If you'd like to introduce your child to fairy tales, but feel he or she is a little young for the ones you have, can I suggest watching some animated versions on YouTube, or on DVDs together? Disney made some great movies, complete with wonderful songs. I would also suggest some print books, but to be honest, I don't know of any great ones for younger kids, and hope you will make a suggestion in comments if you do.
Another idea is to tell the fairy tale as an oral story. This lets you tailor-make the tale to your own child, and you can gauge whether or not to include some of the violent bits. It's easy to read through one of the fairy tales in a collection as an adult, to refresh your memory. Then put your child on your lap, and use all your skills to introduce him to the tale. You can even add him to the story, and encourage him to take over the telling of a new adventure some time. Or choose one of the videos below as a reminder of your favourite fairy tale's features.
Some of the videos I list here are Silly Symphonies. When I was a child, many cartoons were my first introduction to classical music. To this day, I cannot hear one of Wagner's themes from The Ring without singing "Kill the wabbit! Kill the wabbit!" And my vision of Brunnhilde always has long droopy rabbit ears. That's thanks to Merrie Melodies' What's Opera, Doc?, probably my favourite cartoon of all time. So, by watching these little videos with your child, you might not only pique her interest in reading fairy tales, but also introduce her to a lifelong enjoyment of classical music.
Some Suggestions You Can Check on Youtube
Here's an excerpt from Disney's Snow White. I see these movies frequently at the supermarket, so I'm sure you either have them, or can find them readily.
The Three Little Pigs, a puppet show. This might inspire your kids to get their puppets out and make their own little show. I wrote an article last year, Use Puppets to Encourage Literacy, about how important I believe puppets are.
The Three Little Pigs, a Silly Symphony. Kids could learn the songs from this clip and then modify the lyrics in their own shows.
The Big Bad Wolf, a Silly Symphony (this one is a morph of Red Riding Hood and The Three Pigs.)
The Ugly Duckling
Goldilocks This video is just like listening to a story with pictures scrolling through.
Follow Up Activities
The Silly Symphonies in particular are dialogue-rich. Any of them would make a great model for your child's own re-telling of a fairy tale. If you read my posts about Reader's Theatre, why not use one of these videos to show your child how one creator has taken a traditional tale and riffed on it? If you have the fairy tales in print form, re-visit them and then choose one scene say, to present as Reader's Theatre.
The Ugly Duckling video above would be perfect for an actual script writing activity. At the moment, it's in duck language and mime, so you could watch a little, pause, then write down what the ducks might be saying, or the little swan thinking. Then watch a little more. This would also be ideal for creating a Reader's Theatre.
The puppet show of The Three Little Pigs above might be just the inspiration your child needs for creating her own puppets, script, and video. There are many tasks involved, so I wouldn't recommend it for under 8's, but with all the technology available today, it has become much easier. If that doesn't sound like a match, why not forget the video part and stick to puppets and improvising the story? In other words, just play!
Look around at theatres near you. Many of the fairy tales have been made into pantomimes. If you haven't taken your youngster to a pantomime yet, don't wait any longer! There's something about the whole audience involvement and humour thing that will bring a smile to kids of any age. I tended to play the Dame back in my theatrical days - can you see me menacing audiences with my wooden spoon? Pantomime is another wonderful introduction to fairy tales, and a great follow-up too.
Older kids might prefer Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes. This book is a treasured one in my poetry bookcase. For an idea of the contents, check out these delightful readings on Youtube :
The Three Little Pigs , Goldilocks.
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith is a book that might also appeal to older kids. Why not have a collaborative story time where you tell or write your own fractured fairy tale? Or use The Jolly Postman as your model and write letters from fairy tale characters.
If your children are learning about different cultures, use Youtube to search for some matching fairy tales like this one about Baba Yaga. Lon Po Po is a Chinese version of Red Riding Hood which won a Caldecott Medal but sounds scary to this chicken!
In Fairy Tales Online (2), I share several online resources with activities relating to fairy tales, and my ideas for a fairy tale themed party.
(Image credit : Juska Wendland on Flickr)