It may already have happened: When books, toys, songs, snacks, video games, and DVDs have lost their charm, your child pipes up with "I'm bored!" Your mind blanks and your child looks at you with anticipation. What should you do?
How about asking, "Would you like me to tell you a story?"
You may not realize it, but you have a wealth of stories to share. You don't have to invent them on the spot. Personal stories, particularly from your childhood or from books you've read, are good starters. Children also love to hear stories that describe them and experiences they've had. For example, you can tell a story about the trip you and your child had to the zoo or to Grandma's house.
Preschoolers and toddlers enjoy stories about characters from their favorite books. Whether you take Little Chick on a walk through the barnyard or Firefighter Bob on an exciting drive through the city, don't worry too much about plot. Young kids enjoy the chance to share the chick's peeping or the siren's squeal.
Older kids can appreciate a funny twist, so take a favorite story and turn it upside down by changing the setting, characters, or plot. Make that zany cat with the big striped hat fly to the moon on a spaceship or come to your neighborhood and cause all kinds of problems. Make your child the main character in a wacky adventure that fits his or her interests (for example, traveling back to see dinosaurs or working as a train conductor).
Young kids enjoy hearing stories about you and your family. When did you lose your first tooth? Who was a favorite teacher? Thinking about Mommy or Daddy as a little kid may spark the imagination. Maybe you want to share the story, passed down to you, about the ghost that lived in your great-grandmother's attic. And there's nothing more delightful than a story about the time a parent did something mischievous and the consequences. Kids delight in these glimpses of a past that is connected to them.
Consider expanding the storytelling experience. Work with your child to make your own book about the tale. Find family photos or magazine pictures of people or places that could be part of the story. Write the words or have your child retell the story in his/her own words. Draw images to illustrate the story if no pictures are available. Use puppets or costumes and act out the familiar story, have the whole family join in the fun. The possibilities are endless and limited only by your imagination and creativity!
When you tell stories, you show how to put words together to make meaning. You share something new about yourself that your kids may find interesting or exciting and that might be a springboard for questions and discussions. Most important, you nurture a love of language and stories that kids will have for life.
So take a deep breath and begin: "Once upon a time ...."