Tips to making Story Stones

Making Story Stones

Let your imagination run wild when creating story stones! There are almost endless amounts of ways to use them with equally endless amounts of ways to decorate and create them. Below are some suggestions to help get you started. Click here for more examples and insights into using story stones.

Types of Stones 

Any color, shape, size will work. If you are gluing images to the stone, a smooth rock might work better. If a stone is going to be painted, feel free to incorporate the shape of the rock into your design.  Use the shape or texture of the stone to inspire the image or how you use the rock.  If the rock has a rough spot on it, maybe that can be the sand in a picture of a beach. Some stones have natural stripes and striations, try to integrate those stripes and patterns.  

Landscaping stores and hardware stores often have inexpensive stones for sale that come in a variety of colors and textures. Stones called “river rocks” will be the smoothest. If your school has rocks outside the building and it is ok to take a few, have the children in your class go on a “rock hunt” and pick their own rocks to decorate. 

How to Decorate 

These are a few suggestions to get you started. The sky’s the limit! Make sure to include the children in the process.

Prepping your stone

It is best to wash and dry the stone first if it is dirty. Some people like to paint their stones white or another solid color so that the image is clear and they have a canvas-like background to work with.  

Paint

Paint pens work really well to decorate stones. Paint used with brushes, sponges, stencils, and stamps work well too. You’ll want to get a waterproof, permanent paint so that the stones can be used outside or even in your water table. 

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Examples shown here are created by using paint, paint pens and stickers

Paper Images/Stickers

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A great option in creating story stones is to glue images directly onto the stones. You can find pictures from magazines, the internet and even use your favorite stickers. 

Textures

Textured stones offer a sensorial experience for children. Think about adding sand, small sticks, grass, leaves to the stones. 

Alternatives to Stones

There are great alternatives to stones that can be used to create a similar effect. Wood slices or tree cookies as they are sometimes called, work well.  Jar tops are an inexpensive and great option as well. 

Finishing Your Stone 

If you use paper, stickers, or textures on your stone you will want to use modge podge or a finishing spray to waterproof your stone and to ensure the decoration stays. 

Intention

As I said earlier, story stones can be used in endless ways. When making story stones, you should consider a wide variety of themes, topics and images. If you are making story stones with faces or people on them, make sure  to create stones showing diversity in: skin color, age, gender, and ability. Stones can be created to support topics such as math, social/emotional themes, science, literacy, and social stories.  

Math

  • Numbers, shapes, compare/contrast, ordering/sequencing, grouping (think of the Sesame Street game, “One of these things is not like the other”), telling time (clocks), patterns, directions, maps, spacial practice: use arrows to decorate the stones to create a series of directions
    • Examples: ladybugs with different numbers of dots on them; silly monsters with different numbers of horns, eyes etc.

Social/Emotional

  • Stones with different faces showing different emotions

Science

  • Create stones showing different kinds of weather, plants, animals

Storytelling Using Story Stones

Children are natural storytellers. Children want to talk about their day, the adventures they had, the enormous tower they are currently building, their new shoes or the pet that is waiting for them at home (even if they don’t actually have a pet, they will tell you an elaborate story all about their imaginary pet). Sometimes all it takes to get a child to share their story is a visual cue, a reminder or a spark that enables the child to create or tell a story. Story stones, loose parts and open-ended materials can be a great tool in story telling.

Story stones are stones decorated with different images. They can have a wide array of images: plants, animals, modes of transportation, different parts of the body and people as well as letters, numbers and even words.  The options for images are endless. These stones serve as a visual way to tell stories or express feelings and emotions. To see more examples of story stones please see the related blog post

Story stones are a useful and fun tool to employ in the classroom. They give children an opportunity to practice story sequencing, creativity, language development and cooperation. The stones can serve as a visual cue to inspire and enhance stories and they are a good resource to have in the classroom. I’ve found that an endless number  of stories can be created from a limited number of stones.

Story Stones can be created inexpensively and children can also be given the opportunity to create their own.  If you are in a Jewish classroom, the stones can have Jewish themed visuals on them, as well. Creating the stones can be as easy as using stickers or clipart printed from the computer to decorate. Often, it also works well to use sharpies or permanent art markers to draw on the stones and the results are beautiful.

I recently presented at a conference in Denver in which we explored the many uses and applications of story stones and open-ended materials in the classroom. The educators in our workshop incorporated different materials to create their stories; some were linear expressions of a story and others were more visual. Offering an array of materials like clay, paint, sand, and natural elements (wood, pine cones, sticks) can lead to a visually stunning and elaborate representation of stories. It is also important to offer unique tools to explore the materials as well. For example, a teacher can offer children foam rollers, coral sponges, etc. as a more open-ended method of applying paint instead of just laying out brushes on a table.

Not only can a varied array of materials be representative of a story but the materials themselves can serve as an inspiration for a story. The types of materials educators provide can be inspired by what the children are interested in and talking about in the classroom. If a child just returned from the beach, then a great addition to the art or sensory table could be sea sponges, shells or sand. The options for different materials can be endless but it is important to choose the materials with intention.

When you bring open-ended materials and story stones in your classroom, have fun and be prepared to see the materials used in creative and new ways.