Playing with Language: Storytelling


Welcome back to our Playing with Language Series. This month, I’m working with Stephanie from Twodaloo to bring you a month full of ideas for building language through play. Have you checked out our fun posts about pretending with playdough, playing with language outdoors, and building activities for building language? And Stephanie’s super informative posts on using sensory play, small world play, and music to build language? So many great ideas to get your kiddos talking!

young girl telling terrifying story

This week, I’m excited to share one of my favorite activities for eliciting language… storytelling. I’m extra excited because I’ll be sharing some free printables, as well as some awesome storytelling ideas from other great moms and educators, too!

Why tell stories?

Stories are fun. They can be about anything your child loves.

Stories are sticky. Our minds think in story frames, so stories stick better than expository texts. Most people remember a good story from history class better than isolated details, such as dates and places.

Stories are social. How often do we tell a friend about what happened last night, give a recap of the latest movie we saw or book we read, or explain how to do or make something?

Stories are structured. They give children a context to practice language, such as formulating sentences, giving descriptions, using new vocabulary, understanding emotions, and sequencing events.

What makes a good story?

A basic story should have some common key elements.

A Problem


Some Actions to solve the problemActions

An Outcome to the problemOutcome

Stories can be even better by adding a few more details…

Feelings of the charactersFeelings

The Character’s Plans for solving the problemPlan

An Ending wrapping up the moral of the storyEnding

And of course…

Descriptive Language

Expression in your face, in your voice, and in your body

When should children be able to tell a story?

By 3 to 4 years of age, a child should be able to give descriptions, such as telling daddy what they did at the park, including characters and setting.

By 4 to 5 years of age, a child should be able to string actions together in order to tell a sequence of events.

By 5 years of age, a child should be able to tell a basic story, including characters/setting, problem, actions, and outcome.

By 6 years of age, a child should be able to tell a more complex story with the basic elements as well as feelings, plans, and an ending to their story.

By 7 years of age, a child should be able to tell a complex story made up of at least two simple stories woven together.

How do I teach my child to tell a good story?

If I am doing an informal storytelling activity with my young kids at home, I usually start by modeling a short story with all of the key elements. My kids then quickly jump in for their turn to tell a story. A lot of the time, I just listen to their story, but if I want to help them expand their language I will do some questioning or expanding of what they say. This helps them to fill in some of the details. For example, when my child tells me about the character’s problem, I might say “Oh man, how did that make him feel?”

When I do storytelling in therapy, I use a more structured approach.

  1. I start by telling a story. As I am telling the story, I hold up the story part cards.
  2. We then talk about each part of the story and I make sure they can answer “Who?” “Where?” “What’s the problem?” “What did the character do to solve the problem?” “What was the outcome?”
  3. I then give the story chart and some tokens or candy to the child, and have them listen to my story one more time. When they hear each part of the story, they put a token or candy on their story chart.Story Chart
  4. The child then takes a turn telling the story back to me, while taking the tokens or candy off as he tells each part of the story.
  5. During this part of the storytelling, we work on how to word the story so it makes sense and flows nicely.
  6. The child then retells the story without the story chart.
  7. In order to give the child a multi-sensory experience with the story, you can have him/her draw pictures for each part of the story or come up with actions with his/her body for the story.

Fun Ideas for Storytelling with Kids

Here are some fun ideas for storytelling activities from other great moms and educators…

Story Boxes, Bags, Baskets, and Tubs

Deirdre at JDaniel4’s Mom gathered items from around the house to create an easy-to-use story box.


Heather at Little Moments came up with the perfect solution for all of those leftover game and puzzle pieces that no longer have a home… throw them into a leftover story starter box. Brilliant!

Leftover story starters

It looks like Marnie’s son at Carrots Are Orange has a lot in common with my 3 year old son. I find bags full of toys, clothes, and sometimes even the tv remote all of the time. I love her idea of using these bags as a way to get your kids telling stories. I also like to use her idea of a fill-in-the-blank story sometimes.

Story Bag

Anna at The Imagination Tree  used a story basket to create some common and twisted fairy tales. She also used a sensory bin to encourage retelling The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I love this idea of combining storytelling with a sensory experience!

Storytelling sensory tub


Story Stones and Blocks

Sam at Thrive 360 Living made these adorable story stones to retell The Very Hungry Caterpillar with her son. They are colorful and beautiful and inviting!Story Stones Caterpillar

Jackie at Happy Hooligans created some story stones using pictures from magazines, stickers, cut-outs from fabric, and a little mod podge. These are perfect for those of us who are artistically challenged or just don’t feel like pulling out the paint.

Story Stones

Karyn at Teach Beside Me is using some easy-to-make story starter blocks. These would be great for making stories with older kids, or could be easily adapted for younger kids by adding pictures to the blocks along with the words.Story blocks


Ness at One Perfect Day and Anna at The Imagination Tree are doing a Playful Storytelling series that you must check out! They retold some classic fairy tales through dramatic play. Ness also created simple popsicle stick puppets to retell a well-known nursery rhyme.Popsicle stick puppet

Jodie at Growing Book by Book gives some great story starters to use around the dinner table. And Stephanie at Twodaloo uses a chalkboard to help her little ones tell Daddy about their day at dinnertime.

story board

Kim at The Little Stories is brilliant when it comes to storytelling. She shares great ideas to tell stories, play stories, and live stories. A must read!

Trisha at Inspiration Laboratories has a wonderful round-up of many more ideas for storytelling. Be sure to check it out!

Be sure to join us again next Thursday for the last post in our Playing with Language Series… all about reading books. And don’t forget to read how Twodaloo is building language with art this week!



Graphics by REVIDEVI at Mygrafico

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