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Has this ever happened? After books, toys, songs, snacks, and video games have lost their charm, your child says, "I'm bored!" What should you do?

How about asking, "Would you like to hear a story?"

You Have Stories to Share

You may not realize it, but you have a lot 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.

Stories to Share With Young Kids

Young kids enjoy hearing stories about you and your family. When did you lose your first tooth? Who was a favorite teacher? Thinking about you as a little kid may spark their 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 fun than a story about the time a parent did something silly. Kids enjoy hearing about a past that is connected to them. Preschoolers and toddlers enjoy stories about characters from their favorite books. Whether you take Little Chick on a walk through the barn 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 peep or the siren's squeal.

Stories to Share With Older Kids

Older kids love a funny twist, so take a favorite story and turn it upside down by changing the setting, characters, or plot. Make that silly 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 fun adventure that fits their interests (for example, traveling back to see dinosaurs or working as a train conductor).

Go Beyond the Storytelling

Expand 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 kids retell the story in their own words. Draw images 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! 

Encourage your child to tell a story too! After exposing your child to many ways of storytelling, encourage kids to come up with their own story. It's important that kids have the chance to use their imagination to develop ideas and create a story. This builds strong communication, organization, 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 …."

Medically reviewed by: Kandia N. Lewis, PhD
Date reviewed: May 2022