StoryMaking with Collage


We love collage! It is the perfect art form to inspire children during StoryMaking. It’s also easy to change, rearrange, and add new materials to keep children interested and engaged. Collage materials can include a multitude of loose parts, nature-inspired materials, recycled supplies, found items, and stuff you may already have at home or in your classroom. Some collage materials that are accessible and inexpensive might include acorns, shells, buttons, popsicle sticks, rocks, beads, paper clips, bottle caps, wood scraps, twigs, sticks, branches, bark, pine needles, pine cones, leaves, coins, dried beans, yarn, glass gems, marbles, rickrack, stones, pebbles, wood discs, Scrabble pieces, shells, foil, translucent fabric scraps, and metallic objects.

The possibilities for collage materials are endless!

First, for the background of collages, or the foundation to make the stories, you have many options. The children can make collages right on the surface of a table or floor where they are playing. Our teachers have used construction paper, felt squares, scraps of fabric, placemats, scrapbook paper, enlarged photographs, mirrors and even a light table. Anything flat can work. It’s a great idea to offer several choices to the children, as choice is an important component in developing agency for our young learners. Agency is an I-can-do-it approach. Clapp and colleagues define it as “feeling empowered to make choices about how to act in the world” (p. 19).

This child explores and places loose parts on a light table to play and make his story.

This child chooses a blue piece of felt to represent where his story takes place (the ocean).

Selecting a background material is also a great time to discuss story settings. For example, if a child is going to make an ocean story, he may choose a piece of blue felt for his background/setting to set the stage for the setting of his story. If you are learning about times of day, provide different shades of paper to represent morning, afternoon and nighttime for the children to choose. Or, if the child’s story takes place in the early evening, she might choose a scrapbook page of the sunset.

Children imagined WHEN their story took place and then chose the color of paper that matched their idea.

Providing pictures, such as images on scrapbook paper or in photographs, is a helpful scaffold for children who need extra support imagining a setting.


We have found that taking pictures of common areas that children know well support children in imagining stories about places they’ve been. Photographs can be of the school grounds, museum exhibits, neighborhood parks or even their own house. Photographs can also easily be changed throughout the year to match the topic you are studying.

This teacher took photographs of the museum exhibits that their classroom was housed to inspire stories about different habitats, places or artifacts that they had viewed.

This teacher provided photographs of their school campus. The child is making a story about a time at the park next to his school.

Next, you need to provide some loose parts, pieces, found items, materials from nature or any open-ended material that can be used to make stories. We align our collage materials with our units of instruction. For example, during our nature unit, we make sure all of our collage materials come from or represent nature.

Loose parts found in nature organized for children to easily see, explore and choose when playing and making in the collage makerspace.

You can select materials that are topic-specific, or just use what you have available, as in the picture below, with items from the dollar store.

A fishing tackle box is a way to organize small loose parts.

Organizing your collage materials can be tough, because there are so many small pieces. Some teachers have used trays and containers from the dollar store. We have found that a fishing tackle box has lots of spaces, is inexpensive, and easy for young children to use and organize. You can close the lid and everything stays in place. This type of container allows for easy movement also, in case you want to carry it outside and make collages outdoors or take it with you on vacation!

This teacher used containers to organize her loose parts according to color to inspire her children to play and make stories about colors and the feeling they represent.

Children explore and choose loose parts from a variety of storage containers to make their collage stories.


The collages do not have to be permanently glued down. We have found that not gluing them gives the children opportunities to change their minds, add details, use different representations, and hack and repurpose.

Children collaboratively play and make a collage story by moving the pieces around and repurposing how they are used to match the story in their minds.


When you have your collage materials selected and beautifully organized in a space, it is important to realize what might happen when children explore these materials especially during their first encounter. Children display typical development behaviors observed during their play according to their ages and abilities. For example, a common behavior observed with very young children is the moving, touching, holding, dumping and filling containers with found materials and loose parts. This need to explore before they can gather materials that catch their imagination sometimes turns your beautiful display into heap of dumped materials. This is still an important part of their play, but you might have a little extra clean up in the early stages of collage.


Series of pictures shows what the collage makerspace looked like throughout the beginning, during and after children explored the loose parts for the very first time.


We hope you continue to follow us on this journey to explore all the possibilities StoryMaking can become to meet the needs of you and your children. We look forward to collaborating with you throughout this blog as we StoryMake together.

Happy StoryMaking!