31 days of unplugged play: story themed playscape

Written by Kara Fleck, Simple Kids editor and Rockin’ Granola mama.

Welcome to day three of 31 Days of Unplugged Play. Today”s unplugged play idea is a storybook playscape. 

What is a playscape?
A playscape is simply a scene that is put together to inspire creative play around a theme.  You are “setting the stage” so to speak.

Supplies and materials

  • a favorite book or story
  • toys and simple objects from around your home that relate to the story (blocks, small dolls, play silks, etc.)
  • a clear space on the floor or on the coffee table or other space where the scene can be set and your kids have room to play and interact with the playscape

For our I simply gathered up toys I felt resembled Strega Nona, Big Anthony, and some of the animals.  A magic pasta pot with yarn “noodles” was a must, too.  I built a little house from duplos, too (though the kids later improved upon it).

I set the scene, left the book nearby, and let my kids discover it.

This is another activity that is neat to set up ahead of time and surprise your children with, maybe in the morning when they wake up or after naptime or when they get home from school.  This would also make a good activity to set up in the room of a child who needs some afternoon quiet time but isn”t taking naps anymore.

What you are doing is recreating a scene for a favorite book or story to encourage your child to engage in a little dramatic play around a theme.  But don”t be surprised if your child takes this idea and builds on it, progressing the play in new directions as their imagination take hold.

If this idea is a hit with your child, leave it out for a few days and let them return to the play over and over.

Need a little more direction or a different take on this idea?

  1. Consider setting up a seasonal or holiday themed playscape instead of one centered on a story.
  2. Playscapes are a simple idea that stand alone, but if you want to be more elaborate you could take this idea one step further and create a sensory bin around  a theme or story.  Toddler Approved has a neat idea and 1 1 1=1 has a cute Monster Fun bin that would be fun during this Halloween month.
  3. Tell the story to your child, using the playscape as props.  And/or have your child tell the story to you.
  4. Have your child make up a different ending to the story or expand on it by acting out what they think happens next to the characters.
  5. Use little people or dolls to set up a playscape and tell the story of a special day for your child – like their birthday or a fun family outing.

Bonus unplugged play idea:

After your playscape play, later in the day ask your child to draw their favorite story or have an older child turn it into a comic book or poster illustrating the story theme.

Or, if that sounds too much like “homework” – just turn them loose with some crayons and paper at the kitchen table and see what happens!

Looking ahead

We will be using play dishes and other kitchen items tomorrow.

Also, be on the lookout for popsicle or craft sticks, paper towel and toilet paper tubes, other small cardboard boxes, and orphaned socks for future unplugged play ideas that are coming soon.

Just joining us?  Find 31 Days of Unplugged Play here.

What favorite stories will you be bringing to life in a playscape? How is unplugged play going for your kids so far?

About Kara

Kara Fleck is the editor of Simple Kids. She is a small town mama, writer, knitter, bookworm, and hooligan. Kara lives in Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children Jillian, Max, Lucy, and Amelia. You can find more of her writing at KElizabethFleck.com.

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  1. We just went to the library so we might choose one of those books.
    Melitsa´s latest post: 31 Days Of Sensory Play {Day Three} Reading Car Maze

  2. I LOVE this idea and will definitely be using it once we are moved (3 days!) and I need to unplug the girl (who is currently watching far more screen than we would like!!). I have always been drawn to the wooden story playscape figures on Etsy and thought of gifting them with the book they were inspired by but can you believe I’ve never thought to just make my own?? Clearly lacking in creative thinking!! So many great possibilities here. Thanks for sharing Kara!

  3. We’ve done this for a few books and our three older kids (5, 4, 2 1/2) really love it. Thanks for the reminder!
    Allyson @ All Our Days´s latest post: Duplo Blocks Counting & Tower Matching Busy Bag

  4. Children learn by playing! The more unique situations we can put children in to play and learn from the better prepared they will be later on in life. Smart, simple, fun and unique – all great elements for a fantastic learning experience! Thanks for sharing this great idea!

    @PlaSmart | @Perplexus1 | @PlasmaRide
    Facebook: /PlaSmart /PlaSmartPerplexus /PlasmaRide


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