Story Cards with Kids

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-ups, Little 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?


  1. Storytelling is one of my favorite kid activities. I can’t wait to dive into those sites. Next week I’ll be posting a storytelling activity we did about things we love. My kids are pretty good at storytelling, we’ve been sharing stories since before they could talk!

  2. Yay, I look forward to learning from you next week!

    • my pleasure! and it was so nice to see you today!!

  3. Improv story telling turned tooth brushing time from a screaming hour long impasse to something more or less pleasant. Her favorite story for the last six months has been an ongoing story about her and a friend who found their way to fairy princess land and now live in a castle full of princesses with all of the food, jewelry, dresses, toys, parties and adventures that they want. Whenever I try to introduce danger or suspense my daughter quickly re-establishes that the dragon is friendly, the dwarves are nice, and cupcakes and ponies for everyone…

    • Katherine — you brought a huge smile to my face! I’m fascinated by the things that prompt some of our traditions, just as your’s started as a teeth brushing work-around. And who wouldn’t want dragons to be friendly and cupcakes for everyone? I love it 🙂

  4. I am so glad you have added a “You may like this” link-within feature because I’m loving discovering your old posts. One evening soon I am going to make a good coffee, put my feet up and browse through them all! I just wanted to stop at this one to say how much I loved it and that we are totally into oral storytelling at the moment. It must be the magical age of 2 and a half! We haven’t got any wonderful cards like that (although I want some!) but our hot air balloon is providing more inspiration than I dreamed possible and I’m learning all over again how to be creative in my story-telling. A learning process for all!

    Hi Anna. It made me so happy when I finally figured out how to add that to the site, and I’m glad you found the storytelling post. My daughter still loves those cards, and requests them a few times each week. I’ve found similar success with finger puppets, and I’m always on the lookout for new storytelling ideas.

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