Story-inventing cards

Investigating through drawing



by Preschools and Infant-toddler centres – Istituzione of the Municipality Reggio Emilia, and Reggio Children


Children love telling stories. It’s something they do in different ways with different “languages”, and drawing is one of them. As they draw, children add to the richness of their drawing-stories with words, weaving narratives from fairy tales they know, fragments of personal experience, and newly invented things.

The idea we’re proposing here was inspired by an old game that uses pictures as a starting point for inventing stories.

Images and pictures have the power to suggest and evoke; they remind us of words, which in turn remind us of other words, and this combining and matching of words is at the heart of a story.

I’ve drawn some flowers with two children sitting on a bench…

Gioia, 5 years

…That could be the start of a story with some beautiful things in it!
Noha, 5.3 years



Designing characters for the story-inventing cards

Think of some characters you’d like to have starring in your stories.

They can be human characters or animals, real or imaginary.

The secret is in combining completely unrelated elements so that as Gianni Rodari said “our imagination is forced to set in motion and establish relations between them, build up a fantastical set where two extraneous elements can co-exist”.

01 076 mostro tentacolo W

Tentacle monster


When you have chosen your characters, together with the children try and imagine them. If a character is human you can ask how we’re going to draw it, in what position, in what clothes, and perhaps simulate some of its actions .

All this can transform into a fun game for recognising how many different ways our faces and bodies can express and and communicate things.02 monster rosi 1




If you’re thinking of an animal then you might want to look through some nature books, or if you’re lucky enough to have animals in the house, cats or dogs, or other animals, this is a good opportunity to observe them and make a small portrait.

When you have more details about the physical appearance and personality of your characters, you can start to draw them.


Making the cards

First decide what size you want your “cards” to be: It’s important for them to be the same size so that you can't tell them apart. Choosing a card by chance is all part of the fun, as well as stimulating our capacity for invention. 

An A5 size (15x21 cm) is a good compromise between being easy to handle and the quality of the drawings, which might be compromised on a smaller size. You can make this size by folding A4 sheets of printer paper in half, lengthwise.

Make sure you have colouring pencils, lead pencils, felt-tip pens, crayons, and other things for drawing. Drawings the cards you can go freely from one technique to another.

It’s important to take care over the details of your drawings because the expressiveness of the characters is important for lighting up our imagination and suggesting a story.


03B C dinosauro luca



03A principessa giulia ok




When you have completed your first cards, take a pause for thought with the children.

> How many cards are needed for the story to take off?

> How many characters do we need?

> What kinds of characters have we drawn up to now?

> What feelings and emotions do they evoke / make us think of?

Stories bring into play emotions and feelings, and these are the life of the story, generating series of events and happenings that unfold in the tale.



04 grande marino egidio


Great sea monster


As well as characters children can think of environments.

Environments could be habitats, such as forests, the savannah, parks, or mountains. Or they might be anthropic places of human activity, such as castles, swimming pools, funfairs, and homes.


05C A lunapark giulia



05B A castello adele carta

Castle card



As you work on designing the story-cards, you can start to add more complex elements, like magic objects, or actions.

When you have a fair number of cards, you can start playing and inventing stories.

The first player takes a card from the “pack” and uses it to begin telling a story.

The second player takes a card and continues the story, based on the new card.

There isn’t only one way of playing: you can vary the rules, or invent new ones, as you become more expert.

As well as being lots of fun, your first experiments with inventing stories can help you to see what cards are missing, with things you need but haven’t got.

You can add new elements to your story-inventing cards at any time, so your “pack of cards” is never complete.

06 mille occhi

A thousand eyes


Everyone can make drawings for the cards. Each card is a unique piece of work with a potential for story, that’s why one pack can have several authors: not just children but parents too.

Your pack of cards will be a completely original family story.







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