20 Literacy Activities for Kids

Looking for language and literacy activities for preschoolers and kindergarten kids? Below we will go through the importance of early literacy and what you can do to help including:

  • Language and literacy activities for toddlers
  • Language and Literacy activities for Preschoolers and Kindergarten kids

What is Early Literacy?

Early Literacy is the development of language from an early age. 

Before we move on any further, I believe it is important to define literacy in regards to this article and what I am referring to. 

Literacy is language spoken and spoken language understood.  Literacy is the ability to read and write.  

Early literacy begins from an early age. Without realising we are exposing our child to literacy even before they are even born. Literacy is embedded in our culture, the way we write, the things we read and the way we speak all shape the culture we are born into and the community we live in. 

It is important to note that early literacy can occur with more than one language.  If a child is exposed to more than one language in their home, their family or their community then they will develop early literacy in both of those languages. 

Definition of Literacy

Formally, literacy is defined as the ability to read and write.  Early literacy encompasses all that is involved in an individual reaching the developmental ability to do just that.

Literacy is listening to sounds, intonations, phrases and sentences. It is the development of oral language to communicate to others.

Literacy is the development of fine motor skills so that they can be strengthened to be able to hold a pencil that will eventually produce the written word. 

Literacy is the recognition of letters and sounds in the alphabet, and is the understanding of print concepts such as reading left to right and how to form letters. 

Importance of Early Literacy

Literacy is the foundation to all other learning. It is well understood that children learn from a very young age. 

Early language and literacy begin in the first three years of a child’s life, well before they begin formal schooling. 

Early literacy such as immersion in the reading of books and the use of pencils and paper, are the building blocks for language, reading and writing development.  These things can all happen during play and daily living in the early years (0-3) in a child’s life.

Early literacy begins in the home and is significant in helping children to be able to communicate with their family, their peers and the wider community. Children who are not given the tools and opportunities to do this may become frustrated and ‘act out’ due to their inability to communicate their needs and wants. 

Early literacy is vital for school readiness. When a child is developmentally able to understand the components of literacy, this prepares them for the teaching and learning that will take place at school. 

The foundation of early literacy determines how a child will learn when they begin formal schooling.  An example of this is a child who arrives at school with the understanding of how to read a book (from left to right).  This child is already more literate than a child who has never seen a book in his or her life. 

Criticisms of Early Literacy

There are some criticisms of early literacy.  It is believed that ‘teaching’ children from an early age can be detrimental to their learning.  The school of thought is that children should be involved only in play and that early literacy does not have a role in this space.

The amazing thing about early literacy is that it is not taught through formal means.  Children learn and develop early literacy skills through play, reading with others and by being involved in every day activities in their home with their family and in the community. 

A trip to the supermarket to do the groceries provides literacy skills such as spoken language though interactions and the written word through signs and labels.  I have included some ideas below that can make this easy and fun.

Literacy Activities for Preschoolers

Early Literacy Activities for Kids

Now that you know what early literacy is, let’s get into some language activities and literacy activities for kids. Toddlers, pre-schoolers, and kindergarteners can all benefit from early literacy activities through play.

8 Literacy Activities for Toddlers

Toddlers will gain literacy skills primarily through play.  As a parent it is important to see the opportunities in everyday tasks and link these with literacy building skills.  Here are some simple ways you can incorporate literacy activities into your day.

1. Reading to your child

Reading to your child from birth is an incredible experience.  It fosters closeness, provides the child with nurturing and begins the journey of literacy. See our list of fantastic story books for kids.

2. Listening to Stories

These can be played in the car or when your child is falling asleep. This is a great way for your child to be exposed to a variety of vocabulary on a daily basis.

3. Looking at Picture Books

Discussing what the story is telling us and predicting what will happen next are some of the ways a picture book can be used.

4. Visiting the Library

Allow your child to choose some books to read on their own or that you can sit and read with them.  Most local libraries also have story time which you can attend and the librarian reads to the children. 

5. Talking

Talking to your child about what is happening, what the plan is for the day, what the excavator is doing to on the building site you are walking past – just talk.  Explaining things to your child opens their vocabulary and their imaginations to the wider world around them.

6. Reciting Nursery Rhymes

Nursery rhymes are a great early literacy activity, and a fantastic way to get toddlers using their words. Because they are short they are easy to learn if recited over and over again. Kids love repetition. Here is a fantastic list of nursery rhymes with lyrics to use with your kids.

7. Singing Songs

Singing is found to be fundamental in learning for young children.  Sing songs you know, play music and make up songs too.  You will soon find your child doing the same.  Songs are also a fantastic and easy way to learn rhythm and rhyme. 

8. Playdough

Playing with materials like sand, playdough, mobilo and duplo are fun but also give children the opportunity to strengthen their fine motor skills ready to hold a pencil and write when the time is right. 

Literacy Activities for Preschoolers & Kindergarten

As your child leaves the toddler years behind and gets closer to starting school, learning literacy at home can become more purposeful. 

If you create a strong foundation of literacy skills when they are younger, you will notice that many of these things will happen automatically and will often be lead by your preschooler. Below are some literacy activities for preschoolers.

1. Reading to and with your child.

One of the most important literacy activities for preschoolers is reading. Read everything and anything.  Read every night before bed.  Read catalogs and letters and signs and recipes.  Read.  Read.  Read. 

The important thing is the make reading enjoyable and fun.  In this busy life we lead I understand it is hard but I always make an effort to say YES anytime my little boy asks me to read him a story. 

2. Making a Shopping List

We all have to shop for food and making a shopping list is a fantastic literacy activity for preschoolers.

Give your child their own notepad and pen and have them make a shopping list.  The spelling doesn’t have to be correct, the words don’t even have to make sense.  That is ok. 

This is the beginning of writing and understanding the purpose of writing.  Have your child bring their list with them, get their own little trolley or basket and shop with you. 

3. Fine Motor Practise

Anything that will strengthen your child’s fine motor skills is incredibly helpful when they start school.  A child with weak fine motor skills tends to feel exhausted by writing and can then make learning at school more challenging.  Here are some ideas:

  • Paintbrush, water and the back fence
  • Using crayons and pencils and blank paper
  • Sidewalk chalk on a concrete space outside
  • Lego
  • Playdough and Sand
  • Cooking – kneading, stirring, whisking, rolling
  • Using scissors (you can buy scissors that are safe for little hands)

4. Listening to Stories

These can be played in the car or when your child is falling asleep. This is a great way for your child to be exposed to a variety of vocabulary on a daily basis and help with their early literacy skills.

5. Puppets

Puppets are a really fun literacy activity for preschoolers. They are a great tool for oral language and can also be used for children to retell a favourite story. 

6. Writing and Posting a Letter

This literacy activity for preschoolers is purposeful and fun.  Organise with a family member to become a pen pal for your child.  Have your child ‘write’ a letter and then they can wait for a letter to come back for them.  It is always exciting to get mail when you are a child.

7. Play

Literacy activities for preschoolers should be fun! Set up a Shop, Café, Doctor’s Surgery or a Vet (the ideas are endless) and have your child serve you.  They can make signs, forms, lists and menus and have fun while playing with literacy.

8. Matching Letters and Sounds

This is a simple literacy activity for preschoolers.  Give your child a letter of the alphabet (written on a card) and have them place it on something they can see that begins with that letter.  For example the Letter C could be placed on a cup.

9. Labelling Your Home

Label the refrigerator, the door, the bath, the garage – label whatever you can think of. As your child sees these words around your home, they become more familiar.  This is perfect literacy activity to prepare your child for reading. 

10. Word Games

Word games allow children to practice their early literacy skills without realising. They are also a really fun literacy activity for preschoolers. Here is a list of fun word games for kids.

11. Board Games

Any board game is great for early literacy as it involves oral language.  If you can find literacy based games that is even better.

12. Letter Treasure Hunt

Hide alphabet cards around the house.  Have your child find them, say the letter, say the sound and bring it to you.  This is fun and an easy way to see how they are going with their letters and sounds. 

Early Literacy should come naturally

The idea of literacy and early literacy can seem like daunting subjects that seem like they should be saved for the ‘experts’.  Don’t be afraid.  You are the expert.  You are the very first teacher in your child’s life and your ability to teach them early literacy will come naturally.  Enjoy!

Do you have any early literacy activities for preschoolers, kindergarten kids or toddlers to add to the list? Let us know 🙂

Author: Shannon is the lead writer for The Schooled Parent & writes regular posts relevant to the education, schooling, and development of primary school children.  Shannon, a teacher of 13 years, has a psychology degree and a Masters of Education. Above all, Shannon is the mother of two little boys – a gorgeous, redheaded five-year-old and a chunky, delicious eight – month old. 

20 Early Literacy Activities for Preschoolers