Imitation, so they say, is the sincerest form of flattery. It’s also a great way to start developing your child’s storytelling muscles. Young children often memorize the words to their favorite books. It’s a short step from that to changing the words slightly to make your own version. Here are five popular picture books that you may have in your house that are a great jumping-off point for writing your own stories with your preschool-age child. This is a great activity for a lazy vacation day.
1) Goodnight Moon (by Margaret Wise Brown). Create your own goodnight story featuring the stuff in your child’s bedroom. You can illustrate it with cutout photos of the actual objects, and make the book out of folded construction paper stapled together at the side. This is also great to bring along when you are travelling as a way to remember home and make bedtime more familiar.
2) If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond). This is an easy structure to work with and allows you to explore cause and effect, and the humor of unintended consequences. Can your child imagine what happens if you give a bear a banana or give an ape an apple? Play out the scenario and see where it takes you.
3) Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (by Mo Willems). What else should we not let the pigeon do? Don’t let the pigeon make your lunch? Get you dressed? Clean your room? Imagine the excuses the pigeon comes up with. You can illustrate your version with pencil, and older children may be able to create their own versions of the pigeon. (PS, did you know the pigeon has his own twitter account? Follow him @the_pigeon.)
4) From Head to Toe (by Eric Carle). Imitating this simple structure by imagining what different animals can do and repeating it is a great imagination exercise for active preschoolers. Write down their ideas, illustrate with photos or drawings of the animals, or just act it out together.
5) Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson Harold and the Purple Crayon (by Crockett Johnson). For older kids who may be able to draw, this book is a great device: Have your child imagine she is in a sticky situation – how can she use the purple crayon to get out of it? What would be the equivalent dream picnic for your child of Harold’s nine kinds of pies? How does she get back home to her bed?
Once your child is comfortable with the basic idea of creating new stories, you can start from scratch. You can always go back to the well and look for inspiration from other books. Happy writing!