Like many parents, we are trying to embrace technology in a way that encourages our children to think, play, explore and create. While watching movies and playing videos games are some of the ways we incorporate technology into our lives, hopefully, these won’t be the only ways. Now that our children have their own ‘personal devices,’ the goal of finding a healthy balance between passive pursuits and more engaging play seems even more critical.
Our children are natural storytellers. For my daughter, this means writing elaborate letters and essays filled with “text evidence” – a fancy phrase she learned in the first grade that means “details.” For my son, it means a similar string of highly imaginative details flowing from his mouth at a pace too quick to possibly capture on paper. I say that in a somewhat positive manner (who doesn’t want an imaginative child?), but, in reality, it can be a frustrating experience. While his imagination seems boundless, his ability to harness it remains a challenge.
And that’s where technology may be able to help. I’ve started to look at ways he can explore his ability to tell stories, beyond putting pencil to paper. At first, I started researching apps – and found 2 great ones – but then our monthly Tinker Crate subscription arrived. The enclosed project included all of the materials and instructions for creating a zoetrope, a device for creating the illusion of motion through a series of drawings. Jason and Jenna absolutely loved this, and seeing their reaction got me thinking in more creative ways about stories and play.
Today I’m sharing a couple of story-making apps and activities we’ve enjoyed over the past few weeks. If you find this topic interesting, I hope you’ll follow along in my new Kids & Technology series on this blog and follow my KidTech Pinterest board for more ideas and resources.
Lego Movie Maker App
By far our favorite story and movie-related app is Lego Movie Maker. This likely has a lot to do with how much my son LOVES Legos. The Lego Movie Maker iPad app allows you to create stop motion videos using your own Lego collection – and it’s super easy to use. You set up a Lego scene (or a single figure or two) and then snap a series of photos, each with a slight change in the position of the figure/s. After your images are captured, you can add sound effects, visuals, music and even filters to enhance your movie. The app animates it all together in a video that you can play (over and over again) or share.
The Lego Movie Maker app for iPad can be downloaded for free.
Drawing Activities: Flipbooks, Storyboards and Zoetropes
Apps aren’t the only way we’ve tried to encourage the creation of stories. Tinker Crate is a subscription service that sends technology and science focused projects on a monthly basis. We’ve been pretty amazed by the projects showing up on our doorstep each month, and last month’s zoetrope was no exception. After building our own zoetrope, we explored the enclosed filmstrips which included a couple of “movies” – galloping horses, bouncing ball, a moving robot, etc. – and we used the blank templates to create our own films.
Each Tinker Crate also includes a magazine featuring activities related to the current month’s project. The flipbook activity turned out to be a favorite of both Jason and Jenna. Flipbooks are very simple to make, and even young children can get the hang of making basic drawings, attaching them together in a sequence and flipping through the book to watch the sense of motion as the pages turn.
Several days after creating our flipbooks, I tried another idea with my daughter. She has been talking about “making her own app” for awhile, so I decided to talk to her about how to get started. I drew a quick grid on a piece of paper and then told her to draw the screens that someone using her app would see. She immediately created a couple of storyboards for her app ideas.
As a UX designer, I have to admire her use of feedback (“good job!”) and system indicators (“loding”). She’s already making my job look easy.
The TeleStory app is another fun way to engage kids in telling stories and making movies. The app includes a series of templates for types of videos, including music videos, news stories, weather reports and spy transmissions. After selecting a template, you can record either yourself or someone else and, of course, narrate the entire thing. You can write your story in advance, use the cue cards in the app or just wing it.
TeleStory is available for iPhone and iPad and can be downloaded for free.
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