Long Car Rides? Record Audio Stories for Your Grandchild


My three-year-old is obsessed with stories. At breakfast, on the walk to daycare, and above all, on long car rides: “Can I have a stooooory?”

My husband and I can usually conjure a story of a hungry seagull, a brave little girl, or the playground adventures of her favorite stuffed animal. But it’s exhausting crafting plotlines for our insatiable little story-lover.

That’s where Gran’s audio recordings come in. On long car rides, we, the parents, sit quietly in the front of the car while Gran spins tales saved as audio files on our phones, played through Bluetooth. She tells of the ongoing adventures of Max the dog, jungle-gym friendships, and the birthday party ice cream truck — with our kiddo chiming in gleefully from the back seat.

Of course, you can easily acquire downloadable or streamed stories, audio books, and podcasts, but none will be as personal as those created by you and told in your voice.

Grandparents, your stories can help maintain a connection when you’re apart, enrich your grandchild’s imagination, entertain them over and over again — and help parents survive long car rides.

Here’s how to create and record stories:

  1. Vary the length — anywhere from 1–2 mins to 10 minutes. Kids don’t have patience for long, meandering stories so it’s best to keep them short and punchy.  
  2. Don’t worry about inventing the perfect story. The plot truly doesn’t matter; your grandchild will just be delighted to hear your voice. Begin by saying hello, your name, and the date you are recording. That will help preserve it for posterity. Use the present tense in your telling — it makes the story more immediate and real.

A few model plotlines may jog inspiration:

  • The time — imaginary or real — that your grandkid did an activity/had an adventure, for example, built a sandcastle on the beach that got washed away by a wave.
  • A time — imaginary or real — when your grandkid had to be brave, for example, they climbed a tree and couldn’t get down.  
  • Something that happened to your grandchild’s parent, for example, a camping trip where a bear stole the backpack that was hanging outside their tent while they slept (that’s true).
  • A precious stuffed animal or lovey was lost and then found.
  • An animal had a problem, for example, a porcupine was sad because no one wanted to snuggle him, until he became best friends with a spiky pinecone.
  • Anything involving a pet, for example, when a dog jumped up and ate a piece of pizza off the table.
  • Family Jewish holiday tales such as the time your grandchild made their own Purim costume out of dress-ups or when they found the afikoman under Zayde’s chair at the Passover seder — and the prize they got in exchange.
Smiling Afikoman (1)

Another grandmother told me:

My grandson loves when I tell him stories about Winnie the Pooh. They are always related to something that is happening in his life. Pooh needs lots of help so he calls with his problem or dilemma and my grandson gives him a solution. For example, Pooh is in the forest looking for a beehive. He finds one, but it is too high. How is he going to get it?  

Drama, drama, drama! And always relevant to your grandchild’s life.

3. Ask questions or leave gaps in the story for your kiddo to fill in; truly, there’s nothing cuter than hearing a child in the back seat responding to an audio recording. For instance: “Why do you think [character] was sad?” “What are the triangle-shaped pastries we eat on Purim?” (hamantaschen), or “What could [character] do when the thunderstorm was coming?” followed by a pause. Since you obviously can’t hear the child’s response, you might follow the pause with a vague validation like: “You’ve got it!” or “Good idea!” or just “Yes.”

How to record on an iPhone and send to the parent:

  • Open the “Voice Memos” app in the Utilities folder.
  • Tap the red button to start recording.
  • Tap the red square to stop recording. It will then be saved as “New Recording” (possibly followed by a number, like New Recording 3).
  • Tap the words “New Recording” and rename it something else that includes your name and the date.
  • Tap the little circle with ellipses (…) in the top right of the recording to pull up sharing options.
  • Share the recording with your adult child.

By telling audio stories you are giving your grandchild (and the parents!) the gift of story-filled car rides and a time capsule of sweetness.

Julia Kaye is a staff attorney at the ACLU. She lives in Brooklyn and is mom to a three-year-old with a wild-robot-loving imagination.

Photographic Credits
Banner photograph courtesy of Pixabay
Other photographs:
Car seat by Julia Kaye
Climbing tree by Stephanie Fink
Finding afikoman by Terry Kaye