Storytime. Every kid loves it, and every parent has, at some point, dreaded it. For one, it gets repetitive. Worse yet, kids are harsh critics. (Who hasn’t heard: “that was so boooring”?) Then there’s the fact that it’s such a passive pursuit. Sure, storytelling is an excellent way to help kids understand narrative structure and colloquial language, not to mention keep them entertained, but all the work falls on the parent. This game is one of the best activities for kids with parents who want a break from telling the story themselves.
‘Pass the Story’ is an interactive group story-telling game in which one person starts a story and then passes a ball to the next person to continue it. It’s the perfect way to make story time a less one-sided pursuit, and help your kids flex their own storytelling skills. They may resist at first — they know that storytelling is hard — but in time it’ll be a game they beg to play.
Prep Time: 1 minute (time for you find a ball).
Entertainment Time: About 30 minutes or about 15 minutes a story.
Energy Expended by Child: Minimal physical exertion, lots of mental energy
What You Need:
- A soft, large ball. Inflatable beach balls are ideal.
How to Play:
The person with the ball starts by speaking those magical words, “Once upon a time…” They then toss the ball to the next person who continues the story. They can add one sentence or they add five, just as long as they set up a cliffhanger for the next person who catches the ball (“…the dragon ran into a family of bunnies and then she…”). And the story continues.
There are as many ways to play as there are story types. You can make it rapid-fire (even adding a timer to make it really high pressure) or let the story build before jumping to the next person. Ask the kids which version they’d prefer to play and set the parameters at the beginning. If the story starts to drag, try placing one of the members on the group in the middle of the action, forcing them to learn how to switch from third-person to first-person perspective (we all want to raise little Faulkners after all, don’t we?).
Because this game is all about adapting on the fly, it should be a fit for all school-age kids. If your child is shy with details (or a bit younger), you can lead the story for a more Mad Libs-style game (“…there was a dragon who really liked…”). As your kid gets more comfortable with the game, they will start to add plot twists and new characters and build the story up on their own. This will happen before you know it.
If there’s any lesson to be learned from ‘Pass the Story,’ it’s this: Adding a ball to any pursuit makes it more fun. It’s also a great way to sneak big lessons — literary ones in this case — into playtime. But the best part of all, it will take some of the pressure off your nightly story time. Rather than criticize your plot twists, they might just jump in and add to them.