Story Cards with Kids

story cards

Storytelling with Kids | TinkerLab.com

Have you ever used story cards as a reading alternative with children? My two and a half year old can’t yet read, but she truly loves a good yarn, and these story cards turned out to be a really fun way to engage her in storytelling.

For the past month or so, she’s been enamored by this awesome set of cards, Tell Me a Story – Circus Animal’s Adventure (Amazon link), a beautifully illustrated “book” that encourage children and adults to craft creative and original stories.

These were a gift from my husband, who learned about them in preparation for a storytelling course he teaches at Stanford. (He should be writing this post, right!). While he can tell a great story, I don’t consider myself a natural storyteller at all! However, the cards are really easy to use and I’m finding that my own ability to improvise, build suspense, and think outside the box has improved through the process of using them.

Story Cards with Kids

There are so many ways to use the cards.

Pull out Cards in Random Order: When I first introduced them, I’d pull out random cards, one by one, and weave a story until I decided we were done.

Invite your child to choose the cards: Once my daughter got the hang of these improvised stories, she wanted in on  the game.  Now she often chooses the cards — sometimes deliberately and sometimes blindly.

Invite your child to join the storytelling: I am usually the one who tells the stories, but I notice that as the storytelling process unfolds my child is more inclined to chime in. I may say something like “The mouse whispered to the lion,  ‘We’re going to take a trip!'” And then I’ll ask her, “Where could they be they going?” To this she says,”Virginia.”

Storytelling with Kids - TinkerLab

Pull on your Imagination: Sometimes our stories are literal representations of the cards we pull, and other times I try to push myself to think more abstractly about the imagery. Last night, a circus tent became an itty-bitty toy tent, plopped in the middle of a dandelion field. Initially, N said, “That’s not a dandelion, it’s a firework!” and I replied, “In this story it could be a dandelion. What do you think?” And she agreed!

The publisher also creates Fairytale Mix-upsLittle Robot’s Mission, and Mystery in the Forest.

Storytelling Resources

Ideas to get you started on Storytelling: from Simple Kids

Storytelling Games: A fun list of almost twenty games to play with kids of all ages

Listen to stories online at the Storybook Online Network

Do you have ideas for telling a good story? What stories do your children love?

Paint *With* Me

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I picked up some inexpensive kitchen basting brushes for art making with the idea that it would be fun to experiment with various types of mark-making materials, and specifically, a variety of brushes. N picked two paint colors, red and purple, and I dropped the basters in the paint. As usual, I wasn’t sure where this activity would take us. After smooshing some paint around on the paper, she decided to paint her hand and have a go at hand-printing. And then a moment later, she asked me to join in the fun. Huh? Oh no, I thought, I’m just here to facilitate this experience. And then she asked again. “Mom, do you want to paint your hand, too?” Not really, I thought, but how could I say “no” when I’m trying raise my daughter to embrace play, experimentation, and risk-taking?

And it reminded me of a fabulous book that I use during Docent Training called Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up. If you’re looking for a last-minute holiday gift, I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s a great read. When Ibrought it on a trip with my parents last Christmas, my mom devoured it in a few hours. And our docents raved about it too. The first chapter of the book is called Say Yes, in which the author makes the argument that we should say yes to everything and accept all offers. To quote the book, “Say yes to everything. Accept all offers. Go along with the plan. Support someone else’s dream…Yes glues us together. Yes starts the juices rolling…Saying yes is an act of courage and optimism; it allows you to share control. It is a way to make your partner happy. Yes expands your world.” The opposite of yes, of course, is “no,” which is a blocking word, and it indicates to others that we have a better idea, we’re critical of the idea on the table, or we’re simply uninterested. What kind of message would I send to my child if I said “no?” Instead, I gave her a whole-hearted “YES,” and I’ve lived to tell the story!

After making handprints, N painted in my mostly red print with purple paint.

And then added some more paint, snowflakes, and sequins. When we washed up, the red paint stained our hands a lovely pink color that reminded me of our joint effort to experiment, play, and take risks.

The YES challenge (via Improv Wisdom)

  • Agree with those around you
  • Say yes if someone asks for help and you can give it
  • For one day say yes to everything, and notice the results. (obviously, use common sense!)

If you take on this challenge, I’d love to hear about the results!