Fun and Effective Literacy Activities for Preschoolers

A teacher using literacy activities with preschoolers

Whether you’re a teacher, curriculum specialist or other educational professional (or you aspire to be), one thing you can never have too much of is fun activity ideas for students. In preschool and elementary classrooms, it’s particularly important to use activities that are fun, engaging and short-lived. (Remember that young students have short attention spans.) There are a number of literacy activities for preschoolers that meet these criteria, such as those you’ll find below.

In This Article:

The Benefits of Language and Literacy Activities for Preschoolers

Literacy is an essential skill that every human needs. It’s best developed as early in life as possible because literacy is the gateway to all other types of education. (If a child cannot read, they can’t read books about history, science or any other subject.) There are countless benefits of encouraging literacy in preschoolers, including the following:1

  • Cognitive development: Language activities for pre-k learners support healthy cognitive development. The more children are exposed to language through reading, talking, singing or other activities, the stronger and more numerous the connections among brain cells will be.
     
  • Communication skills: When children are introduced to literacy activities at a young age, they are more likely to develop stronger oral and written communication skills, including better grammar, a more robust vocabulary and more accurate spelling.
     
  • Psychosocial benefits: Children who are able to read at a level that is on target for their age range are more likely to develop self-confidence, independence and maturity. Further, children who develop literacy skills are more likely to stay in school and graduate.

15 Fun Language and Literacy Activities for Preschoolers

Now that you know the importance of reading activities for preschoolers, let’s dive into some fun ideas to try in the classroom. You may need to modify some activities to suit your particular students, their needs and the classroom materials you have on hand. The important thing is to ensure that the classroom is a fun and engaging place for students so that they develop an enduring love of learning.

1. Story Time Circle

One of the best literacy activities for preschoolers is simply reading with them. Circle time is one of the most fundamental activities for pre-k students, and you can do multiple activities during any given circle time, one of which could be storytelling. Choose a short book to read to the students and make the storytelling process more engaging by changing your voice to suit different characters or even changing the tempo of your reading pace (e.g. read faster when the main character is running).

2. Energetic Alphabet Hunt

Incorporate an alphabet hunt into your story time. Print out large, colorful letters and cut them out so that there is one letter on each piece of paper. Place them around the classroom near objects whose name corresponds with the letter. For example, place the letter “S” near a pair of scissors.

Gather the students together and begin reading a book about the alphabet, such as “Sammy Chases the Alphabet” by Jeana Kinne. For each letter in the book, direct a student to hop or skip around the classroom to find the corresponding printed letter. It’s best to select one child at a time, but do ensure that each child gets a turn.

3. Literacy Scavenger Hunt

Beyond reading activities for preschoolers, there are plenty of fun literacy-related activities to try. Direct the students to take turns taking a toy out of the storage bin. Ask the students to identify it and then remind them of the letter the name begins with. For example, say, “That’s a puzzle. Puzzle begins with a ‘P.’”

4. Spontaneous Stories

This activity is a variation of the previous one. When a student pulls a toy out of the bin, ask them to come up with a brief story about the object. Creative storytelling is an important component of literacy development.

5. Toy Descriptions

This is another variation of the literacy scavenger hunt. When a child pulls a toy out of the bin, ask them to describe it. Here’s a sample conversation:

You: “What color is the bear?”

Child: “Brown.”

You: “The words ‘bear’ and ‘brown’ both begin with the letter ‘B.’” Can you think of any other toys that start with the letter ‘B?’”

6. I Spy

This is a classic childhood game. Say to the students, “I spy with my little eye something that begins with ‘D.’” Even if the students select an object that doesn’t begin with ‘D,’ it’s still a teachable moment. Simply offer gentle correction and let them know the correct letter for that object’s name.

7. Kick the Alphabet

Some of the most engaging language and literacy activities for preschoolers are those that combine learning with movement. It helps retain the attention span of active young learners.

To play this game, take four large paper or plastic cups and write one letter on each of them. Set them up in a row, leaving a generous amount of space between them. Then, ask a student to kick a soccer ball at a certain letter. This reinforces letter recognition.

8. Sensory Writing Part I

When your students are ready to learn how to spell their name, consider using colorful playdough. Print out each child’s name and provide them with playdough. Direct them to imitate the letters using the playdough.

At first, the students may benefit from forming the playdough letters directly on top of the printed letters. Later, they could progress to forming the playdough letters separately.

9. Sensory Writing Part II

Writing trays can sometimes be more accessible for small fingers that are still learning how to grip pencils. Add a layer of flour mixed with rainbow sprinkles to the bottom of rimmed cookie sheets. Provide each student with a few printed letters on a card (or simple words, like “Cat” and “Dog”) and direct them to practice imitating the letters in the flour/sprinkle mixture.

Do note that some children may have food allergies. Always ensure that none of the children in your class are allergic to the type of flour you plan on using.

10. Lego Words

Lego building blocks can be handy for teaching children sight words. For example, to teach the word “At,” write the word on the side of a block that has two spots available for two single blocks. Write the letters “A” and “T” on two single blocks. The child can match the letters to the word block. For best results, create a bunch of blocks with sight words and letters, and mix them up so the student has to make the right selections.

11. Balloon Toss

This is another handy literacy activity for teaching sight words. Inflate a balloon and write a few sight words on it, leaving a generous amount of space between the words. Call the students together for circle time and have them toss the balloon among them. Each time a student catches a balloon, they have to read the first sight word they see.

12. Alphabet Pillow Jumping

Write a large letter on a stack of paper plates and secure them to pillows using packing tape. Spread them around the room at a jumpable distance from each other. Direct the students to jump from one pillow to another, saying the corresponding letter as they land.

13. Alphabet Rocks

Write an uppercase letter on one side of a clean rock and the lowercase letter on the other side. Continue until you have all of the letters of the alphabet on a set of rocks. Pass them around and ask the students to think of a word that starts with the letter on their rock.

14. Alphabet Train Tracks

You’ll need toy train tracks and circle stickers for this literacy activity for preschoolers. Post one circle sticker on one segment of track and write one letter on each sticker. Include letters that correspond to the sight words you’re currently teaching. Write a list of sight words on the chalkboard and ask the kids to form train tracks in a way that creates those words.

15. Name Puzzles

Collect bottle caps or similar objects. Write a student’s name on the bottle caps, allotting one letter per bottle cap. Jumble the bottle caps together and ask the child to rearrange them on a desk in the correct order to spell their name.

If you love the idea of working with young children and helping them to establish a foundation for their future, consider earning a teaching or school administration degree at Grand Canyon University. The College of Education offers numerous degrees, including bachelor’s programs, such as the Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education and master’s programs, such as the Master of Education in Early Childhood Education. Complete the form on this page to learn more.

 

1Martin-Pitt Partnership for Children. (n.d.). Benefits of early literacy skills. Martin-Pitt Partnership for Children. Retrieved July 18, 2023.

Approved by the dean of the College of Education on Aug. 21, 2023.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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