Raising Summer Readers Tip #48: Combine art and literacy by encouraging kids to make their own storytelling prompts!

In several earlier posts, I discussed the benefits of frequent storytelling — how it nurtures language, imagination, creativity, and the narrative thinking skills required for comprehending and writing good stories (See tip #22#24#28). As was mentioned in these prior tips, storytelling prompts (aka “story starters”) can help lure children into the fun of storytelling as well as inspire the creation of stories with new ideas/characters/plots. An especially fun summer activity is for kids to make their own story starters. Here are a few of my favorite story starter crafts:

  • popsicle stick puppets

    Popsicle stick puppets

    garden glove puppets

    Gardening glove finger puppets

    Puppet making. Kids can make finger and hand puppets out of paper, popsicle sticks, paper bags, socks, old gardening gloves, old wooden spoons, and even peanut shells! 

    old wooden spoon puppets

    Making puppets out of old wooden spoons

  • Story disks. Get some wooden disks from your local arts and crafts store or online (I like American Woodcrafters Supply.) Kids can paint both sides of the disks in various colors. After drying, pictures can be drawn, painted, or stamped onto the disk. Or online images can be printed and glued. As a final touch, apply a coat of Mod Podge to each side. Disks can be placed in a bag, box, or jar and pulled for storytelling.
  • Story stones. Rock painting is such a fun summer craft — painted rocks can be collected, traded with friends, and even help to generate fun stories. Kids can go on purposeful stone searches, though these seem like they are often not successful when you have plans to paint! We’ve had more success by keeping an eye out for stones when out at places where they might be found (such as the beach, lakes and rivers, parks). You can also purchase river rocks at your local arts and crafts store. Acrylic paints work best, and kids should be encouraged to paint a couple of solid coats before painting their designs. There are some great rock painting books for kids with step-by-step instructions that make it quite easy, or you can search Google Images by typing in “rock painting” and any image you want to paint, and a bunch of examples will come up!

    rock painting

    Rock painting/Story stones

  • Story cubes. My kids have enjoyed using Rory’s Story Cubes to tell and write stories (see Tip #24). It can be particularly fun for kids to make their own story cubes. Find small wooden cubes (Arts and crafts stores also has these, as does American Woodcrafters supply and other online shops) — and encourage kids to draw, paint, or stamp images of characters, objects, and places. You can also help your kids decide on categories for each die — such as a characters, places, objects, weather, emotions — so that each die displays only one category. Story cubes lend to fun storytelling games. And, the unique thing about them is that they can lead to so many different combinations…six dice have 36 unique images and 46,656 unique combinations so they provide endless storytelling options!

    story cubes

    Homemade story cubes

  • For more elaborate descriptions of these ideas as well as other great storytelling crafts, check out the fantastic book Show Me a Story: 40 Craft Projects and Activities to Spark Children’s Storytelling by Emily Neuburger!
peanut puppet

Peanut shell finger puppets!

After kids make their story starters, encourage them to use them to tell a story. (See Tip #24 for the story features to help them include). If multiple kids are creating the prompts, it can be fun to tell collaborative stories — for example, everyone puts one stone, cube, or disk in the center and takes turns adding to the story to include each prompt. These also make for great creating writing prompts. And, when paired with a neat journal and set of pens, they can be great gifts or party favors!

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