Storytelling Activities

Posted on 11th May, 2020, under Projects, Research

Would you like to extend your child’s social, emotional and intellectual learning using story activities?

Above all, children love a good story. Their imaginations are active when listening to magical adventures of unknown lands and creatures. But why stop there?

The following activities are child-led and work best when they take place after a story has been told. Because this is child-led, the adult has minimal input to the thinking from which the activity will develop. For that reason, the adult’s role is to encourage all children to participate in the activities and to facilitate and implement the children’s ideas.

Creative minds

This activity transforms the story you have just told or read into a role-playing activity. By encouraging the children to create the environment from the story you can bring the story to life in another form. First of all, for this activity, you help the children by asking them to ‘think about’:

• What does the environment in your story look like?
• Is it indoors or outdoors?
• Is it dark like a cave or light like a summer morning?
• What materials will we need to create it?

Also, when the ideas are collected, with the children’s help, you will arrange the inside or outside space into appropriate areas. When your environment is set up, using any materials you could collect that are suitable, the children will re-enact the story. Finally, it is helpful to assign the children roles from the story. Then as you reread or re-tell the story, the children become the actors. This method of storytelling/story-acting was developed by Vivian Paley an Americian educator, researcher and author (Paley, 1990).

Creative Arts

A further activity that children love is combining art with storytelling. After telling a story, discuss the role of an illustrator with the children and invite them to draw their interpretation of the story. Collect a series of these pictures in a folder for the children to save and keep. As an educational aide; the practice of saving the child’s art in a folder is a holistic way to reflect on the child’s developing pre-literacy skills, visual communication and meaning-making through storytelling.

Creative writing

Also, a great was to expand children’s imagination is to introduce them to the idea of writing a new story. You can start by suggesting the children make up a similar story to a story they know well. For example: if the children know ‘The Gruffalo’ by Julia Donaldson, invite them to reinvent the story using their imaginations. You can use a storyboard or a Mindmap to help the children see their ideas coming together.
Invite the children as a group to:

Story elements

• Choose a feeling, for example: excited, happy, scared, lonely,
• Choose a character; a creature or human who will experience this feeling
• Choose a name for your character
o Top Tip: an alphabetical match between the feeling and the characters name works well. For example, hungry hippo, sad Sally, moody monkey, angry ant etc.
• What environment does your story takes place in?

Story Structure

• Once upon a time…. How do we begin our story children?
• The conflict! Something happens which results in the character experiencing an emotional feeling
• What obstacles do our character have to overcome?
• Facilitate the story to ensure it ends on a positive message (nurturing well-being)

The structure of the story is a basic guideline, every group will take the story in a different direction because as we all know, children’s imaginations are amazingly diverse and inventive.

Helpful Resources are available at the following links:
MindMaps for children available at

From the Aistear Síolta guide, you will see how to capture and document your child’s learning experiences. Available online at:


Paley, V. (1990). The boy who would be a helicopter: The use of storytelling in the classroom. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Dr Catherine (Kitty) O'Reilly
Dr Catherine (Kitty) O'Reilly Collage

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