Easy Summer Activity: DIY Story Stones

Maybe because it’s almost primal—the basic figures, the rough outlines, the marking on rocks—but this was one of my favorite camp activities as a child, and every elementary school class I taught enjoyed making and using Story Stones. The most basic of storytelling tools and play things, Story Stones easily facilitate imaginative play, vocabulary development, recall skills, sequencing, and just plain fun! The trick is to guide your little ones to use them, not make it a forced “learning activity.” Many children will take to the activity without prompting, but some will need to be shown how to engage with the stones.

Here’s how to create this easy, fun activity at home:

First, choose the stones you’ll paint. The best are less than palm-sized but large enough to paint on. Choose a variety of shapes and sizes, and let your helper have a say—there is no wrong stone choice! If they are from the wild wilderness, give them a good wash and dry to remove any loose soil or debris.

Next, choose your paint (I used acrylic craft paint I had on hand) and think about what story, scene, characters, etc. you’d like to include. The best part of Story Stones is that you can add to the set at any point. In my classroom, we had a running list of things we’d like to add, and either I or a student would paint a rock when we had a spare moment.

Then, think about what you’ll paint on your stones. For my set, I talked with Vivi about our recent trip to the beach and created a set based on her memories. Paint the images, and when they are dry, finish them with a light coat of Mod Podge or a spray varnish for longevity.

We ended up with a sun, clouds, a tent, a campfire (I think we can thank Dora for that one…), waves, Vivi, an ocean, and a tidal pool (thanks, Peppa). Her recall is a perfect example of real experience and imaginative play: she recalled a real experience with things that went along with it from her favorite shows. If you’d rather just make up your “characters,” you can! Think about camping, travel, home, the zoo, the beach, the mountains, winter activities, etc.

Vivi enjoyed moving the cloud through the “sky” with the sun and making the fish “splash” in the waves with “Vivi.” It could be fun to have family storytelling or to “build a story” by placing all of the stones in a box or bag and drawing one out to add to the story. The possibilities are endless and the combinations, infinite—and even if no stories are told, painting the rocks will kill at LEAST 15 minutes! Happy storytelling!

A fifth-generation San Antonionian - who happened to spend her formative years in Austin - Amanda loves the SAT from the confetti in her hair to the bluebonnets under her feet. Never one to miss a reason to host a party or decorate for a theme, Amanda revels in the 'mas Fiesta' attitude of the city. She's mom to Vivi (2012) aka #HurricaneVivi, Mac (2020) and wife to Francois, whom she met at Texas A&M (FTAC '05). She has a Masters in Early Childhood Education and a Doctorate in Making it Up As She Goes - which means she's a sometimes-fun-mom. You can find her on Instagram . She loves confetti, croissants, and a cold Ranch Water. Favorite Restaurant: Piatti's Favorite Landmark: Johnson Street footbridge in King William Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Fiesta Medals