DIY Bedtime Stories

By Dana Villamagna, Toca Magazine Writer

When my kids were preschoolers and early elementary school-age, set bedtime routines were vital, but night after night of the same routine got stale. So I started making up stories about them, and it kept us all laughing and creating till the night lights went on. Not a natural actor? No worries. This doesn’t have to be a Masterpiece Theatre-worthy performance. Kids just love hearing stories starring themselves! Include some good-natured humor, channel your best character voices, and use props to capture kids’ attention in a visual way.

  • Category: Imaginative Play
  • Target age: 4 to 7
  • Skill level: N/A
  • Materials: Stuff you probably have at home
  • Prep time: 1 to 30 minutes

What You’ll Need

  • Your imagination!
  • Your best character voices.
  • Optional: Storytelling props from your kids’ dress-up box or Halloween costumes, such as scarves, hats, a flashlight, mustache, etc., to help you get into character or visually switch characters.

The Activity

  • Tap into real life when you choose a setting

Base the story on something that happened in your kid’s life that day. If you visited the zoo, a museum or a park, use that as your setting and create a fantastical tale that puts them as the hero of the day.

  • Role-play situations you want to talk about

Use the story as an opportunity to role play a real-life situation that you’d like to talk about with your child in a lighthearted way. For example, if your kid has their first wiggly tooth, create a fun story about losing (and finding) a tooth.

  • Include family when you choose characters

Include siblings, grandparents, friends and pets as supporting characters to personalize the story even more, but keep villains non-personal and far more silly than scary.

  • Tailor the tale to your kid’s temperament

Tap into your kid’s temperament: Some kids love an adventurous, suspenseful tale anytime of day, while others need soothing stories. If it’s difficult for your kid to settle in at bedtime, you may want to stick to reality-based, cute stories that you remember about them as babies or a funny story from your own childhood.

  • End on a happy note

The most essential element of any personalized bedtime story is that it ends on a happy note.

  • Performance tips

    • Present the title and author with the air of an author giving a reading, or a one-person show (“Tonight’s story is entitled, ‘Elena Meets the Magic Manatee,’ by Mom.”).
    • Begin with “Once Upon a Time” to make your story sound official. Then begin! It’s that simple.
    • The amount of audience participation and improv in the story is up to you and your kids. Some kids will love to jump in and add their own twists to the tale. Just be ready to think fast on your feet for alternate happy endings, depending upon where kids take the storyline.


Share a photo and win!

Share a photo of your family doing this activity in the comments on our Facebook post or on Twitter with #31DaysofPlay! Every Friday we’ll choose one photo from the week to win a Toca Boca Play Kit full of swag, stickers, and a $15 iTunes Gift Card.

About the Author


Dana Villamagna, Toca Magazine Writer

Dana is a freelance writer, Montessori teacher, expert evaluator of digital media for kids and author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vegan Eating for Kids.” She’s mom to two teenage daughters and a 10-year-old son.