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MANILA, Philippines – My 8-year-old son Matthew likes to play pretend, like most kids. At home, we try to encourage this. Together, we try to find various venues where he can explore ideas and tell his stories.
Our role here, as parents, is to let our kids’ imagination go wild. This can be easier said than done. Curb that need to censor, edit, and hover. You’ll be happily surprised to discover what’s lurking inside those creative minds.
Matthew says, “To make your own story use your imagination. That is how to do it. All you have to do is think.”
These are Matthew’s favorite storytelling activities at home. He explains them in his own words:
1. Write a chapter book using a blank notebook.
“Choose a notebook that has lots of pages. You write the title first. You write it in the front page.
“And then write your first chapter. A chapter is a part of the book that has its own title and own things happening. How is a chapter different from the others? There are different things happening in each one.
“You write your story using different words that introduce the characters or who is talking or who is doing the action. In my book, I am doing the same thing but I am also drawing pictures there for what it looks like.”
Mom’s note: This project is for kids (and parents) who have patience. It takes a long time, and it takes many installments. Encourage your kid to set aside a small amount of time each day to continue it. Praise the progress because it’s probably a lot harder work than they anticipated.
Being free-form, it can be intimidating, even exhausting, after a while, so some encouragement may be needed to help your child move forward and accomplish a goal he was earlier excited about but may be distracted from now or even overwhelmed about.
2. Make a cartoon movie.
“There is an app on the iPad that is called Toontastic. It is for making your own movie.
“First, you must choose a background. It is where the scenes of your movie take place. You can have a different background for each scene.
“Then select the toys you need. The toys are the characters and objects and you use them to make them act in your movies. You make the toys move by dragging them with your fingers on the screen. Make them talk or make sounds by recording your voice. After, add music for more energy. You choose different music for each scene. And then write the title and who made it. Then watch your movie!
“Toontastic is cool because you can create your own characters and scenes. And you can share your movies on the Toontube!”
Mom’s note: Toontastic has gotten even cooler since it first launched. What Matthew enjoys a lot is, actually, drawing his own characters and elements, which is one of the newer features. The app provides a storytelling guide, detailing the different parts of a story arc (setup, conflict, challenge, climax, resolution).
I suggest you try it out for a few days first, and if your child loves it, purchase the All-Access Pass which unlocks every pack the app sells, even future ones! This way, you save money that would have been spent buying every single pack that comes with every update—and there’s a lot.
3. Make a game that follows a story.
“Invent a new world that has your own characters, location, and things. But here, you and your friends are in it.
“Write the rules of your game on paper. And also describe each character’s special power or ability. Gather some friends (classmates) and give them the rules, then the levels. Let your friends choose their characters. Tell them the beginning of the story then tell them how to use their characters. And then start playing your game! But you must play it as a story, by acting out what happens in the game. Each side chooses their own plan and then they see whose plan works. You may play it again any time you want.”
Mom’s note: This was a fun thing to see unfold. Usually, the game plot is inspired by a current favorite movie and then takes a life of its own. It’s essentially another type of pretend play, but takes a different spin because there are now “cards” and other things that make it “formal.”
The materials and the end results don’t need to be perfect, glossy, pro-looking products. As long as your kid and his friends can use them, they’re good to go. My boy cut up old folders, drew on the back of old calling cards, and scavenged for random scraps in my scratch pile. The entire production was an exercise in creativity, perfect for kids who love to draw, cut, and color.
For more info on Toontastic, watch this video: