Story boxes are collections of toys and objects that correspond to specific books and can be used to help tell a story. When using a story box within literacy activities, objects corresponding to each part of the story can be provided to the child for tactile/ visual/ auditory exploration and play while the story is read aloud. This can help to reinforce the storyline and concepts within the book. Story boxes are most often described in the context of interventions for children who are blind/ have vision impairments. In addition, story boxes are also extremely useful for making stories more cognitively accessible to children who might have difficulty attending to and comprehending the stories without more concrete, physical representations. Even typically-developing infants and toddlers can benefit from the use of story boxes, since at this age children are concrete learners and are just beginning to develop symbolic understanding (the realization that one thing can stand for another, such as a picture standing for a real-life object or a word standing for a concept).
The WonderBaby blog sponsored by Perkins School for the Blind describes Story Boxes and their benefits for children with vision impairments in this post: Story Boxes: A Hands-On Literacy Experience. They also include some example story boxes corresponding to popular books for young children. The Paths to Literacy website, also by Perkins, provides further suggestions about how to make and use story boxes, particularly for children with vision impairments. The Texas School for the Blind website also provides additional story box examples: What Is a Story Box? by Texas School for the Blind.
Here’s an example of a story box that could be created for the popular board book Little Blue Truck along with explanations of how to modify the activity for different types of access needs:
Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle, Illustrated by Jill McElmurry:
- Toy little blue truck and dump truck: You can use any blue toy truck + toy dump truck. Or consider adapted options to meet kids’ motor/ sensory-perceptual needs.
- Easy-grip options: O-Ball’s Go Grippers Dump Truck is easy to grasp and manipulate. You could use that for the dump truck, and the blue O-Ball Rattle and Roll Toy or blue Go Grippers Race Car for Little Blue Truck. Note: There was a recent recall on many O-Ball rattle products because the beads can come out and become a choking hazard. Ensure that any O-Ball products you purchase have not been recalled.
- Light-weight options: Melissa and Doug Pull-Back Construction Vehicles and Melissa and Doug Pull-Back Vehicles
- Switch-adapted options: CAT Rumble & Roll Dump Truck from Switch Enabled.
- Play “muck”/ mud. You could use kinetic sand, brown Play Doh, etc.
- Something to represent the animals in the story: sheep, cow, pig, chicken/ hen, baby chick, goat, horse, duck, and toad. You can use plastic animals, beanie babies, stuffed animals, animal finger/ hand puppets, animal form puzzle pieces, felt animals for a felt board, etc. The types of animals you may want to use are going to depend on your specific child’s access needs. For example, for a child with significant vision impairment, you will likely want animals with a tactile component (i.e., touch-and-feel animals with different textured surfaces that kids can feel and explore) or auditory component (i.e., animals that make sounds, such as by pressing a button to hear a recorded sound or manipulating a crinkle toy). For a child with motor impairments, you will want animals that are easy to grip and manipulate, or that can be moved around without picking them up (e.g. switch-adapted or remote control animal toys). Some examples are described below; I have not purchased/ used all of these options, but I’ve used some and others just look promising. Note: I don’t benefit financially from the sale of any of these products and have no affiliated with the companies listed (despite the ridiculously high number of examples of Melissa and Doug products that I listed). These examples are informational only.
Tactile animal options:
Large Soft Touch Animals from Discount School Supply (includes pig, cow, sheep, and horse). These are large plastic animals with soft, textured surfaces.
Melissa and Doug Farm Animals Touch and Feel Textured Wooden Puzzle (includes sheep, cow, duck, and horse). The wooden puzzle pieces each have different textured cloth surfaces that cover part (but not all) of each piece.
Auditory animal options
Melissa and Doug Take-Along Baby and Toddler Play Mat (includes cow, pig, chicken, duck, sheep, goat, horse, and 2 farmers). This is a cloth play mat that folds up into a carrying case and includes small soft animal toys that crinkle, squeak, and/ or rattle when manipulated.
Melissa and Doug Meadow Medley (sold separately; available animals include cow, pig, duck, lamb, frog, horse, and more) Meadow Medley Cow, Meadow Medley Piggy, Meadow Medley Duck, Meadow Medley Lamb, Meadow Medley Frog, Meadow Medley Horse
Easy grip animal options
Learning Resources Jumbo Farm Animals : Large plastic farm animals that are easy to pick up. Includes horse, pig, cow, goat, sheep, rooster, and goose.
Fisher-Price Little People Farm Animals: Like all Little People toys, these farm animals are easy to grip and hold. Includes cow, pig, duck, horse, sheep, chicken, goat, and more.
Switch-adapted animal toys
Switch-adapted animals from Ablenet: Includes horse and pig options.
Switch-adapted animals from Adapted Tech Solutions: Includes cow, pig, frog, lamb, duck, and more.