Throughout history, stories for kids have always existed. They’re concise, fun, but most importantly, they carry a message within them. Some sort of moral, a lesson to pull from the shortcomings of the character in focus.
Sometimes these characters end up learning their own lesson, and sometimes they are severely punished, depending on whose tales we look at.
In older times they were myths of mysterious beings or ancient heroes, short stories that spoke of characters with flaws.
These myths later grew into what we know as fairy tales.
You have moral stories that run in the family – random folktales nobody has heard about but you know really well because your mother told it to you who got told it from her mother, and so on and so forth.
And you also have the more notable ones, famous children’s stories from either Aesop’s Fables, Hans Christian Andersen’s story books, fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm, etc.
All of these, while entertaining, are still based on a crucial moral story and message.
And the best part? You can never be too old for them – there are classic books and stories for people of all ages, they just change their form as we get older.
So without further ado, let’s see which of them are the most recognizable.
Great Stories For Kids With Morals
1. King Midas And The Golden Touch
Most of us are familiar with the story of King Midas of Phrygia.
This was an ancient Greek myth where the king had taken in one of the satyrs from the god Dionysus after he had been partying a bit too hard.
He treated him well and upon his arrival to Dionysus, the king was to be rewarded with anything.
The king wished to be able to turn anything into solid gold with merely a touch, so his wish was granted.
He liked it at first, but upon realization that he could no longer sample food or drink, he realized that his gift was actually a curse.
In a later rendition, he had even turned his daughter to gold, a truly ghastly sight for the man who had then begged the god to revoke his gift, to which he agreed, but unfortunately, even the river designated to do so had turned to gold as well.
The moral of the story is rather clear: Greed is a great vice and can consume a person’s life completely. We should know how to temper it and to be humble in our ways.
While not the greatest story for young kids since they might not understand, it is a good way to relay important facts of life to older children, around 9-10+ or so.
2. The Myth Of Icarus
Yet another Grecian myth for all of you to look at, and this time it’s the myth of Icarus, a young man imprisoned along with his father Daedalus in the ever-famous labyrinth of the Minotaur that Daedalus himself built (different myth).
So, in order to escape the labyrinth, Daedalus had constructed two sets of wings, one for each of them.
He had warned his son to neither fly too high nor too low lest he’d fall out of the sky and drown.
Sadly, Icarus did not listen and was too captivated by the freedom and the Sun’s bright shine, which caused him to fly too high up and the wax to melt.
The wings fell apart and poor Icarus ended up in the sea where he drowned.
A tragic tale, as most Greek myths tend to be, but another educational one, teaching us about the importance of rules and why they are there in the first place, and how ignoring these rules can have potentially grave consequences.
Again, I wouldn’t recommend telling this to your youngest, but once they are around 8 or so, it should be pretty alright to do so.
3. Snow White
Let’s move off of myths for now and focus on something a tad lighter. Well, at least for the kid-friendly versions.
The story of Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs written by the Brothers Grimm.
The story focuses on the titular character, Snow White, a pretty young girl, as her mother chases her out of the castle for being “fairer than thou,” even going so far as to hire a hunter to kill the poor girl.
Thankfully, the huntsmen in almost all Brothers Grimm stories are good guys, so he lets Snow White go, opting to show the stepmother a deer’s heart as proof instead.
So she runs and eventually finds the house of seven dwarves, and finds her own home there with them.
Time goes by and the stepmother soon realizes what has occured. Shen then decides to do the job herself, which she kind of manages.
She disguises herself as an old lady and sells Snow White a poisoned apple, which she in turn eats and falls into a deep sleep, one which can only be broken by the kiss of true love.
The dwarves find her and organize a funeral for her in a glass casket, saddened by the fact.
But, as luck would have it, Prince Charming arrives and sets everything straight, saving her with a kiss that ejects the apple out of her throat and wakes her up.
A more “happily ever after” story compared to the tragedies of Greek myth, but it still carries a good, yet simple moral to itself.
Do not trust strangers. Surely you won’t end up with a poisoned apple, but there are rather heavy extremes out here.
4. Little Red Riding Hood
The story of Little Red Riding Hood is a children’s book of similar tone, where a young girl named after the red cloak that she wears goes off through the woods to deliver her grandma some sweets (and even wine, depending on which version you’re retelling).
In any case, before she leaves, her mother warns her to not stop for anyone, as talking to strangers is bad.
Little Red nods, but doesn’t end up heeding the advice as the Big Bad Wolf comes about and manages to persuade her to talk.
She divulges that she’s going to her sickly grandma and the wolf takes a shortcut over to her, eating grandma whole before disguising himself as her.
When Little Red arrives, she questions grandma’s appearance and the wolf eats her as well.
Luckily for them, the huntsman had heard their cries and ran over quickly.
He grabs the wolf and either kills him or tears his stomach open to release grandma and Little Red before he fills it up with rocks and sews it back (again, depends on which version) before throwing him aside.
Once again, a happy ending that teaches us about what trusting strangers and letting them manipulate us can do.
Not everyone can be as lucky as Little Red Riding Hood to have a huntsman protecting them all the time.
5. A Christmas Carol
Yes, even Christmas stories have powerful moral messages behind them and the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge is no different.
It is a story that tells us of an old man, Ebenezer Scrooge.
A heartless individual who remained a greedy and heartless man throughout his later life, refusing to donate to others in need of funds for food and heating because he deemed them slackers, not realizing they were just less fortunate than he was.
But, he is taught his lesson once his former business partner and fellow miser, James Marley – or rather his ghost – arrives to him one night before Christmas, alongside the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, to show him the folly of his ways.
One shows it through recalling the events of the past and how his fiancee had left him due to his love for money.
Another shows him a sickly young boy who needed aid right now otherwise he’d die, as well as happy families gathering around for Christmas dinner.
And the final one shows him how everyone in town celebrates his death and the only people who visit his grave were people who came only if they got something in return.
This ghastly show of what being greedy and heartless does to a man forced Scrooge to change his ways and become more benevolent and kind to others, saving Tiny Tim from the cold and turning over a new leaf altogether.
A rather short story – heck, probably shorter than my own description – and a rather famous one, showing how greed and an overwhelming love for money leaves one empty and soulless.
The story even coined a term for it: Scrooge.
The story shows how compassion and kindness are worth a whole lot more than material possessions and should be cherished as such.
That we should never forsake them for any sort of material gain if it means betraying your loved ones.
6. Jack And The Beanstalk
Another famous tale among parents and kids alike is the story of Jack and the Beanstalk.
One might wonder what kind of moral this story could possibly carry, but trust me, one is hidden within still.
It’s a story about Jack and his mother, on the brink of poverty with only a small house and a cow to their name.
Jack is sent out to try and sell the cow for money, but he sees an opportunity as a seller offers him magic beans for the cow.
A rather silly move – one which none of us would probably do – but Jack is desperate and sees an opportunity in it, so he agrees to the trade.
His mother doesn’t see the same though and had expected money, so she throws them out the window in an outrage and Jack heads to bed, saddened.
But, the next day, he sees that the beans were indeed magical and have grown into a giant beanstalk that stretches beyond the clouds.
Jack, determined to redeem himself in his mother’s eyes, climbs up it to find a giant home in the skies.
He enters inside and finds out it is home to a literal giant – one who just so happens to be living the high life (literally and figuratively), having all of the commodities a normal house would have.
But, what catches Jack’s eye is the goose that lays golden eggs and Jack decides to risk it and take the goose, causing the giant to notice and chase him down the beanstalk.
Jack makes it down first with the goose and chops the beanstalk down, ridding himself of the giant and living a life of leisure with his mother.
Now, this is a story with a somewhat darker ending, at least for the giant, but the moral of the story here is that life is not without its risks and that we should take advantage of any opportunity given to us.
While it was greatly embellished in this story, we should still know that not all opportunities will be our own “golden goose,” but we should always persevere and try again, giving it our all. It’s sure to pay off sometime.
7. The Three Little Pigs
One of many famous nursery rhymes by James Halliwell-Phillipps, this is a story of three porker brothers who are sent out to build a life for themselves by their mother.
One builds his home out of hay and the second one builds it out of sticks, because they wanted to rush to get settled in.
Meanwhile, the last pig takes his time and builds himself a house of brick and mortar.
The error of the first two pigs’ ways appears in the form of the Big Bad Wolf, the ever-present bad guy in many a tale.
He huffs and puffs and blows it all away as he would put it – blowing the house of straw away easily and watching the pig escape to the other brother.
The stick house goes down just as easily, forcing the two brothers to retreat to their third, where they all hide while the wolf fails to bring this sturdy house down.
After many failed attempts to try and bait them out, he opts for the chimney, which ends up to be his hubris as he gets stuck in it and is taught a lesson.
Depending on the version, he is either cooked alive and eaten in an ironic twist, or he gets burned and vows to never hunt the pigs again.
Seeing as these are stories for kids, one would try and resort to the non-brutal option, but it’s up to you on how you present it to your kids.
A lot of these stories have many details that can be molded to a form you see fit.
The moral of the story in this case is the fact that patience, hard work, and a cool head pay off.
Whereas the first two brothers didn’t have any of these traits, the third did and he made it off real well while his brothers didn’t (in some versions they get eaten too, but like I said, open to interpretation).
It was his hard work and dedication that ended up saving them in the end.
8. The Princess And The Pea
Now, here’s a story from the famous storyteller, Hans Christian Andersen, carrying a slightly different meaning behind it compared to the other ones before it.
It is a story of a prince who seeks to marry a princess, but is having problems finding the right one, since every one that he meets is simply lacking in something, whether it be table manners, a moral compass, or something else.
But one rainy night, a young woman claiming to be a princess comes to his door.
She is offered shelter and a place to sleep, a place where the prince’s mother, the Queen, decides to test this claim by placing a pea in-between a large stack of feather beds (numbers vary based on version) – because only a true princess could feel the slightest of changes.
Something which this one does.
The prince rejoices at the find and he ends up marrying her, complete with the happily ever after, as most stories do.
While told in a very roundabout way, the story, as per Andersen’s own words, is meant to teach about emotional sensitivity, how a princess is meant to sense even the slightest of changes in her people and react accordingly, a trait that only a true princess would possess.
Even though the moral teaches one about the qualities of a princess, this doesn’t mean the moral is limited to girls only.
Boys can resonate with it too, just change the positions around – simple enough.
Let the prince be the one coming in from the rain.
That’s the beauty of all of these stories – their innate flexibility without having to change the conveyed message.
9. The Ugly Duckling
The Ugly Duckling is yet another of many beautiful stories for kids by Hans Christian Andersen.
It is a story of a young duck who hatches on a farm, looking all brown and dirty compared to his brother ducklings.
tHis appearance is deemed ugly by the other animals on the farm and he has to endure countless hours of mocking and laughter at his expense, leaving the poor guy miserable.
It takes him several years of swapping homes and a great number of various people rejecting him until the poor guy finally finds his rightful home by pure happenstance.
He sees a flock of swans and thought it’d be better to be ended by such beautiful birds than live life as an ugly one.
But, lo and behold, he is accepted by them and made aware that he isn’t actually born a duckling, but a swan – his egg just got lost on the farm by accident.
He then grows into a beautiful swan and ends up joining his fellow flock by flying off into the sunset.
The story carries two meanings within itself; one more obvious, one less so.
The obvious one is one that teaches us about personal growth, about how we can always be better than the people around us, and that that in and of itself houses a true, inner beauty. Which leads me to the second one.
The second moral (the less obvious one) tells us how true beauty, or the true value of someone, comes from within and that one should never judge based on appearance alone, but the actions one takes.
For these very reasons, The Ugly Duckling went into my roster of great stories that I ended up telling my kids when they were little – especially when they were sad, to help them lift their spirits with the story’s thoughtful words.
10. Goldilocks And The Three Bears
This one is a bit crude in its meaning, but manages to carry one nonetheless.
It is a story of a family of three bears: Mama Bear, Papa Bear and Baby Bear.
It shows us a day in their life when they make porridge, but it ends up being too hot so they go out for a walk before returning, letting it cool off.
During this time, a young girl named Goldilocks arrives at their home and enters it when they aren’t around, tasting the various porridges and sitting in the chairs, deeming them too warm, too hot, or just right, and in the process breaking the small chair belonging to Baby Bear.
The same plays out with the beds, where one is too small, too big, or just right as she ends up taking a nap in one of them.
During this time, the bears return and find this chaos in their home, leading Baby Bear to cry. They find the intruder and have her face her judgment.
In the original, the girl just escapes (and it was an old woman before), but in one of the adapted versions, she faces her judgment and decides to become a better person, making it up to the bears and “serving out her sentence” in a way, by helping them repair the mess.
Initially, the story was just meant to teach the kids about comparison.
That’s where the too warm, too hot, just right bits come in, But the revised ending also adds a second meaning, a deeper one – that crime doesn’t pay, or rather that you should always face the consequences of your actions and own up to them.
11. The Boy Who Cried Wolf
Yet another one of Aesop’s fables and quite a famous one at that.
The boy who cried wolf is a story of a young shepherd boy coming from a village who continuously gave people false alarms of a wolf arriving in town to eat all of their sheep.
This was, of course, done so he could slack off – each repeated lie making the townsfolk lose more and more trust in the boy until there was none left to place in him.
So when the wolf actually did arrive and he finally told the truth, nobody believed him and all of their sheep were eaten.
In some versions, the boy was too, but you’re the one choosing which adaptation of the tale you’ll be telling your kids.
The moral of this story is quite obvious at least. It is one that teaches us about the harsh punishments of lying and the value of trust.
The point about lying is that liars don’t get rewarded and that trust, once lost, is a hard thing to gain back; so watch out the next time you cry wolf to your friends and family, as nobody appreciates lies.
Definitely an important lesson if you want your kids to stay on the straight and narrow as this story, while simple and rather short, was still one of the more influential ones in both mine and my kids’ childhoods (at least I think they haven’t lied to me so far!)
12. The Tortoise And The Hare
Speaking of short bedtime stories that teach us valuable lessons, The Tortoise And The Hare does so rather well itself.
If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a story of how the rabbit, a local braggart, wants to race the turtle.
The turtle readily accepts and a race is set.
The rabbit is the clear winner between the two given their characteristics, but because the rabbit was so sure in his victory, he decides to take a nap right before the finish line while the tortoise soldiers on slowly.
The rabbit sleeps a bit too long and he wakes up to the tortoise winning the race.
Now, this is a rather funny story on its own for the silly way it was resolved, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t carry a lovely message that teaches us that slow and steady wins the race.
This is a point taken directly from the story itself, as well as that while confidence is fine, overconfidence can be a person’s greatest weakness.
13. The Emperor’s New Clothes
If you’re familiar with the work of Hans Christian Andersen, then chances are you’ve also read about The Emperor’s New Clothes.
A rather silly tale that talks about two swindlers who mask themselves as tailors, put to work on creating a new set of clothes for the emperor made by a “special thread” that only people who are stupid could not see, or so they claim.
In reality they were just that – swindlers – and this mystical thread did not exist, but rather they were pretending to be working with it whenever someone came to check up on them.
But nobody dared speak up about it in fear of being called dumb and incompetent.
Fast forward a bit and we see these new clothes “complete,” the emperor himself not being able to see it for obvious reasons and yet pretending he can, as does the rest of his court.
He decides to go out and parade his new attire out into the world and, again, everyone sees him waltz around in only his underwear, but none dare speak up.
Nobody but one child who points it out and gets laughed at, but the king realizes himself that he was indeed tricked and has the swindlers punished.
The minor moral here is that, again, crime doesn’t pay and that lying will catch up to you eventually, but the main point of the story is that you should not let fear or some sense of pride prevent you from speaking up and stating your opinion.
Everyone has the right to voice their own regardless of peer pressure; the majority is not always right.
One might argue that another point is that children do this more often as they’re not afraid of being judged too often, but as we grow older we become more and more self-conscious and afraid to do so.
14. The Myth Of Sisyphus
Cycling back to some more Greek mythology, we have the ever-relevant myth of the ancient Greek king, Sisyphus – a cruel man who was punished by the gods and sentenced to forever be pushing a large boulder up a mountain only for it to fall down every time he’d near the top.
At first, it was an arduous and grueling task that Sisyphus resented, but, as time went on, he learned to accept his punishment and find joy within it, his frown turning into a smile as he made the best of it, continuously pushing the boulder up the mountain for eternity.
Now, one might find it odd that someone would consider this to have a good moral, but that’s just how Grecian myths were, pulling tenets about life from misery.
In this case, the moral would be that we should always try and find the best of things, especially in things we cannot avoid – to learn how to cope with them, as that will make our lives feel less miserable and all the easier to stomach.
A valuable lesson to pick up for anyone, especially considering the way our modern society works.
The moral being a fundamental trait that everyone ought to have if they wished to go through life with a lot less stress.
15. Hansel And Gretel
A tale by the Brothers Grimm, Hansel and Gretel is a story that tends to be rather “grim” (no pun intended), depending on the version you’re dealing with, but such is the truth for all Grimm tales.
This one starts off during a time of great famine where Hansel, Gretel, their father, and their mean stepmother are living together.
One day when they realize they might not be able to survive the winter, the stepmother persuades their father to lead the kids to the forest so they don’t have to feed them and so they could survive the famine.
The father reluctantly agrees. Thankfully, the two overhear this and Hansel gathers up some pebbles to use for retracing their steps.
The next day, the fated event happens and they’re left alone in the woods, but unbeknownst to the dad, Hansel had been dropping the white pebbles along the forest ground and he and Gretel use it to find their way back home.
The stepmother is surprised while the father is relieved that they managed.
The next time around, however, famine strikes again, but there are no pebbles to be found, so they have to resort to bread crumbs, a fatal error as they realize the birds have eaten the crumbs and they don’t have a way back anymore.
So they wander the woods in search of food and shelter until they come across a whole house made out of candy, gingerbread, and all sorts of goodies.
The two take their fill until an old lady comes out of it when they stop.
The woman tells them it’s alright and to eat to their hearts’ content, saying they could live with her and that she’d feed them in exchange for doing chores.
Little did they know that the witches intent was to secretly fatten them up and eat them once they were nice and plump.
So a bit of time goes by and Hansel is put in a cage while Gretel is told to stoke the oven for “baking bread.”
Luckily, Gretel wisens up to her plan and tricks the witch into stepping into the oven herself before she shuts the door on her, leaving the witch to burn away while freeing her brother from imprisonment.
After a bit of searching, they find the witch’s treasure hoard and take it back home where they find their father alone as their mother had passed from unknown causes.
The father is relieved and the three live happily ever after with the riches they amassed, as per fairytale rules.
While the story line seems all over the place, the moral of it is that one should never trust strangers, no matter what they offer you (even if it’s candy), and that family should stick together, through thick and thin, as you’ll regret not doing so sooner or later.
16. Androcles And The Lion
And to cap this list off is the tale of Androcles and the Lion. Despite the name, it is not another Grecian or Roman myth, but rather another one of Aesop’s many fables and wonderful stories for kids.
One that tells the story of a runaway slave, Androcles, a Roman man who flees his master and has to fend for himself on the outskirts of town.
He doesn’t do that great of a job and is on the brink of starvation when he finds a solitary cave to sleep in.
Everything goes alright until he awakens to the sound of low roaring – only to find a lion staring him down.
The man is utterly terrified, but soon realizes the lion isn’t roaring to threaten him, but rather to get his attention as he seems to be in great pain.
Despite his great fear and hunger, the man approaches the lion and, upon inspection, notices a thorn sticking out from his paw.
Androcles removes it swiftly and the lion is ever grateful to him. The two become the best of friends; the lion takes care of Androcles, bringing him food every day to sustain him.
It’s not long though until Roman guards find Androcles and take him back to Rome where his punishment is to be carried out: He must fight a lion in the Colosseum – as ironic as that sounds given his earlier relationship.
And so, he is tossed into the ring to the sound of hungry lions, but, once the door to the lion cage opens, he sees that it is his old friend, the lion from the cave.
The two hug it out in front of the whole crowd who are stunned to see that a man and a lion could be such great friends.
Androcles turns to them and explains how this lion is the only friend he has ever known and how humans have never treated him kindly.
To this statement, the entire crowd demands they be let free, which ends up happening and the two go on to live out their lives outside of the city.
While the point of the story might not be as obvious as in the Grimm Tales or some of Andersen’s work, the point here is that the nobleness of a soul is measured by the amount of gratitude it presents, not by the wealth it accumulates.
Even the king of the animal kingdom wasn’t beneath asking for help and thanking a man, nor was Androcles beneath helping someone despite being deathly afraid.
The Moral Of This Story
These are only a few of the countless stories out there and many of them are appropriate for children (and adults) of all ages.
And it’s not just fairy tales, picture books, or bedtime stories that will do this – plenty of modern stories carry powerful meanings behind them while still remaining entertaining.
And not just written ones, but even mediums like movies, comic books, and cartoons manage to do so as well.
So don’t hesitate to curate a list for your offspring when they’re young; they’ll take care of the learning when they’re a bit older themselves.
Heck, there are even stories for kids online nowadays, so you don’t have to even go out of your way to buy most of them.
What I would suggest (at least the plan that I had laid out for my son and daughter) is to start them off with some of the simpler stories – The Tortoise And The Hare, Little Red Riding Hood, and the like – then slowly transition into some age-appropriate cartoons.
That’s about the stage where mine are at now.
Once they reach 9-10 years of age and can grasp the meanings a bit better, I’d start using movies or the Greek myths to explain some more mature things to them.
And, after they hit puberty, I’d just let them explore on their own, but still be there for guidance should they need something.
As simple as that.
I do hope this list has helped you see the importance of stories for your little ones.
As silly as they might seem on the surface, they are still a crucial part of growing up as both a source of entertainment and education.
Until next time, my dear mamas.
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