In The Play Lab: Story Box
Last week we looked at the importance of imaginative play for child development and its necessity for a better world. We also covered the impact of incorporating open-ended toys to your child’s repertoire — so what are some playthings that get our seal of approval?
I came across Story Box last November while visiting my parents-in-law in Edinburgh. For weekend brunch, they had whisked me away to The Restoration Yard, a design boutique meets delicious cafe meets wellness lab, all perfectly nestled up in the beautiful (and very historic) Scottish countryside.
Finding Story Box was unexpected and magical. Sometimes when I hold a toy in my hands I get a little zap in my gut — that’s when I know a toy is worth further looking into. However, at the time, the concept of A Few Good Toys was still in its early ideation phase, so I was wary of starting my toy collection at that exact moment.
I was wrong. Story Box stayed in my mind for weeks! It was so original and beautiful — I couldn't get over it. I called my mother-in-law and asked her to go back the The Restoration Yard to get the Story Box toy and send it to over to me (all the way in Canada). Bless her soul, she did.
I’ve been playing with Story Box ever since. It’s a 20 piece puzzle with double sided illustrations. The puzzle pieces can be put into any order to make a number of different stories. It’s a wonderful game that simultaneously inspires and challenges children to make up wild stories.
Anne Laval, the illustrator behind Story Box, has weaved together stories that are at once familiar and novel. For example, there are characters like Jack from Jack and The Beanstalk, the dwarves from Snow White and the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood — only these characters, and their tales, are mishmashed into completely new narratives making this toy not only enjoyable for children but parents as well.
The puzzle pieces come neatly packaged in a small box made out of a durable cardboard measuring at 6.5w X 5h inches, meaning it can be easily stored and not take up much space during the ‘off season’.
A few weeks ago, I connected with Anne Laval, currently residing in Strasbourg France, to learn more about her toy and love for children’s imaginations.
How did you come up with the idea for Story Box?
Originally, the publisher Laurence King Publishing had the idea to do a double sided story puzzle with the theme of a princess and traditional fairytale stories. I wasn’t too excited by this initial idea so I came back to them [the publisher] with something different.
I was inspired by traditional stories like Little Red Riding Hood and Jack and The Beanstalk, but I wanted to subvert these traditional narratives — to make them modern and funny. That’s why you see feminist themes like a witch who falls in love with a king. I even added in motorcycles and giant pink rabbits, something you’ll never see in traditional fairy tales!
With Story Box there are infinite possibilities for stories, but what are the main themes you want children to take away from the stories they create?
I don’t want to give a message. The most important thing is that kids have fun playing with Story Box. I just want them to create funny stories with their imaginations!
Why do you think storytelling is important?
We learn so much from stories. Stories are a way for kids (and adults) to learn about culture, life lessons, etc. Not only stories allow us to learn about the world, but they also give us the freedom to escape the world and travel. It’s the mix of these two that I find the most interesting.
Also, storytelling is human nature! In our most primitive state, before we had a ‘modern culture’ with television and books, we used to tell stories to each other.
What problems do you think imagination could solve in the future?
For me imagination is a form in intelligence it can help in all situations and professions. I think a child who can create something with their imagination is a child who will have more confidence in themselves. They will believe that they are capable of doing things — we need more people like that in the future!