Traditionally stories have been passed from generation to generation. They’ve been used to pass on wisdom, knowledge, myths and adventures. Storytelling helps to capture children’s imaginations and shape their view of the world. Through a story you can travel to the other side of the world, hear about amazing adventures and imagine that you’re a part of them.

A good story will stimulate your senses so that you can use your imagination to feel, smell, touch and listen, visualizing vivid pictures. Creating story themed art and sensory activities is a great way of encouraging your child to use their imagination too.

Every picture tells a story

A piece of artwork in itself can tell a story. Artists might use images to represent moments in a story. I love that when you look at a piece of art you naturally wonder what the artist was aiming to represent. Each different person can imagine a completely different story.

Process art, where the focus is on the experience and not the final product may not have any intentional story. Yet, you will still be able to discover the story behind how it was created, or the emotion that the artist was feeling at the time.

Storytelling benefits:

  • Develops imagination
  • Improves communication skills
  • Develops memory
  • Improves listening skills
  • Raises cultural awareness
  • Instills morals
  • Increases your bond with your child
  • Helps children deal with real life situations.

Just as computer simulations help us get to grips with complex problems like flying a plane or forecasting the weather, so novels, stories and dramas help us understand the complexities of social life. – Dr Keith Oatley, Ph.D.

How to extend the learning

Children gain so much more from stories when parents talk and ask questions about the story. You can find out about the kids of questions you might want to ask to extend their understanding and vocabulary on the CBeebies website.

You can extend the learning from storytelling through art and sensory activities too. For example:

Art and Sensory Ideas for Storytelling:

Blackboard or large sheet of paper

Start drawing as you tell a story, adding to the illustrations as you go. Don’t worry about what it looks like. You could take it in turns to tell and illustrate the story. Add some drama by using different voices. You could create a whole series with a particular character.

Story maps

Create a story map to help illustrate where things happen in a story. You could create a 2 dimensional map, drawing roads, houses, parks, woodland, mountains etc. to illustrate where events take place, or you could turn it into a 3 dimensional map, with playdough, clay, papier mache, playmobil, lego etc.

In the example below I created a road using an old cardboard box. Children used playdough, bottle tops and buttons to create cars, houses, trees, ponds etc.


Sensory bins

Using sensory bins is a great way to extend the learning of storytelling. Sensory play has huge benefits for child development. You could talk to your child about what happened in the story and pick a part of the story to represent within the sensory bin.

For example, if in your story a character is going for a walk in the woods, you could go for a walk and collect some natural items to make a sensory bin with. Then use the items to build on the learning from the story. Talk about the rustling of the leaves, how the character might have felt if he trod on a spiky horse chestnut. Or which animals might have been hiding in the trees and searching for the smooth round acorns.

If your story is about pirates, you could fill a sensory bin with sand, or cloud dough and hide coins, gems, shells, toy crabs in it. Ask your child what they might find in the sand. Ask whether the treasure was buried by pirates, or washed ashore from a shipwreck.

You can get find out all about sensory bins from Little Bins for Little Hands.

In this example I’ve used cloud dough and added flower pots, a trowel and pipe-cleaner worms and a toy spider. You can dig for worms in soil with the Squidgydoodle Spring Craft Box. 

Pretend play with homemade props/costumes

You could create some props or costumes to help re-enact your story and bring it to life. Or just use props you already have and add in sensory elements like this example of Goldilocks and the Three Bears from The Imagination Tree.

Squidgydoodle mini craft kits make great imaginative play props. The range includes a Unicorn Horn, Super Hero Mask, Fairy Wand and Monster puppet kit. Everything you need to make the pretend play craft activity is included in the kit.


Small world play

Small world play is a good way of encouraging your child to become involved in the story, creating their own scenarios, or acting out scenarios from a story they’ve heard. You create a miniature world using small toys and materials from your home, or nature. They often involve a sensory element.

I love this example from Little Worlds Big Adventures of ‘We’re going on a bear hunt.‘ It’s a fantastic story for sensory play as you can re-create the thick oozy mud, deep cold river etc. Little World’s Big Adventures has a great beginners guide to small world play which also includes the benefits of small world play.

In the example below I’ve used toys, grass samples, corrugated card, oats and cheerios. Fabric and wallpaper samples are great for use in small world play to create different textures.


Story stones

Story stones can be used to encourage children’s imaginations and help to prompt them to develop their own storytelling. You draw or paint images on stones and then use them as prompts for your story. You can either pick out several stones to use, or take it in turns to pick up a stone and tell the next line of the story. Here are 5 great story stone ideas from The Artful Parent.


I hope you’ve enjoyed my ideas of how to use art and sensory activities within storytelling. Have you tried any other ideas? I’d love to hear them. If you try any of the art and sensory activities above I’d love to see some photos. Just tag @squidgydoodle on Facebook or Instagram, or @SquidgydoodleHQ on Twitter.

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  • Catherine @ Story Snug Posted January 29, 2018 6:49 pm

    There are some great ideas here. I love using a bag of props with a group of children to help them come up with a story. It’s amazing how imaginative some children can be with a wooden spoon or a funny hat :o)

    • Debbie Denyer Posted January 29, 2018 10:26 pm

      Hi Catherine, Props are such a great story prompt. I have lots of ‘dressing up clothes’ at my house, but I find it interesting that my daughters often choose to create their own outfits with random items. My youngest often crawls around with a toy moses basket strapped to her back, pretending to be a turtle! Kids’ imaginations are fantastic aren’t they?

      • Catherine @ Story Snug Posted February 5, 2018 2:44 pm

        They are! It’s a shame that so many adults lose theirs as they grow up!!

        • Catherine @ Story Snug Posted February 5, 2018 2:44 pm

          Imaginations I mean!!

  • Debbie Posted January 31, 2018 4:47 am

    Hi Debbie, anything that encourages children to use their imagination is fantastic. I love the idea of drawing as the story is being told, it would give a proper peep into the mind of a child and I bet the results are hilarious.


    • Debbie Denyer Posted January 31, 2018 9:06 pm

      Hi Debbie, Definitely! My 3 year old drew a picture of a heavily bearded lady the other day, then announced it was me! Just as I was about to take offense she told me it was because Daddy had given me a cuddle and his whiskers had rubbed off on me as he hadn’t shaved yet!

  • Helena Posted February 1, 2018 4:22 pm

    These are certainly lovely ways in which to learn stories. #mmbc

    • Debbie Denyer Posted February 1, 2018 8:21 pm

      Thanks Helena, I’m glad you liked them.

  • Jayne @ Sticky Mud and Belly Laughs Posted February 2, 2018 8:02 pm

    What fun ways to be able to interact with a story Debbie. I love the sensory bin and I think it allows little ones to not only use their imagination but it encourages creativity too.

    Thanks so much for joining in with #MMBC. I hope you can join me Monday x

  • Malin – Sensational Learning with Penguin Posted February 5, 2018 3:43 pm

    Wow, these are great ideas, thank you! One or two we’ve tried before, but should definitely be using more of these ????????x

    • Malin – Sensational Learning with Penguin Posted February 5, 2018 3:43 pm

      #MMBC ????????

      • Debbie Denyer Posted February 5, 2018 4:32 pm

        Hi Malin, Thank you so much for commenting. I hope you enjoy them. I often share ideas to try at home in my e-newsletter, so you might like to sign up to it on my home page.

  • BookBairn Posted November 19, 2018 3:07 pm

    Great ideas!! Thanks for sharing – would love to see some photos to inspire me further! #KLTR

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