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!
What Makes a Story Sack?
Story sacks don’t need to be perfect, children have exceptional imaginations. 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 nay things!
The whale at the bottom right of the previous picture is a real favourite of my daughter Floss. I think the fact she made it means she’s more invested. We love to recycle things too, so we often use the packaging from parcels too. So 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.
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 lovely 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.
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 playdoughs that are useful for all topics.
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?
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