Team Forestipedia | Sharing all the best tips and secrets of the forest
Teeming with fairy tale and folklore, our ancient woodlands have all the ingredients to spark young imaginations and inspire a journey of creative discovery through storytelling, says childrenâ€™s author Jules Miller.
UK youngsters trail behind the rest of the world academically according to recent media reports - but what about their creativity? When our children can seem in semi-permanent â€˜lock-downâ€™ with their hi-tech gadgets and homework; how can we even begin to get them thinking â€˜outside of the boxâ€™? In my experience (as both a parent and now an author of childrenâ€™s books) the most powerful way to spark a childâ€™s imagination is through story telling. By nurturing the next generationâ€™s imaginations early on, we can encourage them to build their storytelling skills and find their own narrative voice - before they are drowned out by technology, or buried deep in Ofsted reports.
Making time for creativity is important; but so too, is the right environment. To give children the best possible chance to learn the art of storytelling; we need to give them variety, away from screens and schools and screeching cars. A peaceful place is good. A magical place - teeming with natural history that constantly evolves? Perfect! And, there is no better way to rediscover the lost art of storytelling than to begin with the age old line: Once upon a time...
ForestsÂ and fairy tales go together like bluebells and woodlands: magical and timeless. The light and shade of the forest environment, has been a firm favourite for authors and storytellers through the ages. From the forestâ€™s darkest corners - an ideal villainâ€™s hideout - to glorious sunlit clearings in the woods conjuring the perfect spot for happy-ever-after endings, the woods have it all. Itâ€™s hard to imagine a traditional fairy tale without an ancient forest. Beauty and the Beast, Hansel and Gretel, and little Red Riding Hood, the list is endless! Enid Blytonâ€™s â€˜The Enchanted Forestâ€™, Tolkienâ€™s; â€˜The Hobbitâ€™ - even The Gruffalo; with its singsong rhyming text, is set in a woodland. Include a few anthropomorphised creatures, hairy monsters, and a deep, dark, wood, and you have all the magical ingredients for a classic childrenâ€™s story.
A forest offers visitors an ever changing environment; brimming with sounds, smells, and textures.Â Every season nature brings another visual drama. Winter offers the spooky silhouettes of gnarly branches; the ideal prompt for a narrative crammed with witches and spells. In the spring; ferns unfurl like the heads of fiddles to inspire a story about a magical, musical forest!
Unleash your little one's imagination
Oral storytelling is a tradition that can be traced back to our earliest ancestors; and teaching children about some of their ancient myths and legends, will undoubtedly captivate their interest. Forests are rich with living history, and trees are a wonderful subject matter for your children to use as a starting point for their own fairy tales. How about the Birch; how did this tree get its beautiful silver bark? Perhaps a greedy money-mad Queen was taught a life-lesson when a fairy turned her into a Silver Birch tree?
And, what about the Weeping Willow, whatâ€™s his story? Why the tears? From toadstool rings - perfect for pixie gatherings - to the sounds of distant woodland creatures, throughout the forest nature has supplied story ideas in abundance.
Whether you have time for a brisk walk in the woods; or are planning to spend a family holiday in a forest, using some of this precious time to create and share stories is hugely valuable. From my own childhood experience; ambling along - sticks in hand - while listening to my dadâ€™s make-believe-tales, have inspired many of my story ideas: stripy peppermint trees with curly branches in topsy-turvy-tales akin to ancient folktales - are all testament to a family tradition of storytelling.
With some gentle encouragement, your childrenâ€™s confidence to create their own stories will grow.Â And of course, it is worth remembering, that not all stories need to start with the line â€˜Once upon a time in a forestâ€™ - but, take it from me - it is a truly wonderful place to begin.
Pass on your magical stories to each other
1. Most trees have their own magic and myths associated with them - so itâ€™s worth doing a little bit of research before you set off.
2. A forest treasure hunt is good way to the creative juices flowing. Create a story featuring all your woodland treasures.
3. Write a mini masterpiece with only a few words: A beginning, middle and end - in no more 50 words!
4. Create a rhyming story: try following the style of the Gruffalo and the Deep Dark Woods.Â Spot faces in tree trunks.
5. Get children to spot a treeâ€™s eyes, nose and mouth, and create a comical tree character.
Jules Miller is the author of two childrenâ€™s books: â€˜Ellie and the truth about the Tooth Fairyâ€™ (publishing early June) and â€˜When Night Became Dayâ€™ (due out early 2015). Both are available to pre order fromÂ Amazon.