Stories to tell – 12 tips to make storytelling an adventure again
The lockdown has brought an unforeseen challenge - how to entertain children when leaving the house is not an option. Here are 12 tips to engage kids simply by varying how we tell stories.
Doing things together with a parent gives children direction, inspiration, and a sense of security to play independently later. Reading a story together can provide the context for many future games. When a parent gets involved by sharing ideas that will not only support the child’s independence and imagination but will also strengthen their bond. Beyond reading together, in whatever form kids are exposed to stories (cartoons, puppet theatre broadcasts, books, tablets, etc.) the point is that they get immersed and enjoy the world of stories. Here are our top tips to achieve this:
- The classic: snuggling together in an armchair or bed, the parent tells a lullaby, the child listens and falls asleep, everyone’s happy. The lullaby can reflect on the day or a specific topic.
- The imagination starter: Kids love dramatized fairy tales that often have musical inserts in them. Find old ones on video sharing platforms or try recent podcasts.
- The socially responsible: well-known actors and celebrities read compulsory readings and other books online and share them for free.
- The adventurous: the playroom can turn into the location of a fairy tale: the bed into a pirate ship, the blanket into a sail, the pillow into a magic carpet, the cuddly toy into a monster. The children’s favourite story can come to life in an obstacle course, battles or even water rescues can be played out. All you need is a few clues, the rest is up to your imagination. The fewer complicated objects surround children and the more stories they’re told, the easier their imagination is stimulated. Sometimes a little boredom or free play can be a source of inspiration, too.
- The crafty creative: make a paper theatre from leftover coloured paper, and puppets from odd socks and wooden spoons. Creating specific characters gives an additional purpose to your crafting.
- The workout: one of the greatest inventions of the past weeks was story yoga and story dance. The former is a combination of well-known tales and yoga poses, the latter is a creative movement.
- The LEGO challenge: children can build the landscape or scenery of their favourite stories, or compulsory readings, from LEGO or other building blocks. Bold ones can even try building Hogwarts or Arendelle.
- The multi-generational: although grandparents might be far away physically, technology offers opportunities not only for distance learning but also for distance grandparenting, distance storytelling, or even distance babysitting. While you can’t enjoy the results of Nan’s distance cooking, you can still have distance story time together.
- The musical stories: the soundtrack from a musical or a well-known cartoon can be good fun in itself. Lyrics can be retold as poems or stories time and again. Why not listen with children to an instrumental insert and observe which instrument or sound effect might belong to which particular scene? What can happen during a big and loud accord or a quiet violin melody?
- The invention of your own story: write a lockdown journal with children (older kids can do this alone). Imagine your favourite character has landed on an uninhabited island after a shipwreck – tell about the adventures they encounter. Regular reflection on the day helps to highlight the positives, it provides mental and spiritual resources, and is a great composition exercise.
- The developmental digital classics of the 21st century: age appropriate library apps, such as BOOKR Class, offer hundreds of classic and modern interactive stories, combining the benefits of digital books and developmental games. The animation speed may help children with reading comprehension without distracting their attention from the content. Text highlighting and narration are especially useful for children learning to read as they improve the pace of reading and encourage the development of correct pronunciation.
- The „parents on a conference call” cartoon: cartoons and animations on television or YouTube attract children’s attention. If we pay attention to age appropriate content, volume and quality, we block ads, and set a time limit, TV and the internet are not harmful, contrary to many parents’ worry.
Note: a longer version of this article by Zsuzsanna Papp, psychologist and mother of three, was originally published on the BOOKR Class website.