These creative learning tips with puzzles post come from special Guest Blogger Julie Kieras of HappyStrongHome.
While at play with trains and trucks, my son often narrates events as he constructs, destructs, and reconstructs his scenes. His “characters” (tow trucks, cranes, dump trucks, and trains) communicate; he gives them dialogue, expresses their unique sounds. As play grows more complex, so do the tales he tells. Details embellish the stories, and flights of fancy take off!
One way to encourage children to expand their storytelling is through manipulatives like peg puzzles!
Maybe your children have grown past the age of this style of puzzle. Playing with storytelling techniques is a way to refresh these useful toys!
Here are some strategies for elaborating storytelling with puzzles:
Farm animal or zoo creature puzzles provide a range of characters for children to introduce to their stories. Use one puzzle for a natural grouping of characters, or mix puzzles – what would the farm animals do if they met the zoo animals? Don’t worry if you only have vehicle puzzles – children love it when cars and trucks come to life with voices and personality!
Our Touch and Feel puzzle was perfect for helping my toddler describe various animal fur or feathers!
Ask: Who lives at the farm? Who’s coming to visit? Who does the duck love to talk to all day? What does a duck feel like?
Use the painted backgrounds on some puzzle boards as a setting for stories. Hide and Seek puzzles allow children to use the setting to generate story ideas. My son loved describing how a farm has a barn, grass, ponds, and a fence to keep in the animals.
Ask: Where does the kitten like to play? Who’s hiding behind the bushes? Where do ducks live? What color is the hay? What kinds of buildings are on a farm?
Dialogue, Action, Conflict:
Now that you have characters and a setting, the story begins! Perhaps it’ll just be dialogue as the cow and horse talk about what they’ll eat for lunch. If you have a sound puzzle, kids can punctuate their stories with realistic noises, or copy them to make their own sounds!
Ask: What’s the horses favorite food? What’s kitty’s favorite color? How does a rooster sound?
Introduce action by having the characters travel somewhere outside their setting! Our son took his farm animals to – of all places! – the beach!
Ask: What will they do next? Where are they going? How did they get there? The horse galloped, the duck waddled, and the dog ran all the way!
Add a little Conflict – the interest and anticipation in any story – by creating a simple dilemma or problem to be solved.
Ask: How will the ducks get back to their pond? Oh, where has the farmer gone!? Our animals searched high and low until the problem was solved! He’s asleep in the haystack!
Modeling for younger children is important. Children love to mimic, and will follow your lead quickly. Use the characters from the puzzle to ask your child questions about their favorite colors, “walk” them across the table, have them sniff the ground, or “oink” in happiness!
Using storytelling features of character, setting, dialogue, action, and conflict makes scenes come to life. Try revisiting your children’s favorite peg puzzles for story time and see what happens!
Allow children to tell stories in their own way – they may ramble, the stories may not have the traditional beginning, middle, end. The value of storytelling lies simply in exercising and expanding the imagination.
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