Storytelling with Toca Life

By Willow Mellbratt, Toca Boca Play Designer

I remember a friend telling me a method she used when working at an elder-care home. They had trouble getting a particular resident to go to bed. This resident would always think she was on a ship, going on a journey, and “bed” didn’t fit into the story. One night my friend decided to just play along. After a while she remarked how choppy it was at sea, and perhaps they should pull in to port — i.e. the bedroom. Her playmate amicably agreed.

Now while there is an underlying motive to my friend’s method, in giving up her own version of reality in order to play and join in on another’s, she learned to see things from the resident’s point of view. She learned empathy.

Storytelling and role-play is a great way of building empathy and trust. We frequently used it at IDEO to put ourselves in the shoes of those we were designing for. Three of my favorite Toca Boca apps are the ones in the Toca Life Series: Toca Life: TownToca Life: City and Toca Life: School. These apps are great storytelling tools for kids. If you play them as an adult you usually don’t get it. But when you watch a child play, it suddenly all becomes clear. Stories are being built in the child’s mind.

Category: Digital Play, Imaginative Play

Target age: 4 and up

Skill level: Beginner

Materials: Stuff you probably have at home

Prep time: None: Be spontaneous!

What You’ll Need

  • apps from the Toca Life series

The Activity

Because kids are amazing storytellers when given the right tools and cast, here are three tips for engaging in playful storytelling with your kids:

  • Let them direct

Kids have enough direction from adults in their everyday lives. This is their chance to be the director, so let them be so.

  • Get into the role

If the director wants you to be the princess, and you have a beard, be the magical bearded princess. Think about how that princess would act and behave so that her, not your, personality comes through in the play.

Toca Life: City – All characters.

  • Improvise

Don’t just follow orders, but improvise on the spot. A good actor is prepared for any situation. This tip also goes for life in general.

Share a photo and win!

Share a photo of your family doing this activity in the comments on our Facebook post or on Twitter with #31DaysofPlay! Every Friday we’ll choose one photo from the week to win a Toca Boca Play Kit full of swag, stickers, and a $15 iTunes Gift Card.

About the Author

Willow Mellbratt, Toca Boca Play Designer