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Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

By Laila Weir

Telling and sharing stories is a tradition so ancient and universal that some say that it’s what makes us human. It’s also an incredibly powerful tool for engaging children and building literacy. In fact, some teacher training suggests that storytelling supports all areas of literacy learning—listening skills, imagination and creativity, language use and story structure, and more—as well as improving cultural connection.

But we knew that, didn’t we? The power of story is visible in everything from the draw of television to the ubiquitous childhood cry (so often heard as bedtime passes into night) of “tell me a story!” Spinning a tale, whether tall or true, is one of the best ways to spend time with the little ones in our lives. However, turning the tables can be great too, and not just because it gives tired parents a break: Encouraging children to invent and share stories builds their fluency and their confidence as future writers.

In celebration of the ancient power of sharing stories, we’ve pulled together some cute crafts to spark storytelling in your family. We invite you to check them out, tell a tale or two, and then ask your child to tell one of their own.

Create a Storytelling Puppet

Telling a story with a puppet is loads of fun, and it really helps self-conscious kids (and grownups) deflect the limelight and come out of their shell. You—or even better, you and your child—can make an adorable storytelling hand puppet out of a paper lunch bag. We’ve got tutorials and printable templates to make a mythical lion puppet inspired by Lunar New Year traditions and to make a super-cute bunny puppet. Or draw your own animal or other character to inspire your family’s storytime. Silly voices encouraged!

You can also create mini storytelling puppets by drawing little faces on the tops of craft sticks or on cardboard cutouts glued to craft sticks.

Upcycle Building Blocks into Storytelling Dice

Storytelling dice are a fun game to get your creative juices flowing. Just roll the dice and make up a story based on whatever pictures are showing. You can buy premade dice, but why not save the planet and engage your kids in a craft by recycling some old building blocks into your own DIY storytelling dice? Our Easter Storytelling Dice tutorial shares how to make Easter-themed dice, but you can adapt it to any theme or topic your family is interested in.

Make DIY Storytelling Cards

Another adaptation is storytelling cards, which have different pictures (or creative and inspiring words, for older kids) on each card. Just shuffle them, deal a few cards, and let the story roll!

Check out our tutorial to make your own storytelling cards from old playing cards or index cards.

How, when, and where do you get the stories rolling in your household? Do your kids love real-life memories or tall tales best? Let us know and share your storytelling tips in the comments. We also love to see pictures of your crafty creations on social media, so let’s connect!

Laila Weir is a lifelong storyteller, as well as a professional editor and writer who’s raising three bilingual children in California.