One of the challenges teachers and parents face during COVID-19 remote learning is finding activities that preschoolers can do at home without any specialized materials. No parent should feel like they can’t help educate their child because of budget constraints. Families are hurting right now as layoffs, furloughs, and job changes become a reality for many Americans. I firmly believe that if you have a way to help people, you are obligated to help. My way is to provide resources free to teachers and families. These preschool literacy activities are simple, use simple materials, and work on foundational skills. If you are a teacher, you can send this link, copy and past it into an email ( please add a link) or print to send it to your families without further permission.
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Preschool Literacy Activities At Home
Color Sort With Letter Magnets
Have your child sort the letters by color, identifying each one as he goes! YOu can do this on the fridge, in bowls or just piles on the floor! You child might not know all their letter names yet but they can sort them by color!
FISHING FOR LETTERS
This is one of my favorite preschool literacy activities. Get 4-5 pieces of paper. Draw some basic fish, write a letter on each fish. Cut out.
Make a “pond” with a tray, blanket, or just use the floor. Pop the fish face down in the pond.
Invite your child to go fishing. As they get a fish, ask your child to tell you what they got.” Yes, that’s a lowercase r!”
Make it easier -> Limit the number of fish to only 5-10, use letters your child is familiar with like the letters in their name.
Make it harder -> Use sight words or names to fish for instead. Find sight words here.
This is a simple version of a classic activity. If you have time to make a more complicated one with a magnetic fishing rod, check it out here.
Get some plain paper and write letters on them. Use a mix of letters, but there is no need to use all twenty-six. Place them around a room with the furniture pushed aside, so there is room to move and groove when the music plays. Play the music and groove. Pause the music and CALL out a letter. Your child should stand on that letter. Repeat!
Make it easier -> Use only a few letters and make them all different colors. When it’s time to call out the letter, call it out as” RED H” or “BLUE T,” whatever colors the letters are. This gives your child help to find the letters since they have the color as a hint.
Make it harder -> Make or write sight words instead of letters. Find sight words here.
Write your child’s name on a piece of paper. Use an uppercase letter for the first letter and lowercase for the remaining letters. Cut the letters out, so each letter is its own strip of paper. Pop them in an envelope. Present the envelope to your child saying,” What is in here? Let’s find out!” Take each letter out of the envelope and have your child name it if they can. If not, you name it.” Look, it’s a lowercase l, what’s next? Oh, look lowercase i… until you get all the letters out. They do not have to be in order. When they are all out, ask your child if they recognize the letters. “What do you think these letters could spell?” Let your child play with them. Together spell your child’s name. Mix them up and spell it again.
Make it harder -> use sight words for children who have mastered their names. Find sight word lists here. Do multiple words in one sitting if your child is eager and willing.
TELL STORIES WITH FAMILY PHOTOS
Storytelling is an important literacy activity. Get snuggly and scroll through those photos on your phone together. Ask your child to tell you about different photos that are likely to get them talking. Special events, birthday parties, family trips. This is a great time to talk about the things and people we miss being at home.
Make it easier -> Make a small album with specific photos the night before and limit the activity to that handful of photos. A must if you are strapped for time.
Make it harder -> Print out a few photos leaving space on the paper to write. Ask your child to write about the photos or have them dictate what they would like to write and write it for them.
BOOK LETTER HUNT
This is the easiest literacy activity ever! Write out the alphabet on a piece of paper. Sit down with a familiar book. You won’t be reading it, just using it to find letters.
Look for each letter, turn the page from time to time for a new search area.
Make it easier -> instead of the whole alphabet, look only for 5-10 letters.
Make it harder -> look for sight words instead of letters. Find sight words to look for here.
WRITE A RECIPE
Grab a cookbook and look through it. If you don’t have a cookbook, find a recipe online and write or print it out. Show your child the ingredients list and the text that includes the instructions for making the recipe. Tell them that today they get to create their own recipe. It can be for real food or something silly like a recipe for a rainbow unicorn! Write it out together. Encourage your child to do as much of the writing as possible. If not, have them draw some of the steps for the recipe.
Make it easier -> Have your child dictate the recipe to you, and you do the writing.
Make it harder -> Read other recipes together and make something to eat!
PLAY DOUGH LETTERS
Turn this sensory play into a literacy activity. Grab some play dough and start making letters, can your child make their first initial? If you have letter stamps or cookie cutters, go get them and add them in for more fun!
Make it easier -> Make X’s and Os rolling out the playdough is beneficial all on its own, don’t fret if they aren’t ready to make letters.
Make it harder -> Make or write sight words in the playdough with letter stamps or by forming the letters. Find sight words here.
WRITE A LETTER
Writing letters is a great way to work on literacy skills. Gather some writing materials – use what you have! Sit down together a write a letter to someone you miss. After writing, have your child draw a picture too. Address and stamp the envelope and walk it to the mailbox. Making literacy activities meaningful is such a critical way to teach children how and why we use these skills.
Make it easier -> Have your child dictate the letter to you.
Make it harder -> Have your child write the letter, guide them through addressing the envelope as well.
I SPY LETTER SOUNDS
This is a literacy activity I’ve played with both my children in waiting rooms, on airplanes, in the grocery checkout line all the time. It’s so simple.
Look around and find an object in the room. Say, “I spy with my little eye something that starts with the sound “mm” “Yes, microwave! It starts with the sound mm.” Try not to drag the letter sounds out too much, make it quick. Repeat the sound if needed instead of dragging them out.
Make it easier –> Search for sounds for a few minutes and then switch it up for colors or shapes.
Make it harder –> Try searching for rhymes instead” I spy with my little eye, something that rhymes with pear. Yes, chair!”
Questions To Ask While Bedtime Reading
When we ask children questions about what we are reading, we help them engage more fully with the material, which encourages more in-depth thinking and helps them learn more about storytelling, more vocabulary, and sparks curiosity. Here are some ideas of questions to ask.
*Ask your child to use the illustrations to give them clues to what each page will be about before you read it.
*Ask your child how they would feel in the character’s shoes. Would they make the same choices? Would it be fun to be in the book?
*Ask your child to try to find their initials at least once in every book you read. If this is too easy, try giving them a simple word to find like the or and.
*Ask your child to tell you in their words what happened in the book. This skill is called retelling, and it is a necessary skill in reading comprehension.
*Before reading, ask your child what they think the book will be about. What do the pictures on the cover tell us?
MORE LITERACY IDEAS FOR PRESCHOOL
If you want more super simple literacy activities like these that you can use in your early childhood education classroom or send home for parents. You have to check out my newest book Setting The Stage for Rock-Star Readers. It is packed with activities that work and help early educators lay the sturdiest foundation for literacy as possible for their students.