little choices… big rewards

The stories I generally create for Storyline for kids reflects a recent activity, outing or interest my daughter has and after mulling the storyline though my mind, it progresses into what I thought would be engaging to a toddler. However, with Madeline’s input, the storyline usually takes a complete 180 degree turn from what I had envisioned. The nighttime ritual goes something like this…

Once we are all tucked into bed, I lie down beside her and recite my latest story that I have concocted. “Once upon a time, there was a girl named Madeline who went on an adventure in the woods. She spotted a squirrel…” and before I can finish the thought – I get a “no mama – not a squirrel – a bear”. “Oh, how silly of me. Of course, a bear,” I say chuckling out loud and continue with the bear going to the stream to fish for his lunch instead of a squirrel climbing the tree to find his. “The bear looked in the water spotted the most colourful fish in the stream with …” Immediately- on cue – I hear a sleepy little voice say “No mama – not a fish, he saw a beaver – that built a house in the water” – “OK – the bear met a beaver who built a dam. The stream had turned into just a trickle of water that now forms a small creek and he can’t seem to find a single fish.” And so, needless to say, the story is re-created each night. And each night – we go through the evolving storyline until we get it right. How do I know? When I can run through the entire story without her wanting to change a single thing. The satisfied smile on her face as she drifts off to sleep is when I am convinced it’s finally done.

As a parent, I introduced choices at an early age. It helps in the development of cognitive abilities and teaches independence. Choice is a skill that children will use for the rest of their lives. I truly believe that by providing opportunities for children to make choices about little things when they are small, will better prepare them to make choices about big things when they grow older. By giving Madeline the opportunity to craft each story with me, it not only builds her confidence and character, but also feeds her little imagination.

The story is a masterpiece in Madeline’s eyes and is, not surprisingly, a hit with all her little friends. Madeline and her friends have become a mini-focus group for me, in every sense of the word. I pay them well, (in toddler terms – free storybooks with their names highlighted as the main character), and I get what I need in terms of feedback from my target audience. Choice gives kids a say and makes them feel important. After all, shouldn’t all children feel important? I often laugh to myself and wonder who is the one getting the education here, but in the end I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that we both end up the heroes of each story.