“Literacy is more than just learning to read,” says Mary Muhs, dean of the Rasmussen School of Education. “It also includes how children interpret and understand what is being read, as well as writing skills and composition. Literacy skills do not just develop overnight.”
"Literacy skills do not just develop overnight."
She emphasizes the importance of building the framework for literacy in preschool and even before then. “If we start early and build on a child’s experience as they grow, they will not only be able to read and write, but also LOVE to read and write.”
You’re on board for starting this important process with your young ones. But where do you even begin? We took to the Internet to identify some of the best literacy activities for preschoolers. Bookmark this list for a rainy day and you’ll always have an entertaining and educational activity ready when you need it!
15 Fun literacy activities for preschoolers
Hands on as We Grow came up with a letter familiarity activity that will get your little ones moving and their creative juices flowing. Good old connect-the-dots gets revamped when you write a handful of repeating letters in random patterns down a length of butcher’s paper. Kids can connect the letters in any way they like, so long as all of the G’s are connected to the other G’s, and so on.
Toddler Approved came up with this fantastic letter recognition game, especially recommended for kids who love knocking things over. The preparation is minimal and only requires a pool noodle, some popsicle sticks and letter stickers. Once you’ve made the letters on their pool noodle feet, give your child a ball, call out a letter and see if they can knock it down!
Storytime has a hands-on element with Deborah J. Stewart’s discovery bottles activity. These cheap and completely customizable literacy tools could be thrown together in an afternoon as a kinesthetic addition to your kids’ favorite stories. Stewart has her students pass the bottle around while she reads them a story in class. She reports that the bottles keep her students calm while engaging more of their attention in the story. Her post on Teach Preschool includes directions, materials and even pictures for easy reference.
4. Crocodile circle
Picture a bin with a crocodile face on top, filled with letters and surprise cards. Students pass the crocodile around the circle singing Crocodile, crocodile down by lake, I’m going to reach right in and see what (letter) you ate. The student holding the crocodile then pulls a letter and calls it out. Extra surprise cards can let you repeat a turn, reverse directions or anything else you want to include. Making Learning Fun includes directions and free printables to make things easy.
The perfect accompaniment to a dinosaur-themed unit, this activity from How Wee Learn allows students to practice letter recognition while playing archeologist. Drop a few magnetic letters onto a cookie sheet, writing the letters you chose on a piece of paper for your students to use as a key. Cover the letters in flour and give the kids a makeup brush to carefully ‘search the site’ for hidden letters. When they find one, they must match it to their paper key before continuing the hunt.
This one is especially suited for a classroom environment and could be a staple setup in any preschool teacher’s arsenal. Little Bins for Little Hands gives the classic sensory bins a twist by using objects that all start with the same letter. Tape the letter on the front of each box, or let the kids guess the letter as they examine the objects. Either way, these sensory bins transform a fun, hands-on play activity into a literacy lesson.
Paper, tape and ping-pong balls are all you need for this game of ‘snowball’ throwing from Mom Inspired Life. Tape a bunch of letters to a wall, call out the sounds and have your kids throw the snowball at the letter represented. As an added bonus, kids get to work on their coordination as well as their alphabet.
8. Number match-slap game
A deck of cards and some duct tape can transform any wall into a correspondence and number recognition system. Hands on as we Grow came up with this activity for preschoolers to ‘slap’ a pre-taped card to its matching card on the wall. This one could even turn into a class scavenger hunt with cards taped on surfaces throughout the room.
Teach simple word families with this activity suggested by Fun-A-Day. Golf tees stuck in a Styrofoam base create the perfect platform to interchange different letters written on ping-pong balls. ‘Dig’ becomes ‘pig’ with just one switch! This game lends itself to giggling and throwing the ping-pong balls, and all shenanigans can count as literacy training.
10. Feather tip salt tray writing
The title of this activity explains it all. Children get to write (letters, numbers or whole words) in their own tray of salt with a feather tip! Fantastic for motor skill development, this sensory writing experience from Teach Preschool will disguise writing practice as playtime. Be sure to give your students some time to explore the salt tray before their task to minimize confusion.
11. Sorting number stickers
It doesn’t get much simpler than this activity created by Learning 4 Kids. Draw a grid on a piece of paper and place a number in each box. Provide your students with a sheet of number stickers and let them move the numbers into the box with the matching number. After all of the numbers are used up, encourage them to write each number themselves in the corresponding box.
If you (or your kiddos) have the time to collect 52 rocks, this uppercase and lowercase literacy activity could begin in the great outdoors. Wash the rocks and write an uppercase letter on one side, with the corresponding lowercase letter on the opposite side. Then show words or pictures on index cards and challenge them to re-create the word. Meredith at Homegrown Friends says the rocks’ weight and texture was a big hit with her little ones.
Collect some free paint sticks from a home improvement store and make these phonological awareness tools from Pre-K Pages. Directions and pictures of the paint sticks come with free print-outs to make your job just a little easier.
Letters drawn out with whipped cream on tinfoil begin this activity. Provide the students with sprinkles and other cookie-decorating accessories and let them decorate their letter. Kids Creative Chaos promote this playtime for its engagement with all five senses while the children work on their letter.
Old scrabble games are the perfect literacy tool to play with. The Kids Creative Chaos blog recommends arranging the letters to form rhyming words with children who are interested, and allowing everyone to play with the tiles as they like. Even if the kids wind up building houses out of the scrabble letters, they are still seeing the letters and establishing familiarity.
Prepare for learning & laughs
We all know little ones love to play. So why not take leverage that playtime for learning? This list of literacy activities for toddlers is a great start for introducing youngsters to letters and setting the stage for lifelong learning!
If the thought of developing young minds excites you, you may want to consider making a career out of it! Learn about the importance of early childhood education and how you could play an important role in it.