When it comes to arts and crafts with my children, the simpler the better. Pre-school and early elementary age crafts drive me a bit batty and I have to dig deep not to step in and help my children do their project “correctly.” As you can imagine, we didn’t do many art projects in those early years.
But I got this idea of story notebooks from a friend and I tried it with my children who were then about 3 and 5 years old. It proved to be a huge success and four years later it is still one of their favorite activities.
A Simple Supply List
One of the best things about story notebooks is the supply list. You will only need to purchase one item per child, and that is a Crayola Sketchbook. You can find them in almost any store that sells Crayola art supplies. You don’t need this specific sketchbook, but I highly recommend it for a number of reasons. First, the price is right. At about $2 each, they are much cheaper than the more professional sketchbooks you can purchase at art stores. Second, the paper is good quality and is thick enough to handle a variety of art media. Third, the size is nice for little hands. Finally, it is wire bound which keeps the pages together, but allows for tearing out, if needed.
Everything else you will need are things you probably already have: pencils, crayons, markers or colored pencils.
My whole intent of story notebooks was to get my children to draw and create stories. I take their notebooks, draw a line about 2 inches up from the bottom of a page and then let them draw whatever they want. When they are finished, they dictate a short story to go with their picture which I write it into the space I’ve sectioned off. Without any particular guidance or assignment, their drawings have given me some insight as to what’s been on their mind during the week.
As much as the perfectionist in me cried out to help him with his drawing, I kept my mouth closed for awhile. I wanted these notebooks to be about creativity, but I could see that my son really did need some help. We talked a bit making his drawings more realistic and I did see some improvement.
“Today I was driving my motorboat to the Smarty Mart to deliver stuff. The wind blew now and then, so I had my motor on, too. I also had my sail up. I arrived at the Smarty Mart in a jiffy. Then I just hung out for the rest of the day.”
When my daughter was 5 years old, most of her drawings and pictures were about our deceased baby, Rebecca. At the time this drawing was done, Rebecca had been gone for 18 months.
“In Heaven, Becky was with God. They were happy and smiling at me when I went in. They had a beautiful party for my family. At the end, we all had a great time and then went to bed. The End. (p.s. The one that is all sparklish is God.)”
It’s OK to Give Assignments, Too
Even though my main goal is usually creativity for the sake of being creative, occasionally I will use our story notebook time for a lesson or to reinforce a concept. Once I wanted to focus more on developing drawing skills, so I got out a Veggie Tales coloring book and found a very simple picture of Larry and Bob. I quickly sketched the picture for my children to give them an idea of how to copy it, then let them go to work. I still had them write their own stories for their pictures.
Here is my daughter’s attempt. Interestingly, she did a better job of copying the picture than her brother did, but she was unable to come up with her usual detailed story.
“Bob and Larry are dancing outside in the cool morning.”
My son wasn’t as accurate with his drawing of Larry and Bob, but he embellished his drawing by putting them in a boat. He also made up a great little story, complete with dialogue.
“It was a warm, sunny day. Bob and Larry were out sailing. They were headed towards the beach. It was a windy day. The wind took a pause, so they had their engine on, too. When they spotted the beach, Bob shouted, “Land, ho!” And Larry shouted, “Anchors down!” They landed on the beach and had a wonderful time there. ”
Fun For All Ages
I would encourage story notebooks for any age. If your preschooler likes to scribble, get him a notebook! Even if his story is no more than identifying what each scribble is, write it down. Let him illustrate a story as often as he wants, maybe it’ll even help keep him quiet while you work with older children. As he gets older, his pictures and his stories will become more detailed and you will enjoy looking back at those early drawings.
Even though it’s ok to throw in an art lesson here and there, or to assign your children a topic to draw and write about, I would highly encourage you to just let them draw. Let them express themselves artistically without critique and enjoy the process.
We have gotten away from story notebooks now that my children are older. As they’ve gotten older, they are better able to do art projects that won’t drive me crazy. We’ve recently tackled origami, knitting, and embroidery. But if you ask them, they will still say that story notebooks are their favorite fun school thing to do. I need to get them out more often.
Lorri is a military wife, mother of 4 cool kids, chief cook and bottle washer. You can find her blogging about her life at The Mac and Cheese Chronicles.
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