Full Disclosure: I am not at all crafty. I am, however, really comfortable with stories (I’m a writer, after all). And so the idea that someone could explain—actually that someone could show me—how to do craft projects that might inspire storytelling with my kids, well, a book about that intrigued decidedly, hopelessly non-crafty me.
That’s exactly the book Emily K Neuberger wrote (and created photographs and visual instructions for) in Show Me a Story: 40 Craft Projects and Activities to Spark Children’s Storytelling. She also keeps Red Bird Crafts blog.
My favorite thing about this book was the way the author shares many anecdotes about how she found or figured out these activities and most especially when she recalls the fun she’s had with her daughters story-making. Through her anecdotes, I remembered some of mine from when my bigger kids were smaller and I resolved to make more stories with my smallest gal (she just turned five).
With templates and supply lists and step-by-step instructions, she really makes even the “harder” activities (most of them, anyway, I’ll be honest) seem entirely doable. I really could make a storytelling game or decorate a rock. I could scribe for my small gal and her friends a little round the circle story. To be told there’s a sweet spot where you can have enough extra supplies, but not too many and that’s how you can find yourself no longer overwhelmed by your craft supplies is very helpful indeed (and validates my recent marker and crayon weeding; I gave surplus crayons to the preschool and markers to friends with young ones—and I kept a reasonable but not huge bin’s worth of each).
Spoiler alert: if you’re in search of some excellent birthday party activities, look no further.
The big takeaway for me is that you don’t have to create the world’s best and most beautiful puppet stage or play the elaborate game; you can literally take an idea here or there and tailor to your needs. While you can purchase an awl (now, at least, I know what one is) or Mod Podge (it’s listed under sticky stuff), you really don’t have to. I know myself; I will never sew a blank book from scratch (but I know where to find very similar ones).
Instead of tossing up your hands or pulling out your hair, send your kids out in search of something the next time they are bored—within ten minutes in the yard or by walking as far as the corner, they are bound to find something interesting that can inspire another hour of actual fun. I like the idea that if I send the child out with a notebook or camera, I can be surprised (and so can the child) by what he or she might do. In fact, one of my most supremely artistic and crafty friends recently told me I should carry a sketchbook around to see what happens (little old, not at all crafty me). Maybe I just will!
Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser is a freelance writer and blogger whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Brain Child Magazine and Salon the Huffington Post, Babble and Ceramics Monthly. Her essays have appeared in various anthologies including The Maternal is Political and Wait a Minute, I Have to Take Off My Bra. A writer for Preview Massachusetts Magazine, she keeps a personal blog, Standing in the Shadows at the publication’s news site, the Valley Advocate and a tumblr Refractions. She is a sometime contributor to Momfilter. Follow her on twitter–@standshadows or Pinterest.