Activity of the Week


Last updated:

April 30, 2012
Father With Adult Son In Park

Family storytelling is as fun today as it ever was, and it's an easy way to capture memories and preserve a legacy. Stories need listeners, and creating a welcoming time and atmosphere is worth the effort. Use the story "sparks" below to help you and your family discover tales of love, adventure, triumph, and challenges that make for wonderful storytelling.

What you'll need:

  • A storyteller and a listener (you can take turns)

  • Optional: a notebook to write down the story, a video recorder, or smart phone (but don't forget that the tradition of oral storytelling is still the best way to pass on our stories)

Why it's great:

  • Storytelling is body art: We use our voices; we whisper, build, shout; we use eye contact; we create moments of suspense; we use our arms and bodies in gestures.

  • Its creates a bond, and it's enjoyable at family get-togethers: reunions, holidays, birthdays, and other celebrations, everyday small moments, or when we gather with friends.

  • It challenges our brains. We have to remember what happened next, how to tell it in a dramatic way, and to remember the punch line.

  • Many family stories are humorous, and humor is healing. It actually boosts our immune systems when we laugh.

  • We gain confidence. Talking in front of a group, even our own family, makes us feel that what we have to say, and the stories we share, are important.

  • We pass on wisdom, insight, and advice. While many people balk at being told what to do, it's often more easily received when it's part of a story.

  • Stories teach compassion.

  • Stories capture what life was (and is) like -- we incorporate songs, sayings, and historical events. We're the keepers of our family's collective history.

How to do it:

  • If you have a reluctant storyteller, start the ball rolling by telling one yourself. You'll find you soon remember details you thought were long forgotten.

  • Ask a question: What was it like for you? What did you do? How did you handle that? Then let your loved one take the time needed and continue to ask questions to keep him or her talking.

  • Be a good listener. Use these simple and encouraging words to keep the story going: "Tell me more."

  • Use photos or objects to spark a story; use movies, the news, or a family event.

  • Some people like a big audience (at a reunion, a dinner) while others feel uncomfortable in the limelight. Get a feel for how to make your storyteller comfortable. Some people like to share a story while doing something else, such as washing dishes or riding in a car.

  • Story sparks: What was your first car? Your first kiss? Your first job? Your first home? The first time you got fired? When were you most scared? Most brave? The most broke? Most lost? Most proud? Who has been your best life teacher? Who shocked you or delighted you? When did you learn to forgive?

  • Thank your loved one for sharing. All storytellers want to know they've been heard.