While it's tempting to leave the storytelling to Dora the Explorer, spinning your own yarns is a great way to interact with your child -- and it's not as hard as you might think. Four tricks to telling your own tales:
1. Involve your child in the story. Whether you make her the main character in the tale or just ask her to contribute sound effects (What sounds do cows make?), let your child help with the storytelling. "It focuses kids' concentration and increases their attention span," says children's book author and librarian Janice Del Negro of Forest River, IL.
2. Make it a family affair. Start your story with something like "When Grandma was a girl?" to give your child a sense of time and history, Del Negro suggests. "The same sorts of things that happened in the past are happening today, and will happen in the future, so this will give her a strong sense of continuity."
3. Base the story in reality. If your child has a new baby brother or is about to start preschool, create a story around that, says Dr. Bertie Bregman, M.D., director of Westside Family Medicine, in New York City. "Then when these things really happen, she'll have a reference point." Or wrap a story around a new skill she's learning, such as telling time.
4. Rely on the retelling. "Kids love to hear the same story over and over again. It's very reassuring for them to anticipate what's going to happen," says Dr. Bregman. So don't be afraid to trot out the same tale. And rest assured, when your kid tires of hearing about Wally the Whale, she'll tell you.