David and Lisabeth Sewell McCann

Do it Yourself Storytelling for the Modern Parent

We all need stories.  We seek them everywhere and all the time.  From conversations about our day to surfing the net, we find ourselves attracted to the stories that bring the deepest connection and understanding to our life.  Stories are fundamental to our personal and social development, and for children, this is especially so.

Children attend to stories like they are food, and in a real sense, they are food indeed. We have all felt it in the presence of a story well told – that satisfied and nourished feeling – as if we have consumed just the right amount of the perfect food.  That feeling is real – it is no coincidence.  To feel nourished is to be nourished. Children embody that without reserve. They sigh and lean back. Some even rub their bellies and say “That was good.”  They might as well have eaten a spoonful of chicken pot pie.

We, as parents, are conscious–if not fastidious–about what we feel our children.  We feel strongly that children should not eat candy for breakfast or drink coffee before going to bed.  This would be absurd. We want them to eat vegetables and fruits and whole grains and healthy meats.  We want them to have regular meals in a calm environment.  Sometimes we even dress the meal up so that it is visually appealing as well.  We put a lot of time into feeding our children.  It gives us great satisfaction when they eat.  We feel we are serving them and they will benefit from it.

The same can be so with stories.  Media companies know that children love and need stories.  So they provide them in abundance in the form of movies, cartoons, comics, video games, picture books and audio stories.  Each of these media forms are very different and meet the children in a unique way – but all of them are delivering the same food – stories.

Candy is food – very potent and effective food.  The same is true for video games.  They provide stories in a very potent and effective way.  Some families do not want their children to receive those particular stories in that particular way.  Like a well-rounded meal in a calm environment, they want more control over the stories their children consume.  So they make it themselves.

This series of articles will offer you the tools to make stories yourself.

Your stories can be tailored for the needs of your very unique child who is experiencing their very unique life.  Your stories can illuminate questions you have about your child and your relationship to them.  Your stories can offer a ray of light, or healing to a specific challenge, and can celebrate a moment of triumph.  Your stories can enliven the festival life of your family and enrich the daily and nightly rhythm of your household.

And the beauty of intuitive storytelling is that it is always available, free of charge and gives power and energy to the teller.  That last benefit is especially handy after a full day of work and the last thing you want to do is tell a story.  But like going to the gym, afterwards you are grateful, full of energy and proud.

So the basics of intuitive storytelling can be laid out quite simply and for the next month can be employed with a sense of adventure and experimentation.  Then subsequent months will focus on a particular step in the process – to deepen and develop your skills.

So then.

These four “A’s” aren’t really steps – chronologically speaking.  They interweave and unite at different points in your storytelling journey.  When you reach an impasse in your bedtime story, it could be any of these “A’s” that come to the rescue.  When you are looking for inspiration and a starting point, it will employ all four.  So here they are:

  • Attention
  • Affection
  • Approach
  • Allowance

Please note that each of these words starts with an “A”, the first letter of our alphabet and the vowel that represents the open sound of “AH”.  Then the “A” in each letter is followed by a repeated consonant: tt, ff, pp, and ll.  They will serve in expanding each storytelling tool with an “in breath” version of Attention, and an “outbreath” version of Attention.  Very handy.  And I’ll elaborate on that next month.

For now, quite simply, Attention is opening your senses to what is in the room – what you see, hear, smell, feel or even taste.  Your attention can also be to what you are thinking or what images may come to your in your mind.  Attention is employed in starting a story or helping you out of a narrative hole.  You may come to a wall in your story and not know how to proceed.  Then your eyes might rest on your daughter’s stuffed tiger, and you will know what to do.  Or you might have your eyes closed and the image of a tall mountain may suddenly appear in your consciousness.  Attend to that image and then proceed.

Affection engages your heart.  Affection will tell you that you are on the right path – much better than your rational mind.  You may think that you should teach a lesson at a particular point in the story but your affection may lead you to a different place.  Find the characters and situations that stir you, that make you feel.  They will lead you in the right direction.  Sometimes this is a villain. One can feel affection for a character and not like them.  It is feeling “toward” them that is important – like a scent followed by a hound.

Then it is time to act – time to make a choice.  This is Approach.  Go with it.  Start talking.  Tell us about the tiger, or the tall mountain or the witch or the mean grocery clerk.  Follow them.  Go where they take you.  But pay attention and feel the affection all the while.  Your direction might suddenly change.

Now the most rewarding part of intuitive storytelling, Allowance.  This is the letting go. This is when you as the storyteller get to listen to the story as you tell it.  In this unknown space, great wisdom can be illuminated.  Answers suddenly appear that you never imagined.  A story can take off and you, as its teller, are running behind it like a rider-less carriage.  This is exciting.  And a little scary at times.  But trust that the story knows where it is headed.  Follow it and then, when you come to a wall or a fork in the road or the story starts to crawl and then collapse – look around, pay attention.  Note how your are feeling.  Then make a move.  And let go.

Now, before April 1st when we will attend to Attention, I will leave you with a bright red bird in a leafless tree.  With this image I want you to remember – the telling is more important than the quality of the story.  Don’t be afraid to tell a sloppy story.  Odds are your children won’t think it is sloppy.  Odds are they will sigh contentedly and say “That was a good story.”

As homework, please tell your children at least one story about “luck” – however you interpret it.  I will do the same. Here is a story of luck for Saint Patrick’s Day.

Click below and again on the next page where luck is blue.


I’d like to hear about your stories too.  Post your experiences here or on my Sparkle Stories Facebook page,


I look forward to hearing from you.


David Sewell McCann has been spinning stories all of his adult life. Out of his experience as a Waldorf class teacher and parent, he has developed a method of intuitive storytelling, which he now shares through workshops and in collaboration with his wife Lisabeth with their children’s story website www.sparklestories.com.



3 Responses to Four A’s of Intuitive Storytelling

  1. thank you so much for this!

  2. Laura A. Catoy says:

    By chance, i was brought to your site. I am from the Philippines and an incoming grade 1 teacher this coming June. Thank you for sharing!

    • Lisa says:

      Welcome Laura! The Philippines and the people of the Philippines are very dear to me as I spent three years on Saipan and led a playgroup there. I learned some songs in tagalog from our members from the Philippines. Blessings on you and your journey. If you feel inclined to write about it, I’d love to publish it here.

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