“Let us tell an old story anew and see how well you know it…”
We have always told each other stories. Stories are part of what makes us human: they connect us as long as we choose to listen. A fairy tale is a story that we have passed down from generation to generation, told and retold, again and again. Fairy tales are one type of story that seems to have survived all others. They have passed the test of time due to the universality of the spoken word.
One of my earliest memories is my father reading to me before bedtime. Although I have always loved getting lost in the written worlds offered by books, I remember my little brother could never sit still long enough to love reading the way I did. But he loved stories! Like all of us do. He just needed stories to be visually appealing and not just words on a page.
Storytelling and story reading: two different things!
Most of us know about the importance of reading to our kids. Story reading is sitting down with a book together, while the parent reads and the child listens. When we read to our kids, we expect them to use their imaginations, be creative and feel the story come to life- this is a BIG ask for a little person. Story reading is super important and helps our kids develop in leaps and bounds. But they have to do most of the work: sit still, listen, engage, imagine, learn.
So many friends of mine tell me their kids don’t like reading, but I don’t think this means they don’t like story telling! While most parents I know try reading to their kids, storytelling without a book in hand is much much harder to do. Storytelling makes us vulnerable, and requires us, the storytellers, to be creative. While it can be a challenge for us to tell a story instead of just reading a story, some children find spoken stories easier to receive. I believe every child loves stories, but the delivery of those stories needs to be customised to each and every child. My daughter is like me – she loves to be read to and one day I know she will be an avid reader. But not every child loves to read. This is what makes story baskets so awesome – it is another way to tell a story.
What is a story basket?
A story basket is a different way of telling a story. To make a story basket you need a story and the basic elements of the story (characters, location and props). Just use your child’s existing toys or things you have around your house. Together you physically create the story using the characters and props so your play expert can see and participate in the story.
How to make a story basket
Step 1: Pick a story
The choice of a story is important. Choose a story that will spark your child’s interest from the beginning. What does your play expert love? I am making a story basket of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”. You know the story? Goldilocks sneaks into the Bears’ house while they are away and tries out their porridge, chairs and beds before getting discovered! Why this story? Well, Rach is currently obsessed with opposites (big and little, hot and cold, right and wrong) so I think she will love the different shapes and sizes in “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”.
Step 2: Hunt for props
To physically enact the story of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” I need:
- Story Basket
- Bears (Large, Medium and Large)
- Bowls and spoons (Large, Medium and Large)
- Chairs (Large, Medium and Large)
- Beds (Large, Medium and Large)
- Storybook (optional)
Finding Goldilocks and the Bears were easy as we have an entire shelf of teddy bears.
I grabbed different sized spoons from the cutlery drawer and used her stacking cups as different sized bowls.
I could not find anything to represent chairs so I thought we would just pretend they are there.
To represent beds, I got three different sized placemats.
Rach and I know this story too well so I decided not to include the book in the basket this time. It’s up to you! It can be nice to include, just in case your play expert wants to read or check the story.
Step 3: Invite your play expert to hunt for the story basket
Our play experts are active little people and a treasure hunt for the story basket is an awesome way to get them excited about storytelling. Say to your play expert: “Somewhere in this room, I had hidden a story basket. Let’s find it!” Rach loves the treasure hunt and loves guessing what story we will find in the basket.
Step 4: Customised storytelling
Ask your play expert: “Would you like to meet Goldilocks and the Three Bears?” How you actually use your story basket to tell the story is up to you! Some children love to unpack the basket and act out the story on their own – this is Rachel’s approach most of the time! While others may want you to tell the story and act out the scenes. Follow you child and have fun as you create the story together. Why not hand the story over to your play expert so they can introduce new characters or create a different ending?
We played for a whole hour in the world we created. Rachel changed the ending of the story in a way that warms my heart. She told Mommy Bear to give Goldilocks a place to sleep. Then she turned the actual basket into a bed for Goldilocks. I had a little giggle when she told Daddy “It is NOT time to go to work.” She also went to grab the book and asked me to read it, acting out the story again. There was also a lot of bed swapping in the night in her version of the story! Mommy and Daddy Bear start out next to each other in their own beds, but Baby Bear calls Mommy in the night to come to her bed. I have no idea where she gets this storyline 😉 When we were done, she packed everything back into the story basket.
Step 5: The storytelling never ends
Leave the story basket in your child’s play area so they can return to it, if they want to! Since we played with the story basket, Rach has become concerned about taking things without asking – a great lesson for her. Here’s a great resource for “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” if you want to start a conversation with your play expert about the moral of the story.
I am planning to hide the basket at Granny’s house next week and see what story she and Rachel create together!
Tell us about your story baskets! And check out our pinterest board for MORE ways to play with storytelling.