Show Me a Story: Creative Storytelling Games and Crafts

Author, teacher, and FamilyFun blogger Emily Neuburger shares crafts and activities for sparking kids' imaginations.

  • Photograph by Carl Tremblay

    Show Me a Story

    Everyone loves a good story, and Emily Neuburger knows just what it takes to get kids spinning a yarn. In her book Show Me a Story: 40 Craft Projects and Activities to Spark Children's Storytelling, she offers simple games, story prompts, and inspiring craft projects aimed at ramping up the fun of the creative process and drawing out reluctant storytellers. For kids, especially, the rewards are considerable. "Storytelling is the perfect, most nourishing food for growing minds," she says. Feed your own kids' imaginations with the following projects, all adapted from Emily's book.

  • Photograph by Carl Tremblay

    Build a Story

    This is a versatile group-storytelling game in which each person collects items and incorporates one of them into a larger, collaborative story. Because it uses simple materials that can be gathered anywhere, it can be played wherever you are and in short bursts of time.

    See next slide for instructions.

  • Photograph by Carl Tremblay

    How to Play

    1. Give each storyteller a bucket or sack and send her on a hunt, outdoors or inside, for objects that are amusing, mysterious, curious, even mundane, such as a stone, branch, spoon, flower, watch, or teacup. When the buckets are full, have each person select one item to bring to the circle.

    2. The first person begins the story by setting the scene and including her object. The next person continues the narrative, incorporating his item as smoothly and imaginatively as possible. The game goes around the circle until the last player ends the story.

    3. Each player selects a different object from her bucket, and the group tells a whole new story.

  • Photograph by Carl Tremblay

    Story Stones

    Stones turned into colorful characters and props make intriguing storytelling tools -- especially when they're part of thematic sets (such as "picnic," "carnival," or "school time"). But beware: once your children start a collection, they won't want to stop adding to it.

    See next slide for instructions.

  • Photograph by Carl Tremblay

    How to Play

    Make Them:
    1. Gather, wash, and dry a set of smooth stones. The ideal size and shape is a round or oval stone about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches long and wide.
    2. Design characters and objects from paper and fabric scraps, as well as bits of string and small seeds.
    3. Once the pieces are cut out, coat a stone with a thin layer of Mod Podge. Place the pieces on the stone, smoothing them as you go, then coat the design with another layer of Mod Podge. Set the stones aside to dry completely.

    Use Them:
    1. Encourage kids to use the stones for imaginative, dramatic play in the same way they would use small dolls and toy figurines.
    2. Kids can play with the stones outside, in a dollhouse, on a table or play mat, or in the car. To keep them in tip-top shape, avoid getting them wet.
    3. Store them in small bags, in boxes, or even in socks to preserve them for future fun."

  • Photograph by Buff Strickland

    Story Grab Bag

    The beginning of a tale isn't always easy to find. A Story Starter, a type of creative prompt, can help a child get a story going -- and keep it going, on her own or as part of a group. For an endless supply of inspiration, assemble a sturdy set of starters.

    See next slide for instructions.

  • Photograph by Jon Polak

    How to Play

    Make It:
    1. Have your child look through magazines, catalogs, maps, and her drawings for story elements: words, numbers, illustrations, photographs. You can also search for specific images online.
    2. Cut out the elements and adhere them to card stock with a glue stick. For sturdier cards, use a foam brush to apply Mod Podge to each card.
    3. When the glue is dry, place the cards in a bag or a box with a lid.

    Use It:
    1. Have your child select five Story Starters from the grab bag and use them to tell a story. Younger children can take the stream-of-consciousness route, referring to each card as they go. An older child can frame a story by strategically placing her Story Starters at different points in the narrative.
    2. For group storytelling, the first storyteller chooses some- thing from the grab bag and begins the story. Each person then takes a turn selecting and telling, adding to the story, until everyone has had a turn.

    Originally published in the September 2013 issue of FamilyFun