Literacy at Home: Picture Basket

Imagination is critical in the development of problem solving skills, creativity, and social-emotional skills. Imaginative thinking continues to be important well into adulthood as well.

This activity encourages children to think about key ideas in a story through the use of “who, what, where, when, and why” questions. It also stimulates their creative and imaginative sides!


  • Pictures (real photos, photos from magazines, printouts from internet, etc…)
  • Basket/bag
  • Pencil
  • Paper
  • Crayons/felt pens

Pro-tip: This activity can be used for people of all ages!

Step 1: Spend some time looking for photos around your house, on the internet, or in old magazines.  Look for images that spark curiosity. Once you have come up with 10-15 of them, place them in a basket or a bag.

Step 2: Have the child choose a picture from the basket or bag. Give them a minute to look at the picture. Once they have had time to look at it, the fun begins!

Children Too Young to Write:

You’re never too young to start practicing the mechanics of writing! But for those children who can’t write words yet, do this as a spoken activity.

Have the child pull out one of the photos. Give them time to look at the photo.

Then have them describe what they see and come up with a story. Ask the following questions if they need some help:

  • What do they see in the picture?
  • What do they feel when they look at the picture?
  • What do they think the people in the photos are feeling?
  • What do they think is happening in the picture?

Now get them to imagine this picture is a part of a story and ask the following questions:

  • How did the characters/people in the picture get there?
  • What might happen next? Where might they go?
  • Are there little parts of the pictures they can find? Birds? Trees? Mini objects?
  • What shapes do they see?

You can also tell the story together. Start with a clear opening, like “Once upon a time there was a… (Insert something from the photo).”

When they pause, you can help move the story along by adding in one of these prompts:

  • When all of a sudden!
  • But then…
  • Out of nowhere…
  • Along came a…
  • Just when we though all was well/all was over…
  • They would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for…

After creating a story based off the picture, encourage the child to make art based on the story they have created with you.

Children Who Can Write:

For children who are writing (or have begun writing), encourage them to write about what they see rather than tell a story aloud. Or they could use multiple pictures to come up with a story.

Once they have written their story, encourage them to create illustrations too!

Advanced Writers:

Have them create a short story based off the pictures you pull out of the basket! Challenge them to include diverse characters, plotlines, conflicts and resolutions.

Most of all, have fun!

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.

Albert Einstein (1929)

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