Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker

Parent, Teacher, Author

Positive Activity for Kids and Adults: Writing Your Own Once Upon a Time Story

Disney will be coming out with a new Princess, this one is younger and directed primarily at the pre-k audience. One has to ask, do we really need a new princess? The others aren’t enough? Taking a cue from Melissa from Pigtail Pals – Redefine Girly, I love the idea of writing our own “once upon a time” story. This is a really fun activity to do with your own children to help them see that “once upon a time” doesn’t have to be about a girl waiting to be saved, yearning for true love, and so forth. In fact, it’s a fun activity for boys and girls! This is how it might go:

A lot of fairy tales start with “Once upon a time.” Let’s tell our own Once Upon a Time story, where we get to be the heroes!

Challenge: These stories usually include a challenge and how the hero overcame it. Let’s think about what challenge you’ve faced that might be interesting. Here you can give some examples, such as learning a certain sport or skill, being bullied, moving to a new school, going to camp for the first time, friendship troubles, anything that your child or you have faced and dealt with together.

Action: Heroes in fairy tales take action to solve their problems. What actions did you take to solve your problems? Describe your thoughts as you were getting ready to act. Were you scared, worried, wondering if it would work? Help your child work through the emotions that they felt as they were getting ready to act to solve their problems. The point is that problem-solving isn’t easy, and sometimes it involves overcoming our fears or worries. The fairytale stories we hear don’t always focus on this, but doing it with your child will allow them to understand that negative emotions are a part of facing challenges, and it’s okay to feel them. It also helps them begin to understand that negative emotions don’t have to stop us from acting!

Outcome: Fairy tales often end with the words “and they lived happily ever after.” Let’s come up with a new phrase that fits how we see things moving in our own stories. The old “happily ever after” phrase is, of course, not realistic. Brainstorm with your child to come up with one you both like. Give them examples like “and they lived thoughtfully/strongly/bravely ever after” or “and they all kept working hard to….” 

This is a fun activity that allows children, adolescents, and even adults to see themselves as the heroes of their own lives, to see the actions that they have already taken to solve problems, and to encourage them to view themselves as active participants in the world around them! Even if you don’t have kids, try this for yourself. It can be a powerful way to learn to see your own story in a different way.

Here’s an example that I did with my 7-year-old daughter, Allie.

Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Allie who wanted to play soccer. A lot of her friends were on a soccer team, and Allie wanted to play with them. But, she didn’t know how. Allie’s mom and dad asked if she wanted to sign up to play on the team, but Allie was worried that she wouldn’t be good and her friends would laugh at her. Would it be hard to learn? What if she was bad at it? Would people make fun of her? Allie cried and worried and told her mom that she didn’t know how to play. But after a while, she decided to give it a try. She signed up for soccer, and at first she wasn’t very good. But she kept learning, going to practice, going to camps and playing at school. Now Allie is a pretty good player, and she is working to get better. She doesn’t worry about not being good enough anymore and she just has fun playing. And she’ll keep working to become the best soccer player that she can be.” The End. 

5 comments on “Positive Activity for Kids and Adults: Writing Your Own Once Upon a Time Story

  1. Lisa
    December 31, 2011

    They tell stories at my daughters preschool. She is really into it – age 3.5 – and all her stories start with, “Once upon a time….”

    They usually only last about 3-5 sentences, and don’t always make the most sense. I have noticed they are getting more complex in the last few weeks. I don’t try to steer them. She is definitely in a bad guy phase. There is always a bad guy or a monster who needs to be thrown in jail, or a monster who turns out to be friendly.

    Anyway, I have her dictate to me and I type into Word, large font at the bottom of the page. I print it off and she draws a pic on the top,of the page. She loves doing it and often asks for it. Some stories are really interesting. Some are…only something a parent would appreciate.

    She also wants us to tell her stories and I make sure they are always about a girl named Ella who is kind and brave and strong. They can be really short, too, mercifully.

    So there are some ideas for the younger set.

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      December 31, 2011

      Thanks for the comment, Lisa. I love using these storytelling games with kids. It’s fun, promotes creativity, and gives parents a chance to see what’s going on in their child’s mind.

  2. Pingback: What’s Your Story? | True Love brings True Beauty

  3. Amanda Pittman
    December 15, 2011

    What ages is this activity appropriate for? I’ve got a couple of nieces I’d like to try it with.

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      December 15, 2011

      Hi Amanda, great question! You could use this for any age from 3 on up. You’d want to make it very simple for the younger ones, and then get more complex with adolescents and even adults.

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