Christmas is filled with stories. Many of these we look forward to revisiting year after year, from watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas to turning on the Christmas Story marathon to re-reading the classic books like Twas the Night Before Christmas to our kiddos. But how about inspiring our children to create their own stories?
We all want to encourage imaginative play in our young ones, because any kind of “pretend” play is more than just playing. There is lots of data out there on the long-lasting importance of pretend-play, including developing strong language and social skills, improving problem solving and self-regulation, fostering creativity, and teaching positive behavior.
Oh – and most importantly, it’s fun.
With all the gift-giving going on this time of year, these parents here at Playper agree that there’s incredible value in toys and activities that contribute to developing little ones into future storytellers. There’s just so much stimulation happening this time of year anyway that making sure kids have something where they can retreat into their beautiful minds and explore their creative side is much appreciated by both kids and parents.
Six Gifts That Encourage Story Telling
Yes, we’re starting with our own toy, but we’ve felt the magic of this product in our own homes. Our CEO Webb has used it with his 5 year-old twins to help with their speech development and one of our co-founders, Susy Christiansen, was testing the product, when her two teens came by the office, an impromptu story soon started, and pretty soon her whole family was playing along and having a great time. It’s truly a ‘fun for all ages’ type of activity. Our Story Starters card set is that rare activity that adults will like as much as the young kid it was gifted to. The best-selling Curious Kingdom Story Starters is really learning disguised as play: it nurtures budding storytellers but also encourages vocabulary development, discussions, and social interaction. It comes with 40 cards made up of a character card (person), a location card (place), and then an object card (thing). Plus, there’s a blank card to create your own something (let your imagination run wild!). There’s no reading required, and young ones can play this with grownups, friends, or by themselves. It’s a simple product with tons of opportunity for creative expression and unending fun.
Bluey Imagination Case • $35.99 • Bluey
We love everything that comes out of the Bluey world and does this one fit the theme of this blog! This activity case is chock full of supplies for imaginative play, storytelling, and creative expression. In addition to the games and crafts, there are finger puppets and Bluey masks that you use to create your own Heeler family world and tell your own stories. Bonus: it travels easily. Tip for beginners: Have them act out a story they have seen on TV to get them started, and then use that as a bridge to have them create their own.
Create-A-Story Paper Center • $59.99 • Lakeshore
This is appealing on many different levels, including the physicality of rolling from one section (or part of the story) to another. There are lines for them to write a story below where they then illustrate it. We suggest discussing the story you’re making up first and try to keep it short (five sheets). For those too young to write, take their dictation and then have them illustrate it … or better yet, have them draw five images and then have you write the story. It has a sturdy hardwood center and a safe cutting edges for its 500 feet of paper.
Let’s Play School • $59.99 • Lakeshore
Who doesn’t want to be the teacher, giving all those orders and such! This impressively realistic set of 65 pieces has all the fun supplies kids need, like a 21" chalkboard, pointer, tests, roll book and much more. For extra fun parents and older siblings can sit and be the students. For a prompt, have them act out something that their teacher did and ask them that for that day’s “class” to teach something they know about.
UNBORED Disguise Kit • $34.95 • Mindware
This clever kit is based on the popular Unbored book series, which are full of creative story-telling ideas in their own right. But this kit can stand on its own which is why we like it so much. If the younger ones are blocked, pick a costume, and provide them with a basic premise (“you’re a secret agent saving the world” or “you’re a pirate looking for buried treasure”). The fun includes sideburns, mustaches, and beards; glasses, gloves, gauze, an eye patch, fake teeth and temporary tattoos can be mixed and matched to make both serious and silly disguises.
The Dinner Table
Finally, there’s your holiday dinner table. It is likely filled with family members you don’t get to visit with all the time. At the end of the meal, rather than watch the little ones run off and do some sort of screen time, keep them at the table and start asking others to tell family stories. Discuss dearly departed relatives, funny stories (that are PG rated of course), and any interesting family history. These aren’t made up (though feel free to exaggerate for humor’s sake!), but it’s wonderful to watch the kids take it all in, open their world, and see them participate by asking questions.
Now let the stories begin!