Draw A Story (a simple mark-making game for 2-6 year olds)


This Invitation To Play with crayons and toys encourages mark-making, and also develops creativity, mapping and story-telling skills.

T’s imagination is developing more and more. He loves telling stories with his trains, his puppets, his little dinosaurs and animals. This Draw-A-Story game was one of my favourite activities in Reception Class, because it is versatile and easy to set up, at a moment’s notice. It is an Invitation To Play.

I am a big fan of Invitations To Play. For me, this is exactly what Early Years teaching is all about: provision (as opposed to instruction). You provide the resources for play, presenting them in different ways to inspire play.  Then you come alongside the children, provide a simple prompt or a bit of modelling, then let them play! Invitations to play match the principles behind the Reggio theory of education, which sees the environment as “the third teacher”. If you are interested in this sort of thing, this lady has written a useful, informative post on how to create inviting small world scenes, and she talks a bit about the educational thinking behind them.

So here’s how I used to set up “Draw A Story”:

Very simply, I would cover a table with paper, and add crayons/colouring pencils/pens and some small world animals/mini beasts/people/dinosaurs. Sometimes the children might need a little verbal prompting to get started with their story, so I would ask a question, like: “who lives here?” or “where is the ladybird going?”. This would either prompt creative mark-making or story-mapping (mapping a familiar story)…or both! It is so fun and open-ended, that it prompts even the most reluctant scribblers to do some meaningful mark-making. It really supports creative thinking too, something I am a huge fan of. Here is what I gathered together to draw our story this time:


And a roll of masking tape, for taping to the storage unit.  This isn’t in the photo but is very important to keep the paper from moving around and distracting your little one.

It was SO last minute – there was no thought put into which characters we would have in the story. I always have a basket of small world characters in his storage unit to get out and play with, so I just grabbed a random handful of these. In this case, it meant he could just get creative and use his imagination. But you could also use this activity to explore specific themes together, such as ocean creatures, mini beasts, construction sites, knights and castles. There really is no limit on your choice of subject. The paper is from a roll of wallpaper lining paper that I bought from a hardware store. It’s perfect for large scale mark-making, which is so important for little ones, as they need the space for those gross motor movements (which underpin their fine motor skills).

Here is our story (prompted by me, continued by T):

Once upon a time, there was a dragon. The dragon had been flying around all day capturing princesses, and was feeling quite thirsty. But there wasn’t any water around. So T drew a lake for him to drink from. Then he wanted a tree next to the lake, and drew this too.drawastory4

T then brought more characters to the lake to drink. Then the dragon decided he wanted a snack, so he chomped on the dinosaur” bibi” (biscuit). After a while, an elephant came stomping along, and he wanted to jump in a muddy puddle. So T drew an enormous muddy puddle with two crayons.


The animals all splashed about so much that they made some bubbles…but T wasn’t interested in drawing those. That’s because he had found a car. The car wanted to go on a journey but it had no road, so T drew a really long road for it. (I was especially pleased about this as he hasn’t been so keen on drawing lines for a while). The car then drove along the road and chased all the animals to the edge!



The End.

I’m not saying it was the best story..! T is no J K Rowling. But it was lots of fun, and each bit of the story was completely driven by his imagination (apart from the initial prompt). The added bonus was: it got him making marks!

I can’t wait to offer this invitation again soon. It is such a beautifully open-ended, limitless activity.

For older or more experienced children, it’s fun to provide plasticine, building blocks or Lego to create a 3d story map.

Learning Taking Place (from the UK Early Years Foundation Stage Guidance)
Literacy – Writing – make meaningful marks (pre-writing skill),
Communication & Language – Speaking – develop their own narratives, connecting ideas and events (speaking)
Expressive Arts & Design – Being Imaginative – represent their own ideas using stories and role play
Physical Development – Moving & Handling – handle crayons and toys effectively, with control and co-ordination
What story will you draw with your little one today?
Marianne x

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