It’s still all about the staycations this year – and, for many of us, more likely the Costa Del Back Garden than a long seaside break. And while the Great British Weather can shine down on us kindly (fingers crossed), back-up plans for soggy days are essential for every parent’s sanity.
It’s tricky keeping kids busy and active without running yourself ragged as Chief Entertainment Rep or letting them play on screens for far longer than you’d like. But there are some clever, screen-free ways to keep your child amused and bag yourself a little peace and quiet: just immerse them in a wonderful, imaginative world of storytelling…
Here are 5 great story-based ideas to keep your child busy and happy this summer
1. Make storytime anytime
Stories aren’t just for bedtime; children can get listen – and get caught up in their magical, imaginary worlds – at breakfast, lunch, dinner and pretty much anytime inbetween. And with an audio player like the Toniebox, a great story is ready at the touch of a child’s fingertips – even if Mum or Dad have something else they need to do.
The Toniebox is robust, soft-sided and cable-free with the cutest, child-friendly, pointy-ear-shaped volume controls on top. All your child needs to do is pop a Tonie figure on top and it triggers a story to play. There are Tonie figures for all their favourite stories and TV characters, from Peppa Pig and Peter Rabbit and the Gruffalo to Chase from Paw Patrol, Cinderella, The Little Prince – and much more. And because your child can be in charge of selecting the story and making it play, there’s no need for you to be on permanent stand-by. Your child will enjoy the independence of operating the Toniebox – and the thrill of choosing for themselves.
And, whereas bedtime stories often focus on the quiet and peaceful, as your child winds down to sleep, an anytime story can be as action-packed and as adventurous as they want. With the Chase Tonie, for example, they could run around the garden as they ‘join in’ a high-octane football match with the Paw Patrol pups. And, with the sweet little puppy Tonie, they can sing and move along to the Playtime and Action Songs.
2. Make a den for your story hero
Put up a play tent or teepee in the garden or the sitting room to create a home for your child’s favourite story character. Or, if you don’t have a play tent, you and your child can make a DIY den together with some chairs and blankets. Help your child to ‘furnish’ the inside of the den to suit their story hero. Would Cinderella like pillows and duvets to make a snug fairytale-palace den? Or would the Gruffalo’s Child keep things dark and peaceful with just a torch for the moonlight in the deep, dark wood? What other ‘props’ (books, toy animals, little tea sets…) should there be inside? Let your child take the lead in weaving the pretend-play magic as they create their own imaginary world.
The best dens are usually a kids-only zone, so once your child has set up their spot, you can beat a retreat (still watching from a distance, of course). Before you slip away, stash the Toniebox in the den as storytime companion for when the pretend-play fades and it’s time for a little rest. Your child can of course choose the story their den hero stars in, and you could throw in a few Tonie figures on related topics, too – so if the den’s for an astronaut, for example, there’s the Space Travel How And Why Tonie or if the den’s for a mermaid, there’s the Secrets of the Deep Sea How and Why Tonie. Fun and educational – result!
3. Play pick the story-themed activity
There’s a bit of parental pre-prep involved here but it’s worth it for a go-to stash of entertainment ideas. Think of lots of story-based activities and write them down on separate bits of paper to put in a jar. Then your child gets to pick one out each day (or twice a day), like a real-life choose-your-own-adventure project. How about finding some sticks in the garden for your child’s own Stickman? Or putting on a dance like Angelina Ballerina? Perhaps your child fancies going on a Lion Hunt. Or fishing for The Rainbow Fish? Or making a carrot-juice smoothie that Peter Rabbit would enjoy?
For an extra fun touch, you could record the activity ideas on a Creative Tonie. This is Tonie figure that isn’t preloaded with stories but is blank for you to upload up to 90 minutes of your own messages – and stories and songs (there’s free content available on the Tonies website every month) via the free Tonies app.
Maybe you could even get grandparents, or other relatives you haven’t seen for a while, involved, too, by uploading audio files of their own ideas and messages for your child that they can send to you for uploading.
Once your child has picked the adventure, they can take off with it, interpreting the challenge in their own unique way. You’ll have plenty to talk and laugh about afterwards when they report their findings from their science trek through the Amazon or put on their show of the pirates’ fearsomest dance.
4. Get lost in a story on your travels
Head off the inevitable ‘Are we nearly there yets?’ with a Toniebox with headphones. A lifesaver for everyone in the car or the train, it’ll let your child loses themselves in a world of adventure while the miles speed past way faster than they would otherwise.
The Toniebox is robust enough for really hands-on children but its padded sides make it soft to cuddle, too, and because the headphones are wireless, there’s no risk of tangles with wires, meaning even the youngest children can listen – and nod off – safely in their car seat.
There are over 70 Toniebox audio titles to choose from, with plenty for older children, too, including Scary Sleepovers, mystery stories and ‘How and Why’ fact files on dinosaurs, astronauts and horses. Tweens who are getting into podcasts can happily upload their favourite episodes onto a Creative Tonie, which come in all sorts of designs, from a skateboarding figurine or a unicorn to a spooky skeleton or a vampire figure.
5. Get back to nature
Time spent in the great outdoors is never time wasted, so embrace the wild-at-heart spirit this summer with storytime in a real-life setting. No child could resist a woodland walk in search of their very own Gruffalo. Or they could take their Toniebox to the beach with the Little Mermaid Tonie or even the Creative Tonie pirate, pre-loaded with salty seadog tales you’ve sourced yourself.
If you’ve booked a day trip to a National Trust house, be sure to check out the gardens too, and recreate your own Peter Rabbit adventure through the vegetable beds. English Heritage castles create an amazing storytelling backdrop as you and your child conjure up brave knights tackling ferocious dragons.
It’s your very own once upon a time – and with so many stories to choose from, there’s bound to be a happily ever after this summer.
Pics: Getty Images/Tonies