We all know that reading to our kids is important but did you know there are also other ways to support early literacy at home? In this post, we’ll highlight 6 easy and fun early literacy activities to do at home, that you may already be doing without realizing how valuable they are!
Literacy isn’t just about being able to read words; it’s all the skills needed for reading and writing – the awareness of sounds, the relationship between letters and sounds, awareness of print, vocabulary and comprehension. This may sound complicated but the truth is, you probably already do many of these things without realizing it.
Starting from birth, you’ve probably sung lullabies, read books and talked to your child every day. All of these things are helping your child to develop their literacy skills.
As your child becomes a toddler and then a preschooler, it’s important to continue doing these things! Singing songs, reading books and writing lists or notes are all great ways to practice and develop your child’s literacy skills.
But how else can you continue to develop early literacy skills at home? Here are 6 fun early literacy activities to do at home, to keep learning fun and interesting!
1. Play Sound Games
It’s important for kids to learn how to recognize and distinguish between sounds. While it may seem like an easy skill to adults, kids need to practice and learn how to distinguish sounds. And the best way to practice and learn skills is through play or games!
These kind of sound games are easy to play anywhere – in the car, on a walk, in the grocery store or at home. There’s no materials required and no prep needed – just you and your child!
“What sound does “butterfly” start with?” or “What sound do you hear at the beginning of …?”
“What word can you think of that starts with the ‘d’ sound..?”
“Can you think of another word that starts with the same sound as…?”
“I spy something that starts with the letter….?” (This one is great to use in the grocery store!)
2. Practice Writing Words and Letters
Practice, practice, practice….
While kids do need to know how to form letters and write words, the traditional ‘copy the letters/words out 5x’ method isn’t too much fun. And kids won’t want to do it if it’s not fun!
So make it fun!
Instead of using pencil and paper, try using stamps, stickers, playdoh, coloured markers and even pencil crayons to write words. For individual letters, you could have them choose their favourite colour to write letters with, use bingo dabbers or sticker dots to cover the outline of letters, or create the letter using playdoh.
3. Make it Tactile
Tactile learning is when you learn through touch. Anything that allows children to use their hands, and even different types of materials, is tactile learning. While there are many benefits of tactile learning, it’s also helpful in developing fine motor skills, such as the small muscles in children’s hands.
Encourage your child to use different materials to explore and also build their fine motor muscles. Outside, find a stick and practice writing in sand, dirt or snow. You can also use paint brushes and water to write on the sidewalk or concrete. Inside, use your finger, q-tip or a straw to write in flour, cornmeal, sugar or sand (inside a tray or the bottom of a Tupperware container keeps the mess contained).
4. Create a Story
Creating a story is an excellent way for children to further develop their literacy skills. You might be thinking, but my child can’t read and write yet?
Research shows that beginning to write – whether that’s words, letters, or even just marks on the paper – actually helps children learn sounds and how to decode words.
Creating their own story, whether it’s on a piece of paper, or in a book form, provides early learners with an authentic and personal connection to books.
Early learners might just start with a picture on a piece of paper and then orally explain what the story is about. They can also add ‘writing’ to their story. Depending on your child, this may look like marks on the page, it may be one or two letters or a string of letters, or it may be recognizable words.
<<Learn more about the stages of writing here.>>
To begin making books, just staple a few pieces of paper together and help your child write a sentence or two on each page. It can be a story about something you did (walk to the park, playing in the backyard), or something they like (I like pizza, I like pancakes, etc. I like to run, I like to swim). Then let your child illustrate it – and of course, put their name on the front like a real author.
5. Ask Questions While Reading
We all know that reading to your child is the best way to develop their love for reading and their literacy skills. But there’s more to it than just opening the book and reading the words!
When reading with your child, stopping every so often and asking them questions will help develop their comprehension. Ask things like, what do you think happens next? Why do you think…..
It’s also very beneficial to discuss the book that you’re reading, even if it’s a short picture book. Questions such as “Who was your favourite character?” and “What part did you enjoy most?” are good to get your child thinking about the story, but be sure to also ask why!
6. Talk about Experiences
Oral language is key to supporting literacy development and makes for stronger readers and writers! Throughout the day, encourage your child to talk about things they have done or something they have seen. Dinnertime can be the perfect time to talk together as a family – have everyone discuss what happened during their day!
Opportunities for literacy are everywhere!
The 6 ideas that we’ve listed here are not the only literacy activities that you can do at home, but they are fun and easy ideas to keep developing those early literacy skills!
So keep reading together with your child, but also try some of these early literacy activities at home!