The Evolution of Storytelling

I am endlessly fascinated by these little creatures we call toddlers.  No longer babies, but not yet schoolchildren, they are funny little people, full of life and energy and unbridled impulse.  Every day with them is new and every moment holds the possibility of new discoveries.

I talk about my children on my blog because they are the children who I know best.  (And their parents won’t call me out for slander or stop inviting us to playdates.)  Today I want to share what I’ve noticed in my toddler recently.  He is 2.5, and he has just over the past month or so begun to tell stories. 

It started off very simply, with a game that I helped make up in the basement.  We would crawl into his play tent and I would make a loud growly noise and we would pretend that there was a bear nearby.  Why a bear, I don’t remember, but it must have had something to do with a book that we had been reading.  From that action+story arose a whole little play that Widget would reenact over and over for the next few weeks.  We would be sitting in the tent and he would say “Oh, no! A bear!” or just wink at me and say “grrrrrrrrrrowl!” prompting me to ask him about the noise.  Then we went through the same steps each time.  I would ask him what we should do, and he would inevitably say “hide!”  We would crouch on the floor of the tent and cover our eyes.  Then the bear would come back and we would either send the dog (real or toy) out to scare him away or offer him honey.  It was a good little game, and I delighted in playing it with my little Widget, finally old enough to make up stories!

The next one came a week or so later.  I had brought home an inexpensive farm set from Ikea that included mommy and baby horses, sheep, and cows, along with a barn-like structure made out of tenting.  Widget was sitting on the guest room bed playing with it when I realized that he had made up his second story, all about a “horse go in barn.”  Good stuff, and all on his own.

Story number three was another action scenario.  This one got more complex, but was all of his own making.  My contributions were limited to “Oh, no!  What should we do?”  This story centered on the actions of a firefighter and was probably prompted by Richard Scarry’s Busy Day books.  Out of nowhere (but usually in the basement/library, like before), Widget would make a loud, “Clang clang clang!” sound like an old fashioned firehouse alarm.  I’d say my line (Oh, no! What should we do?), and he would respond “Hat on.  Boots on.  Slide down pole.” while pretending to put a hat on, boots on (first the left, then the right), and then grab the closest vertical object (curtain rod, PVC pipe, boomwhacker, vertical basement support), prop it up, and pretend to slide down it.  Then he would run over to me, say “in fire truck!” and I would make fire truck noises as we drove to the fire.  Then he’d say, “stoooooooop!” putting his little hand out in front of him, jump “off” the fire truck, “grab hose” and take it over to where the pretend fire was.  The location was different every time, but it never took more than a couple seconds to put it out.  (That Mr. Frumble!)  Then he’d come back, “put hose away” and we’d drive back to the firestation.  Inevitably, however, the ol’ “clang clang clang” would sound halfway back, and we’d start all over again!

The weekend before Easter brought a more complicated scenario, this one musical, and entirely of his own invention and execution.  In the living/playroom, Widget would grab the pretend microphone on his brother’s exersaucer, announce loudly, “Here’s a song!”  Then he’d bend down and turn his musical workbench on to get a beat, climb onto the picnic table, and strum his guitar to the music.  Then of course the toys would stop playing music and he’d have to start again.  He entertained us this way for nearly an hour that day ….

Last week, this kinetic little boy of mine hopped onto the lower rung of his youth chair, hung off the side, and declared it his “trash truck!”  For the next 30 minutes, and a number of times after that, he’d hop off, ask me for trash, and I’d give him a scrap of paper or the page that I’d just finished in my magazine (sneaky, huh?).  He’d deposit it on the seat of his chair, ask me for more, or hop on the side while I made trash truck noises and he pretended to ride to the next house.  Then, “hop off!” and ask Mommy for more trash.  This was a simple yet fun game with really imaginative props.  The youth chair, let it be said, bears absolutely no resemblence to a trash truck.  But in his mind, it was perfect.  (We ended this game with a trip to “the dump,” the recycling bin outside, and it provided needed closure.)

Widget’s memory is also improving.  Inspired by a post over at Bub and Pie, I’ve been talking more to him about past and future events, and he’s remembering them for up to a week so far.  He still talks about going to the aquarium two weeks ago (“Clap clap!  Dolphin jump up!) and asks to “Go see friends.  Mom, Little Bear go class.  Go see friends!” like he did 10 days ago (thanks, Stimey!).  Last week’s episode with the lightening was neat enough, but tonight with the rain and the winds whipping by his window, he remembered (“Boom! Boom! one two three four five!”).  And tonight in the library, he hopped on and off my exercise bike, bringing me pretend bits of our favorite after-playdate lunch: “nuggets and tea.”  And I swear, it’s been AT LEAST two weeks since we’ve “stop! nuggets!” at McDonald’s….


4 Responses to The Evolution of Storytelling

  1. Robin says:

    It’s so much fun to watch their little (or is that big) imaginations develop, and even more fun as they get verbal enough to really share their inner world.

    Widget sounds SO cute, and I think we have that same Busy Town book.

  2. whymommy says:

    I (heart) Busytown. Everyone except perhaps Mr. Frumble. Perhaps. Perhaps I’ve been reading Busytown books too much! But can anyone else who’s in the same boat as me shed some light on something for me? Who exactly is this Bruno character, and why is he sharing a room with Miss Honey? I sense scandal afoot! Tell me, tell me it isn’t so!

  3. DigitalRich says:

    Thank you for participating in the Carnival of Family Life 51st edition! It’s up and running at DigitalRich Daily.


  4. Lill says:

    No, no, it’s okay, Whymommy. Miss Honey and Bruno got married in one of the Busytown videos that my kids watched over and over many years ago. (My youngest is 9.) Lowly Worm is my fave. A word of advice: Videotape your kiddos talking when they don’t know you’re doing it and save it for when the toddler years are past.
    I found you through the Carnival of Family Life #51 and I’m glad I did.


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