Story stones facilitate speech development

Between 20 and 28 months, most toddlers will start putting words together into two-word phrases. By about 3 years, most children will be constructing sentences well enough for most people to understand.

This leap from communicating in simple two-word phrases to communicating at a sentence level is complicated. It requires an understanding of:

  • The range of tenses (i.e. present, past, future)
  • Grammatical rules (e.g. how to construct prepositional phrases, how to use pronouns and possessives etc.)
  • Concepts.

Once a toddler is communicating in short phrases, there are a number of different ways to encourage sentence construction. For example, story stones (which I’ve recently started using in therapy sessions) can be used to stimulate phrase, sentence and narrative production.

What are story stones?

Story stones are stones which have been polished and painted with various people, places and things (i.e. nouns). The stones are typically marketed to be used for story telling: a child selects a stone randomly to start telling a story, and then continues to choose more stones to keep the story going.

 

Superhero story stones set by Little by Nature

Superhero themed story stones (by Little by Nature)

Story stones are generally marketed for use by school-aged children. This is generally the case because school-aged children can be very successful at constructing connected flowing narratives. Their imaginations are such that they can come up with weird and wonderful stories using the stones.

Whilst pre-school children find this much more challenging, story stones can be used with great success to develop vocabulary and sentence construction in children of this younger age group.

Exploring story stones with pre-school aged children

The more interactive conversation and play kids are involved in, the more they learn. Story stones are particularly appealing to younger children because of their aesthetic appeal, and the ability to hold and manipulate the stones. They can be used in a number of ways to facilitate speech and language development.

Identifying semantic connections

Story stones can be used to develop vocabulary and sentence construction through a focus on semantic connections.

For example, the following set of construction themed story stones can be used to ask a child to:

  • Identify all the stones which have a common feature
  • Articulate this common feature by constructing a coherent verbal explanation
Story Stones Little By Nature

Construction themed story stone (by Little by Nature)

The child might identify and articulate that:

  • The saw, drill and spanner are all hand tools
  • The dumptruck, excavator and forklift all have wheels

Using adjectives and conjunctions

Basic sentence construction ability can be the focus simply by using just one or two stones and describing them; and/or using a conjunction to link them.

For example, this set of story stones could prompt the following discussion:

Story Stones by Little By Nature

General themed story stones (by Little By Nature)

  • The old lady has curly hair.
  • The old lady has curly hair and lives in the house.

Replace “the old lady” with “she” to focus on pronouns.

Developing concepts

Story stones can also be used to develop concepts.

For example, this set of story stones can be used in the following way:

Story Stones Little by Nature

General themed story stones (by Little By Nature)

Physically move the dog stone to different locations for a child to verbalise:

  • The dog is on the table
  • The dog is under the chair

Line all the stones up in a row to discuss:

  • Beginning versus end
  • First versus last in the line

Look at the drawing on the stone compared to turning it over allows to discuss:

  • Front versus back

Pack away some/more/all of the stones back into their bag allows for quantity discussions and use of possessives my/your/our.

The possibilities when using story stones to enhance speech and language development in children under five are definitely a plenty. Just use some creativity and give it a go – you may be surprised with what your child can come up with!

 

Claire uses the General Mix 2 set of story stones crafted by Little By Nature.

Claire Follent
Claire Follent has over 12 years experience working as a paediatric speech pathologist and is a mother herself to two beautiful children. She is passionate about early childhood speech and language education and intervention.

2 Comments

  1. Belinda

    These are fantastic and wonderful suggestions. How much should you explain to your toddler vs trying to have them explain it to you?

    • Claire Follent
      Claire Follent

      Hi Belinda,

      It really depends on what activity you are using the story stones for and the age of the child.

      For example, if you were using the stones to increase vocabulary, you would use a sentence and the child would be prompted to say only one word e.g. (Parent) Here is the – … (child) dog

      If you have an older preschool child and the focus is on sentence construction you would say less e.g. (Parent) Tell me something about the dog and the bone. (Child) The dog is eating the bone.

      Hope that helps.

      Claire Follent – Malvern Speech Pathology

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