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Unleashing Creativity: How Retelling Stories Boosts Creative Thinking in Elementary School Kids

As parents, we want to encourage our children's creative thinking. It’s tempting to think that in order to do this we have to come up with Pinterest-worthy games, activities, and projects. If you’re anything like me, that imagination-inducing set up for my kids does happen sometimes (hey, a mom’s gotta have fun, too!)...

But let’s also be real- time and materials often get in the way.

When the schedules and demands are full and your last Michaels craft supply was 6 months ago, there’s one super simple, super effective way to boost your kids’ creative thinking: retelling stories!

Here’s three reasons why retelling a story boosts creative thinking in elementary school kids- plus a fun story retelling activity to get started!

A father and son play together by retelling a story
Retelling a story gets creativity flowing!

Retell Reason 1: Enhances Imagination and Visualization

When kids retell a story, they are not just repeating what they heard; they are putting the story into their own words and recreating the world of the story. This process requires them to visualize scenes vividly and imagine characters in various situations. For instance, if a child is retelling the story of "The Three Little Pigs," they must conjure up the image of the pigs' houses and the big bad wolf huffing and puffing. This mental exercise strengthens their imaginative muscles; as they fill in details and perhaps add their own twists, they practice visualizing new scenarios, which is a cornerstone of creative thinking.

Retell Reason 2: Encourages Problem-Solving and Innovation

Retelling stories invites kids to reinterpret events and explore different outcomes. This aspect of storytelling encourages children to think critically and solve problems creatively. Often, when I’m working with a group of kids to learn the skills of storytelling, they will begin learning a folktale but then imagine the characters in different contexts and situations. For example, a student of mine reimagined a folktale about animals playing a tossing ball game as a folktale about animals playing basketball. This process of thinking about different possibilities teaches children to approach problems from multiple angles and develop original solutions, a skill that is invaluable in both academic and real-world settings.

Retell Reason 3: Develops Empathy and Emotional Intelligence

Story retelling also enhances empathy and emotional intelligence, which are critical components of creative thinking. When children retell a story, they often put themselves in the shoes of the characters, understanding their motivations, feelings, and reactions. For instance, while retelling "Cinderella," a child may think about how Cinderella felt when she was mistreated by her stepsisters and how her emotions changed when she met the fairy godmother. This practice helps children to understand and express emotions better, making them more empathetic and emotionally aware. These skills are essential for creative thinking, as they allow kids to create characters and narratives that resonate with others on a deeper level.

A SUPER SIMPLE Story Retelling Activity Idea: "Story Settings"

Let’s explore a fun and engaging activity that you can try with your kids!

Materials Needed:*

  • A folk or fairytale (from a book, an online source, or podcast episode)

  • Paper and colored pencils or markers

  • A small box or bag

  • Slips of paper


  • Choose a Folktale: Start by selecting a folktale that your child enjoys. Read the story together and discuss the main events, characters, and setting.

  • Create Setting Slips: On slips of paper, write down a variety of different settings. You can write as many as you’d like. Place these slips in a small box or bag.

  • Draw a Setting Slip: Have your child pull a Setting Slip from the box. This will be the NEW setting for the retelling of the story you just read. Encourage them to think about how this new setting might change the story or what new adventures the characters might embark on because of the new setting.

  • Retell the Story Out Loud: Ask your child to retell the folktale with this new setting in mind. How does the story change? The goal is to create a unique and imaginative version of the original story. This step boosts confidence and lets the young teller know that their ideas are valuable.

  • OPTION: Illustrate the Story: Once your child has crafted their new version of the folktale, provide them with paper and colored pencils or markers to illustrate key scenes. 

The "Story Settings" activity is a fantastic way to get kids started in retelling stories, providing a fun and interactive way for young storytellers to explore their creativity.

Want to provide even MORE story retelling for your kids? -->

I created an online art + storytelling workshop for creative kids to do at home! It’s called The Fairy Tale Forest, and it’s FIVE DAYS worth of interactive folk & fairy tale videos that then send kids off screen for HOURS of self-guided art projects and story retelling prompts. The Fairy Tale Forest is a simple and fun way unlock your child’s inner storyteller!


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