Did you know that children who are read to at least three times a week are almost twice as likely to score in the top 25% in reading compared to children who are read to less often?
Some of the best ways to help children are through some simple literacy ideas that you can do at home or in the classroom. It really doesn’t have to be hard! I promise! Make it easy!
Let’s check out 35 fun literacy activities for kids. There are so many that don’t even involve supplies!
What Exactly are Early Literacy Skills?
Early literacy skills in young children are the fundamental skills they need in order to start reading and writing.
Early literacy skills are all encompassing:
✩ phonological awareness
✩ print awareness
✩ vocabulary skills
✩ listening skills
✩ fine motor skills
✩ narrative skills
✩ early writing skills
Let’s even throw in language skills!
I know what you might be thinking…
… this list of basic literacy skills is LONG!
Parents, caregivers and teachers can all help early childhood ages with these skills by providing a print-rich environment, engaging in conversations, reading regularly and offering activities that promote phonological awareness.
But don’t worry! I’ve got some super simple and fun ideas below that will take no time and barely any supplies to start implementing TODAY!
Starting with the Kindergarten Literacy Games Pack for some of my very favorite early literacy activities!
Phonological Awareness Activities for Kindergarten
What is phonological awareness exactly?
Phonological awareness means being able to recognize and manipulate sounds in spoken language. The sounds that make up a word are also called phonemes. There are actually 44 phonemes in the english language! It involves skills such as understanding rhyming, blending, segmenting and understanding the different sounds in a word.
There are many different ways to work on phonological awareness skills in kindergarten. Let’s look at some fun activities below to use with children to help improve their literacy skills!
1. Syllable Scoops (FREE ACTIVITY!)
This fun little game is for 2-4 players. Each player will need ten small objects such as mini erasers or pom-pom balls for their “ice cream.” Students will draw a card, count the syllables and cover up an ice cream cone with that number.
Other than that, just print, cut, and you’re ready to play and have fun! We typically used this game during math centers in kindergarten!
You can download the Syllable Scoops game for free! Just add your info below and it will be sent straight to your inbox.
2. Read Picture Books
As I stated above, reading books to kids sets up a strong foundation for making them both better readers and writers.
Set aside a read aloud time in your classroom; I always liked to do this right after lunch time. If you are a parent and looking for literacy ideas at home, read your child’s favorite story to them at bedtime or right when they wake up. Talk about simple words in the story to help them with vocabulary development.
For example, if there is a tow truck in the story, point to it and label it for your child: “Ooh-I see a tow truck. I wonder where it’s going?”
3. Sing Nursery Rhymes
Nursery rhymes are another great way to easily sneak in a literacy activity in your day. Babies all the way up to kindergartners (and sometimes older) love nursery rhymes!
I bet you don’t even realize how many different literacy skills you can hit with singing nursery rhymes!
They help kids to understand rhyming skills, how to sequence a story because they usually have a beginning, middle and end, plus they also help with recall and memorization!
4. Street Signs & Environmental Print
Environmental print is all the words and signs that you see around you every day– like stop signs, store names and logos.
Think about the golden arches-kids know by a pretty young age that that is the sign for McDonalds. They may also recognize the environmental print for places like Wal-Mart, Target and Chick-fila. They are going to know the environmental print of the places they frequent the most often.
Make sure you are naming places as you drive by or even when in a building, simply point out the restroom or exit signs. These are all ways to practice reading and vocabulary words!
5. Magnetic Letters
Magnets are tons of fun!
What’s even more fun?! Magnetic letters! Try the Letter Magnet Cards in your literacy centers and watch the engagement unfold!
You can also grab tons of magnetic letter activities to use in your kindergarten classroom first thing in the morning with Morning Tubs! There are a lot of awesome magnetic letter activities and early literacy activities for preschoolers and kindergartners to try!
6. Introduce New Sight Words/ High Frequency Words
In preschool and kindergarten, young children start to be exposed to sight words to strengthen their reading skills. These may also be referred to as high-frequency words. These are simply words that kind of “break the rules” in the english language and maybe don’t follow a specific spelling pattern but are seen frequently in text. Words like: “is, the, saw, little, not” (just to name a few).
It’s important for students to master these types of words at a young age since they are seen in text so often so it will help students be more fluent in their reading as they grow older.
You don’t have to make sight word practice boring:
You can practice in a playful way such as writing them in chalk, rainbow writing or building with magnetic letters.
Plus-when you read books aloud to students, always point out the high frequency sight words while you are reading!
There are also tons of new sight word activities to use each month in the Kindergarten Literacy Centers Bundle.
Recognizing rhyming words is a basic level of phonological awareness.
Start by simply saying two words and having children tell you if they rhyme or not.
For more ideas check out 43 Rhyming Activities for Kindergarten from My Teaching Cupboard to start or try one of the fun literacy games from the Kindergarten Literacy Pack based upon the Science of Reading.
8. Practice Alphabet Letters at Bath Time
If you are a parent reading this, you know how fun bath time can be. Kids are silly, they usually have a ton of things to talk about and they want to play.
Bath time can actually be the perfect time to help children work on early literacy skills.
Use foam alphabet letters to help them distinguish the difference between lowercase letters and uppercase letters. You could just practice naming the letters, naming the letter sounds or putting the letters in order on the bath tile! So many opportunities here!
9. Make Letter Shapes Out of Play Dough
Most all children love play dough!
Why not take something that they are interested in and use it to help their learning?!
Making letter shapes out of play dough is such fun way to work on fine motor skills too!
10. Word Games
For this idea, you can really be creative with it and differentiate it to fit your classroom needs.
There are many types of word games you can play with kids to help their phonics skills:
- Sight Word Bingo
- Word Wall Relay: Students race to the word word wall and tap on the word the teacher calls out first.
- Sight Word Pictionary
- Sight Word Simon Says: Simon says touch the word “the” (have the sight word cards spread out around the room)
11. Go on a Scavenger Hunt
Going on a scavenger around the school is yet another neat idea for a literacy activity. Simply make the clues all having to do with phonics.
Check out some ideas for clues:
- Find an object that starts with the letter B.
- Find something that rhymes with bat.
- Locate a book that has the word is in the title.
12. Literacy File Folder Games
Having some simple file folder games to pull for independent work or small group time is another really simple way to help younger children with phonological and early literacy skills.
I used these Literacy File Folder Games because they aligned with Common Core standards and there are 24 different games to choose from.
They range from upper and lowercase matching to beginning sounds, ending sounds and CVC words. This makes them perfect for differentiating within groups in your class!
13. Sound Sorting
This sorting literacy activity for kids is a great fine motor activity as well. Kids should cut the pictures out on each page and sort them under each letter, according to the sound they start with.
This activity keeps little hands busy and having fun as they color, cut and glue while learning!
14. Everyday Activities
When you think about it, there are actually ways that we can practice literacy skills in everyday activities.
When a child is involved in pretend play, there are so many different ways that you can sneak in learning about phonological awareness:
Make him or her the chef of the kitchen and have them create a restaurant menu.
Write letters to friends and have your child deliver them as the mailman.
Play school and they can be the teacher.
When you take your child to places like the grocery store, look for letters and sight words within the store and on the products. Talk about the letters that the fruits and vegetables you are picking up begin with.
Take the child’s lead and go with their interests on this. It will make it more fun for them and they will want to continue playing longer and be more engaged.
15. Alphabet Songs
Singing alphabet songs are some of the main building blocks of literacy. The more your child is exposed to the alphabet, the better they will know it!
Try having the Alexa play the alphabet song while you are making dinner, sing it during bath time or sing it while you brush your teeth!
16. Labeling Everyday Objects
Labeling everyday objects is another great way to work on literacy development. This is especially important for really young kids like babies and toddlers. It’s important to constantly talk about what we are doing so that kids can help interpret what the meaning of a word is.
For example, if you are mopping the kitchen floor-say that out loud. I’m mopping the kitchen floor because it’s dirty.
17. Alphabet Puzzles
Alphabet puzzles are another simple activity for kids during anytime of the day. Letter recognition skills become of utmost importance by the time kids enter kindergarten so they have the right tools for reading.
This set is one of my favorites!
18. Letters of the Alphabet Treasure Hunt
Print out some alphabet letter cards in advance.
Hide the letters around the school or classroom in advance. (This is a great after lunch activity!)
Explain to the class that they are going on an alphabet treasure hunt, and their mission is to find all the letters of the alphabet. They MUST work together to find all 26 letters!
Begin the hunt by providing the child with the first letter. You can hand it to them or give them a clue that leads to the location of the first letter. If you don’t want to give clues for this, you actually don’t have to. They know they are done when they have all 26 letters and that is the beauty of it so if you need a fun activity in a pinch-this could be it!
Once they work together to find all 26 letters, put the letters in order, practice the sounds of each and give them a prize! (a small sucker or special eraser will do! Keep it simple!)
19. Tell a Short Story
A new activity to try is having your child or student tell short simple stories.
Encourage them to tell the family stories at home or do this as a class at school. Try to guide them to have a beginning, middle and end.
They don’t need to write the story down-they can just verbally tell you. They could also draw a picture for their story and then tell you about it.
20. Name Activities
One of the most important life skills is for young kids to know their name, be able to spell their name and identify which letters are in their name.
Have students rainbow trace their name, outline each letter with stickers or spell their name with magnets to mix it up a bit.
21. Letter Bingo
22. Letter Hopscotch
This one is just like it sounds-your classic hopscotch games with letters on the board. For students that need the challenge, try putting sight words on the hopscotch board instead.
23. Salt Tray Writing
Sensory activities are the best! This is located in our Kindergarten Literacy Bundles Pack.
24. Letter Sorting
I love a simple and timeless literacy activity and letter sorting is IT!
There are so many different good choices for letter sorting! You could have students do this in cut and paste form, making alphabet soup (aka-sorting letters into bowls with a ladle) or just a good old magnetic board. Try the alphabet sorting mats if you want!
The other reason I love this activity is because you can easily differentiate it depending on student’s needs:
-sort capital and uppercase letters
-sort vowels and consonants
-sort p’s, b’s and d’s
You can easily change this activity to make it look however you need it to!
25. Dab-it Alphabet Pages
Kindergartners love daubers! Use this to your advantage! They are perfect for keeping little hands busy, engaged and working on fine motor skills.
Use the dab-it pages from the Alphabet Fine Motor Pack and watch the magic happen in your classroom!
If you are looking for a quick and east no-prep literacy activity, simply print these 26 letter-sound coloring pages and watch the magic happen! Students will color the pictures on that page that begin with that letter. Kids stay really engaged and focused during this since their hands and minds are busy.
They work really great for morning work or literacy centers also!
27. Story Sequencing Cards
Sequencing short stories and events is a skill all kids need help with. You can print out pictures yourself or buy some sequencing cards for your home or classroom.
28. Play “I Spy”
Playing I Spy is honestly just a great game to help with vocabulary and comprehension. You can play this as a class or in the car with your child! That is the best part of I Spy- you don’t need anything at all to play!
29. Fingerprint Letters
This fine motor activity idea is from Happy Toddler Playtime.
You’ll need a washable ink pad, paper and a marker. Start by writing large letters spread out on the paper. Then instruct your child to dip their finger on the ink pad and make fingerprints along each letter. This is a great way for little ones to start recognizing letter shapes even if they can’t quite trace with a pencil.
Alphabet directed drawing is a unique way to let kids practice drawing, listen to directions and work on fine skills all while drawing things that begin with that letter of the alphabet.
Yes every preschooler and kindergarten will probably make al alphabet book at some point in their school career. But have you ever seen a paper-tearing alphabet book?
Paper tearing is a wonderful fine motor exercise and has multiple benefits! It strengthens muscles needed for the tripod grasp.
It can improve coordination skills by working both hands at the same time. For this sweet book, simply give students a piece of colored construction paper and they will tear the paper into small pieces and glue it onto the picture that stands for that letter!
For example: A is for apple, B is for balloon, C is for carrot.
32. Create a Word Chain
This is a fun idea when you have about a 20 minute minimum block of time.
- Start by writing a simple word on the whiteboard or paper (e.g., “cat”).
- Explain to the students that you’re going to create a chain of words, where each word starts with the last letter of the previous word.
- Ask the first student to come up and say a word that starts with the last letter of the word you wrote (e.g., “cat” ends with “t,” so the next word could be “turtle”).
- Write down the new word.
- Continue the chain, with each student adding a new word to the list.
- If a student can’t think of a word, you can provide a hint or allow the next student to take their turn.
- Keep the chain going until everyone has had a turn or until you reach a designated stopping point.
This is a set of five word family books. Students will cut out CVC words and pictures and sort them onto the correct word family page. You can have students work on one word family at a time, or they can work on two or more.
34. CVC Word Games for Older Students
Check out some different options:
35. Try a Kindergarten Literacy Night at Your School!
Have students invite a family member to come up to literacy night with them to create 8 Make & Take Literacy Activities.
Hands-On Literacy Activities
For an entire bundle of hands-on literacy activities to use in centers for the school year,