How to write a bedtime story for kids with ChatGPT
Children’s librarians and booksellers offer an unparalleled wealth of knowledge. You might ask for a picture book for a child whose interests include: Football and Dinosaursor a graphic novel about a girl navigating the social dynamics of middle school like her preparing for her bat mitzvahand they can show you exactly what you are looking for.
With ChatGPT, you and your kids can now create your own stories to your personal specifications, and make them as crazy or as serious as you like. The results lack the artistic merit of the titles found on library shelves, but the design of the prompts and reading the stories together make for a fun family activity – think Mad Libs taken to the next level. Technology also allows parents who aren’t typically writers to create stories that relate specifically to an upcoming transition or challenge their child is facing, and supplement them with familiar elements or favorite characters.
Spice up bedtime with fresh new stories
Gavin Braman is a father to two children, ages 7 and 4. As a creative agency owner, he started playing around with ChatGPT for work-related tasks shortly after its release. Then he figured out how to use it to entertain his kids.
“One of our bedtime rituals is to read or tell a story. And so I had the kids in bed and I was like, ‘Hey, let’s try ChatGPT and see what kind of story we can come up with.’”
As he began creating a prompt in the app, he realized this was the perfect opportunity for audience participation.
“I don’t have to make this stuff up. I’m going to get my kids to give me characters,” Braman told HuffPost.
The collaboratively created prompt begins as follows:
“Write a 7 minute story for my kids. They are 4 and 6. Add a character who is a transformer and can transform into anything. . . Also add a character who is a Merkittycorn that is part mermaid, part cat, and part corn. Her name is Elsa and she has the same powers as Elsa from the movie. And Elsa has a friend, a rabbit named Cotton Ball.”
In fact, the instructions are almost more delightful to read than the resulting story, which is enough for a laugh but not for the Newberry Award.
Here’s an example sentence: “One day, while exploring a dense jungle, they came across a giant T-Rex. The T-Rex was angry and hungry and not happy to see them. But Bumble quickly transformed into a giant sandwich and distracted the T-Rex long enough for the others to escape.”
The story is interesting at the level of what happened next, the novelty being that the AI made those decisions. However, it lacks visual language, in-depth character development, and attention to crafting, leading Braman to describe the AI stories as “OK” and “not great.”
Overall, however, Braman and his kids enjoyed the activity and he posted one Videos on Instagram He detailed what he called his first parenting hack. Braman suggested that not only should the children come up with the characters and the setting, but also: “Whatever your child is struggling with, you put that into it as well.”
For example, you could ask to “get some basic messages about not being a jerk to your brother.”
Interestingly, comments on Braman’s post were split between support and criticism. Some people said they tried it too, or thought it sounded fun and harmless. Others, true to the reputation of internet commentators, accused Braman of being lazy, stifling creativity and allowing robots to raise his children.
What ChatGPT can and cannot do
In trying this out myself, I found that there is an art to writing the prompts to get as close as possible to the story you’re hoping for; While it’s not the same as making up your own stories, it does take a certain amount of skill and practice. The more skilled you become and the more work you put in, the higher the quality of the results.
On my first try, I went heavily in the didactic direction and asked ChatGPT to write a story for a third grader about a unicorn princess who learns that friendship is worth more than material things.
Chat GPT named my main character Celeste and gave her “a lustrous mane and a heart full of dreams”.
But I hadn’t finished reading the second paragraph of the story when my third year’s eyes glazed over.
“Too long!” “She explained, snatching the phone out of my hand to demand a story about a preschooler who ‘loves poop.’
Later, as I read through the story that spawned my own intuition, I found that it was full of clichés – “heart swelled with gratitude” – and had a tendency to show rather than tell the character’s feelings revealing them through description, plot, etc. Dialogue. As Braman said, the story “isn’t great,” although I’ll admit that if I found it anywhere, I wouldn’t be able to tell it wasn’t written by a human (though not a particularly talented one).
My daughter’s desire to defecate produced a few pearls in its worn-out language. For example: “Timmy had a unique fascination — one that made him giggle and smile more than anything in the world. You know, Timmy had an extraordinary fondness for feces.”
For my next try, I wanted a story in the style of Anna Dewdney (from “Llama Llama”Fame) about a young skunk who learns to be gentle with his little sister. In this case, it’s clear that ChatGPT understands the concept of rhyme, but missed the lesson of syllable counting. The rhythm just isn’t there, resulting in amateur bling like:
“As days turned into weeks,
Stanley’s love began to grow
He understood the importance of being gentle,
Tips for using ChatGPT with kids
Frank Milner, President of the Tutoring Service private doctortold HuffPost that the most successful stories probably come from detailed prompts when parents write stories with their kids on ChatGPT.
“Indicate the characters, locations, plot points, or themes you want to see,” Milner said. “If there is relevant background information or context for the story, share it with the prompt.”
You can “create narrative structure and direction,” he said, by articulating “a conflict, a challenge to be met, or a specific goal for the characters.”
Milner also recommended encouraging description and sensory language and giving a word count or length – Braman used time, as in “a 5 minute story”.
Well-written prompts lead to higher-quality stories, but since ChatGPT types a new story for you in seconds, it’s easy to learn from your mistakes and keep typing revised prompts until you get what you’re looking for.
Milner mentions that you can take turns writing prompts for scenes or parts of the story with your children, Milner mentions.
In addition to the bedtime stories, Braman has also used ChatGPT to create scavenger hunts for his kids around the house and a game he calls “Adventure Walk” that he likened to Dungeons & Dragons.
There are many ways parents can use ChatGPT for both fun and learning. If you have a long drive ahead of you or have to wait at the doctor’s office, it could be just the ticket. Milner suggested the following:
- Ask him for a prompt/outline for the story and the student will write the story
- Create a recipe and prepare the dish
- Help kids break down larger tasks and choose which ones to tackle first
- Ask ChatGPT to survey them to help them study for a test
- Create a trivia game for family game night
- Drawing Prompts: Ask ChatGPT to write a description of a new creature and draw the creature based on the description
- Discover poetry by asking Chat GPT to generate rhymes, or even a poetry challenge where AI and child alternate lines
- Children interested in coding can use Chat GPT to seek help with coding concepts
- Kids can use Chat GPT to discuss environmental issues and come up with solutions to pollution and sustainability
Stories for therapeutic learning
Cindy Grahama child psychologist practicing in Maryland, told HuffPost that ChatGPT could be a new resource for creating materials for children with autism.
“I use a special category of stories and picture books with autistic clients called social stories‘ Graham told HuffPost. “Because autistic people struggle with social dynamics that aren’t concrete, social stories are a great way to present that information in a more understandable context.”
For example, social stories can show children taking turns, raising hands before speaking, or giving others personal space.
For all children, Graham said, “Stories are an excellent way to make coping strategies easy to understand and relate to.” They also “capture children’s natural inclination to play, thereby helping the child learn without feeling like it’s… ‘being taught’,” Graham continued.
She said social stories for kids of all kinds could be made more readily available via ChatGPT without parents having to “scour the web for stories.”
However, since ChatGPT is not always accurate, it may not always be appropriate either. So, be sure to read everything before presenting it to your children. If you’re struggling with a tricky challenge, you can even ask your child’s counselor or therapist to read the story before you tell it to your child.
Maybe my kids are a little too old for some of these more didactic uses of ChatGPT stories – or maybe I just need to refine my prompts further. At my house, we’ll probably try ChatGPT again when we have some time to kill together.
After I hadn’t shown much interest in my unicorn story or even her own poop story, my daughter and I snuggled up in bed together and read from one of her favorite series, The Babysitter’s Club. She prefers the newer Graphic novel versions of the original books by Ann M. Martin which I devoured at her age and our whole family loved the updated Netflix series. After all, there are many ways to tell the same story.