Product Review – Really Random Story Bags   2 comments

Preamble – Important Background Information                                                                     When I was a registered childminder I sometimes used to be asked to write product reviews for resources. This was great, as once I had tested the product, and written my honest opinion about it, I was able to keep the product and incorporate it into my resources, to use with the children.

Then when I resigned from childminding, all this came to a holt. However, I have been approached by Early Years Resources (who I have reviewed products for, in the past) to become a reviewer again, an opportunity I have jumped at.

The circumstances are different of course, I will not be reviewing the products within my own setting with children I childmind. Instead I will be using childminding colleagues settings, and with parental permission, writing about how the children use the resources, and adding my opinion about the resource, and making suggestions about extension ideas.

Naturally I will be safeguarding the children’s identity (especially in light of recent data protection changes), and so I will not be identifying colleagues settings in anyway, or giving children’s names or any personal details about the children, other than their approx. age, to the nearest half year. Giving an approx. age will hopefully help people decide if it is a suitable resource to consider buying for their setting. I will use pictures of the products and there maybe flooring / table surfaces visible, and unidentifiable arms / hands, legs / feet.

Colleagues who agree to me reviewing the product at their setting will be able to keep the product to use in their setting, if they wish to do so.

This way, I do not gain anything personally from writing these reviews, which fits in with my ethics – in that my opinion is free.

If you live local to me, and would be happy to help by allowing me to review a product in your childminding setting, ask parents first if they would have any objections, and if they don’t, contact me to express your interest. Then, if / when I get asked to review a product, I will contact you.

Really Random Story Bags                                                                                                             This is the link to the product within the online catalogue.

http://www.earlyyearsresources.co.uk/literacy-c17/ks1-ks2-english-c1625/traditional-tales-storytelling-c1635/really-random-story-bags-bd-p48513

As you can see, once you have added VAT these Story Bags are quite expensive at £69.54, for a small childminding setting, and so any childminder will have to think carefully before spending that amount of money on one resource, and one which at first glance appears to have limited appeal for the under 5’s who usually are the main users of childminders – certainly in terms of number of hours attending. The ‘blurb’ about the resource claims the bags will support creative writing and story telling, but most under 5’s will not have sufficient skills to write their own stories – at least not in a format that adults can read.

So potential purchasers may be put off buying this item thinking that the children will be too young to get the most out of the resource – and this is where this blog will help by providing honest opinion about the story bags and their potential use.

First point I wish to make is that the picture in the catalogue makes it look like the bags are embroidered with images, but in fact this is a consequence of photographing the items from within the bags, on top of the bags . In fact the bags are one plain colour with one word stitched on each bag (apart from the yellow one which also says what they are)

 

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I observed play with the bags on several different occasions with different children, ( one 3.5 year old alone, a 3 yr old and a 5 yr old together, and  two 3 year olds together. On each occasion the children wanted to make up different stories, and did not tire of creating their own unique stories. I found they were keen to have the adults undivided attention and to show an interest – as well as clapping at the end.

As an introduction to the bags, the children and I tipped out the bags and looked at all the items, tried to name them and describe them. Some items they found easy to describe and to name, others were more difficult, but they found ways to explain what they thought.

For example – the drill.                                                                                                                  ‘Like Daddy’s’ said a 3 yr old,                                                                                                            ‘It is a screwing thing’ said the 5 yr old ‘for mending things’

I was surprised at some of their knowledge –                                                                                 One 3 yr old told me ‘its a footprint, a dinosaur footprint, I think a T.Rex’                              While the other 3 yr old said ‘ it is a fossil, you find it on the beach’

As you can see from the photo’s, the claim that the items are totally random, is very valid. However, please not the comment in the catalogue – the content of the bags will vary – making them even more random and varied.

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    Content of the ‘WHO’ bag 

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                                                   Content of the ‘WHAT’ bag 

I found I needed to explain to all the children the idea of the game, and how they needed to chose a ‘WHERE’ card first – they also needed some help with using the ‘WHERE’ cards as this was a new idea to them, they were used to having objects to play with, but not with having a card to ‘set the scene’. So I made up a couple stories – this excited the children and the were eager to have their turn

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The ‘WHERE’ cards

 

Each time I used the story bags with the children, they wanted to tell their own story and did not want to tell a story together through taking turns to tell part of the story, nor did they want to share the props, they selected the props either randomly by putting their hand in the bag, or by tipping them out and choosing their prop. To start with the children chose one item from each bag,  and started to tell their story, but they quickly worked out that having extra things from the WHO and the WHAT bags meant they could create more interesting stories.

Each story started with ‘Once upon a time …’ without any prompting by me, and in my experience with these children, the 3 yr olds were better at telling a story than the 5 yr old., but this will be due the uniqueness of the individual children, so every child will use the story bags in different ways and with different skill levels. The adult will also make a difference and depend on how well the children know the adult, and the adults own ability to tell stories.  However all children, on each occasion used their imagination to tell a story, and all children used their hands to move the props about. All stories ended with ‘THE END’

The 5 yr olds story contain a lot of ‘and then…’ and towards the end appeared to be enjoying making it funny, and getting the adults attention. Humour of course is developmentally normal and it should not be forgot that some people make a good living from telling funny stories. However it was noted that the vocabulary used was more ‘advanced’ than her normal conversational vocabulary.

The second time we used the Story Bags, I did suggest the children might like to use more than one scene card, and the 5 year old though this was a good idea, and was able to use 3 scene cards at once with the characters moving between the different cards, while although the 3 year olds did want more than one scene card they stuck to using one card for each story, but later started a different story used a different card.

Some stories were told while sitting at a table, but most where told from  floor level.

The main thing is the children enjoyed telling stories and maintained interest for over 30 minutes on each occasion. They also requested to play it again – and I noted that even when I moved away the children continued telling stories and speaking out loud so others could hear. in fact I have had a request to visit the setting again and to take the Story Bags – which now I have finished the blog and taking photos of the resource, I will do.  At the end of that visit I will leave the bags at the setting, so they can use them as often as they want to.

I will need to seek feedback in a few months to see if interest was maintained and if the Story Bags became firm favourites or if interest waned over a period of time

Personal opinion                                                                                                                                 I do think this is quite expensive for an individual to buy, but I also think it has huge potential for extending vocabulary, and encouraging creative story telling. I don’t think it matters that most under 5’s will not be able to write down their stories (and I have some suggestions about this) because to be able to verbally tell a story from your imagination is a very important skill that will in due course lead to being able to create stories using the written word. During my observations I saw the children develop story telling skills, expanding their vocabulary and creating stories with a beginning, a middle and an end.

I think over time, the children could be encouraged to create stories with others, maybe starting with telling a story with an adult and then later on involving other children.

If you like the idea of this resource but really can’t afford it – think outside the box! How about clubbing together with one or more other colleagues and sharing the resource. I did this in the past with colleagues for expensive items, and it worked really well – and had the added bonus that did not have to store it all the time because colleagues were using it.

Or how about if you do have that sort of money to spend, getting together with other colleagues and each buying a different similar price resource and then sharing all those resources? Sort of like your own Toy Library. Maybe if you belong to a childminding group you could use this idea to create your own Toy Library.

If I was still a childminder, I would consider buying this together with a colleague.

Extension Ideas

  • Add photo’s of your setting – including the garden
  • Add photo’s of your local park or wood
  • Add photo’s of the children and if possible their parents and their pets / family members/ houses as  children love to tell stories about their family. It may encourage less confident children to tell a story if it is about their family. (Remember to get permission to use / keep the photo’s in the setting)
  • Add other random little plastic objects, for example from charity shops, or ‘borrow’ from small world playsets.
  • On occasions add items to support current interests – like some shells if recently been to the seaside or some trains if like trains. The possibilities are endless
  • Add some natural items like a pine cone or a pebble
  • You write down the stories for the children
  • Record the stories –  just a voice recording or a short video recording, but remember you need appropriate permission, and must abide by the latest data protection laws.
  • Use those child friendly recording things (that just press a button to record or listen back) Ask the children to record different sounds like a doorbell, or a phone ringing or a running tap and so on. Put these in a bag or a basket to add an extra dimension to the story
  • If the children have a popular story book or you have a theme or celebrating a particular festival, add some props that would support implementing aspects into the children’s own stories for example a small Diva, or a wooden spoon, or a gingerbread man cutter, or a teddy sized scarf. I am sure you will be able to think of lots of different ideas
  • Use the WHAT and WHO bags to play a ‘feely game’ with the objects
  • Challenge the children to count out 5 or 10 objects from the WHAT and WHO bags and to try to make up a story using all those objects
  • Play a version of ‘My Grandmother went to market’ – put all the objects in the big yellow bag take an item out, look at it, say what it is then put in the red bag. Next persons Says ‘my Grandmother went to market and brought   (name of first thing’ and (pull out anther object) Repeat. The good thing about putting the items in the red bag is – if someone forgets what Grandmother brought they can look at the things in the red bag and work out what they have forgot.
  • Put some of the items on a tray – look at them for a short time, cover with the empty yellow bag and try to remember what was on the tray.
  • Playing a guessing game – one person describes an item and the rest try to guess what is being described. For younger children put the things on a tray or on top of a bag so they can see the item while trying to describe it / trying to guess what is being described.

 

So just a few ideas to help make the best of this wonderful resource, I am sure you will think of other ideas.

 

                                                                              

2 responses to “Product Review – Really Random Story Bags

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  1. Hello- I would like to get in to this, how do I go about it? Thank you x

    • Hello
      I am not sure how you ‘ get into’ doing reviews. I was asked by the company involved, I think they asked me because of the popularity of my blog – in other words my blog came to their attention and they knew people would read any reviews that I did.

      I have a strong ethics and do not have adverts on my blog, I am always totally honest about products that I review, so if I don’t like something I will say so. I also never accept payments from people who want to write guest blogs- anything that appears on my blog is personally checked by myself. I do not want to earn money as a side line to expressing my opinion.
      However, I know that other bloggers do make money from their blog and do more reviews that I do – maybe a giggle search would point you in the right direction

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