When I watch improv comedy I always feel like improvisation is one of those exercises not to be bestowed upon the feint hearted. You have to seriously know your stuff, or at least who you are… or is it who you are not? I don’t know! I am embarrassed to admit I care way too much what people think of me to even try to tread on the bravery of improv comedy.
Give me a book, or a pen, though and I am all valorous… the pen is mightier than the sword right?
This exercise will hopefully train the brain in all areas of improv starting at a young age and is SO MUCH FUN to do with the kids!
The key to this exercise is preparation
Don’t worry, it’s not much. All you need to make sure is that you have ready on the table, before the kids arrive:
- All the stickers you are willing to sacrifice- duplicates are ideal for main characters
- Card stock (cardboard)
- Crayons, pens etc.
- Any other craft materials you’d like to add- but keep it simple, too much will make this difficult
- Most important, if you want to make a book that you can page through you have to guess how long the story will be and bind it with a stapler before you begin or the book won’t make sense. Do only a few pages to start with, I just took one of each of the boards I had. Fold your A4 board stack in half, put it on a soft surface like a carpet and staple along the fold. Turn it over and fold the staple ends tightly so they won’t stick out. For smaller kids it might be a good idea to tape the staples so they can’t get caught on little hands.
This is how you do it
You ask one of the kids to pick a sticker. When you find a sticker you ask the child, what that animal/ character is doing. Everyone makes turns, including you, to pick a sticker.
Don’t ask them to tell you a story about the sticker- that way you will end up with a story you have no stickers for… you have to improvise with the stickers you have!
In my case, my daughter picked an Elephant and my son a Crocodile and they said that they were friends. That is exactly how we started the book. I had to write what we said, but older kids should write it down themselves. Don’t spend too much time on this or they might loose interest… that I learned soon enough. Framework is all you need, you are not going to publish it (yet).
Next they chose a Zebra. I suggested we make the story about Zebra as we had a few stickers of him… so there is a little planning involved. So the Elephant and the Zebra went swimming and there they found Zebra stuck in the dam… you get the idea?
The way we got the rest of the stickers to work in the story was that they needed friends to help get Zebra out of the water. Each friend wasn’t able to help alone and that’s how they asked more friends to help. (Note that sometimes you will have to draw a character if they appear again and you don’t have another sticker for them, like the hippo on this page.)
This one is one of my particular favourites… I needed the other monkey stickers for the direction the story was going, so I we had to improvise with a shy monkey in a tree, cause we had a sticker for that and it was Mommy’s turn to pick a sticker 🙂
If you understand Afrikaans, you’ll see that all the stickers didn’t always make sense, but the kids wanted them there so there they were!
To avoid having to quickly draw a difficult picture of how all of them got out of the dam (and a lack of pages) we ended the book with all of them jumping for joy for finding Zebra got out of the dam all by himself. That created an unexpected turn that of events always makes them laugh.
We ended with the credits of course, it was indeed our handiwork!
Though this book will be far from perfect (like the rough drawings and handwriting and the book starting with Elephant and Crocodile and ending up with Zebra as the main character- we made it work by having Crocodile and Elephant looking for the friends to help) it is something the kids can call their own and they love it when you read the story to them every now and again.
Most important of all… ENJOY it. I think we did this in two sessions…. As soon as its not fun anymore, leave it for another day.