I recently cleaned out the linen cupboard and gave the kids a huge bag of old sheets to play with. They like to make-up stories and turn them into royal capes or build dens with them. In amongst them was a white sheet. I thought it could be used to build a shadow puppet theatre in the garden. We have a swing set that isn’t safe to use, so I removed one of the swings and fastened the sheet to the frame.
The children and I made puppets from cardboard. The children chose characters and I helped them draw them in silhouette. They collected sticks from the garden, whittled them to smooth them out and stuck the cardboard characters on with tape.
I also found images of hand shadows. I printed and laminated them and stuck them on the swing set frame for reference.
We had to do a bit of work cutting back the tree branches to make a clear screen, but soon it was ready. The magical stories they have created have been wonderful. I think this would be a great resource for a school or pre-school to encourage story telling and build the foundations of story writing. You could build it outdoors or inside with a light source behind.
Videoing the story showed the children where they needed to improve. They saw that sometimes you couldn’t see the characters well because they were too low or placed at an angle. They also noticed that the size of the puppet changed according to how close to the screen it was.
I love the way my daughter played with accents and voices. It particularly love the voice of the bird and banana man in the land of the forgotten.
Shadows, like mud are a great, free play resource – check out some of our other shadow explorations or follow my shadow and light pinterest board
This week is National Storytelling Week. I was going to write about my experiences of story telling with young children. However,something else that I have been talking about this week seems to relate very well to story telling.
I have been having a sort out of the endless ‘stuff’ we accumulate in our house. One part of that has been to thin out all the things we have stored that we never use and collate our photographs in one place. During this process my husband found a box full of old letters, certificates and notebooks which contain memories that would otherwise be forgotten. We looked at photos of years gone by and the way that we remember things. I also had a conversation relating to memory with a neighbour who recently had a large family gathering. She talked about how when they all got together and talked about past shared events, they each remembered it differently.
How much of our lives get lost because we don’t document it? When we need to find evidence of how we felt, often we can only say, I don’t remember it like that but maybe that is how it was. Sometimes I wish I had documented my life so that I could look back and say with confidence , that is what happened, this is how it happened and this is how I felt.
At times I have kept diaries, mostly during my teenage years. I was so embarrassed by my thoughts when I came across them years later, that I threw them away but a part of me wishes I hadn’t. I have kept diaries of my pregnancies and early days of the children because the children won’t remember those times. I hope that one day I will be here to answer their questions about it but maybe, like my own mother, I will be gone by the time those questions arise. I kept a journal during my honeymoon, I don’t often read it but sometimes it’s comforting to look back on the best times in your life.
My point is that when we think of story telling we automatically think of fiction, but our lives are a story – often the most interesting stories come from real events. What may seem irrelevant or waffly thoughts right now will someday mean something to our children and grandchildren. My most treasured possession is a letter that my mother wrote when she was in hospital after having me. My dad found it after she had died and it is my only account of how she felt to be a mother for the first time . Stories don’t have to be about dragons and adventures, let’s not forget that our own stories matter too. For National Storytelling week I will not tell a story but will try to begin to tell my story so that I don’t forget and will not be forgotten.