Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Introducing Kids to Fairy Tales Online (1)

Some traditional re-tellings of fairy tales are a little heavy for kids. Others are difficult to read aloud, because frankly, they just aren't very well written - check out supermarket books for less-than-stellar examples. Yet fairy tales are a huge part of Western cultural heritage, and kids can learn so much from them. Almost unconsciously, they pick up the rule of threes, or about conflict and resolution, and learn to predict outcomes.

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)


  1. Oh, I know what you mean about not easy to read... and you know, they Disney books (based on movies) are REALLY bad too. I hide them from my kids so I don't have to read them... LOL.

    Later today, I'm come back to watch some of these with Jimmy. She will love it I'm thinking.

  2. The Book Chook04 January, 2011

    Yes, when you're used to quality literature, it's so difficult to read those kinds of books, and especially to read them aloud. My supermarket has cheaper books on offer, some of which are wonderful authors like Mem Fox, but often they are just books with glitzy covers or a re-told tale written by someone who thinks it's about dumping words on a page.

    I'm so pleased Jimmy will love the videos, Kel! I wonder if she is old enough to try creating a little puppet show, or making up the words for one of the characters in a story? From what I know of her, this sort of creative expression will suit her to a T!

  3. Rebecca Newman04 January, 2011

    I'm sure I know a few fairytale books suitable for smaller kids. Oh, one that we like is 'Yummy: Eight Favorite Fairy Tales' by Lucy Cousins. I'll keep thinking and add more titles as I think of them.

    Couldn't agree more about cheap supermarket versions though. I hide them too, Kelly! :-)
    And I have never seen a book-of-the-movie book that I've liked. Grr.

  4. Ooooohhhh, I love fairy tales!!!! I'm sure you probably already gathered that much though!! I have come across a number of great books for fairy tales, but need to check back through my records for the details. I am sure I will discover more through my Fairy Tale Challenge this year too! I will keep you posted!

  5. The Book Chook04 January, 2011

    Please do Tif - thanks!

  6. The Book Chook04 January, 2011

    Clever you to append the pic of the book for us! I thought I knew Lucy Cousins as an illustrator, and will search this one out for sure. Thanks, Bec.

  7. Thanks! Great timing! I just started my Fairy Tale unit yesterday!

  8. The Book Chook05 January, 2011

    Excellent, Jackie! Loved your own ideas on making writing fun for kids! http://gypsyjacquelina.blogspot.com/2010/12/ways-to-make-writing-fun.html

  9. I take my cherub to the panto every school holidays, since just before her second birthday, before we even had term holiday time in our radars, and neither she nor I could contemplate not going every couple of months. We love it- we both yell 'look behind you' at the tops of our lungs and have a great time. In fact, after a panto I went home and sewed my first garment for my cherub- a little red riding hood! Looking forward to tomorrow's post for more ideas- my cherub's birthday in a few more weeks is going to be a fairytale party!

  10. The Book Chook05 January, 2011

    Fantastic, GreenMama! I have this huge grin plastered all over my face at the thought of your cherub enjoying the mayhem. There's something so predictable and comforting about a panto! And I actually remember the red riding hood from your blog.

    Fairy Tales 2 won't be tomorrow, but now I know you need it, I'll move it forward. Is 20 -1 - 11 too late?

  11. Great article. My little boy has taken a great interest in The Three Little Pigs- thanks to watching a Blues Clues Video where they act out the story. We made masks for the pig and the wolf and then we build with blocks for him to huff and puff and blow the house down! He also learned the story of Red Riding Hood by watching a retelling of the story on Barney. I just ordered a book for him called "Fairly Fairy Tales" off amazon. Once I read it, I"ll post a review. The pictures look really cute.

  12. The Book Chook20 January, 2011

    That's wonderful, Jackie! Do come back and let us know when the review is up. I think audio versions and movie versions can work really well with literature, and help kids make even more connections with their own lives.

  13. Ok thanks for some great links there, my daughter especially will enjoy these. We have some great (toddler fairy tale books) but finding things online hasn't been so easy. :)

  14. The Book Chook20 January, 2011

    I'm so pleased, Kylie, thanks for letting me know!


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