I was tidying the desk in the study this morning when I found a small toy catalogue that had slipped beneath the printer. I looked at the pictures and thought they would be great for making story stones, a project that has been at the back of my mind for many months. Being my spontaneous self, I set to task. I cut out pictures from the catalogue and took my children hunting in the back yard for suitable stones. I still haven’t got back to finish tidying my desk.
There are lots of fancy ways to make story stones. You can paint or draw on rocks or use stickers or photographs – children are naturally egotistical and will adore having story stones featuring themselves and their loved ones. You can create themed sets (fairy tales, in the forest, outer space) or just a general set like we chose to do. You can paint the rocks first or leave them natural. You can use felt-tip pens, paint or liquid paper. There are no rules!
To make story stones similar to ours, you need some smooth stones, pictures/stickers and craft glue that dries clear. I also made some textured stones with dirt, ‘grass’ (from a fake Christmas garland), rice and sugar. I wanted to use sand but didn’t have any in the back yard, so I thought raw sugar would work nicely instead. I don’t recommend it; when we set the stones outside to dry, the sugared ones were almost carried away by ants.
We sourced all our stones from our backyard. Some were in pot plants and some were part of our rock path. If you happen to be near a river or a stream, don’t pass the opportunity to gather some large smooth stones for this purpose. We gave the stones a little wash (which involved Sunshine Girl sitting fully-dressed inside her water table in the backyard) and then when the stones (and the children) were dry the kiddies glued the pictures that I cut out onto them. This was a sticky mess and some of the rocks looked completely white because there was so much glue on them. It didn’t matter! Once the glue dried it provided a nice seal for the pictures.
We are giving some of these away as part of a Christmas gift and keeping some as our own set. I have brainstormed below ways to use them so that I can include a list with our gift set. Please if you have any other ideas share them in the comments.
FORCED RELATIONSHIPS: RANDOM. Child chooses three stones at random by putting their hand into the bag of stones and pulling three out. The stones are then used as a ‘forced relationship’ which promotes creative thinking. The child tells a story incorporating the three different characters, places, objects or textures. This is fairly advanced for young children and may require modeling by an adult the first few times.
FORCED RELATIONSHIPS: CHOSEN. As above, but instead of randomly selected stones, the child thoughtfully selects three stones that they would like to use.
STORY CIRCLE for three or more people. Sitting in a circle, each person selects two stones, either randomly or by choice. One person starts the story using one of their stones as a prompt. They place their stone down in the middle of the circle. The next person continues the story, incorporating one of the stones they have chosen. They place their stone next to the first one in a line. This continues and the circle repeats so that each person has a second turn and an opportunity to use their second stone as a prompt to weave into the story. When the last person has their last stone, they bring the story to a close.
SHARED STORYTELLING. Turn all the stones face-down so that no pictures can be seen. The adult begins to tell a story and at various points in the story, invites the child/ren to turn over another stone revealing a new character/object/item which will be weaved into the story.
PUPPET SHOW. Child/ren use the stones to put on a puppet show, either impromptu or rehearsed.
CLASSIFYING. Child/ren can sort the stones into various categories or types, such as small, big, light, dark, animal, person etc.
FREE PLAY. Child/ren use the stones however they choose to. They may use other toys as props or hold conversations between different characters on the stones. Time to play and explore freely and without structure is an important part of early childhood. I find it is best not to interfere during this time.