Seasonal Tips for Bringing Personal Storytelling Into Your Home

Give your children or grandchildren a glimpse of your past by sharing your own stories with them.  Include as many details as possible. Research shows that children who know family stories – stories of their parents’ childhood and of their ancestors – have a stronger sense of identity and greater resiliency than those who do not.


January Story Sparks of New Beginnings

All of us have been faced with new beginnings…a new town, school or job, the newness of marriage or of becoming parents. Often these new beginnings bring a mixture of excitement and trepidation. The fact that you are reading this today shows that you have successfully faced the unknown at some point in your life. Stories from one’s own family, particularly of unsettling times, nourish our children as they let them know they are not alone in their struggles. Such stories lend children strength and resiliency as they tackle their own every day new beginnings and challenges. We hope these sparks help you share your stories of new beginnings with your children and grandchildren.

  • When you were young, did you ever move to a new town or start a new school where you knew no one or very few people? How did it feel to leave the familiar behind? What was the hardest part? How did it feel on the first day at the new town or school? Exciting? Scary? Both?
  • Did anything bad happen as you adjusted to the new situation? Were you bullied or teased?
  • Was there one particular thing that helped you adjust to the new situation? A neighbor? A new friend? A beloved pet? Writing in a diary?
  • When did the “new” place start to feel like home?
  • If you never moved to a new town or school, use these suggestions to discuss other new beginnings…jobs, marriage, parenting, joining a service or hobby club.

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February Story Sparks

  • When was your first date?  How old were you?  Where did you go?  Did you have any rules, i.e have to double date, couldn’t date the same person three times in a row, etc. In general, what were the dating norms at that time?  Did you follow the norms or break them?
  • What was your first dance like? Were you nervous? Excited? What did the boys wear? What about the girlls?
  • When was your first kiss?  Where were you?  Who was it?  How old? What season was it?  How did you feel?
  • When was your first heart-break? Same follow-up questions as above.

How did you meet your spouse? Describe the proposal.
The more detail you can add to the story, the more vivid and rich the gift will be for the children. Add as many of the five senses as you can – taste, touch, smell, hear and feel.

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March Story Sparks

  • Were you ever in a storm — wind, rain or snow? Were you scared? Excited? What were the colors like?  What about the sounds?
  • What were the first signs of Spring where you lived when you were little?  Crocuses? The birth of baby animals?  Melting snow causing little ravines in the roads?  The return of a certain bird?
  • Have you ever witnessed the birth of an animal in the wild, on a farm or in your home?  How old were you?  What time of day or night was it?  Did anyone assist in the birth?  Did you help?  Were any special items needed such as fresh hay or soft blankets? How did it feel to see the birth?  Scary? Exciting?
  • What was the youngest animal you have ever seen in the wild or held in your arms?  How old were you?  Were its eyes open or shut?  Was it wriggly or calm?  Did you feed it?  If so, what?  What did it feel and smell like?

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April Story Sparks

  • Do you remember the first Earth Day?  Have you ever participated in an Earth Day celebration, rally or protest?  How many people were there?   What did you do?  How did it make you feel?
  • When you were a child, did you ever help your parents with Spring planting, either in a garden or in the field?  What did you plant?  How did you prepare the soil? What did it feel and smell like?  What was the weather like?  Describe the tools that you used, particularly their size relative to your size at the time?
  • Explain what a Victory Garden is.  If you ever helped with one, explain how and where you planted it and how it made you feel?  Proud?  Scared?  Plain tired?
  • If your family celebrated any Spring holidays when you were young, what foods were served?  Were there any special decorations or table settings?  What were their colors, textures, themes? Did you have any responsibilities in regards to the celebration?  How did that feel?
  • What outdoor games did you play as the days grew longer?  Who did you play with?  Did your bedtime rituals change?

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May Story Sparks

  • Describe how flowers fit into your life in one of the houses you grew up in.  Did you have a formal border you weren’t allowed to play in, a wild cottage garden that served as the base for adventures, a well-tended garden for cut flowers, or, no flowers at all? Describe the memory of being with those flowers.  Who was with you?  What did you do?
  • What childhood games did you play with or in flowers or trees? Were there any rhymes or songs that went with the games?
  • When you think of being surrounded by flowers, what comes to mind?  Where were you?  How old?  What did the sun feel like?  What did the air smell like?

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June Story Sparks

  • Did you have chores to do in the morning as a child?  What about in the afternoon?  What were they?  How long did they take? How did they make you feel?  Proud?  Frustrated?  Annoyed?  Include as many of the senses as possible when telling about your chores….particularly smells for this one?
  • If you had chores, did you ever shirk them?  Why?  What were the consequences?
  • What was your first summer job?  Did you save your earnings for something special or spend it quickly?  Either way, what did you spend your money on and why?

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July Story Sparks

  • Describe a special place where it felt good for you to be as a child.  A place to hide or read or play games or day dream.  What were the smells and sounds of that spot?  How did you get there?  Did anyone else know about it?
  • What were your daydreams and fantasies when you were 10? (or pick any age)
  • Who were your heroes/heroines growing up?  Describe them and why you picked them. Did you ever act out being them?  How?  Did you have any special props or clothes?
  • What/whom did you wish to be when you grew up?  Did you ever act out that person/profession?  How?

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August Story Sparks

  • Who was your best friend as a child?  What did he or she look like?  What were your favorite things to do together?  What were your fights about?  Do you still keep in touch?  (If so, forward these sparks to him/her as a reminder of your childhood together.)
  • Did your family take summer vacations?  Was it always to the same place or different places?  What was your favorite vacation if you went different places or what was the best part about vacations if you always went the same place?  Were there ever any vacation calamities?  Did you ever get to bring a friend on your vacation?  How did that work out?
  • Did your family ever go camping as a child?  Did you enjoy it?  Why or why not?  Were there ever any unexpected surprises (animal visitors, intense weather, forgotten equipment, tippy canoes, etc.)?

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September Story Sparks to Honor Grandparents

Have you ever told your children and grandchildren about your grandparents?  Studies show that children that know the story of their own family are more resilient than those who do not.

  • Where did your grandparents live when you were young?  How often did you visit them?  What mode of transportation did you take to get there?  Explain the trip in as much detail as possible, using as many senses as possible.
  • Were there any special activities that you only did with one of your grandparents?
  • Did you have a favorite food that was served at your grandparents?  What about a food that you thought was awful or strange?  What did it smell, look and taste like? Was it an everyday food or a food only served at a certain holiday or time of year?
  • In recalling your favorite grandparent, is there a certain smell, sound or texture that comes to mind?
  • Evening storytelling was commonplace in many cultures before the TV era?  Were any of your grandparents storytellers?  If so, what were your favorite types of stories to listen to?

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Spooooooky Story Sparks for October

We hope these Spooky Story Sparks bring forth memories — and thus stories — of your own childhood frights.  Sharing your childhood worries and fears with your children and grandchildren can provide reassurance and bolster their courage as they learn that those who have gone before them have faced and overcome fears similar to their own.  However, please keep in mind the age and temperament of the child. If it looks like a child is getting too scared or uncomfortable, back away from the scary parts and insert some levity.

  • What was your biggest fear as a child? Heights? The dark? Basements? Spiders? Recount a situation when you were scared as a child and how you handled it, admitting your fear yet inserting some laughter.  i.e. sprinting down the hall to take a running leap onto your bed so that the “monster under the bed” couldn’t get you.
  • How did you overcome that fear/how do you handle the fear today?
  • If you did, how did you celebrate Halloween when you were little? What were the customs and/or stories?  If you dressed up, what was your favorite costume?
  • Recount the details of any other fall or harvest festivals you participated in as a child.  Fall is a great time to incorporate all the senses into your recollections…the smell of burning leaves, the taste and warmth of apple cider, the colors of leaves on the tree, etc.

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Story Sparks for November

It is no surprise that this month’s Sparks focus on Thanksgiving.  If you come from a tradition that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, use these Sparks to bring forth memories of another holiday celebration.  All the staff at Spellbinders wishes you a joyous Thanksgiving filled with family story sharing and story making.

  • Describe the first Thanksgiving you hosted at your own home? How did creating such a big dinner make you feel?  How did it differ from the Thanksgiving dinners of your childhood?
  • Does you family have any stories of Thanksgiving Day disasters?  Cracked gravy bowls? Exploding cranberries?  A turkey that just wouldn’t thaw?  How did you handle the challenge?
  • Did you ever have a Thanksgiving where you were particularly thankful of something? How did you offer thanks that year?
  • What Thanksgiving tradition or food did you have as a child that you no longer incorporate in your celebration?  Why?
  • Is football a part of your family’s Thanksgiving tradition? If so, tell the story of your most memorable Thanksgiving Day game.

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Story Sparks of Holiday Memories

Holidays have changed since most of us were children. One of the greatest gifts you can give your children and grandchildren this December is the gift of you. Whether informally on the couch over a cup of cocoa or as a more formal occasion at a dinner table, give the children in your life a glimpse of your childhood by describing what winter holidays were like when you were a child. Start with these sparks to ignite old memories.

  • What smell do you associate with the winter holidays of your childhood? Gingerbread? Evergreen trees? Latkes? Who were you usually with and what were you doing when that aroma was in the air?
  • What winter holiday tradition did your family practice as a child that you no longer do? Why did you stop?
  • Were there any specific occasions during the winter holidays when you had to be on your best behavior? Was it hard? Did you ever misbehave? What was the consequence? Go into detail about the stiffness of clothes or the length of time you were required to sit still.  (click here to see more sparks)

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