Turning Stories Into Games

Turning Stories Into Games

When my children were very young, we had lots of fun reenacting some of their favorite stories.  We acted them out with the help of puppets and by playing the parts ourselves.  There were three stories we especially liked.  They all involved chasing each other around the house – great for rainy days.  These are the three stories and how we did the play.

“The Greedy Old Fat Man” retold and illustrated by Paul Galdone

Okay, so the title is not PC, but we had a blast with this one.  In the story, a greedy old fat man goes around eating everything he can get his hands on.  He starts out by eating a hundred biscuits and drinking a barrel of milk.  “But still he was hungry.”  He then goes on to eat a little boy and girl, a dog, a cat and more.  Each time the fat man runs into someone, he recites what he ate before and states he’ll “eat you too, if I can catch you.”  At the end of the story the fat man tries to run up a tree after a squirrel, but he falls to the ground and breaks wide open.   Then all the creatures he’s eaten jump out of his stomach, one at a time,  and yell, “I’m out!” To play, my son would wear a button down, white shirt from his Dad and tuck just the ends of it into his jeans. We’d leave the top 2 or 3 buttons undone.  Then he’d recite the words of the fat man while I or his little sister would play the other character, using a puppet or plush animal.  My son would chase his victim around the house, catch her (gently!) and then stuff the puppet down his shirt.  At the end he’d have great fun pulling out his shirt tails, “falling” down, and releasing all the puppets.  My daughter and I would pick them up and yell, “I’m out!”, ending with the lucky squirrel who gets to say, “I’m out too, because I was never in!”

It’s more fun when your child knows most of the words – we read the story many times before finally playing.


The Gingerbread Boy” retold and illustrated by Paul Galdone

I think everyone knows this story; at the end, the pool little gingerbread boy gets eaten by the fox!  A word of warning, we first read this to our son when he was 2 or 3 years old.  He cried.  Better wait till they’re a little older and you can try to explain it away.  Anyway, I made a gingerbread puppet by drawing and cutting one out of craft foam, then coloring it with sharpies.  I glued it to a Popsicle stick and voila!  As before, one child got to hold the gingerbread puppet and the other and/or myself would play the other parts with puppets, plush animals or by acting it out.  Around the house we would run.  When it came time for the gingerbread boy to cross the stream, we laid out a blue silk cloth, got down on our hands and knees and acted it out with the puppets.

Craft foam, Sharpies and Popsicle sticks are great materials for making one dimensional puppets.


Henny Penny” retold and illustrated by Paul Galdone

Have you noticed a pattern?  Our favorite stories all involve capturing and eating!  Oh well, they make the games more exciting.   When an acorn drops onto her head, Henny Penny decides the sky is falling and goes off to warn the King.  Along the way she meets other birds who request to  join her.  Eventually they meet up with a fox.  “Henny Penny” is the same story as “Chicken Little,” but with different character names and a more tragic ending – the chicken and her companions get caught in the fox’s cave and the foxes “still remember the fine feast they had that day.”  When playing, we sometimes changed the ending so the dumb birds could get away and hopefully learn a lesson. For this game we used our trusty fox puppet and I made the rest of the characters out of craft foam, Sharpies and Popsicle sticks.  I tried to copy Galdone’s illustrated characters the best I could; but it really doesn’t matter how you draw them, children are very forgiving.  This game is different than the other two because instead of running, you march around the house.  We didn’t do this but I think adding marching music might be a fun variation!  The fox’s cave was under the kitchen table.

These foam puppets last for years

  I hope our pretend play inspires you to turn your favorite children’s stories into games!   And if you like these books, remember to add them to your child’s giftsoc!  They make great presents.  Have fun!