Born on the 13th of September back in 1916, Roald Dahl is one of the most famous children’s authors of all time. There aren’t many of us that haven’t read at least one of Roald Dahl’s world-famous publications, and many of them have also been turned into films. If you grew up wishing you had your own chocolate factory complete with edible trees or pretended that your primary school teacher was Miss Trunchbull in disguise, you have definitely been captured by the imagination of Roald Dahl.

So, on what would have been his 102nd birthday, why not join the millions of other Roald Dahl fans and celebrate Roald Dahl day on the 13 September 2018?

A Little Bit More About Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl is most famous for being a best-selling author, but did you know that he was also a chocolate historian, a spy for MI6 and a medical inventor before that? There are many events and professions that Roald Dahl encountered in his life which helped to inspire his passion for storytelling. In fact, it was actually his time spent at a boarding school in Repton (where the pupils were invited to taste trial chocolate bars) that inspired him to write Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Roald Dahl’s first story was published in the US in 1961 and was called James and the Giant Peach, closely followed by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Further classics were published in the 1970s, including The Enormous Crocodile and Danny the Champion of the World. Many of you will also be familiar with Matilda, The Twits and The BFG, all published in the 1980s.

Personal Life

Roald Dahl was married for 30 years to Patricia Neal with whom he had five children. He then later divorced and re-married a lady named Felicity Crosland, who helped encourage his legacy to live on through the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre and Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity. He died aged 74 on 23 November 1990; his body buried in Great Missenden. The same place where the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre provides a place for both adults and children alike to become inspired and amazed at his wild imagination.

How Can You Get Involved?

The purpose of Roald Dahl day is to celebrate the life of the late children’s author by organising dress-up days, craft activities, creative-writing sessions and any fun activity that gets children’s imaginations flowing. If you and your children want to get involved, why not start the day by letting the kids pick a story to help set the scene? If they pick Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, for example, you can use this as the theme for the rest of the day’s activities.

This story is perfect for costume ideas and many of them can be created with items you may already have around the house. Let them raid dad’s wardrobe for a bow tie, jacket and top hat – and they can be Willy Wonka for the day! Also, with Halloween around the corner, there are bound to be some cheap face paints and wigs already on the shelves, so why not have them dress up as an Oompa Loompa?

Alternatively, you could use James and the Giant Peach as your theme for the day and lay out peach themed snacks, followed by an afternoon searching for curious looking bugs and insects in the garden. You could even look for templates online to help the kids make their own bug-themed masks. If they want to get inventive, they can even try to make bug-themed costumes from various pieces found in the dressing-up box.

Costumes and Role-Playing

There are plenty of Roald Dahl stories to choose from, and each and every one of them provides a great dressing up opportunity; what child doesn’t love to take their role-playing up a level with a matching costume to go with their newly invented game? You don’t even have to go out and buy the character’s costume, children are usually content with simple clothing items as substitutes.

The point is to help feed their imagination and get them involved in storytelling, so a simple woolly hat can be a pilot’s hat or a space helmet to help them fly to the moon in their cardboard box space rocket!

Reading to Your Children is So Important

Sharing your childhood favourites with your own children is an amazing experience. As you read, you can watch their faces fill with excitement as you reveal how James finally manages to escape Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker, or when Bruce Bogtrotter manages to demolish a whole chocolate cake much to Miss Trunchbull’s annoyance. There are many other benefits to reading to your children and it is extremely important to both a child’s development and their imagination.  

Your children will absorb more knowledge the more you read to them, and when you start from a young age, you are helping to give them a head start in life. As well as assisting them to widen their vocabulary, reading to your children also enhances a child’s concentration. When you incorporate reading into their daily routine, they will learn to sit still and concentrate for longer periods of time, which is useful when it comes to their first year at school.

Encourage your kids to think about the moral of the story or the thoughts behind the actions of the characters. This, in turn, helps to feed their imagination, which then grows into a thirst for knowledge as they grow older.

Imagination + Passion = Innovation

Reading inspires the imagination and imagination ignites passion. This helps to stimulate creativity, action and innovations that we exploit and rely on in our everyday functioning lives. To quote James whilst staring in wonder at the Giant Peach growing on his aunts’ dead tree, “marvellous things will happen’ when a child is allowed to indulge in the magic of their imagination”. Never a truer word said!