Let's Play With Books

Here are some ways to encourage your children to incorporate books into the way they play.
By Susan Stephenson
May 15, 2015



Hispanic father reading book to daughter

May 15, 2015

When kids are small, they certainly play with books. A book can be a bridge for cars to cross, or a hat for a princess to wear. Little ones also chew books and dunk them into the bath, so we include board and plastic books with their toys. As they grow up, we introduce them to books that double as toys or games -- pop-up books, touchy/feely books, and ones that make sounds. Later still, they learn to love puzzle books and books with toy links like LEGO.

But those are not all the possibilities for play with books. Today I want to suggest we encourage our children to incorporate books into the way they play.

Do you read aloud to your kids? Do you make your book sharing playful? I believe it's important for us to use all our wiles to help bring books to life with our kids. For me, that means being in tune with suggestions made by writers and illustrators. Suggestions like a large font that compel me to raise my voice a little, or a split sentence before a page-turn indicating I should draw out the suspense. Creators like Mo Willems and Jon Klassen invite our kids to play on each page, and their books are loved world-wide.

If we've shared a wonderful book with our kids, there will probably be great fodder for creative play in that book. While I believe as parents we should encourage our children to take charge of their own play, I know, too, that sometimes there's an opportunity for a little nudge. If the kids are bored and want something to do, why not suggest they bring that great story to life somehow? This might take the form of dressing up and acting out a scene from a book, or using other drama activities. Kids might also like to create a story world using junk craft and LEGO. By engaging in activities like these, our kids are playing with the ideas in a book, and engaging in purposeful creative thinking.

With the accessibility of iDevices with cameras, it's become much easier for children to set up little scenes from a book to be captured with photos or video. This is a great way for kids to reach out to an authentic audience of their friends to share a digital story or movie they've made. It might not be a quick project, but there's so much learning involved, AND it helps children make the connection to books and playfulness. One way kids can do this is to summarize a book in five frames. Each "frame" is a photograph of a scene set up to depict one fifth of a story, and kids can add captions to photos too. You can see an example of this in my article Visual Story Telling. The focus in my article is on children creating a story of their own, but the principle is the same. To set up scenes, children can use toys or even friends and family.

In some educational circles, play has become unpopular. What a shortsighted approach this is! So many powerful and creative minds urge us to play, from Plato through to Einstein and Montessori. I believe by linking books with play, we are not only encouraging our kids to enjoy reading, we're honoring the importance of play in everybody's lives. Win-Win!

Do you encourage your children to incorporate books into their play? Let us know on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page.

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Hobbies, Play, Recreation