Over the years we have had a variety of Christmases. Some years we have had more money than other years, but no matter the income we have always felt like we wanted to give our children something which would encourage them to be creative. To create stories.
Stories are the bud of genius. They are the spring of inspiration. A good story told by a loving parent or grandparent has the ability to change the heart of a young person forever.
Stories are simple enough. Anyone can make a story. And when a young child makes a story, whether by playing house or playing war or race car driver, the child is connecting to his world. He sees himself as part of a bigger picture. He sees other valuable people in life as well. He has to decide what is wrong and right, good and bad and true and false, because even in pretend stories there is always a conflict of some kind. Stories are a healthy part of growing up.
So, each year we try to get our children story making gifts. Of course we buy children books. But, we also buy or make toys which give them hours of story making time.
Here are two easy to make Christmas gifts which help children fall in love with making stories.
Idea #1: Car Mat
Every child, but especially boys, love matchbox sized cars. Even though I am a girl, I spent day after day playing cars on the car mat my mother made for our family. When my first born was a boy I just had to make him a car mat. For his first Christmas I made him this easy home made car mat.
This is how to make a car mat for children. I got a piece of canvas type (really durable) material size: 59 X 45 inches. I surged the edges so that it lay flat and not unravel in any way.
Next, I drew with pencil the town I wanted and which contained places near our home. Since I had played with a car mat for years I also knew that the best part of car mats is parking spaces and driveways for cars. Also, roads should be able to fit two cars. One going each direction.
After the pencil drawing was made I used puff paint and fabric paint to make the scene come to life.
This is a very inexpensive and very treasured gift. You can make this and put a few new cars in the stocking and you are good to go.
Idea #2: Puppet Show Theater
Years ago Spencer and I decided to make a puppet theater for the children for Christmas. We also invested in and made some puppets to have on hand.
This is a video of how we made it:
Puppet shows are not just for children. Oh no! They are way more fun if youth and adults take a turn too.
Tell Great Stories: See if you can make stories where no one gets beat up. For some reason, puppets beating each other seems like a regular story theme. Think grander.
Make comedies, tragedies, and family histories. Tell stories of your childhood, tell stories about your family heritage, tell gospel stories, tell fairy tales with surprise endings.
If your family gets in the habit of creating in this way your children will have increased confidence and become better writers in the future.
Directions For Puppet Theater Construction:
46 ft of 3/4in PVC pipe
8 3/4in elbow joints
8 3/4in T-joints
shower curtain rings
approx. 14 yards of fabric (12 for the curtains, 2 for a back drop)
Cut 4 pieces of pipe 48in long (these will be use for the front and back)
Cut 4 pieces of pipe 30in long (these will be used for the sides)
2 pieces 13 1/2in long
2 pieces 15 1/2in long
2 pieces 1 1/2in long
4 pieces 12 1/2in long
2 pieces 32 1/2in long
Note: it is easiest to construct these poles on the ground, and the instructions are designed with this mode of construction in mind.
To build the right front post:
1. glue an elbow to one of the 13 1/2in pieces facing right.
2. glue a T on to the top of the 13 1/2in piece, facing straight up.
3. glue a 15 1/2in piece into the top of the T joint (not the part facing up).
4. glue a T joint on top of the 15 1/2in piece, facing right.
5. glue 1 1/2in piece into the top of the T joint.
6. glue T joint onto the 1 1/2in piece, facing straight up.
7. glue 12 1/2in piece into the top of the T joint (not the part facing up).
8. glue elbow joint onto 12 1/2in piece, facing up.
To build the left front post, use the instructions above and change facing right for facing left.
To build right back post:
1. glue elbow joint onto the bottom of the 32 1/2in piece, facing left.
2. glue T joint onto the top of the 32 1/2in piece, facing left.
3. glue 12 1/2in piece into the top of the T joint.
4. glue elbow joint onto the top of the 12 1/2in piece, facing straight up.
To build the right back post, use the instructions above and change facing left for facing right.
Note: the posts are the only pieces that should be glued together.
To sew the curtains for the sides:
Cut about 36in long piece of the fabric. Be sure to cut the fabric along the width. Fold the top 2-3in over and sew, making a pocket that the pipe can slide through.
To sew the sliding curtains for the top rails:
Cut 2 squares about 36in wide by 15in tall.
Cut small holes in one of the 36in sides through which to put the shower curtain rings.
To make the puppet pockets:
take a piece of fabric about 4ft wide by 3ft tall and fold over the top 2-3in along the width and sew to make a pocket that the pipe can slide through.
fold up about a foot along the bottom of the width, and sew the sides. Then sew the one large pocket that you will have into smaller pockets by sewing lines up the fabric every foot or so.
To sew the front cover:
Cut a piece of fabric about 5 feet wide by 3 feet tall.
fold over and sew the top 2-3in along the width to make the pipe pocket.
And you're done.
Great Christmas Gifts For Kids
Both of these Christmas gifts have led to hours and hours of family fun and creative story making. Story making unites people and gives families a chance to relate in new ways. It also helps children recognize their role in the world, in relationships and in their communities.
I hope these gifts will bring your family as many enjoyable family activity nights and fun bonding time as they have brought us.