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How to make & introduce a story starter tray that enriches storytelling.

Everyone tells stories!

Some are better at it than others and that is probably because they have practiced more. I wanted to support the children’s interest in story telling and enhance it as I knew there are so many benefits.

Story telling is known to:

Enhance verbal Skills

Improve imagination

Develop reflective skills

Increase logical thinking

Improve listening skills

I love story baskets and have been making, sharing and teaching others about them for a couple of years. BUT I wanted to try something NEW. I was inspired by tray play and wanted to adapt it for storytelling.

The trays I have been making have been AWESOME for story starters but they have also been used for ‘tinkering’, schema and loose parts play. They have proven to be very versatile.

I have used a variety of trays from an old Tupperware chip and dip tray to a Kmart felt one. The items I have used have been open and close-ended.

I started my first tray based on a popular story basket and then took away the basket and added more items with the book as a prompt. I then put out the story starter tray without the book. I could have just put the tray out for the children but I thought this scaffolded approach would encourage more language and storytelling. Would it have worked just to put it out as a tray? Perhaps, but this way was successful and a great way to ease into using loose parts and more open story telling if you have not done it before with children.

The tray was similar to a popular story basket and it seemed like a natural progression to just being a tray.

From this great experience I turned to resources i already had to create more. I reused story stones, disks and peg dolls that I had used in story baskets. I made most of these on my own and have blogs about how.

Once the children had played with a story starter tray it was a matter of gathering items that seemed to ‘fit’ together and connected to the children’s interests. The sea and pirate story starter tray was very popular. It was interesting that the children drew on familiar books to tell stories, like The Man Whose Mother Was A Pirate but soon the stories were their own and had no connections to books read.

I found the wooden fish as a mobile at a second-hand shop and just needed to remove the hooks. The fish were very popular and so they featured in a few trays and the last one was a mega tray. It also includes some beautifully painted pirates, boats and a lighthouse.

Next the trays were more open-ended and mostly loose parts items.

Two of the first stories told with them were:

“The rabbit was very cold in the snow and needed some food. I feed rabbit carrots and porridge but rabbit did not like porridge and it gave him a tum ache " L who is 3

“I went hunting and we drove there in a truck. We had to build a shelter and wait till it was afternoon. While we waited we ties ropes and I was going to catch 8 no 9 dinosaurs" B who is nearly 5

This tray was sold from my facebook SHOP and I Love how this child shared her story with the cats! Look how attentive they were!!

We have also tried novel tried novel trays like a house and turtle and no tray at all but with a round mat with disks for space stories. The younger children really enjoyed table mats and these were great story starters in small world play too.

As they story starter tray were so successful I then tried them with dough. I added images of the children so they can put themselves into the story. WOW! That was a HUGE success their min-selves traveled into other play and stories too. These cheap Kmart chip and dip containers were perfect during covid for individual dough and play.

The story starter trays have enriched language, conversations and relationships. But I have also seen more elaborate drawings and paintings with rich stories to go with them. I may try having art supplies with a story starter tray next.

Until next time.


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