Storytelling through Creative Play

Often, the best things happen to us by chance…and it was serendipity when I met Annie, a visual artist and co-creator of CircleTales-The Adventure Story Game. I couldn’t wait to hear more about the benefits of this unique story game for children, which also happens to be made from a luxurious eco-design. What’s more, every purchase of a CircleTales game helps to contribute to Room to the Read Girls’ Education Programme, which supports literacy and education for girls globally.  

What inspired you to create CircleTales?

As parents of a ‘tween daughter, we were looking for ways to spend time together as a family ‘offline’ on those plentiful rainy winter nights in Devon, and board games were the most obvious go-to option. However, we found that so many mainstream games are either overtly competitive or don’t feature empowering roles, especially for girls. We saw a niche, and as an artist-educator/designer family we felt we had the skills to create the game that we would love to play that would be beautiful, eco-conscious, collaborative, and most importantly--fun!

How much research went into creating CircleTales?

Whew! It has been a long but amazing two years between coming up with the design and the mechanic of the game to releasing the game to the world this past June! During the research phase, we felt it was crucial to gain input from children of all ages and demographics, from parents, teachers, and adults in various fields from education to psychology to drama, and we involved our test players in shaping the questions and flow of the game, incorporating many of their suggestions.

Our backgrounds in the arts and education and design prompted us to find ways to make the game both beautiful and stimulating to play and imagination. We were also really committed to making the game as sustainable as possible, so it took a lot of time and research to find a printer that offered environmentally-friendly materials, printing and packaging. We are proud to say that all the hard work was worth it, as CircleTales is exactly as we envisioned it with a beautiful bamboo board, word prompt cards printed with soy inks and no plastic packaging or shrink wrap.

Why do you think story telling is important?

Human beings are hard-wired to tell stories, and in our research we found compelling evidence that storytelling can be a powerful tool for eliciting feelings of empathy, compassion, and a sense of belonging. Not only does storytelling help children to learn about emotions, but it is also a non-didactic way of modelling language usage, confident speaking, story arc, and the perceptive skills of gauging listeners’ levels of interest. While so much schoolwork focuses on knowledge acquisition, storytelling really develops the socio-emotional skills that are so important to navigating relationships.

How does CircleTales inspire and benefit children?

Because CircleTales is based on collaborative storytelling, every participant must respect and build on the contribution of the previous speaker for the story to take shape. And while the game is fun and fast-paced, it does require that every player listens carefully, respects what the other players have added, and clearly communicates their portion of the story in a creative and coherent way. So the benefit of CircleTales is in part the development of core ‘soft skills’ known to educators as 21st Century Skills, or the Fours C’s of Education, identified as communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. And when children and adults play CircleTales together, the experience elicits a playful sense of connection whilst giving adults the opportunity to model these important competencies and children the chance to practice them, all while co-creating totally original stories!

Finally, if you could pass on a single piece of advice to a parent of child who struggles with writing, what would it be? 

There is so much pressure on children to perform, to compete, and to be evaluated in everything they do which makes it difficult for kids to really let go and get into a more creative non-judging zone. Helping children to find ways back to that exploratory approach to writing, where words are not frightening but can be a source of great fun and adventure would help children immensely. Creative language use can be wonderfully freeing and might involve inventing new phrases (think Roald Dahl’s “grobblesquirt”) or delighting in unexpected juxtapositions of words to convey an original thought. Summing it up into one single piece of advice, I would say, more time for play!

Annie Murdock is the co-creator of CircleTales the Adventure Storytelling Game, an eco-conscious collaborative tabletop game for children ages 9+ and younger children reading with help.  To find out more about CircleTales, visit the website at or on Instagram @CircleTales

If you are interested in being a guest blogger, please I would love to hear from you.



Posted on October 8th 2020

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