If you had to write or tell a children's story, right this second, you could probably pull it off. All you'd really have to do is ramble about your day so far, while adding some talking animals here and there. Your story wouldn't be absolutely perfect, though, and you know why? Because you haven't yet read this post. So get to it.
1. Start with endearing characters.
Since children's stories often just involve a cute character wandering around his house or the forest or whatever, it's important to get the character right. Ideally, your character will have an obvious characteristic to demonstrate. For instance, raccoons are curious, always wondering things like, "What's in this bag of garbage?" and, "How far can I scatter this garbage around this SparkLife writer's alley before he chases me away with a broom?"
Conversely, bears are fat and grouchy. You get the idea.
2. Develop a simple conflict.
Your character should face a conflict kids will understand and relate to. Think: what do kids do other than play, eat, sleep, and get lost in supermarkets? Exactly. Not much. So steer clear of abstract concepts and elaborate revenge fantasies.
Ben the Raccoon can display his curiosity about the wildlife he encounters as he finds his way home, ideally without ransacking anyone's trash cans.
3. Do not terrify the children.
You have several goals here, but giving the children nightmares should not be one of them, and if it is, perhaps you should consider a new hobby. So although Ben has to face an obstacle on his way home, it should be one that adds tension without getting you placed on a Child Protective Services watchlist.
4. Resolve the conflict.
This is a children's story, so Ben will always find his way home, where he might befriend Sara the Skunk, even though she stinks. Resist the writer's impulse to be a clever iconoclast. Ben does not get murdered by the mean bee, everything does not turn out to be a flashback, and you do not seize this opportunity to make a larger political point about society's Bee Problem.
Maybe Ben befriends the bee by telling it about his adventures; maybe the bee flies off to sting a hapless SparkLife writer who is just trying to clean up his raccoon-destroyed garbage in peace. Either way, Ben finally gets home, and then immediately goes to sleep without complaint. Getting kids to do this is the whole point of most such stories, anyway.
Are there any other elements of a good children's story that we're missing?
Related Post: Guide for New Fiction Writers