An easy DIY game to develop imagination – Story Stones

Pinterest is my lifeline on days when we’re stuck indoors. I have a board of craft projects ready to inspire Baby Bu and me when we have downtime and the books or building blocks just aren’t cutting it.
Some of these projects have been epic failures (materials purchased in advance, 20 minutes of set up, and 2 minutes of tipping goggly eyes and tissue paper onto the floor before moving on to something else), but there are others that have gone down so well I thought I’d share them with you.
My current favourite is Story Stones. They’re easy to make, require minimal materials, can be brought out quickly on a rainy day (or a scorching day, here in Dubai), aren’t messy to play with and build beautiful (and important) imagination skills.

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The concept is that you or your little one choose a stone (either randomly or selectively), start a story using the subject depicted on the stone, then choose subsequent stones to build a story. So simple, yet having specific pictures to work with in your story really encourages focus and imagination.
I made a set of these a few weeks ago whilst staying at my parents, and brought them out during a little post-snack downtime, the third time we’d played with them. After making up a story myself, Baby Bu took over and made up her own, even prefacing it with ‘once upon a time’. The story went along the lines of ‘once upon a time, the boy was sad because it was raining’. That was it. But at 23 months old, I was delighted to see how easily she picked up the task and tapped into her imagination.

I thoroughly recommend having a go yourself! Here’s a step by step guide:

  • Collect some smooth, flat(ish) stones from your garden or park. We got these ones from my parents garden. It took just 30 mins of searching, and your little ones will most likely enjoy the hunt!
  • Give them a scrub (a nail brush works wonders) and leave them to dry.
  • Choose your pictures. I used Pinterest to inspire me, and chose a shortlist of the most useful images, but then also consulted Learning Littles on Facebook for more inspiration and received some super advice (in particular from a couple of teachers).
  • Make sure you have some emotions in there – happy and sad as the basics but to make your stories more elaborate you could add angry, scared, excited, etc. My LO is obsessed by the emotion stones – they always feature.
  • Include some characters (people, animals, birds).
  • Have at least one location but ideally more (house, garden, shop, tent, school etc). A lot of the stories we make up involve going from one to the other.
  • Include a mode of transport (car, bike, bus, plane).
  • Weather makes for good story lines (being a Dubai toddler, Baby Bu is fascinated by the rain and it features in most of our stories).
  • Using acrylic paint and a thin paintbrush, decorate your stones. I’m not particularly arty and I found these easy to do by using pictures on Pinterest as inspiration.
  • Leave to dry for a few hours et voila!

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You could even build them up by theme (ocean, holiday, fairytale, superheroes etc). It’s even better if you can focus on something your little one is passionate about. Baby Bu loves food and talking about the cooking process so that may be my next subject matter!

They’re beautiful weighty in the hand, and cold to the touch, which makes for an added sensory element that encourages little ones to hold them, examine them and interact with them.

If painting really isn’t your thing, I’ve also read that you can use cut out pictures (from magazines, print outs etc) and paste them onto the stone using modge podge. This would also be great for the trickier pictures with a bit more detail in.

Once they’re ready, one great way to play with them is to stick them in a bag and ask your little one to pull them out at random. Each stone they pull out needs to be built into the story in turn, forcing you/them to really push your imagination. I love keeping them hidden away (also best from a safety perspective if you have a little one who likes to throw!), and bringing them out when we’re stuck inside, which makes them feel like more of a treat activity than if they were readily available.

Let me know how you get on – I’d love to see your finished stones!

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