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Plumping the Plot – Teaching through stories in play

A kid’s imagination knows no bounds. They can sit at a table with a simple piece of paper and think of a thousand ways to bring it life. They can roll it up as a telescope and venture around on their own personal safari, stalking the pets and the parents that roam their at-home ‘jungle.’ They can tighten that roll of paper just a little more at the end and turn it into a sword, going so far as to become the living embodiment of Blackbeard himself… The possibilities are truly endless!

Ultimately, a child absorbs everything that is presented to her, leaving her with so many new and exciting bits of information to work with and understand. Because they are learning so much so quickly, kids have an innate need to project all of that new information forward, as a way to interpret and solidify it all in their minds. This is where storytelling comes into play! It doesn’t matter how many plot holes may exist in the tales they tell (and trust us… there are plenty), so long as they spark joy. So, as the adults in their lives, wouldn’t it make sense for us to harvest this imagination and excitement, morphing it into an educational experience? We should, of course, complete our work on the sly, slipping little lessons naturally into their playtime… completely unbeknownst to the kids we care for. No one ever said education had to be dull! A lot of this may come naturally to plenty of people, but we can’t help but lay it all out for you. Much like a toddler, we, too, get a little too excited sometimes.

So here’s how we do it:

Identify the “3 P’s”

Whether your little one is putting on a puppet show or playing pretend, chances are their stories carry at least three things: A person, a place, and a plot. The depth of these will differ based on a kid’s development, of course. If you’re dealing with a toddler, for example, the ‘person’ may actually be a dog, and the plot may actually read “Beagle barking belligerently, persistently provoking patient parents.” As soon as we identify these, we can bring our own imaginations into play, working to insert helpful life tips, a bit of moral teaching, and any fantastically fun facts that fit the bill. We don’t want to ruin the roots of their story, after all, we’re just looking to add a little extra value wherever we can.

Look for a teachable moment

We aren’t going to lie to you here… This part can be hard. If you’re dealing with a kiddo under the age of 5, there may not much in the way of organization in his stories, with the actions of the ‘person’ left solely up to the whims and instincts of an excited, overly-active little mind. Kids love to play around and be a little nonsensical at times, and we can’t blame them! If we consider the ‘barking dog’ character above, we may have to get a little creative, creating our own opportunities for teaching. You may decide, after all, to give the ‘dog’ a ‘treat’ if he agrees to quiet down… But not without washing his paws first! The silence may not last long, but that’s beside the point.

Ultimately, regardless of the “3 P’s” in place, there is always an opportunity to add a subtle little lesson or two.

Just talk about it

As playtime putters out and the story concludes, we can take this quiet time to sit down and have a casual little chat. We can start by asking kids questions about their stories… Or at least the subjects of their stories, if playtime took the path to nonsense.  In the case of our little barking dog plot, we could begin with something as simple as “What do you think doggies like to eat?” and correct or affirm our beagle-made-boy according to his reply. After this, we could acknowledge that no, dogs don’t actually wash their paws before snack time, then ask why people do. By asking questions of this nature, we leave room for kids to reveal exactly what they do and do not understand about something, giving us a heck of an opportunity to teach them something new!

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How do you sneak lessons into playtime? Are there any tips, tricks, or hints you would like to share?

Tag us on Facebook @LegacyToys with your thoughts. We always love to hear from you!

 

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