I sometimes find it difficult to find indoor activities to do with the kids that we all enjoy. Perhaps it’s terrible to say, but while I enjoy the happiness it brings, I do not enjoy endlessly reading Dr. Seuss books and their ilk. I thought that maybe when they got older I would be able to read more “story”-like stories, and that they would enjoy them. So far, there hasn’t been much luck with that.

I did try to read Coraline to Abby. The first few chapters went ok, but then she lost interest. I suspect that she wasn’t quite old enough for the book, although I don’t think that was the deterrent, since she seemed quite interested up until the point she lost interest.

Barring the book reading, both the kids and I like to play games; Though, Abby needs to learn to read on her own before we can play any of the really interesting games. I suppose that Mastermind, Connect Four, and chess aren’t out of the question, although they seem a bit advanced.

Last night as Berta was putting Riley to bed, Abby and I sat down with a notebook and a pen, and she dictated a story. This really might be something that we can do together.

Abby constantly makes up stories. She’s been doing it since she could talk. I read recently that children invent stories like these to help with their language development, which might explain why Abby was so quick out of the gate with her speech.

Her stories are usually fanciful, especially lately with princesses and horses. Most of her stories seem based on derivatives of personal experience, books she’s read, or Disney movies.

Last night’s story was about three little ducklings and some things that they experienced. With Abby providing the creative material, and me providing plot guidance and transcription, we wrote a fairly complete and enjoyable 1.5-page story.

Abby took the notebook and provided crayon illustrations of the eggs, ducklings, and alligator and shark, who were the story’s antagonists. When we finished, Abby took the story to Berta and had her read it to her. Listening to the story we had created, I was impressed with our ability to create such a simple and compelling kid story.

Being the ever-industrious person I am, I considered that a volume of stories like these might make decent gifts for relatives come Christmas time. And wouldn’t it be neat to have a 5-year-old book author in the house? So assuming I can keep Abby’s interest (and there’s no indication that she would be opposed to doing this every night, even three times a night without us stopping her), we might actually be able to produce a complete illustrated storybook before Christmas.

Better than that, Abby can learn things in the process. I’ve been helping her with some words (she’s notorious for applying endings to those complicated English words to change their part of speech, like “fastly”) which has benefit, and also by shaping her stories. Instead of a wandering plotless telling of the chronological facts of a story, I directed Abby to provide a scene with characters and “conflict”. It took a while to explain conflct to her.

I took on the task by asking her to name a movie that she likes, and then pointed out the conflict. She chose Cinderella. I explained that without the conflict between Cinderella and her stepmother, there wouldn’t be much of a story. Cinderella would simply go to the ball, and live happily ever after. And while that sounds fun, it doesn’t make the story interesting.

Abby was hesitant to agree to this, but after going along with me and adding an alligator to her duckling story, she was so convinced of the benefit of conflict, that the story became one dealing with a generalized conflict. Rather than having simply, “Alligator tries to eat ducklings,” the story was rooted more in, “This whole pond is dangerous.” It’s interesting to watch her mind working. I’m glad to be able to get her thinking.

Most importantly of all, I got to spend some quality time with Abby; quality time that she is looking forward to spending together again, too. I wonder what she’ll come up with tonight.