Literacy Activity Ideas for Preschool Kids
Learning to read and write doesn’t have to be boring. These fun literacy activities for preschoolers will help kids develop the skills to read and write on their own.
1. Teach SIGN LANGUAGE or a FOREIGN LANGUAGE
(Visit the ‘Literacy for School Age page’ for ways to say ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank you’ in many different languages. It is 1/4 down the page with the word written in the foreign language and then the phonetic pronunciation in English.)
2. Attendance Sign In
Having children sign in for attendance each day, by printing their names on a sheet of paper. (The Caregiver/teacher would still take attendance.)
3. BE ENTHUSIASTIC!
At group-time spell children’s names and words out ‘cheerleader’ style.
‘I see the name Adam’ (as Adam stands holding his name card)’Give me and ‘A’ -‘A’!!!! ‘Give me a ‘D’- ‘D’!!! etc.
4. KNOCK-KNOCK JOKES!
Children this age love them!!! (They usally don’t understand standard jokes-but do think Knock-Knocks are fun. Check out our Knock-Knock Jokes
5. Transition Music for Literacy Development
A transition CD played at one observed school was a ‘catchy’ song– singing the months of the year in English… and then in Spanish.
6. Transition Countdown
To indicate transition, have a child walk to each group of children as she/he holds a sign saying, ‘Five minutes left’. This is to remind the children ‘free play’ is about to end. Each child acknowledges with a ‘thank-you’. Each child will have an opportunity to do this during the year.
7.Story Cards for Literacy Activity
Make a variety of story cards from which the children may find sets of three for making and telling stories.
8. Puzzles for Literacy Development
- Alphabet puzzles
- Word puzzles
- The States
- Help children make puzzles. Cut up a pretty card or magazine cover in large pieces. Glue to card-stock and encourage your children to put the picture back together.
TIP: Put magnetic strips on the back on the puzzle pieces. Have children put puzzles back together on a magnetic board or refrigerator. Also…keep individual puzzle pieces in a baggie with puzzle title.
9. ALPHABET STAMPS
Upper/lower case– 1-inch grid paper for sequencing. Have word families to copy, children’s names to copy and strips of paper to stamp words and sentences.
10. MAGNETIC letters, strips, and boards activity
Make a name card for each student with their name and picture; add a magnetic strip to the back.
Word cards and name cards – also alphabet strips should be placed in centers.
11. THE MATCHING GAME
A sentence strip has a word and a picture of what that word represents. You can use rubber alphabet letters and real objects to match words. The children can match letters, words, pictures, or all three.
12. ‘HANDWRITING WITHOUT TEARS’
This activity has become an alphabet staple in many classrooms – especially for children who are tactile learners. They are shaped like letter parts- straight lines, curves, half circles etc. Children use them to make letters or words. (Children can make word searches). These pieces are rather large – smallest is about 6 inches – so they are easy for kids to handle.
13. Picnics to Promote Literacy
Plan an indoor ‘PICNIC’ for lunch— or if weather permits, plan an outdoor picnic. When everyone has a comfortable place to sit and can hear you easily, tell a story. You can also have children bring some favorite books to read!
Outdoor Literacy Ideas for Kids
14. Outdoor Drawing Activity
Invite children to pair up and sit back to back so they can each see a different part of the grounds.
Have children spend 2-5 minutes carefully drawing what they see, in silence. Then give them a few minutes to share their drawings and tell their partners about two or three things they saw.
15. Write a GROUP POEM about being outdoors
Suggest that children lie on their backs and focus for 30 seconds on what is above them. Ask them to report details of what they noticed. If it’s a nice day, take out a bucket of books and read under a tree! Do often!
16.Cloud Shapes Activity
Lie on the ground and describe the SHAPES OF THE CLOUDS. (Oral language & descriptive vocabulary skills)
17. Take a NATURE WALK
When you get back to the room (or home), have children write or draw the things they saw or collected.
18.I Spy Literacy Activity
As you play OUTDOORS, PLAY ‘I SPY’. Look around your world and say, ‘I spy something that starts with the (m) sound. What is it’? You can add clues such as ‘We use it to cut our grass. (mower) It’s where we put our letters. (mailbox)
When children have completed an activity or lesson, have an area with a ‘BOOK TUB’where they can go and read-out the transition before the next scheduled activity begins.
20.Promotoing Literacy Through Safety
Ensure that children know how to spell their full name, street address, town, city, and phone number. Show, repeat, and practice this information often so that they can memorize it.
21. Family Night
Have a ‘FAMILY NIGHT’ and share stories with children and parents.
22. ALPHABET WALK
Walking is good for your physical health– but it’s also a terrific activity for early literacy health. This activity will practice the alphabet while identifying surroundings at the same time. The ‘Alphabet Walk’ can be played two ways.
1. Pick a letter of the alphabet and try to find as many things on your walk that begin
with that letter (bird, bush, bakery, etc.).
2. Use the entire alphabet and try to find something during your walk that begins with every letter (apple, boy, car, dog, etc.).
Fun Writing Activities for Preschoolers
Provide opportunities and teacher support — explore different styles writing such as poems, lists, stories, and letters. Can you get high school and university students to visit and share reading time? Emphasize the importance of literacy and an education! Not only do the students attain a rewarding experience, but they are models of the importance of an education
23. Pretend Writing
ENCOURAGE scribbling and pretend writing, but provide support and encouragement when children begin forming actual letters and words.
24. MAKE A BOOK
For the youngest children, make tactile books. Preschoolers will enjoy making alphabet books. Older children will love making pop-up books.
25. Write and Send Letters
Help the children write and SEND LETTERS to friends. Decorate each one with markers or crayons.
26. What Goes Together Games
Help children to remember and write words they know by playing the ‘WHAT GOES TOGETHER GAME‘.
Say a noun, such as ‘flower’. Next have the child say or write three to five words that tell about the word. For example, for flower they might say: pretty, blue, tiny, tall, or smelly.
27. Make Dictionaries Activity
Have children make their own DICTIONARIES to collect words for use in writing and other activities. This is a long-term project for children. Young writers can draw the objects and adults can label the drawings with the ‘book’ spelling of the words. Collect these words in a writer’s journal.
28. Someone Special Book Idea
Help each child make a book for someone special – drawing pictures showing what each child likes about their special person. Write down what the picture is about. When possible, ask them to share it with the person they selected.
29. Make BOOKMARKS
30. Make Cookbooks
Thanksgiving is a good time for this! Ask each child to bring a favorite Family recipe from home … Compile all and make a cookbook for each family!
- Cookbook Idea #1
Have children write or dictate their own recipes for a Thanksgiving feast. Write each recipe on a large index card and ask them to illustrate their recipes. Then mount the recipe cards below the pictures. These are often a riot!
- Cookbook Idea #2
Put the recipes together and make a ‘Class Feast Book’ to give out or display at your parents’ center.
- Cookbook Idea #3
Give each child a clip-art decorated page and have them write or dictate their favorite recipe. Compile all into a Center Cook Book.
31. Dippity-Do WRITING BAGS (or tempera paint bags)
Use Small Ziploc storage bags, food coloring and thick styling gel (dippity-do gel) Measure about 4 tablespoons of styling gel into a Zip-loc bag and add several drops of food coloring. Close bag–remove any air – and then have kids mix food coloring around until gel is all one color. When mixed, children lay the bags on a flat surface and practice writing their letters or numbers. Good for improving fine motor skills.
32. SHAVING CREAM WRITING
Supplies: Wax paper and non-menthol aerosol shaving cream
Directions: Lay out wax paper flat on a table. Children spray a large pile of shaving cream on the area. Have them spread out the cream and practice their writing skills.
This activity will be very helpful with fine motor skills- also visual and tactical learners will benefit. The more senses you use, the more you learn. Do this activity to practice letters, writing words, writing cursive, numbers, and doing addition.
33. PLAY DOUGH LETTERS
Play Dough Idea #1…
Put out play dough and encourage the children to make letters and numbers in their play. Use as you would use play-dough. Review shapes, letters, sounds, vocabulary, numbers, etc.
Play Dough Letters #2
Make large flash cards, using words of your choice that are suited to the children’s ability. Laminate the flash cards, or cover them in plastic. When done, the cards are ready to use with the children.
First, say the word on card.
Next, have the child make small “ropes” out of clay. The children can use the “ropes” to trace over the laminated sight word card. This will enhance tactile stimulus and reinforce learning.
33. COUPONS from kids who don’t yet write
Supplies: Paper, markers, scissors, old magazines.
Directions: Ask the children to think of something they can do to help mom or dad around the house. They can cut pictures from the magazine and paste them on paper strips to make coupons. Example: I will dry the dishes” can have a cup, saucer or dish detergent on the coupon… Package up in an envelope as a gift…
Using Food to Promote Literacy and Writing
34. Pancake Words
Make pancakes, and spell out words on them in chocolate chips or blueberries!
When making pancakes, instead of pouring the batter to make round, traditional pancakes, pour the batter in the shape of a letter.
Serve alphabet soup as a snack; look for certain letters.
Along the same line…Make CRACKER MESSAGES
Choice or Peanut butter, Jam, Honey, Cream cheese or Cheese spread
Crackers or Small rice cakes
First…Spread a filling on the crackers.
Next…Children can write their names or short words on the crackers using the Alphabet cereal.
Younger children can just have fun by randomly placing cereal letters. Eat and enjoy
37. Reading Recipes for Literacy
Cook with the children- where they read, measure, pour, dump, cook, eat, enjoy!
38. Writing Names and Casting Votes
Use graphing where numbers are tallied as each child writes their name and casts their vote on a whiteboard or blackboard.
39. Letter Association Activity
Have children try to name five things that start with the letter “F,” then five things that start with “U,” then “N.” Write down the words the children mention. Then write the letters “FUN” to show children how much fun letters are!
40. Cold Weather SNOW PICTURES and WORDS
Materials: spray bottles filled with colored water food coloring and snow.
Gather several spray bottles.
Fill each with water and add food coloring to tint it. Use colored water to paint pictures in the snow. You can add a winter twist to vocabulary lessons by having children illustrate vocabulary words in the snow. Select one student at a time and demonstrate his or her vocabulary word. The child can draw it in the snow for the rest of the group to guess. The child who guesses correctly gets the next turn.
TIP: Small spray bottles are difficult for even adults to do this–try larger spray bottles. Additionally, plastic containers such as ‘dishwashing detergent bottles’ and ‘ketchup bottles’ work great for this acitivity!
41. WATER PAINTING
Warm Weather take children outside with a bucket of water and a paint brush to “paint” their names on the sidewalk or wall (be sure to tell them that it’s only OK with water, not with real paints!). They can also draw shapes and letters with the water.
42. MORE WATER PAINTINg IDEAS
Similar to the above- Have children ‘paint’ their names with water on a hot sidewalk, then watch the letters disappear!
This can also be done using ‘ice-cubes’. To add some science, have children guess how long it takes for wet letters to evaporate, then time it.
43.Finger Paint the Alphabet
Have ‘OUTDOOR LESSONS‘ where children can ‘finger paint’ the alphabet using sand, garden soil or playground pebbles.
44. ‘SWEET SMELLING’ LETTERS
An activity that helps children recognize letters while engaging their senses.
You will need: construction paper or other heavy plain paper (6 sheets), box lid, pencil or pen, liquid glue, flavored gelatin power.
1. Cut each 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper into quarters.
2. Place several sheets into the box lid.
3. Print one alphabet letter onto each sheet using a pencil or pen.
4. Squeeze a thin line of liquid glue over each line.
5. Have the child sprinkle fruit-flavored gelatin powder on the glue letters. Tap extra gelatin into the box lid.
6. Repeat with the remaining paper quarters until you have used all the letters in the alphabet.
7. After the glue dries, the children will have a ‘sniffy’ alphabet they can see, touch and smell!
45. LETTER HOPSCOTCH
Print each letter of the alphabet on a sheet of paper. Have the children help decorate the letters with crayons or markers.
Choose ten letters and arrange them in a hopscotch pattern on the floor.
Play hopscotch, saying the names of the letters as you land on each square.
Play again, this time saying the sounds the letters make as you land on each square.
46.Write ‘Family’ Poems
Help each child write a poem about his/ her FAMILY. Be creative. Start each line with a letter from the word ‘family’. Encourage children to draw pictures to go with their stories.
47. SENSORY LEARNING
Use movement, touch and texture whenever you can to make learning more meaningful. Children can build letters or numbers with clay, play dough, blocks or their own bodies. You can write words together in the sand, in a tray of rice or stamp them with plastic letters into rolled-out play dough.
48. BREAD PAINTING SNACK, and writing
Need bread, milk, food coloring, cinnamon sugar, butter and or jam, small paper cups, thin brushes or cotton-tipped swabs.
Mix ‘paint’ by combining food coloring with milk. Paint letters and name on one side. When changing colors be sure to remind children to use different brushes or swabs. When complete-toast in toaster on light or under broiler. (adult supervision) Children can eat their toast as is—-or while it’s still hot– butter it and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar or spread with jam.
IMPORTANT: Be sure kids do not ‘soak’ the bread but paint lightly. If too wet the bread won’t toast well.
49. MAKE A LETTER COLLAGE
When working on individual letter-lessons, help children find those letters of the alphabet in the newspaper headlines or a magazine cover. They can find and cut out those letters and then make a collage. Letter pages can be compiled into a booklet. To add to the lesson, items that begin with THAT letter can be cut out and glued to an additional page.
50. Write Thank You Notes to Promote Reading and Writing
Routinely have the children write thank you NOTES and make birthday and holiday CARDS.
51. Using An Atlas for Literacy
Show children how look up phone numbers and find destinations in an atlas, write lists, and visit the library/media center of your school or program.
52. Writing (Literacy) and KINDNESS LESSON
Trace each child’s hand on a piece of paper. Ask children to think of different ways people can be kind to others. Write their ideas on each finger of the hand drawing…The tracing can be completed as described, or cut out, mounted, and decorated.
ADDITIONAL IDEAS for Promoting Communication and Learning
Talk with children about the differences between hot and cold, big and small, open and closed, in and out, before and after, yesterday and tomorrow, first and last, and other opposites. Help children find or think of examples for each word.
54.TAKE a “COUNTING WALK”
Pick something to count (cars, signs, flowers, birds, bikes) and as you walk, keep track of how many you see.
55. Directions Activity
When you walk with the children, POINT OUT THE DIRECTIONS– you are going: turning left or right, going uphill or downhill. Point out which direction is north, south, east or west.
56. Play the ‘SILENT WALKING GAME’
When you’re walking in your area of park, woods or neighborhood. Walk quietly for a few minutes, or until the children just can’t stay silent any longer. Then have each child recall the sounds they heard during the walk. Repeat as long as you are having fun. (Phonological awareness) This can also be done walking the halls of the program building.
57. Play a game of LEAP FROG
Measure how far the children can “hop.”
58. Review SHAPES in an interesting way
Have children point out all the round-shaped things nearby. Have a round snack of banana slices, crackers, cookies, or tortillas!
59. Learning the VALUE OF COINS
Put a few coins on the table. Count the coins together. Sort the coins into groups: pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. Talk about their shapes and colors and about the figures on each side. Play ‘I Spy’ using the coins. Example: I spy a coin worth 10 cents. Can you find it?
60. ALPHA COLLECTIONS
This could be a center activity.
A few children at a time are given a shoebox, plastic tub or other container. Ask the children to go on an ‘Alpha Hunt’. They can fill the container with items that start with the sound of a certain letter: (B) buttons, balls, bell, bottle, barrette, blue marker/crayon, bunny, etc. Items can be displayed–or have children put items away with their group.
61. DIVERSITY~CULTURE AWARENESS WITH HOLIDAYS
Different people celebrate different holidays. Talk about children’s favorite holidays. In their own words, what does each holiday celebrate and mean to them?
62. PICTURE SCAVENGER HUNT
For those that cannot read yet, make a scavenger hunt list with pictures you have drawn on a sheet of paper.
Some ideas that you could draw for them: a feather, small stone, acorn, maple leaf, oak leaf, various leaf designs in your area, small twig or stick, dead bug (draw him with legs up) pinecone, flower (only if they can pick one), worm, pieces of grass, clover leaf and any other ideas you can come up with. Discuss the pictures on the list to assure that the children understand what you have drawn.
63. Create Stories with the Kids as the Characters
Make up a story with the children as the main characters. Let the children retell the story to you.
64. OUTDOORS ALPHABET SCAVENGER HUNT
Outside Alphabet Scavenger Hunt!
Form groups or teams and go for a walk — trying to find one item that begins with every letter of the alphabet. Make a list from “A to Z” and see which group can come up with the most items in the allotted time. With young children this can be an ongoing activity.
65.INSIDE ALPHABET SCAVENGER HUNT!
(The same as above –but indoors)
Form groups or teams and go for a walkabout of selected area— trying to find one item that begins with every letter of the alphabet. Make a list from “A to Z” and see which group can come up with then most items in the allotted time.
66. WHAT I THINK ACTIVITY
Either have the children write–or pre-write the words, ‘I think’ on their papers.
1. Below the phrase, ‘I think’– Have them write (or you pre-write) a few phrases about what they may think about. (My friends; My pet; About school; My birthday; etc.)
2. Next have the children trace over what they wrote (or was written for them) with a marker. They cut out the marker words– and glue each phrase on a separate sheet of paper. This may be done anyway they choose to do it–but one phrase to a sheet or paper.
3. When complete, the children follow this with finding pictures in magazines and newspapers of things they like or think about. They glue their pictures on the appropriate pages. The pages are then put together into a booklet. The children share their books and pages with one another. This project can be done in two or three stages.
‘I think’ about my friends. (Glue pictures of children).
67. FIELD TRIPS
If possible- Take young children on outings in the community. Include time for lots of questions, comments, and discussion to expand vocabularies.
LITERACY AND WRITING IDEAS WITH PASTA…
68. MAKE AN ALPHABET NOODLE BRACELET
Light weight cardboard such as from cereal boxes
Uncooked Alphabet shaped noodles
- Cut out a piece of cardboard that is about ½ inch wide and long enough to fit around child’s wrist. Spell out child’s name -or any other word – with the alphabet noodles. Be sure to place your word in the center of the cardboard strip and glue them in place. Allow the glue to dry; when glue is dry punch, a hole in each end of the cardboard.
- Cut a piece of yarn that is about six inches long and string each end up through each hole on the bracelet and tie the bracelet to fit the wrist.
Tip: You can leave as is…or before you tie the bracelet – paint it using acrylic paints or spray paints. Make sure to apply thin coats of either paint and allow the paint to dry. If using acrylic paint make sure to use a sealer as well.
Another choice is to dye the pasta; directions are at page bottom of Pasta Crafts Page.
69. Alphabet Pasta Activity
Get a box of alphabet pasta and let the kids have fun!
- They can write their name or a message to a friend.
- The children can test their spelling.
- Try mirror writing!
70. Sorting and Counting Pasta
Sort and count pasta pieces by color. Place or glue the pieces on matching colored paper.
71. A WELL STOCKED WRITING CENTER INCLUDES…
1. Children’s writing tools including colored, medium and soft lead pencils, pens with variety of ink colors, markers, crayons and chalk in variety of colors.
2. Lined and unlined paper in assorted colors, textures, sizes and shapes.
3. Other materials such as index cards, printed forms, postcards, magic slates, erasable marker boards, chalkboards and clipboards.
4. Book making and greeting card making materials, such as wallpaper, contact paper, wrapping paper, used greeting cards, staplers, hole punchers, envelopes, stickers, yarn and glue.
5. A word computer with word processing and a printer.
6. In addition to the above materials, creative teachers and parents will find many unusual writing materials that appeal to children such as: scented markers and letter shaped cookie cutters.
7. Office and art supply stores sell a variety of writing materials that can adapt to early childhood use.
WHAT KINDS OF BOOKS DO YOUNG CHILDREN LIKE?
FOUR TO SIX AGE bracket:
Buy books that combine bright, interesting pictures with a story line that keeps children interested. Popular books for young children include books with stories about families and day-to- day events. This is because children enjoy associating what they read with their own lives.
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