The story of Stone Soup is a popular old fable that has been retold countless ways. (If you need to brush up on the tale, you can find books at the library or online, and can even find online versions here and here.) You can help your children be a part of this timeless story as you do some story acting and then share some soup together!
Start out by telling the children that you have something tasty to show them. Pull out a rock, and ask if anyone would like to try some! “Of course not! It’s a rock!” they’ll all reply. As you pretend to come to the realization that rocks are not food, tell the children that you know of a story where a delicious soup was made from a rock, or a stone, just like that one. Tell them you need their help in telling the story.
Embellish the story however you wish, but here is the basic way I tell it:
In this story there is a traveller (that will be played by you, the teacher). And the traveller comes to a town where the people are not very good at sharing. Assure the children that you know they are very good at sharing, but they are going to have to pretend that they aren’t. The people in this town had food, but they didn’t want to share. Hand out some of the ingredients you used in your soup -the recipe I use follows at the end of this post. Explain what each ingredient is as you hand it out. I often hand out potatoes, onions, celery, carrots, dry pasta, canned or fresh tomatoes, a jar of chicken bouillon or even a can of chicken broth or cream of chicken to represent the broth, a jar of herbs, and some salt and pepper.
I remind the children again that the villagers did not want to share, so they should hide their food behind their backs, and not share with me when I ask. Then I go on with the story. This traveller arrived in the town where the people didn’t share and she (or he) realized that she was very hungry! She knocked on the doors in the town and asked the people if they could share some food with her. Do you think the people shared? No, they weren’t very good at sharing. Go around to the children asking the children if they have food, as they shake their heads no. Well, the traveller was good at sharing, and she was a little sneaky too. She sat down in the middle of the town, and said, “It’s too bad no one has any food. I will make some stone soup for all of us!” So she got out a big pot (you’ll want one handy, along with a wooden spoon) and filled it with water from the well, plopped in a big stone (use the one you showed at the beginning) and began stirring the pot over a warm fire. She sniffed the soup and said, loudly, “Oh, how I love Stone Soup! This is going to be a delicious soup!” Well the townspeople began to be very curious. They wondered how someone could make soup from just a stone! They began to watch the traveller. She stirred and sniffed and said, “Oh, this soup will be marvelous! If only I had some chicken broth, then it would be really delicious!” Encourage the child with the broth to suddenly decide to share. Receive it graciously and put the whole jar or can directly into the pot, pretending to stir above it. Continue on with each ingredient, bundling a few together if you need to, (“If only I had some carrots and celery, then it would really be delightful!”) Really play it up, using a wide variety of words for “good” when describing how the soup smells and will taste (delightful, delectable, delicious, scrumptious) pairing several together for great affect. Continue until all of the items have been placed in the pot. Finally the stone soup was finished! Do you think the traveller decided to share the soup with the townspeople? Of course she did! They had shared with her and she wanted to share with them. Pretend to pour soup into their hands and everyone pretends to eat. The townspeople were so amazed that such a delicious soup could be made from just a stone! But was it really made from just a stone? No, the soup was made delicious because everyone shared! After sharing the soup, the traveller moved on her way. But first, she washed off the stone, and put it in her pocket, in case she needed to make stone soup again someday!
Talk to the children a bit about sharing and the fact that none of the people could have had a meal as delicious as the one they had together, and that we have more fun when we share and play together as well. To really make this activity memorable, tell the children that you have some Stone Soup you want to share with them.
You can make any soup you like (I included my recipe at the end of this post). Even a good old can of Campbell’s will do the trick. I just think it’s most effective to use the same ingredients for your props as those found in the soup. I’ve found that even though the children act out the story with the props, they still enjoy finding “their” ingredients in the real soup. Even some of my picky eaters have been excited to eat Stone Soup, or at least to pick out the noodles they put in.
You can cook soup with a rock in it or simply plop a clean rock into the soup after it’s prepared, or during if you actually cook the soup with the children. As you serve up the cooled soup, pull out the rock and ask if anyone wants to eat the stone! Then conclude that you’ll just wash it up and save it because you never know when you’ll need to make soup from a stone!
This activity builds language and literacy skills as the children take part in the story and as they learn a variety of new words that mean “good”. Teaching children about fables is similar to teaching high schooler and adults about Homer’s great works like the Illiad and the Oddessy. It’s a classic standard and a reference they will encounter in future literary experiences and conversations. As most fables teach a social moral, this one in particular also teaches the importance of sharing as a social skill and can be used as a springboard for further discussions on sharing.
Enjoy some Stone Soup with your little ones! Later you can read some of the fabulous versions of Stone Soup with them and talk about the similarities and differences between the story they acted out and those in the book. Here are just a few:
Combine in pot:
1 cup onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
3 cups water
1 can tomatoes
1 can White Northern Beans
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
1/8 tsp. cayenne
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5-10 minutes. Blend until smooth.
In another pot cook the following in enough water to cover:
1 cup dry pasta (ABC pasta or other fun-shaped pasta)
1 finely diced potato
2 stalks of celery, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
(Dicing the veggies into small 1/2 centimeter cubes seems to make it more appealing to children.) Cook all until al dente. Add to blended soup base. Cool adequately before serving.
For more food-themed activities, click here!
Top photo by Viira.