Need To Teach Your Little One A Life Lesson? Try Short Moral Stories For Kids

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Mother and child reading a book — short moral stories for kids.
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Got any good moral stories? You know what people love to say to parents: “You only have 18 years. That’s it.” Of course, that’s usually followed by the person saying, “Cherish it.” And it’s generally done as a judgmental response because you dared complain. But let’s put the rest of it aside — you really do only have 18 years with your kids. In that time, you have to turn them from a blob to a fully functioning, kind adult. School lessons and homework help will teach them the basics. Assigning chores will teach them life skills. How do you teach morals, though? How do you make sure your kids are good or ethical creatures? A mere 18 years isn’t long at all. And even if it doesn’t stick, we still want to instill a basic level of goodness in our kids. Moral stories are a great way to do just that.

The hitch? You know, kids have short attention spans, and sometimes those stories are hella long. What we need, at least in the beginning, are “elevator pitches.” Those 10-line stories with morals that you can share with your kids. Something you can drop on them at a moment’s notice: between soccer periods, in the middle of Target, or directly after their first big fib and before they forget all about it.

Believe it or not, there are actually a ton of solid, ages-old moral stories or fables that you can share (and share quickly). Here are a few of our favorite short moral stories, all in 10 lines or less.

Classic Short Moral Stories for Kids

1. “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”

Lesson: No one believes liars.

Once there was a shepherd boy who spent long hours in the field, tending to his sheep. It could get pretty boring out in the field. To pass the time one day, he cried, “Help! Help! A wolf is trying to eat my sheep!” Villagers and friends came running to his rescue, and the boy fell over laughing. “Just kidding! But, since you’re here, do you want to play?” The villagers were annoyed that he interrupted their work in town and left. The next day, the boy got bored and tried again. “Help! Help! There’s a wolf!” Everyone came running to help, and, once again, the boy laughed and admitted that no wolf had come. A few days later, the boy was dozing under a tree when a twig snapped nearby. He opened his eyes to find himself face to face with a wolf! “Help! Help! Wolf!” This time, though, the villagers didn’t come. They wouldn’t be fooled a third time. The wolf ate one of the sheep and left. That evening, as the boy herded his sheep through town, he scolded his neighbors for not coming to his rescue. “Why would we?” asked a friend. “You’d already lied to us twice before, and we had more important work to do than play your games.” The boy promised never to cry “wolf” again unless there really was a wolf.

2. “The Lion and the Mouse”

Lesson: Being kind pays off.

One day while a mighty lion was napping, a tiny mouse ran up and down his body. This woke the lion, who, angry about the mouse ruining his nap, caught the mouse. Just as he was about to eat him, though, the mouse squeaked. “Please don’t eat me!” it said. “I promise that if you spare me now, someday I’ll help you.” The lion wasn’t sure how a tiny mouse could possibly help him, but he let him go. Days later, some hunters came and trapped the lion, tying him to a tree while they went to do more hunting. Just then, the mouse was scurrying by and saw the lion all tied up. Remembering his promise and that he owed the lion a favor, he stopped what he was doing and chewed through the ropes, freeing the lion.

3. “The Golden Touch”

Lesson: Being greedy can actually hurt you.

One day a great and powerful king spotted a magical creature snarled in the brush. The creature asked for help. “I’m a rich and powerful king. I don’t have time to help you,” he said, starting to leave. Then he remembered that the creature could grant wishes. “I’ll help you. But only if you give me a wish.” The creature agreed, and the king cut him free. “I wish to turn everything I touch to gold,” the greedy king said. And so, his wish was granted. He was so happy. He knew that with that power, soon enough, he could turn everything gold. He’d be the richest king ever! When he got home, his daughter was thrilled to see him and came running to hug him. In the king’s excitement, he scooped up his princess, ready to tell her how they were about to be even richer — except his touch turned her to solid gold, too. The king spent the rest of his life looking for a way to wish his daughter back to life, willing to give up all his gold to be able to hug his princess again.

4. “The Tortoise and the Hare”

Lesson: Slow and steady wins the race.

A tortoise and a hare lived in the same meadow. Every day, the hare laughed as the tortoise trudged slowly about his daily duties. Meanwhile, the hare raced through his chores and had plenty of time to play. One day, the tortoise challenged the hare to a race. “You want to race me? You’re so slow. You’ll lose!” Still, they raced. At the start of the race, the hare left the tortoise in his dust and, just to add insult to injury, decided to stop and take a nap at the halfway point. “I’ll let the tortoise pass me napping, and then I’ll run after him and beat him,” the hare said. Except he didn’t. The tortoise moved slowly, steadily, and quietly past the napping hare, who didn’t wake up when he passed him. The tortoise crossed the race’s finish line and was quietly celebrating when the hare awoke from his nap and came racing through, but he was too late. He lost.

5. “The Ants and the Grasshopper”

Lesson: Always be prepared.

A grasshopper and an ant bump into each other on a dirt path. As the ant rushes past a grasshopper, the green jumper asks the ant why he’s working so hard. The ant tells him it’s because he’s storing food for the winter. The grasshopper laughs and replies that it’s summer and that he should worry about winter when it comes. When winter does arrive, the grasshopper starves while the ant is prepared.

6. “The Crow and the Pitcher”

Lesson: Think outside the box.

A crow was flying around the forest, and was very thirsty. After searching for hours, he still could find nothing to drink. Suddenly he saw a pitcher filled with water, but it had a very narrow neck. And so the crow still could not reach the water. Then, he noticed pebbles around the pitcher, and picked them up one by one and dropped them into the pitcher. When the water rose to the tip of the pitcher, and the crow could finally quench its thirst.

7. “The Wind and the Sun”

Lesson: Sometimes gentle persuasion is mightier than force.

The wind and the sun were arguing about who was the strongest and decided to settle it by making a bet. A man walked down the road with a coat on, and whoever could remove the coat from the man’s back would prove their strength and win. The wind went first and blew his strongest winds at the man, but he held on to his hat and coat tightly. Exhausted, the wind gave up. Then the sun tried and simply shined his rays down on the man. He didn’t increase his heat or exert any effort. Overwhelmed by the warm weather, the man removed his coat.

How do you find the moral of the story?

The “moral” of the story is the takeaway or what you get out of it. Or, in this particular case, the lesson you can learn. The easiest solution is to look at the characters, find what they’ve done repeatedly, and how and why they change their behavior at the end. This video from textbook makers Mcgraw Hill (where the dad sounds oddly like Nick Offerman) does a great job of explaining how to find the moral.

How do you write a moral story for kids?

Writing any story requires a certain level of imagination and creativity. Add in a specific moral that you’re trying to teach along with a length requirement, and things get overwhelming. To write a moral story, you should start with deciding what the moral should be. Consider real-life scenarios of how you’ve seen that moral in practice. From there, take your real-life story and find a way to make it more relatable to kids. You can do this by making the main character younger or including funny-named animals. Lean into things they enjoy doing or playing. Most importantly, you’ll want to keep your story short and sweet.

So You Want To Write has great tips for writing a short story, including:

  • Start as close to the end as possible.
  • Keep the number of characters small.
  • Give the reader someone to root for.
  • Suggest a backstory, but don’t elaborate.
  • Keep up the pace.

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