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Help Develop Storytelling Skills in Kids Using These 7 Props

Have ever attended library story time or visited an early learning center? You may have noticed the storyteller using props to engage the children with a story.  Perhaps they used puppets or a felt board with pre-cut figures to help show the characters of the story.  Maybe they even dressed up in a costume to bring the story alive.

As children grow older, we tend to phase out many of these props during storytelling. However, allowing children to use these props as part of their own storytelling can be incredibly valuable.

When I was a child, I would plunk myself down on the couch after school every day to watch the latest episode of Little House on the Prairie. I devoured the book series and spent countless hours acting the role of Laura Ingalls Wilder during my playtime.

I loved to tell the story. However, when it came time to write stories at school, I would freeze. Staring at a blank page of paper, I would spend hours agonizing over what to write about. Looking back now, I see part of my problem was I never saw the link between my own internal storytelling through play and my actual written word on paper.

I did not realize I created stories every day with my siblings and classmates through our play. Having taught both elementary and middle school students, I know I am not the only student who struggles with this. Storytelling props can help create a bridge for students between listening to stories and writing their own.

Here are 7 storytelling props you can use with kids of all ages to help develop storytelling skills.

1. Puppets

Puppets may be purchased or homemade. They come in various sizes including hand and finger puppets. You can even make your own using popsicle sticks, paper, and glue. You can find puppets of animals, community helpers, and famous people to name a few. When students create their own puppets, it really helps them develop the characters in their story.

2. Comic Strips

Designing a comic strip only requires paper, but it can still be a playful way to practice writing. It helps kids develop the plot of the story as they plan out what will happen in each box. Struggling writers and dyslexic kids may also find this less intimidating since there are fewer words. They are still developing their story structure with characters and plot. It is easy to find samples of comics in the paper for students to see this in action. An entire genre of books, graphic novels, use comics to tell the story.

3. Story Boards

There are many ways you can create a story board. The most common type is a flannel board. A Flannel Board consists of a board covered in felt that is used with felt pieces that can be arranged on the board. Other materials that can be used to create a story include magnets and paper dolls. These are some examples:

  • Melissa & Doug Wooden Magnets in a Box
  • Create-A-Scene Magnetic Playsets

4. Toy Figurines or Playsets

As children, my kids would spend hours setting up little scenes and acting out skits with toy figures. When I actually watched and listened to their play, I was amazed at the storytelling skills and vocabulary they were using. Letting kids use these types of props while writing a story can help them better visualize a scene and the characters. Some example include:

  • Playmobil sets
  • Schleich Figures
  • Safari Ltd. Figurines and TOOB sets

6. Storytelling Games

Games can be a low-stress source of stealth learning. Kids are often much more motivated practicing skills through games than they are motivated to practice on paper. Storytelling games use cards, dice, figures or a combination of these. There are numerous resources available in this category. Here are some examples:

  • Rory’s Story Cubes
  • Dixit Board Game
  • Eeboo Creative Story Cards
  • Once Upon a Time Card Game
  • Barefoot Books Build-a-Story Cards
  • Tall Tales Storytelling Board Game
  • Tell Tale Card Games

6. Story Stones

Like storytelling games, story stones have pictures on them that you use to tell a story. You can draw or paint on the rock or use pictures cut out from magazines or old picture books that you mod podge on to the rocks. If you don’t have access to stones, wooden disks available at craft stores work well too.

7. Dress Up Clothes and Props

As my kids have grown older their costumes have changed from community helpers and pirates to historical costumes. We have picked up many props from museums and historical site gift shops. Kids of all ages can put on a play to tell a story. Reenactors use costumes to tell their story.

Putting it All Together

Storytelling is an important skill for students to develop. Use the following storytelling props to help make the writing process easier, more fun, and less intimidating.

  • puppets
  • comic strips
  • story boards
  • toy figurines or playsets
  • storytelling games
  • story stones
  • dress up clothes and props

Consider having kids use these props to retell a familiar story first, before creating their own stories. Do not be intimidated to try using storytelling props with older children. When there is a playful atmosphere it eliminates some of the pressure to perform. Older kids can also transfer words to paper as they act out scenes. Parents or older kids can transcribe the story to help younger kids write their story.

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