About literacy activities
Literacy development is important for your child’s overall development. Literacy is the foundation for doing well at school, socialising with others, problem-solving, making decisions, becoming independent, managing money and working.
Talking, singing, playing sound and word games, reading, writing and drawing with your child are great ways to lay a good literacy foundation.
The great news is that everyday activities, like family meals, bath time or shopping, are all fun opportunities for literacy development.
And you don’t need a lot of time for literacy activities – five minutes a few times a day is often enough. The key is to use different times and opportunities to help your child learn. It can be as simple as writing a shopping list together, playing a rhyming game or reading a story before bed.
It’s never too early to start getting your child involved with literacy activities. Even babies enjoy listening to stories and being part of conversations.
Babies, toddlers and preschoolers: literacy activities
Talking and singing activities
Talking and singing with young children helps them to develop listening and speaking skills.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Use rhyme whenever you can. Use phrases like ‘snug as a bug in a rug’ or make up rhymes about things you’re doing – for example, ‘putting fish in the cat’s dish’.
- Sing nursery rhymes with your child. Nursery rhymes teach your child language, rhyme, repetition and rhythm. You could try ‘Baa baa black sheep’, ‘Miss Polly had a dolly’ or the ‘Alphabet song’.
- Repeat sounds your child makes, or make up sounds and see whether your child can copy them. For example, ‘Cows say moo. Can you say moo?’
- At mealtimes, talk about the food you’re preparing, what you’re doing to it, how it tastes and what it looks like.
- Talk about objects outside the house – for example, the rustling of leaves, or the sounds of the birds or traffic. Ask your child to make the sounds for wind, rain, water, airplanes, trains and cars.
- Play games like ‘I spy’ using colours. This can be fun, especially for preschoolers. For example, ‘I spy with my little eye, something that’s green. What’s something green I might be looking at?’
If you can’t remember the words, tune or actions to a nursery rhyme, you could spark your memory with our Baby Karaoke.
Reading and book-based activities
Reading with children develops their vocabulary, ability to listen and understand, and ability to connect sound and words. It also helps children learn about the world around them.
Your child might like these activities:
- Try books with rhyme, rhythm and repetition. Many young children enjoy books like Ten little fingers and ten little toes by Mem Fox, Hairy Maclary by Linley Dodd and The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson.
- Encourage your child to turn the pages and talk about what they see. Use your finger to guide your child’s eyes from left to right across the page as you read and point out certain words or phrases.
- For babies and toddlers, include lift-the-flap books or touch-and-feel books. You could even make your own book with objects your child likes to look at and touch.
- Encourage your child to take the lead with reading – for example, ‘Where do we start from?’ Every so often, stop reading and ask your child what they think will happen next.
- Link books with real life. For example, if you’ve read a book about playing in a park, you might like to take your child to the local park and point out swings that look like the ones in the book.
- Encourage your child to act out the story that you’re reading. For example, you can ask your child to hop like the kangaroo in the book.
Follow your child’s lead with reading. Encourage your child, but don’t push them. Experiment with different books to see what your child likes, and just have fun!
For a guide to books and reading activities that might suit your child, you can look at the following articles: Reading with babies from birth, Reading with babies from 12 months, Reading with toddlers and Reading with preschoolers.
Drawing and writing literacy activities
Scribbling and drawing help young children develop fine motor skills for writing with pencils and pens later in childhood. It also helps children to understand that writing and pictures have meanings and you use them to communicate information.
Here are some activities to try:
- Encourage your child to add a scribble or drawing on birthday cards or letters.
- Encourage your child to try some letters or write their name on all their artwork. You can write out letters in one colour and ask your child to trace them in another colour.
- Help your child use playdough to make the letters of the alphabet or numbers.
- Give your child opportunities to use letters of the alphabet in different forms – on blocks, magnetic letters that stick on the fridge, and puzzle pieces.
- Cut out or draw pictures of basic household items – chair, table, TV, wall, door and so on – then write the items’ names on separate pieces of paper. Ask your child to match the name of the item to the picture.
- Encourage your child to tell you about their drawings. Help your child write down the words they use.
- Encourage your child to write letters to their family and friends. For younger children, these letters might look like scribbles. You can get your child to tell you what it says so that you can write the words underneath. Encourage friends and family to write back.
School-age children: literacy activities
- Play word games that encourage your child to learn sounds. For example, ‘I spy with my little eye something beginning with f-f-f. What do you think I’m looking at that starts with that sound?’
- Ask your child about words that rhyme. For example, ‘What other words sound like car?’
- Ask your child to make a sound or sound combination, then think of words with that sound. For example, ‘What’s a funny sound? Mo? What sounds can you make with mo? Moan, mope, moat … ’.
- Talk about the past. Ask your child to tell you something they enjoyed doing at school that week.
- Talk about the future. Tell your child what you’re going to do on the next day or on the weekend, or ask your child to tell you what they need to do before bed.
- Give your child simple instructions to follow, and ask your child to repeat the instructions back to you. Gradually increase the number of steps based on how many your child can follow. For example, ‘Go to your room. Get your hairbrush and a towel’.
Reading and book-based activities
- Read stories and then talk about them. Ask, ‘What was your favourite part of the story?’ or ‘Who was your favourite character? Why?’
- Take turns reading. You could read half the page while your child reads the other half. You could also point out single words here and there for your child to sound out. Start with words that are easy to sound out – for example, two-letter and three-letter words like ‘mat’, ‘on’ or ‘sip’.
- Try alphabet books with younger school-age children. Ask your child to tell you words that start with the same sound as the letter you’re looking at.
- Ask your child to make a storybook and have your child draw the pictures. Your child can do this on a computer or with pens and paper. Help your child write the words or at least some of the letters in the story.
- When you’re out and about, ask your child to pick out or sound out letters or words on billboards, shop fronts, street signs or items at the supermarket.
Visit the library with your child, and encourage your child to choose books to take home. These could be fiction and non-fiction books. It’s free to join and borrow. Many libraries also have story sessions and book clubs for children.
Drawing and writing literacy activities
- Select a few alphabet letters and move them around to make new sounds – bat, tab, abt – and see which of them are real words. Practise sounding them out letter by letter, then saying the word – for example, ‘b-a-t makes the word bat’. Start with lower-case letters, so you don’t confuse your child with the two different letter shapes for each sound.
- Get some alphabet letter magnets and keep them on the fridge for your child to make words with. As your child learns to read, leave messages for your child, and encourage your child to do the same.
- Encourage your child to write their name and the names of other family members in greeting cards or on pictures. Once your child can use all the letters well, they’ll be ready for upper case and lower case (capitals and small letters).
- Encourage your child to write shopping lists or restaurant menus for pretend play.
- Point out different types of print when you’re out and about with your child – for example, on shop signs or movie posters.
- Ask your child to make you a book, with a word on one side of the page, and a picture of that word on the other side.