In some ways, this is an extremely simple activity. You don’t need any special supplies, just some toys, a camera, and a word processor (computer or device) attached to a printer. “All” you’re going to do is come up with a story with your child, act it out and take pictures as you go, then make it into a little book. Yes, that’s it! But as it turns out, this simple little activity has the potential to be a very powerful experience!
Here are some of the ways a story adventure benefits your child;
- Builds self-esteem; because you are taking the time to be with them, and because you are assigning value to their ideas and words
- Builds imagination and creativity
- Makes them feel like an author, and involves them in the writing process (even if they’re too young to write)
- Gets them excited about reading because they have a book of their own
- Encourages quality time together and bonding
I would strongly suggest going on a story adventure as a pair- one adult and one child- so they have complete creative control, and they can enjoy your undivided attention!
Here’s how you do it:
Step 1- Start with a toy and a plot
You will probably do this part for your child, at least at first. You’ll give them a toy that will become the main character in the story, and present them with a problem that will start the adventure! The best stories for this involve a journey, and take place across lots of settings. Think about the great adventure stories you’ve loved in the past and take inspiration from them!
For my sample story, the prompt was: “Oh no! This little frog is lost, and he needs to get home to frog world!”
(by the way, the idea for “Frog World” came from Asia Citro’s blog, “Fun at Home with Kids. You can check it out here)
Other prompts that would work (I’m leaving lots of blanks, so you can fill in based on your child’s interest, age, and the toy you’re working with!):
- You woke up one morning and you were really tiny (or “you turned into an animal” if you don’t have a toy that resembles your child.) You have to get to ___ to turn back into a full-sized person again!
- ____ is lost and your toy needs to find it before ____ happens
- ____ is going to destroy the world unless your toy can get to ____ and _____
- Your toy really wants to do _____, but first they need to gather up (this collection of special objects)
- Your toy is being chased by ____ and needs to hide or get to safety!
Step 2: Let your child play out the story, and take pictures as they go!
Encourage them to move their toy to different locations- build castles out of blocks, set up a scene in the dollhouse, go outside, have them swim across the sink… It works best if you make a loose plan before you start, but don’t get caught up in details just yet!
Try and take clear pictures of each step of the toy moving through their adventure journey. I generally try not to have the child in the pictures. This isn’t a collection of pictures of your child playing, but a set of illustrations for your story. Here are some examples from our frog world adventure:
(to find out how to make your own mirror box, check out Hands-on Optical Illusion Activities, Inspired by “Walter Wick’s Optical Tricks!”)
Step 3: Upload pictures to your computer (if necessary) and load them into book pages.
Make sure to start with a cover page, then create as many pages as you need with a picture taking up about half the page, and space for text.
Step 4: The fun part!
Once the pictures are ready to go, have your child come and sit with you. For each page, look at the photo together, and ask them to narrate the story, then type exactly what they say! I like to make it completely verbatim- meaning if they make a little-kid grammatical error, I type the way they said it. Whether you want to correct their grammar is up to do you, and depends on whether you want more of a polished story or an adorable keepsake. Encourage them to elaborate as much as possible by asking questions like “Why did he do that?” “how was he feeling?” “What did he say next?”
Step 5: Print and Assemble!
There are multiple ways of assembling your pages into a book, but the easiest and most relatively durable method I’ve found is to slip them into sheet protectors, and tie some pretty ribbon through the holes to hold it together. Quick and cheap!
Step 6: Enjoy!
Snuggle in a cozy spot with your child and read their book to them! They are going to be over the moon with excitement when they hear their own words canonized in a special book! I guarantee they’ll want to read it over and over! Enjoy the feeling of being together and building a love of reading and then… get to work planning the sequel!
Where will you go on your story adventure? Leave a comment and let me know!
If this whole, “encouraging your child to be creative” thing is new for you, make sure to check out my post, A Beginner’s Guide to Encouraging Creativity and Having More FUN with Your Kids!
For another activity that lets your child’s creativity shine, try The Big Orange Splot (a story-based process art project.)
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