Story Sacks – Ideas and Play

Story Sacks

We love story sacks! Books really come alive for little ones when you have story props. They help children to maintain their focus, to retell the story, recall characters, settings and events and to innovate and tell their own stories. All while having a great time playing!

This website contains affiliate links. As an affiliate I may earn money from qualifying purchases. Thank you if you do use one of my links – it helps keep my website going. Please see affiliate link and disclaimer page for more information.

The story sack above includes the brilliant ‘The Snail and the Whale’ book, Holztiger Whale and Snail.

What Makes a Story Sack?

Story sacks don’t need to be perfect, children have exceptional imaginations. However, for some children, they are key to helping them engage more with words and texts.

Often my story sacks are a selection of resources that I have gathered over many years. I add pieces here and there that I find. We make resources and others are gifts for my little one at celebration times. Open ended resources are perfect for story sacks as one item can become many things!

Making Resources

The whale at the bottom right of the previous picture is a real favourite of our daughters. I think the fact she made it means she’s more invested.

We love to recycle things, so we often use the packaging from parcels too. You really don’t need to spend a lot to get great story sack resources and the more involved you can get little ones the better. Here are a few ideas we’ve done for an ocean theme.

It’s also lovely to be able to spark creativity through the use of books too and often these projects can become part of your storytelling.

Story Sack Sensory Experience

When I’m setting up a story sack I really want to tantalise as many of the senses as possible. I want children to feel free to explore.

Resources should look inviting and give a real sense of the place and the characters in the story. I try to include the written word when I can and find the chalk houses really useful for this purpose as well as for scenery and characters.

Textures are important and having a variety of different materials can really open up rich language opportunities. In the image below there’s fabric, tissue paper, rice and dough that all give a different sensory feel as well as making different sounds when they are moved and played with.

Scented playdough awakens the olfactory system. You could also use other resources such as shells which often retain some smell of the sea.

If you wanted a full sensory experience you could let children try particular foods too. In this case something like dried seaweed would be an incredible addition to the story sack. Obviously, close supervision would be needed.

I find adding playdough to a story sack really useful for children who need to be able to do something with their hands; you can ask them to make scenery or a character during the story to help them maintain their focus.

Here’s a link to an ocean sensory play tray that you might like to check out too. After I’ve introduced a story I leave the story sack resources out, but also have other play invitations available to explore such as this.

How to Introduce Story Sacks?

There are a few ways that I like to introduce story sacks to children. Sometimes I’ll have the items arranged as you see in the photos for children to explore before I read the story.

Other times I’ll introduce items from the story sack as we get to certain parts of the story. Another way I love is to get children to pick out different objects from the story sack and begin to make predictions about the story before I show them the book.

  • Where might it be set?
  • Who might the characters be?
  • What might happen?
  • What could the problem be?

Making & Storing Story Sacks

If you are an early years or primary setting then often you have set story sack bags with everything you need inside; this is great for ease of access in nurseries and schools.

However, if you’re wanting to make up story sacks at home, in smaller settings or your budget is tight you may prefer what I do. I have topic boxes set up such as polar, woodland, ocean etc. In these I store resources that would fit that particular topic. I also have generic resources such as the chalk houses, rice and play doughs that are useful for all themes.

When I want to make up a story sack I’ll then gather a mixture of my generic and topic related items depending upon the story or non fiction text that we’re going to explore.

It’s a system that works really well for me and allows me to make story sacks up for most books we come across. If there’s things we don’t have we add them to the wish list or make them.

For more ideas and ways to use story sacks check out the Literacy Trust here.

I’d love to know what story sacks are your favourite? What resources you can’t do without?

Audio Players – Tonie Box and Yoto Player

Tonie Boxes and Yoto Players are a great way to support children to make independent choices.

Selecting what they listen to but also how they listen, where they listen, what volume and what they listen to. Both audio players Yoto and Tonie have a Snail on the Whale retelling.

They would be great resources to have available to help children who need a little more support to structure their oral retelling of stories. Aiding the embedding of a story whilst using props.

Book Reviews and Story Props

If you’d like to see book reviews and story prop ideas head to the Books and Storysacks section of the website here.

Stockists & Discount Codes

Chalk houses are no longer sold by the person I got them from, however, you can find a similar set here on Etsy. If you’d like to find out more ways to use these fabulous chalk house resources check out my blog post on mark making here.

Let us know your thoughts...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.