural storyteller. Our son loves listening to his stories, but so do other children. In fact, the other day we were at a little friend’s birthday party and just towards the end, at that time when the children start going wild, he pulled everyone in for a story and all went silent. Their faces were priceless…

So today I’m handing the blog over to him so he could tell you a bit about how he does it:

The other side of the story

I tell stories to Sprout 1, my 3 ½ year-old son, and he loves it!

I think telling stories is a great way to bond with my son, a special one-on-one time when we can be together just the two of us. It is also a good way to help him settle down and do something calmer (plus, I get to rest too!).

I want to share the way I do it and encourage every dad (editor’s note: or MOM!!) to give it a try. If you have another way to do it I would also like to hear about it in the comments.

The first thing is to decide what story to tell. I never tell a story that has been written by someone else like “the three little pigs” or “Cinderella”. For those, I prefer to read the book to him. The stories I tell I always make up. They are always different and new. Even when he asks me to tell the story again I always change it, simply because I would not be able to tell it the same way even if I wanted to. Sometimes I record the story on my wife’s phone and if he wants to hear the same story again, we can just play it back for him. And he does. A lot!

Sometimes I do not have to decide what story to tell because Sprout 1 does it for me or I simply ask him what kind of story he wants to hear.

When I have to decide I simply think of a topic like “pirates” or “super-heroes” or “walk in the park” and I build it from there.

I do not build a plot in advance. I make up the stories as I go along. I have realised that the interesting thing about the stories, for my son, is not the plot or the logical sequence of actions. Of course, it is important to have some logical sequence between what happens before and what happens next but not for the story as a whole. For example, I may say “there was a car that had wings and began to fly. It flew to the moon and back and when it got back, it had no place to park”. It is not logical but there is a logical link between the different parts. This way I can just say (almost) whatever comes to my mind.

My intention is not to write a children’s book but simply to entertain my son for 5-10 minutes per story. And, (believe me!), I’ve already spent an hour and a half telling these short stories and if I don’t say “this is the last one” he keeps asking for more.

The main elements that I believe make these stories interesting for my son are:

–          I make them personal. There are always things that relate to him and his own personal experiences. E.g. the characters are either his toys or a cartoon he knows or even himself. “This is the story of how Sprout 1 helped Santa Klaus”;

–          I make them short and simple (unlike this post) and I tell them in a simple way. Short, direct sentences with clear ideas;

–          I make them realistic; almost real: I use characters that exist (even if only in books or cartoons) and put them in real situations even if with fantastic twists;

–          I enact them. I modulate my voice, whispering when there is a moment of suspense or roaring like a big dinosaur, or simply acting silly.

On the contrary, there are things I try not to do:

–          I do not convey moral messages or try to preach a lesson. My stories are pure entertainment. They may contain ethical messages but that is not the purpose of me telling them;

–          I do not make them too realistic. I always try to make fantastic things happen in my stories but in a simple way like “the cat jumped over the house”.

This is MY recipe, my son loves it and that’s good enough for me. It is far from perfect! The other day Sprout 1 did not want to give me a goodnight kiss because he didn’t like the way the bedtime story ended. I let the pirates get away with the treasure and he wanted them to be caught by the police. Smart boy. What did I do? I retold the ending. He was pleased and I got my kiss.

Do you do storytelling with your children? We would love to hear what works for you!

We’re having (another) BOY!!!

manneken pis - Brussels

Happy New Year everyone. We’re just back from visiting with family and I had a scan today. Sprout n.2 is a boy! I didn’t really mind either way. They’re all individuals with their own personalities, gender is just one factor. That said, I WILL miss not getting to shop for/make some of the pretty girl stuff. Then again, I suppose I won’t have to deal with all the princesses and a certain, very pink ubiquitous kitty!

Anyway, we’re all happy. But I live the way Sprout keeps saying “I like boys AND girls, so it’s ok if it’s a boy. It’s ok if it’s a girl too.” Ok, maybe his version of the sentence wasn’t so well constructed, but this is the gist of it 🙂 I also love the running commentary and emabarrassing interesting questions and comments. Like at the doctor’s office today, when I told him I was going to the bathroom, I love how he said in his loudest possible voice “to do pee-pee in a cup mama?”. Only paralleled by our joint trips to public bathrooms where he coaches me with a “You can do it Mama! There you go, you did it!” (positive reinforcement anyone?).

Another Sprout on the way

Yep, that’s right! Sprout nb 2 is on its way and expected to arrive early June!! I’m so excited, and a bit anxious too, knowing R will be travelling around that time…

I have finally found my 2nd trimester energy! Let me tell you, being pregnant with nb 2 while being a full-time mom to nb 1 is MUCH harder!! I don’t really get morning sickness and such, but OMG the fatigue during the first trimester… With Sprout it was not much of an issue, I’d just fall asleep on the sofa soon as I got home from work. Who cares if dinner is ready? Actually, R would make it most of the time, waking me up to eat 🙂 So sweet. But with a 2,5 year-old? I can’t collapse at 6pm. Or sleep in. So, I ended up doing what I (sort of) did when he was a newborn: sleep when he does. So, basically, I’ve been hibernating through Autumn. Add to that a trip to NYC to visit my sis and family, let’s say these last 3 months seem like a bit of a haze!

Now, I’m ready for nesting. And I guess I should probably try to fit in some exercise too? Maybe some blogging? 😉

 

Pregnancy library

Ever since I found out I was pregnant, I’ve been reading up on the matter. Besides the many blogs and forums I’ve been visiting, I’ve also managed to build up a pregnancy library at home! These are the books I’ve been reading:

what-to-expect What to Expect when you’re expecting

by Sandee E. Hathaway, Arlene Eisenberg, Heidi E. Murkoff

This was the very first pregnancy book I bought and I quite like it. It has a lot of useful information in a Q&A format and it’s divided up my months (at the beginning of each month it says from which week until which it goes, e.g. 6th month, weeks 24 to 28). It is very useful for reference, but maybe not so much if you get obsessed or paranoid with possible complications (fortunately not my case) because it does describe just about everything that can go wrong. It also has a chapter for dads-to-be (which R has not even looked at yet!) and other useful info. I definitely recommend it for reference.

cuidados-naturaisCuidados Naturais na Gravidez

by Zita West (a Portuguese translation of Natural Pregnancy)

I have Claudia to thank for this book and the next! 🙂 This book also gives useful information on the various stages of pregnancy, but is more focused on a natural approach, meaning alternative therapies, nutritional information, etc. It’s very interesting and backed with practical and useful tips. It is not bible size like what to expect, so it is easier to consult. I love the natural approach to pregnancy symptoms (and pregnancy in general) and I think it gives a very good introduction to alternative therapies that can be used, such as homeopathic remedies, massages, osteopathy and hypnotherapy.

agenda-da-gravida

Agenda da Grávida

Impala Edições

This book was lent to me by Claudia and I believe it was the main one she used during her pregnancy last year. It is a week by week guide to pregnancy, with a calendar section each week that you can fill out with your own notes. What I love the best is that Claudia has filled out some of her stuff and since we are due for around the same time (with 2 yrs difference), it is interesting to see we have been going through much of the same. Personally, I don’t think I would actually buy this because most of this information is available on-line (in English-speaking sites mostly) and can be received through newsletters. However, I have been reading every week because it is very easy and the information is very useful. I think this would be especially useful for those who have a more limited access to Internet or that would like information in Portuguese.

hypnobirthingHypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method

By Marie Mongan

I bought this in December and have been slowly reading through. This isn’t one of those books that focuses on what is happening during your pregnancy, but mostly on labour preparation. Now, don’t get put off by the title! I have heard many people swear by this method and it really does seem to help with labour if, like me, you plan to do it as natural as possible and (hopefully) without an epidural.

The Book promises “pain free” delivery, but to be honest… I don’t believe in that! Not entirely. I think the basis for this method is very interesting and it’s excellent to help you overcome the fear of birthing most women have (and that many times is what leds to more stressful and painful deliveries). That said, I think you have to filter through what is said and take bits and pieces from it. I’m all for natural, but I think sometimes the book can go a bit over board with some demands, etc. That said, I’ve found it very useful so far, but can only comment further once I finish it (and after the birt, of course!). It comes with a cd with a relaxation track and a brth visualisation track. I’ve been using the relaxation cd before bed, which I’m not sure is a good idea because I think I’ve only been able to hear the full track once or twice. Although I do suppose that means it works 😉 I will definitely be writing more on this later on.

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Attendre bebe… autrement

by de Piraud-Rouet Catherine, Sampers-Gendre Emmanuelle

I only came across this one recently and I had a real debate with myself on whether or not it was worth spending more money on yet another pregnancy book. But I flicked through it and thought this is really for me. It’s in french and is more about the situation in France. However, things are similar in Belgium (to an extent) and there is some (sparse) info on Belgium as well.

This would have been my bible had I bought it earlier on. It has a lot of info on “alternative” birthing methods, natural pregnancy, birthing plans, etc. However, the information is given to you in a very matter-of-fact way, not excluding the more medicalised solutions and it even has a part on c-sections. It also has an example of a birth story in various settings: c-section, medicalised, hospital but less medicalised, home birth, etc. I really like this book and since it’s in french, it does help to get more familiar with the lingo. It’s just too bad I didn’t find this earlier… I think it would have made a great difference.

babybelgium

Besides these books, I also have a booklet by the Brussels Childbirth Trust entitled “Having your baby in Belgium“.I definitely recommend getting  hold on this if you are an expat in Belgium (Brussels in particular).

For more information you can go here or here. These links tell you where you can get it as well. This booklet really gives you an insight on what you can expect and what to do/where to find help.

I also recommend the Pregnancy in Belgium evenings hosted by the BCT in Brussels.

I’ve also been going through a booklet given to me at the maternity called Baby Boom. I believe it is linked to a baby expo and it has way too much advertising in it. It does have some useful Belgian info though.

Every now and then I buy a French magazine called Neuf Mois. This is mostly to keep my magazine addiction going ;). Actually, it has useful articles and good product reviews.

Happy New Year

The New Year has started off really cold here in Brussels. It’s -10°C as I write and yesterday I woke up to this:

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It was still dark outside at 8am. Everything is still white today… well, sort of white! Snow in the city gets sloppy very fast.

2008 was a great year and seems to have gone by really fast… I can’t believe 2009 is here already and we’ll soon have a new addition to the family! In (probably) less than four more months our little sprout will be here. I’m really excited and have finally made a list of what I think we’ll need.

We’ll have to hit the stores soon to figure out where we’re going to by things and if we’re going to have a baby list or not at any store. As with everything else, I’m really keen on buying environmentally friendly and healthy products for little sprout, but choice still seems to be limited. I’m thinking of getting some things on-line, such as cloth nappies. I know most people say they’re a hassle, etc but I really want to give them a try. Now I just have to figure out what kind, brand, size and how many!!!

Here are some I’ve been considering:

They are the Imse Vimse all-in-one, Bambino Mio,  Tots Bots and Bumgenious all-in-one. They have to be really simple to use and (practically) leak-free so that I can convince my dear husband and daycare to use them as well. If anyone has any opinion on these (or others), all advice is welcome! I’ll let you know which I chose and where I got them once I make up my mind. i may actually get one of each and see what works best once sprout is here and use Eco-friendly disposables such as these for the first few days.

In other news, I’ve been making more maternity clothes to help fill out my wardrobe. Here another skirt and my bump at 24 weeks:

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And a pair of pants at 25 weeks:

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I always look so unnatural in pictures! And what’s with my hair? I swear it doesn’t look like this live 🙂 New Year’s resolution: learn how to take and pose for pictures!