Literacy: Games and Creative Story Telling for Kids

Some great ideas for child caregivers & teachers.

Table & circle games

  1. Each person writes down a question beginning with “Why” Example – Why do cats meow?
  2. Fold the top over to hide the question, and pass it the next person who without looking at the question, writes an answer starting with “Because”. Example – Because I hate broccoli!
  3. Read out all the questions and answers.
    Why do cats meow? Because I hate broccoli!

Silent hangman

Materials: Flip Chart or board and marker or pen.

  • Like original hangman, children guess the mystery word; however, they are not allowed to speak while trying to find out the letters.
    This game is a good way to settle children down.
  • When a child wants to guess a letter they must draw the letter in the air with an invisible pen.
  • Leader will then write it in the board if it is correct – or to the side if not.
  • The leader should also not be able to talk.

Word association game

  • Have players sit in a circle.
  • Someone in the group whispers one word to the player sitting on his right. This person then passes the first word that comes to his mind to the person on his right. This continues around the circle.
  • The last person ends by saying their word out loud.
  • Thegroup compares it to the original word.
  • Have each person around the circle say his or her word to see how crazy the associations became!
  • The mext time, have a new leader begin with a new word.

Liar – Liar

Select a small object and have players sit in a circle. As the object is passed from person to person, each player must come up with an incredible story or fantasy about the object being passed.

For example, “This watch saved a man’s life when it stopped a bullet while he was fighting in a war.” After everyone has finished, ask the group members which tale they enjoyed most.

The person with the most entertaining lie has the dubious honor of being the least-trusted person in the group!

Silly sentences

  • Have players sit in a circle. The object of the game is to pass a sentence around from person to person, changing one word each time.
  • The first person begins with a simple sentence.
    Example: “The dog went to sleep.”
  • The next person responds in an outraged tone, “No! The hippo went to sleep,” changing only one word.
  • The next person might say, “No! The hippo went to Pittsburgh,” and so on.
  • Allow just a few seconds for thought.
  • If someone gets stuck, go to the next person. Encourage the most unusual word combinations, and don’t worry if they don’t make sense!

The minister’s cat

This is an alphabetical word game.

Have everyone get in a circle and clap hands to the beat. (clapping hands is optional)
Start with the letter “A”.
“The minister’s cat is an Angry Cat”,
“The minister’s cat is a Black cat”. Etc.

Jumbled messages

  • Each player or Team calls out a random letter of the alphabet until there are a dozen in all.
  • The players then have 15 minutes to compose a message – each word beginning with the chosen letters and in that order.
  • Example: If the letters shouted out were S.S.E.H.I.P.C.E.A.P.A.Z.
    The message could be ” Seven sweaty elephants have invaded pitch. Crowd extremely agitated. Please advise Zebede.
  • The winner (individual or team) is the one judged to have come up with the cleverest offering.
  • An alternative method of play is to select a word from a newspaper or magazine and to build a message; each word should begin with the letters of the chosen word and in that order. Example: Restored could end up as Randy earl starts to ogle retired entomologist’s daughter.


Players: 2 or more

  • The players write down a list of a dozen categories such as: fish, flower, fruit, vegetable, animal, bird, country, town, river, boy’s name, girl’s name, and famous person.
  • A letter of the alphabet is then chosen at random and the players have five minutes in which to write a word for each category beginning with the chosen letter.
  • For example with a chosen letter of “B”, the list could be Barbell, Buddleia, Blackberry, Beetroot, Bison, Bittern, Bulgaria, Basingstoke, Bur, Brian, Beth and Beethoven.
  • The players read out their lists in turn.
  • Each word which is not on any other player’s list scores a point. The winner is the player with most points.

Word builder

  • 10 or more players are given the same word, preferably something long like ‘intelligent’ or ‘hypothetical’ and have 10 minutes in which to write as many words as they can using the letters at the start of the word.
  • Words must be at least four letters long and foreign words, plurals, abbreviations and proper nouns are not allowed. The winner is the player with most acceptable words, in case of disputes; it is advisable to keep a dictionary handy.

Backwards names.

Each person writes their name backwards on a file card. The cards are put in a pile in the center of the group. In turn, each person picks up a file card from the pile, and reads out what it says. The group must guess whose name it is that is backwards.

Example: A rab rab = Barbara

A Variation of Crossword (On chalkboards or poster paper.)
Print a long word horizontally. If you are having a “Theme Day or Week” choose a word related to the theme.

  • Kids  build words from the original “started word”. The first couple words built from the “original’ word should go vertically, so additional words can be thought of. Following words can then go vertical or horizontal.
  • Encourage kids to write words neatly and with as many letters as possible. This can be played with two kids or  with a few in teams.
  • An example on how to start: vacation


  • Select Teams. The first person on each team goes out of the area and all team captains together make up a message.
  • This same message will be used by all teams.
  • On the sign to start, the first captain of each team whispers the Rumor to the next person on their team. They will whisper the Rumor to the next – and so on.
  • The last person to receive the Rumor will run to the black board, white board, or flip chart and writes the message.
  • The closest correct message to the Rumor wins

Building words

  • The first person writes down a letter.
  • The next person adds a letter, and must have a word in mind.
  • The next player adds another letter, again working towards spelling out a word.
  • Next player adds another letter, and so on, until nobody can add another letter.
  • If you think the other player doesn’t have a word in mind, you can challenge him, and if he can’t tell you the word, he’s out.

Spell off (Game)

Required: Interesting words, paper and markers
Players: Small to medium groups

  • Gather a list of words that are interesting, long or hard to spell and make sure you know the correct spelling and definitions. The words can also be names of places or destinations around the world.
  • Each team of 3-5 people will have paper and marker to record their answers or they can use small white boards.
  • After you say each word, teams will be given 10-15 seconds to write out the correct spelling and to either give the definition or location.
  • Only one answer per team will be accepted.
  • The teams will receive 1 point for correct spelling and 2 points for the definition or location.
  • The team that ends up with the most points wins the game. Created by R. Scheel, Fun-Attic Inc.

Rhyme that word

  • Think of words.
  • Children take turns seeing how many “real” rhyming words they can think of.
  • When one word is worn out, choose another word. Remind the kids to use “nice” words only!
  • Example: Rhyme words with time:

Alphabet animal game

1. Think of an animal that begins with the letter ‘A’ Example: Ant
2. The next person thinks of an animal which begins with the last letter of “that animal”.

Example: Ant=An(t) = (T)urtle.
The following could say Turtl(e)= E-Elephant

3. Continue the pattern until someone fails to think of an animal.
Activity Extension: Try using fruits, vegetables, cars, places, etc.

Body word-forming game

This game should be played with 20 or more kids. Divide into two even teams. The leader should have large letters drawn on a piece of paper so that each teammate can pin it on them self.

  • All letters should be different, but both teams may have the same vowels. When the leader gives the signal, players try to spell a word by linking arms with teammates.
  • As a word is formed, the players go to the leader with their arms linked to get a point counted for their team.
  • The players then break up and try to find new letters to form a word.
  • If a team can spell a five letter word, that team gets 2 points.
    Give  15 minutes to play the game. At the end of the game add up the points, and that will determine your winner. You will see competition at its finest.

Group body spelling

1. Players start in groups of five (number can vary depending on the size of group).
2. Each group stands in a straight line beside one another.
3. The leader asks players to use their bodies (with each group member involved) to spell words.
4. The words are formed one at a time, starting with a word with five letters, to a word with one letter.
5. Stress the use of creativity

Example: “I”-everyone could point to their eye.

Three nouns

  1. Think up three nouns.
  2. Everyone takes turns creating a sentence with those three nouns.
  3. Alternate the noun giver and sentence makers.
    An example for the nouns: Orange, woman, store
    “The woman was happy because
    a huge orange was in the store.”

More games to promote literacy

Treasure hunt

  • Depending on how many kids are in your group this day, divide them into one to four teams.
  • Make up clues and scatter them all over the program area (or outside if weather permits).
  • Each clue leads to the next and at the end of the trail is a treasure for the team, for example, food, party favors, or prizes.

Tip: Color Code clues so teams only look for and find their own clues. Time the hunt and see which team gets done first.

Outside alphabet scavenger hunt

  • Form groups or teams and go for a walk trying to find one item that begins with every letter of the alphabet.
  • Make a list from “A to Z” and see which group can come up with then most items in the allotted time.
  • For each letter on the sheet, groups write down the item they see.

Inside alphabet scavenger hunt

(The same as above but inside)

Form groups or teams and go for a walkabout of selected area trying to find one item that begins with every letter of the alphabet. Make a list from “A to Z” and see which group can come up with then most items in the allotted time.

Lots of ways to tell a story

Continue to read aloud to children

A child’s interest level is often much higher than his or her reading level. If children are to grow up loving books and reading they need to be exposed to the most interesting books available. Sometimes you will want to read chapter-books to school age children, but don’t discontinue reading picture books. Picture books expose children to a variety of art styles and beautiful works of art.

Group circle story

Form a circle and have one person start a story. Use an object such as a small ball; when the first person is done with his/her two or three lines, the object is passed along, until the story is complete. 

Telling the story works best when the sentences are stopped at mid-point. The last person completes the entire sentence. You could also write it down and then read it aloud, or record it with a tape player or digital recorder and listen to it when you’re finished. It’s sure to get a few laughs! (And Yes! The story will be silly!)

Story telling on long roll of paper

The procedure is the same as above; however, it is written on paper. Have each child use a different color marker and stop in mid-sentence, until the last sentence completes the story. This can be on-going; as children pass by, they fill in a sentence or two.

Make a story collage

1. Start by having each child think of the type of story they want to create. Then go through the magazines and help them cut out different pictures that go along with their story line.

2. Use the glue to attach the pictures to the paper and then write the part of the story that goes with the picture underneath with pen or marker.

3. You can make these “books” as long or short as you want and after the pages have dried completely,you can use a three-hole puncher and some brass brads to make them into books that can be shared among other kids.
This is a great activity to also help promote reading and how much fun it can be.

Here’s an Idea: Group children and write a part two to a children’s book from the point of view of another character. What I do is read the children the Three Little Pigs then The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. Then I allow them to work in groups of their choice to write their own “true story”. I then have the book bound (one for each group member, one for the program, and one for the school Kindergarten class). From Tasha Palmer in Vista, California

Create a book

To create a own book you’ll need paper, a variety of magazines, some glue, pens or markers and scissors.

Continue story

Get children in line and begin telling a silly story. Then go down the line and point to people randomly. They continue from where the last person left off-making it up as they go along. If children are younger you can give them a little time to think about it.

Move to the next child if they hesitate too long or repeat what the last person says. (With elimination-always be sure to do so in light and fun manner!)

  • Give each child (or a team of 2 or 3 children) newspapers, scissors, glue, and notebook paper.
  • Have each child cut words and sentences from newspaper and magazine pages and combine them to create a unique story.
  • Have children arrange their sentences on the notebook paper and glue them in place. (They could also be illustrated)
  • A theme for the stories can be decided beforehand. Encourage the children to share their stories with each other. Stories could also be kept for other children to read in the future.

One word at a time

  • Players start sitting in a circle. The leader gives the players a topic such as Food.
  • One player starts with a word.

The player of the right adds a word and so forth until all the players have had a chance to contribute a word to make up a story about food. Variation: Depending on the number of players the leader may go
two or three times around the circle. This activity can be more difficult than it sounds!

Listen up

Tell or read a short story. Choose a word for which children  can listen. When they hear the chosen word, they raise their hands! 

Make a cartoon strip

  • Make your very own cartoon adventure with crayons and a pad of paper. At the bottom of a pad, on each sheet, draw a figure such as a boy.
  • The first frame will be on the first page, second frame on the second page, and so on.
  • Change the movement with each page.
  • When you are finished, fan the pages with your thumb to see the show!

Silly sentences

  • Have players sit in a circle. The object of the game is to pass a sentence around from person to person, changing one word each time.
  • The first person begins with a simple sentence.
    Example – “The dog went to sleep.”
  • The next person responds in an outraged tone, “No! The hippo went to sleep,” changing only one word.
  • The next person might say, “No! The hippo went to Pittsburgh,” and so on.
  • Allow just a few seconds for thought. If someone gets stuck, go to the next person. Encourage the most unusual word combinations, and don’t worry if they don’t make sense!

Tale toss

  • Have everyone stand in a circle.
  • Select an object that can be tossed easily from one player to anothertoss the object to a player in the circle.
  • The person catching the object must begin to tell a story something made up on the spot.
  • The player holding the object tosses it to another player who must catch it and continue the story.
  • The story can take any form, as long as it is connected to the last player’s contribution.
  • Players must continue the flow of the story no matter how fast the object is passed.

The ABC’s of my life

Invite youth to create their own alphabetical autobiographies. Here’s an example:

“A” is for Arkansas; that’s where I was born.
“B” is for Bonnie; that’s my sister’s name.
“C” is for Cub Scouts; That’s my favorite activity.”
These can also be illustrated. I think if I did this, I would present it as an on-going project. I would challenge the children to see if the could reach “Z” by year end or by ________!

Poetry pebbles grade: 4-8


  • Small rocks or pebbles
  • Small paint bushes
  • Water and water containers
  • Magic markers
  • Paint (make tempera paint thicker by adding glue or flour)
  • A covered work area
  • A shoebox, yogurt or empty “Jiffy Pop” popcorn container
    Hairspray or a spray varnish
  • Make sure your pebbles are clean.
  • Paint words onto your pebbles. You could also use markers instead of paint.
  • Choose a number of words-people, places, things, action words etc

1. he
2. she
3. to
4. love
5. dog
6. went
7. walk
8. you
9. happy
10. in
11. to
12. a
13. my
14. your
15. orange
16. red
17. blue
18. purple
19. green
20. swim
21. bike

  • Use your imagination and make sure you draw some punctuation marks on some pebbles as well (comma, exclamation point, period, question mark etc.)
  • Once the pebbles are painted, let them dry and seal them with hairspray or spray varnish.
  • Put all the pebbles into a show box or Jiffy Pop container. You can decorate your container with paint or markers as well.
  • Play a game of poetry pebbles. Each player chooses a number of pebbles from the box and tries to come up with a poem or story.
    Makes for a great way to begin a short story for those times when you have writers block!

Your own mad libs

There are Mad Libs you can purchase but you can easily make your own!

  • Cross out nouns, adjectives and verbs in the story you’re reading.
  • Ask each child for a new word to replace the crossed-out ones. (You do this just as you would with a purchased Mad Lib – just ask for a noun-adjective, etc.)
  • Read the new and improved group story.
  • Garner as much enthusiasm and energy as you have when doing things like this! The kids pick up your energy and have a great time!

Purchase mad libs:  They’re great to do with the kids as a group! Just shout out to them, “Give me a noun – or adjective, etc.” When complete, read the Mad Lib story aloud with much enthusiasm. The children love it! Tip: You can post a chart that has definitions and examples of the various parts of speech

Idea – Show a photo/picture to  group; have kids make up as story about what is shown. You can start it off with questions such as “Tell me what they’re feeling?” or “What’s going to happen next?”

Paper bag stories 

(Good for younger kids) To encourage children’s imagination try this activity.

  • Place several small toys or objects in a paper bag. Start telling a simple story.
  • Take turns with children in choosing an object from the bag, holding it up and incorporating it into your story.
  • Continue until all the objects have been used.
  • If YOU are telling the entire story by taking turns have a child incorporate the item into the story.

Similar Idea: Pass around a bag of pictures. Each person pulls out a picture and works the picture into the story and moves it along.

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