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.)
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.
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
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:
- 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.
Story stones can also be used to develop concepts.
For example, this set of story stones can be used in the following way:
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.