12 Tips & a 21-Day Challenge to make storytelling an adventure again
12 tips on how stories can be moving, inspiring, exciting adventures again now that everyone is having a hard time in lockdown. By Zsuzsanna Papp, psychologist and mother.
Suddenly everything is happening online – the internet and digital devices fill up the homes of even those who used to be able to leave their gadgets at the door. The use of digital devices has become essential for children. There are plenty of challenges in how to keep the kids busy while we’re working from home and manage the home. Here are 12 tips to engage kids in this new situation by varying how we tell tales.
As an added benefit, reading together and storytelling can become a natural part of life in just three weeks.
Are you ready for the challenge?
The rhythm of playing or learning individually or together is the basis of the common family agenda. 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 a context for many future games. If 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 flow in the world of stories. Here are our top tips to achieve this:
1. The classic: snuggling together in an armchair or bed, the parent reads or tells a bedtime story, the child listens and falls asleep, everyone’s happy. The story can reflect on the day or a specific topic (see our article on the therapeutic effect of stories)
2. The imagination starter: radio plays probably had their heyday in the ’80s, we grew up listening to these with my siblings. My kids love these dramatized fairy tales that often have musical inserts in them. You can find old ones on video sharing platforms or try recently made podcasts.
3. The socially responsible: actors came up with the fantastic initiative to record the audio of reading must read books and other stories and share them for free.
4. 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 the kids’ 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.
5. 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.
6. The workout: the greatest invention of the past weeks for us was yoga adventure and dance tale. The former is a dynamic combination of well-known tales and yoga postures, the latter is a creative exercise where a story is told through dance movements.
7. The LEGO challenge: children can build the landscape or scenery of their favourite stories, or must reads, from LEGO or other building blocks. Bold ones can even try building Hogwarts or Arendelle.
8. 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.
9. The musical stories: the soundtrack from musical plays, well-known cartoons, and musicals can be good fun in itself. Lyrics can be retold as poems or stories again 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 to a big and loud accord or a quiet violin melody?
10. 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.
11. The developmental digital classics of the 21st century: BOOKR Class’ library of magical English readers offer hundreds of classic and modern interactive stories, combining the benefits of digital books and developmental games. The perfectly set animation speed helps children with reading comprehension without distracting their attention from the content. The text highlighting and narration features are especially useful for children learning to read as they improve the pace of reading and encourage the development of correct pronunciation.
Concerned about the excessive use of digital devices as a parent? Don’t be! Connect with your kids during screentime instead!
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12. 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 necessarily harmful, contrary to many parents’ worry.
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