Creative, Not Crafty: 5 Ways to Foster Creative Storytelling + Play

by , posted on May 9th, 2013 in Play + Learn

Today, Kim Rowe of Little Stories, offers us creative ways to foster storytelling and play. Kim is a pediatric speech-language pathologist, so she knows her stuff! I’m over the moon to have her here. I am totally in love with her tips. Check them out…

5 ways to encourage creative storytelling + play

I’m creative, not crafty. I can’t sew, knit, crochet, draw or paint. I depend on my mom to share her crafty quilting, basket weaving and rug braiding with my daughters. Instead, my creative outlet is through story and play. One of the reasons my job working with young children makes me feel great is because I get to be creative in this way. Even more awesome, I get to play and tell stories as a mom everyday, all day. I know by sharing my creativity with my daughters, it will spark theirs. So, we really live it up with stories and play around here, and this is how we do it.

Have less

I just can’t say it enough – having fewer toys leads to better play. When children are not distracted by all of the toy chaos, they can focus on deeper play experiences and begin to really tap into their own creativity and imagination. We have fewer toys by buying less and rotating what toys we do have. We also repurpose household items, like using empty spice jars as play items for my daughter’s kitchen. These spice jars have allowed for months of creative play centered around seasoning food and trying out the varied actions of sprinkling, pouring and measuring. But even better than repurposing, is when we can create. When we don’t have the toy we “need” for our play, we may create one by painting it and cutting it out, like this vase of flowers. Necessity is the mother of invention, right?

Paper Flowers

Have good

Besides having fewer toys, having good toys makes all of the difference. Good toys don’t do much on their own. They don’t have push buttons or a digitized voice. Instead, they require your child to do all of the steering, soaring, sautéing, stacking, and singing. Good toys can be played with a million different ways which allows for endless creative options, from a simple stir to a complex tea party complete with an assortment of scones. So we are really choosy when it comes to toys.

Tell stories

Creativity is manifested in so many ways – crafts are the functional manifestation and paintings are the visual. Stories are our creativity represented in words. Telling stories takes us out of our real life experiences to imagine something that could be. They allow children to think beyond the concrete. So we tell a lot of stories and start with good books. I believe your local children’s librarian should become your friend. Mine is! But once I’ve got a good book, I don’t just rely on the words and pictures. I get creative with my voice, hands, face and body to TELL that story. I know that storytelling is an important part of writing skills later on, so I try to be a good example.

Good Night, Gorilla - Leaving Zoo

Play stories.

I’m sure you’ve seen something like the three teddy bears and the dolls reenacting Goldilocks & The Three Bears. Well, I like to take it a step further with Story Squares to really get the creative juices flowing.

Story Squares go like this:

-Pick a book and read it,
-Lay out some big paper,
-Make 3-5 large squares (depending on the age of your child),
-Spread out any toys or objects you have related to the story, and then
-Add any drawings to the squares that you may need to tell the story for which you don’t have real life representations. (This is a great time to enlist your child to draw or to encourage him to get creative about what he might need for you to draw).

Then we’re ready to retell and act out the story in sequence. It’s a blast and the Story Squares can be saved so that you can pull them out later and get creative all over again.

Story Squares

Live stories

Children love themes. You know why? Because themes repeat an idea over and over in different ways. Repetition allows for familiarity, and when something is familiar you don’t have to focus on all of its details, leaving more room to get creative. So at our house we live stories by using our local public library to stock up on books related to a theme. When we use themes I notice more ideas and story lines seeping into my daughters play, and then used in a new way. That makes me happy, because for me there’s no greater measure of a child’s creativity than their play.

Want more ideas to keep the creativity going?

-Check out my post on Modern Parents Messy Kids to keep away Travel Creativelessness. Keep good stories and play alive in the car by recording your favorite books on cd or by creating easy Velcro Pretend Play Travel Toys.
-Have your child tell her story every day with this beautiful and smart story chalk board by Twodaloo.

Kim Rowe from thelittlestories.comKim is a pediatric speech-language pathologist, play space consultant and half of a therapy dog team. She writes for parents and other professionals at Little Stories where she shares her passion for simple spaces, real play, good toys, & meaningful interactions.

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8 Responses to “Creative, Not Crafty: 5 Ways to Foster Creative Storytelling + Play”

  1. Lacy Says:

    May 9th, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    Thank you so much for this. Love every part of it. Will definitely share in my Friday links. :)

    Jennifer Cooper Reply:

    It’s so good, isn’t it? I love how Kim broke everything into easy steps with simple, actionable items. I also deeply appreciated her saying she’s creative not crafty.

  2. Carla Says:

    May 9th, 2013 at 11:31 pm

    I love the paper idea, I can’t wait to try it with my little one!

  3. Andrea :: Crafting Connections Says:

    May 11th, 2013 at 8:21 am

    Oh Kim always just has some of the best and most inspirational ideas and suggestions! I’m always so motivated to make a change or try a new idea when I read her posts. I love love the idea of play stories – I think we will have to try it this afternoon!

  4. The Monko Says:

    May 28th, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    we struggle with the ‘have less’ but by having good storage it is easy to play with only a few toys at a time and you are right it does make a difference

  5. Stephanie Says:

    August 3rd, 2013 at 8:27 am

    I just realized you linked our story chalkboard in this post! How did I miss that before? Thank you! (and fab post, of course!!)

  6. Top 10 Ways to Keep Kids Creative: School’s Out KBN Series | Blog World. Says:

    August 16th, 2013 at 9:34 am

    [...] 5 Ways to Master Creative Storytelling + Play [...]

  7. Tell Me A Story | Be The Difference | A Blog by Author Maria Dismondy Says:

    March 5th, 2015 at 2:26 am

    [...] recently came across this blog post on Pinterest with super suggestions on fostering creative storytelling and play. Check it out and [...]

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