We're working on Earlybird's room today where we keep some of our favorite playthings. Many of these toys - puppets, gnomes, tree blocks, and animals - are used for acting out stories of all kinds: fairy tales, adventuresome epics and nature lore. Very often the pirates and knights join in, and matchbox cars, legos and dinosaurs are not out of the question. Here are a few recent scenes:
This was a gnome farm ~ elfin treehouse ~ troll forest story combination ...
Here is the tale of the Three Billy Goats Gruff in action. If memory serves, the troll made a quick getaway in that canoe.
This was escape from Night Mountain; the wooden bridge and unsuspecting wood folk became imperiled by flowing lava ...
Here is the beaver's dam; looks like he got creative with his building supplies.
And this is the owl in his enchanted tree (immersed in lava).
A giant pet hedgehog keeps watch over the gnome's vegetable garden. Didn't you know all gnomes keep hedgehogs as pets? ;)
Behind the Teetering Bridge is the Henhouse, Beaver Pond and Old Oak Tree.
So that shows you some of the nature play the boys conjure up - now for a bit about the nature stories we weave. I particularly like to use the animal puppets for telling stories from nature - a kind of continuing chronicle of life in our own Riverwood. Here is central casting (a mix of stuffed animals, finger puppets and Audubon birds):
And though I've gotten away from it lately, I plan to revive our storytelling this year as part of our nature study "curriculum." I find Earlybird and Crackerjack respond so well to this type of playful learning. Stories are a wonderful way to re-visit our nature study, inspire creativity (it's very much a group effort) and stretch our imaginations! This year we'll try to keep better record of the stories by writing them down (and perhaps sharing them here). We enjoy this activity all year round, but especially in the fall and winter when we're more often on the inside looking out.
Since it's been a while since stories were part of our routine, I'm a bit rusty. I'm sketching out an outline of possible story ideas for the months ahead - which will be fine-tuned by the changing seasons, weather and current backyard events. I also draw much inspiration from wonderful pictures books like these:
- Old Mother West Wind
- How Groundhog's Garden Grew
- Children of the Forest
- Woody, Hazel and Little Pip
- The Tomten and the Fox
- Tales from Martha B. Rabbit
- All in the Woodland Early
- Gnome Life
And while picture books are an important part of our learning, stories of our own making are great fun and fondly remembered. I get a lot of ideas from a gem of a book called Storytelling for Children. Here are a few other nature puppet resources:
- Acorn Naturalists
- Wild Republic (I found some on sale at Kids Surplus)
- Folkmanis puppets
- Wild Birds Unlimited (our local store)
- Juniper Tree Puppets (puppet kits and stories)
I'm excited about this project, and the boys are too! Yesterday we acted out the Red-tailed Hawk crashing into the window and all the songbirds and squirrels scurrying into the bushes. This really happened! Of course our story went on to tell how this particular hawk was really a misunderstood herbivore ... ;) Sound intriguing? As you can see, our stories often straddle the fence between the real and fantastic - but they are always well steeped in the nature around us!
Stay tuned! :)