Simple, Spontaneous Storytelling

Story - How the Cockatoo Got it's Yellow Crest

I couldn’t tell you how many stories we tell each other in a day – there are the spontaneous ones that grow as the children are playing (“What if? How about? And then I …”), there are the wonderings we have as a group when we discover something interesting, there are the storybook moments (all snuggled together on the couch with a huge pile of books), there are the reflective stories we share in our Journey Book after rest time, there are the planned stories with props and then there are the slightly more in-the-moment stories, loosely resembling a story we know (or perhaps one I learned and then forgot during the telling – but told it anyway). These last ones are my favourite.

Today’s story was one of those.

Last week, after a beautiful play session at the creek, I told the story of Why the Swamp Hen has a Red Beak, and just at the end of the story, a flock of about eight huge white cockatoos landed on the grass nearby to eat the seeds in the grass. We were fascinated. Clearly they were our next story, but what would it be? We wondered about their beautiful yellow crests, and why they might have yellow feathers only on their heads. Content to leave it there at the wondering, we gathered up our things and walked back to the house.

In the meantime I thought about it a lot, and soon found this story,, which gave me a starting point. But of course, I had forgotten the details  when it came time to tell it, and it blended in with another legend about birds racing each other to the sun, and I had fun imitating the birds in our area, their sounds and flying patterns. I also hadn’t planned to tell the story in the tree house, but what better place to tell a story about birds, when you are sitting in a tree?

We had no props, and we needed a few things, so I looked around at what was up in the tree house with us: a few pegs, some shells, blocks of wood, twigs, some BIG leaves the children had made a BIG nest with, and ourselves, with our hats. We needed a sun so my daughter volunteered her hat, and another child hung it up on a branch so that it was high. We needed birds, and so the twigs, pegs, blocks and shells became our birds. We needed grass and ground, and so the big leaves became the earth we needed, and my hat was blue, which was just perfect for the water bird habitat … and we could act out the birds ourselves of course …so we used our bodies too.

Of course I didn’t realise that I had forgotten the story until after I started, but that didn’t seem to matter. Each time I hesitated, someone suggested a word, or made an action, or we would just all laugh, and then the story would continue with that new prompt. When we share stories this way, we can tell more or less the same story for a week, and still manage to tell it differently every time.

When I finished telling the story, two of the children began gathering twigs and adding more birds to the scene, and climbed up into the branches, screeching. It was so fun. They owned that story, even if I forgot how it went halfway through. And now they have a stronger connection to the birds in our area, the ones they see each time they come to Numala. And guess who came to listen to the story this time? One of the prettiest little Butcher Birds (such an unfortunate name for a beautiful creature who has such a delightful call!) I think we have our next story.