Growing Into Books

Section 4: Playing With Stories

Helping Your Child's Language Grow Reading Aloud How to Read to
Your Child
Choosing Books

Your child will like to talk and think about the stories that you read to him. After you read a story that your child especially liked, take time to talk about or play with some ideas from the story. This will help your child develop imagination and a love of reading.

Here are four ways you and your children can play with stories; you might think of some others. Try these after you read or at another time of the day. If your child has trouble paying attention for a long time, do these activities later, instead of right after the story.

Play With the Words from Stories

Songbooks, poem books, or books where words are repeated, are good for playing with words. Help your child try to remember some of the words later on, and sing or say the words with your child. Some good times for doing this are— when you are walking, riding in the car, rocking or bouncing your child on your lap, swinging him, riding on a seesaw, taking a bath. Preschoolers love literature that comes to them "through the ear" or is fun to say and hear.

Some examples are:

  • Take your child's hand and sing "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider" quietly as you walk somewhere, stepping along to the words of the song. Your child might even ask to sing other songs as you walk together.

  • While you push your child on the swings, say a poem ( e.g., "Jack and Jill") along with the rhythm of the swing.

  • While riding in the car, sing "The Wheels on the Bus". Help your child think of how to change the words to fit your trip and what you can see, for example, "The cow in the grass goes, 'chew, chew, chew.'"

When you and your child play with words in this way, you are helping your child get ready to be a good reader. Word play is part of an important reading skill, "phonemic awareness."

Play by Acting Out Stories

You can act out stories with your child's toys. Use his toy buildings, cars and trucks, dolls and stuffed animals. You can also make a simple prop or two. Most children love to make things with their hands; and they also love to glue and tape! The Gingerbread Man is a good story to start with. After you read the story, cut a cookie person from a brown paper bag, and then let your child help decorate it. Ask your child to find some stuffed animals to chase the gingerbread person. Your child will probably want to hold the gingerbread man and chant the "Run, run," parts, as you and the stuffed animals try to catch him.

Play By Using the Five Senses

Your child will learn more when he learns by using his senses. And, of course, he will have fun by using his senses of:


Here are some ways to use the five senses to help your child enjoy stories:

SIGHT—Pretend to be "Goldilocks" or the baby bear, and take a walk outside. Talk about what they might see as they walk through the woods. What would Goldilocks or baby bear want to stop and look at? Bugs? Mud puddles?

TOUCH—Pretend to be The Three Little Pigs. Cut some bristles from a broom, and try to build a house of twigs. Use twigs or Popsicle sticks for the second pig's house. Use blocks for the brick house. You could make pigs out of paper, and put them inside the houses. Then let your child pretend to be the wolf, and try to blow each house down. Use words from the story while you act it out: "Little pig, little pig, let me come in?"

HEARING—Read your child a book about animals, and then play "Guess the Animal." Take turns where one of you makes an animal sound, and the other one guesses the animal.

SMELL—Let your child smell some spices after reading him The Gingerbread Man. Children can learn to remember strong scents such as cloves, ginger, oregano, garlic, and poultry seasoning. Sprinkle a little bit of spice on a dab of glue to make your own "scratch and sniff" picture of a Gingerbread Man.

TASTE—Read Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and ask your child to pretend to be a hungry caterpillar. Cut up some small bites of food (e.g., apple, orange, cracker, cheese). Don't let your child see you. Then have your child close his eyes while you place a bite of food on his tongue. When your child is eating, ask, "Little caterpillar, can you guess what food this is?" "Was this something that the caterpillar in the book ate?" If it was in the book, ask your child to find its picture in the book.

Play With Books

Make your own homemade books. Use old magazines, paper, crayons, scissors, tape and staples to make books with your child. Make books about things she has done and things she is interested in. You will probably need to write the words, because writing can be hard for young children. If your child wants to do the writing, though, let her. Your child might like to write some of the letters—maybe the first one on each page. Or, your child might like you to write words for her to copy. Some children like to add pretend or scribble writing.

Each book might take one or several days to make. Work on it while your child is interested. When she gets tired, put it away for another day. Always read and look at your work at the end of each session. Praise your child's good work.

Your child will enjoy reading and re-reading these books, because she helped make them herself. Ask your child to show these books to other people. Show her that you are proud of her work. This is a great way to learn to read.

Some examples of homemade books you can make are:

  • Alphabet or Counting Book. Find old magazines or newspapers or advertisements. You and your child cut out pictures to go with each letter or number. This project might take several days. It might take a long time to find something that starts with X! But this is a good project for inside play days.

  • My Family. Find photos or draw pictures of each member of your family—include pets and relatives as well. You and your child can write names under each picture. Your child might like you to write a sentence about each person, too. She might like to tell things such as:

    • what she likes to do with that person
    • a funny story about the person
    • what that person likes to do.

  • My Day at the…(Fair, Park, Pool, etc.). Talk about the things you did there. Then draw pictures together. Finally, go back and write a sentence about each picture. Ask your child to tell you what words to write.

  • A Family Story. You and your child can draw pictures for a story that is often told in your family ("When Our Cat Got Stuck in the Tree"). Your child probably enjoys stories about things that happened when her parents or brothers and sisters were little. After the pictures are made, ask your child to look at the pictures and tell the story. Write her words under the pictures.


The Pennsylvania Center for the Book logo
last updated 4/25/05
©2004 The Pennsylvania State University
U.Ed. LIB 03-64