Friday, October 3, 2014

Tell Me a Story...with Dice!

I am always looking for fun, motivating and interesting ways to work on handwriting with the school age kids I work with.  For many of the kids I work with, this is one of the biggest things that they struggle with and finding ways to work on it without frustrating them can be really tricky.  I have used apps on the iPad but there haven't been many I have fallen in love with and use much.  Plus, when it comes to my older kids and the handwriting thing, I try and keep technology out of the equation if possible.

I'm going to give a big shout out to my friends at Norman & Jules, a toy store (or my home away from home) in Park Slope.  In the two years they have been in my neighborhood, I have spent a lot of time (and a lot of money) walking through the store finding the most amazing of toys for my own child and the children I work with.  They have an eye for unique gifts but what I love most is that they sneak in the educational piece in a really good way.  They find things that can work on academic skills but in the most interesting and fun way.

One of my most recent purchases are the storytelling dice designed by Hannah Waldron.  There are two sets, a pirate themed set and a fairy-tale themed set, that will be sure to get your child motivated to work on expanding their imagination and storytelling skills.  The Pirate Adventure Dice set has 9 wooden dice with different pictures on each side of the dice.   A child is encouraged to create a story using the pictures that they roll.  Some of the pictures on this pirate themed set includes a ship, mermaids, parrots, a message in a bottle and several more!  The Magic & Fairy-Tale Dice, also 9 wooden dice with all different pictures.  Using pictures like magic potion, a wizard, a frog and a ball gown, a child can create their own fairy tale.  From beginning to end, the story belongs to the child(ren) and how they interpret each of the pictures.  There is no right or wrong and a child is allowed to be as creative as they want.  Just try and remember each child's abilities and don't expect more from them; always set up a situation where the child will be successful and motivated to try something more challenging the next time around.

These dice can be used in so many ways and can be adapted to work for any child, no matter what their skill level is.  It can be used in a 1:1 therapy setting, in a group/social skills setting or at home for family game night!  Many of my families ask me for suggestions on what they can do at home to work on what I am working on in therapy and it's most important to me that my suggestions are fun for everyone and cause as little stress as possible.  These dice will be fun for everyone!

Suggested Uses
For beginners or younger children, I recommend choosing 3-4 cubes to roll at first.  Work up to adding more pictures.  Work together to come up with a story using the pictures.  Great for working on sequencing and organizational skills.  Have the child really think about what makes the most sense when arranging the pictures.  If you are in a small group setting, give each child one dice and allow them to add to the story.

For older children who are working on handwriting goals, this is a great tool to use to get them excited about writing.  I have used these with great success for just that purpose with a wonderful 9 year old boy who struggles with organizing his writing and struggles even more to get his wonderful ideas onto paper.  Again, start off small and don't overwhelm a child.  I start with 4 dice for the older kids, have them roll them and then work with them to organize the pictures into place before beginning the actual writing part of the activity.
**require a certain number of sentences for a story, making sure that there is a beginning, middle and end.  This can be really difficult for some children but if you let them talk through the story before they write it, you may find they are more successful.  I find it is helpful to give some children a set amount of time to work on their story to encourage them to take their time.
**discuss what is expected before beginning this writing activity.  For example, if you are working on spacing, sizing, etc., go over those rules before they begin to write.

These are also great for groups up to 9 kids.  I can't wait to try these with an older group of kids I work with.  Not only will it be great for working on storytelling, it will be great for working together to come up with a collaborative story.  Compromise, turn taking and being flexible are important life lessons, both socially and academically, and it's important to teach kids about these things.  To make it more exciting for a group of kids, you can take a picture of the pictures used and have someone write up the story that they came up with as a group to share with their families and friends.
**if you are working on specific social skills with a group, you can have the kids come up with a story based on that theme.  It could be a really fun way to help generalize the skill and get the kids to think of your lesson in a more meaningful way.

Another great thing about the Pirate Adventure Dice and the Magic & Fairy-Tale Dice is that it is hard to get bored with them.  Every time you roll the dice, your pictures are different which means your stories are always going to be different.  I can't think of a better way to keep the imagination flowing for kids of all ages.

So if you are in the New York City area, I highly recommend making the trip to Park Slope to check these dice out in person at Norman & Jules.  I apologize in advance to those of you who walk out with an empty wallet because I guarantee you won't be able to walk out without many of their awesome toys!  For those of you out of town, be sure to check out their website.

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