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Family Crafting Month continues today with Emily Neuburger, teacher, freelance children’s craft designer and the author of Show Me a Story: 40 Craft Projects and Activities to Spark Children’s Storytelling.

Update: Comment on today’s post to win a free copy of Show Me a Story!

You might know Emily from her Red Bird Crafts blog and her work on the FamilyFun magazine blog, Everyday Fun. Emily has two daughters, and a genius knack for sharing creative, open-ended projects and inspiration focused on crafting with kids. Her work constantly makes us want to drop everything, call the kids and create together (like a paper bag garland— perfect for collaborating with my two year old– or watercolor birds, just right for the seven year old).

Show Me a Story is a treasure, filled with fun, beautiful ideas to support storytelling for both younger and older children.

From the publisher:

Children love to make up stories, and group storytelling offers great fun as well as learning opportunities for families, classroom groups, and any gathering of friends.

      Show Me a Story

is filled with creative craft projects and activities for jump-starting and fostering imaginative narratives for children of all ages. From visual prompts for younger children, such as story stones and a storytelling jar, to word grab bags and journaling exercises for older ones, this book includes everything needed to spark an infinite number of child-created stories.

Emily joins us today with her Winter Story Stones project. Story Stones are one of our favorite projects in Show Me a Story! We share an excerpt from the book today for the project, and you can use Emily’s winter-themed stones below as inspiration for your own set of Story Stones.

Don’t forget: You can comment on today’s post to win a free copy of Show Me a Story!

Here’s Emily now, and the project instructions from the book are below:

I’m so happy to share my Story Stones project with you today! When I was first asked to guest post on Sew,Mama,Sew!, I immediately thought of all of the tiny, beautiful fabric scraps stuffed into my possibility bin. I love using those captivating bits in my collages, and I especially like using them when I make Story Stones.

Today, I invite you to gather up your scraps, find a pile of smooth stones, and make winter themed Story Stones with me.

Children love to take these fantastical stones on storytelling adventures. They make splendid holiday gifts and are just the right size for stockings. They also happen to be the perfect little something for a desk, shelf, or bedside table.

Make them, share them with friends, give them to your family, and watch how they make people smile.

I hope you love this project as much as I do! May your entrance into the coming winter season be warm, joyous, and full of possibility!
xox Emily

Story Stones
Excerpted from Show Me a Story (c) Emily K. Neuburger. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.

Stones covered with images create unique and intriguing storytelling toys. They can be used just about anywhere for a quick, fun, creative game. But beware; they’re addictive! Once they make one, your children won’t stop thinking of additions for their collection.

Time
To make: At least 1 hour

Ages
To make: 5+ (with adult help)
To use: 3+

Players
1+

Materials

  • smooth stones of all shapes and sizes
  • small scrub brush
  • towel
  • pencil and paper
  • fabric pencil
  • bits of fabric and paper scraps
  • scissors
  • Mod Podge
  • foam brush
  • 1⁄8″ hole punch
  • string
  • small seeds (poppy, sesame)
  • toothpick or Q-tip
  • newspaper or wax paper

Photography (c) Buff Strickland

Notes on the Search for Stones
I like to collect throughout the year, so I don’t have to worry about running out of stones when the ground is buried under layers of crusty snow. Try to find a variety of shapes and sizes to ensure that you have many options. The ideal size and shape is a round or oval stone averaging 1½” to 2½” in both height and width. A smooth and flat surface is easier to work with than are rough or jagged surfaces. Search in forests, your backyard, the beach, meadows, lakes, ponds, and rivers.

A few years back, I found a beach where, for miles and miles, there were layers of small, smooth stones. The only containers I had on hand were two cloth grocery bags, and I filled them with stones — and I’ve gone back since to replenish my supply. It’s nice to conduct a purposeful stone search, but be sure to keep your eyes peeled for stones when you aren’t intentionally looking for them. After making a bunch of Story Stones, you’ll soon be able to quickly size up stones for their potential. Leah and Hazel often join in and run to me with “the perfect” stone or toss a jagged stone aside while muttering “Nope.”

How to Make
1. To clean the stones, put them in a sink, fill the sink with water, and have someone who loves to play with water scrub each one with a brush. Once all of the stones are rinsed, place them on a towel in a warm spot to dry.

2. Enlist children to help design the different characters and objects for the stones, and make sketches or lists to help you remember what you want to create. You can also engage in a free-form creative process in which you decide what to make next while in the process of creating.

3. Using a fabric pencil, draw on your favorite fabric or paper the shapes that make up each character or object. Try drawing different parts of the shape onto different papers and fabrics to make a collaged image. This will give you more control over the way it looks in the end and enables you to experiment with a variety of colors and textures. Carefully cut out each piece.

4. Find a stone that works well with one of your character designs, and coat it with a thin layer of Mod Podge. Set the first shape from your design on the stone and coat with more Mod Podge. Use your fingertips to rearrange the design so that
it is positioned just right. Smooth out any wrinkles or air bubbles.
Continue adding the pieces until the design is complete. Add circles of hole-punched paper, bits of string, even small seeds to create tiny details such as eyes, flowers, leaves, and food.

5. Put one last coat of Mod Podge over the finished design. It is very important that a layer of Mod Podge cover all of the design; use a toothpick or Q-tip to cover any of the tiny details or to pop any air bubbles. At this point, the Mod Podge will be white and opaque, which means it will be difficult to see your designs. Don’t fret! It will dry clear and smooth.
It isn’t necessary to coat the bottom of the stone with Mod Podge, and in fact, doing so will make it more difficult to dry the stones because unwanted bits of paper might attach to it.

6. Set the Story Stones on a piece of newspaper or wax paper to dry. Once the first layer is dry, you may want to apply a second coat of Mod Podge to give it extra protection. Let the stones dry fully; the top layer should feel completely hard— not tacky— before play begins.

Photography by Greg Nesbit Photography


How to Use
1. Encourage children to use the stones for imaginative, dramatic play in the same way they would use small dolls and toy figurines.

2. The stones can be used outside, in a dollhouse, on a table or play mat, or in the car. To keep them in tip-top shape, avoid splashing them or submerging them in water or another liquid.

3. Make sets of stones and store them in small bags, in boxes, or even in socks to preserve your collections
for future play.

Other Neat Ideas

  • Give Story Stones as small gifts or party favors.
  • Create thematic sets of stones: picnic, carnival, ocean, around the house, schooltime.
  • For younger children, 3+ years, invite them to just glue fabric and paper scraps onto the stones. These more abstract collage stones can become part of the storytelling process but don’t require specific cutting and placement skills.

Teaching Tip
For early-childhood educators, foreign-language teachers, and developmental specialists, the Story Stones are a creative way to teach vocabulary.

Excerpted from Show Me a Story (c) Emily K. Neuburger. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.