Saturday, July 30, 2016

A.R.C.H. - Sparking Imagination in Play

This week has focused on imaginative, creative play.  We looked at two early childhood development programs that advocate for play and ways that our homes can encourage this type of play.   This is final post about Advocating for Play, which is the first area of the A.R.C.H. series about providing support for your 4 to 8 year old as they enter into the world of school.

Where do kids get stories? 

A key part of imaginative play is storytelling.  We are created for stories (as Andrew Kern says, there are 66 chapters of story and then the law).  Helping your child develop a sense of story has two parts:

-  Family story telling
-  Reading Aloud

Story telling and reading aloud should be integrated into our lives.  Today I want us to remember that we all have stories to share and that they are worth remembering, celebrating and re-telling.  Today we will focus on our own stories. Over the course of the following week we will look more closely at reading aloud.  

What about family story telling?  

Do you take time at the end of the day to recall what happened that day (on the way home from school, at dinner, before bed)?  This has lots of positive benefits for emotional reasons (see Whole Brain Child for more) but also helps children to see the ark of stories in their lives. If kids are struggling with something that day, you can help them re-tell the story with a different ending by problem solving and re- imagining the events.  They can't control ALL the factors - but this type of thinking can help them better understand themselves in the world.  Of course, sometimes it is easier for kids to use props (like stuffed animals and puppets) to talk about these things and it might be easier to observe them at play to see what they are thinking about than asking them directly.  

Sally Clarkson takes this idea of family story telling to a whole different level (she can capture it much better than I can explain it).  Her family has one day a year that they celebrate their personal family history. They have recorded through the years the ways that God has been faithful to their family and each year they remember that as a family and add to the list of blessing and remembering. Talk about knowing your story!

Grounding our children in their own stories, finding value and remembering their every day, can bring wholeness to them.  Providing them with emotional support, vocabulary for feelings, a listening ear and laughing at the fun and failures can build a strong foundation for our children.  This is not about prying or meddling - it's about weaving the story of our lives together in ways that bring wholeness and connection.

Help your children discover and delight in the wonder of their everyday.  May it be the basis of many creative stories and memories for your children.  Next week we will focus on the value of other people's stories in shaping our lives.  

Here are a few ideas:

Story Cubes  - The store bought cubes are a good start - they provide different characters, actions and ideas for children to start their play with.  It encourages creative storytelling and it is harder than you would think!  You can also easily make your own.  For younger children you might include things that you know they are familiar with (park, store, favorite people).  For older children you can introduce more imaginative objects or characters from books they are reading and subjects they enjoy learning about.   If you use photos on the wooden cubes you can make them a very personal way to remember stories and integrate them into your life.

Puppets - All size and shape of puppets can make re-telling stories more fun.  From finger puppets, to hand puppets to homemade puppets (spoons, paper bags, egg cartons - whatever you have on hand). Add in a stage for an extra layer of play.  Table top theaters, under the table theaters (hang two of those sheets you got and let them part in the middle for the stage and they hide under the table and put on the show outside), door way puppet stages (this is just one - there are MANY).  

Chalkboard blocks - This simple idea can add lots of imagination to a train set, lego set or block set that you already own.  By creating blocks the children can customize for their story you are encouraging language skills and creativity.   You can also easily make blocks that include pictures of the key people in your child's life so that they can include these characters in their play.

Show Me a Story is the best resource I have found for a variety of ways to bring storytelling to life.  The ideas range from simple projects kids can do on their own to good gift ideas to projects that can be bonding experiences while you are making them.

Obviously, being exposed to a variety of other stories is crucial for children.  There are so many benefits of reading aloud that we are going to spend an entire week talking about integrating other people's stories into our lives.  I just didn't want us to miss the rich stories in our own lives.  They are worth remembering and celebrating; especially as your young child enters into the new world of school.

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