Stories Actually (Are. All Around.)

Happy New Year!

We did it. We had our break. We were Christmassing all over the place. We recovered from that. We flipped over the calendar. We’re still trying to recover from that. And here we are. Back to work, back to school, back to winter.

Oh, winter, whatever are we going to do with you?

Tell stories!

In the spirit of bracing ourselves for long dark nights, for afternoons too cold to play outside, for snow days (and sick days) that hit when you weren’t prepared, I give you a short list of things that can be transformed from ordinary use into STORY TIME! And, guess what?  You don’t have to be the storyteller. This one is all on the kids.

1. Pencil toppers!
You know those annoying things kids get as prizes and love passionately for ten minutes but never use as erasers or actually keep them on pencils so eventually you end up finding them on the floor and secretly dispose of them? (Please tell me you do know what I’m talking about.) They make great storytelling devices! Something about their weird/cute faces suggests interesting ideas, especially if you combine the space man from the library with the Easter bunny from Grandma with the smiling flower their teacher gave them. Put them on pencils finger puppet style or just tumble them in a box like story cubes.

This really works. Lucy happened to get a whole set of these as a Christmas present, and we’ve just kept the pencils unsharpened, in a cup, and she’s been telling me stories while I wash the dishes (and sometimes while I play Playstation, since we’re being real here). She was particularly bored this winter break, so this was awesome.

2. Stickers!
This particular sticker pad makes faces, and though Lucy was excited to make a few pretty princesses, she was at a loss until I told her she could tell stories with them. Aha! Now she changes them out, they lose their glasses, then find them! They talk to each other. They go on adventures and meet strange disfigured people. Sets like these can be found at any craft store or even Target or Wal-Mart.

But! You don’t even need a book like this. Cheap $.99 stickers can also work. Especially if you have a bunch of random ones to put together. Something about that randomness encourages creativity. How could a little reindeer meet a mermaid? And why would the two of them be collecting stars? Boom. It’s a story.

3. Legos!
Obviously, building with Legos is one of the all-time best indoor time fillers. It’s already creative, it’s tactile, it’s a mini lesson in engineering. And once you’re done building, you have a toy to play with! But I’ve found that as my kids get older, they run out of gas on the “sit and play with Lego ships” front pretty quickly. That’s where making a story can extend the fun.

Have them prepare a story to tell you, a little play that their Legos perform for you. Inevitably the preparation for this involves building a few more accessories or men or ships or buildings. Then when it’s ready, you can have a performance. If you know what you’re doing, they can stop motion video it, but you don’t have to go there. You can just sit and be their audience. You can just video it on your phone and send it to grandparents. They’ll eat it up. Winter happiness for everyone!

Yes, winter happiness is a real thing.

For a little extra help, refer to the following pep talk as often as needed:

Winter isn’t going to beat us. It isn’t. We’re parents. We provide warm coats and hot chocolate. We tamp feet into boots and tug fingers into gloves. We bundle them up and send them out to get fresh air and work off energy in the snow and then mop up their messes and tumble snow clothes into dryers when they come back inside after ten minutes.

We’re parents. We’ve got what it takes.

And our kids? They’ve got energy enough to warm us all. They’ve got creativity enough to brighten every day.

And darn it, we’re going to make them use it.

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