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Literacy Games

Developing alphabet knowledge

  • Sing alphabet song during hand-washing
  • Draw letters in shaving cream (countertop or bathtub)
  • Draw letters in salt (sprinkle layer of salt on plate or sheet pan)
  • Discuss letter shapes: “A looks like a tent, doesn’t it?” “U looks like a cup or a smile”
  • Discuss how letter sounds feel in the mouth (/V/ sort of vibrates on the front of our mouth, /G/ is at the back of our throat, /P/ makes a little puff of air
  • Make letter sounds in front of mirror (Look, when I say “lion” the /l/ sound makes my tongue touch my front teeth. Does yours?)
  • Create an alphabet path using sidewalk chalk. Jump or step on each letter and say the letter name.
  • Create a simple name puzzle. Write your child’s name in large letters on a strip of paper and cut into pieces. Invite them to arrange the letters. Increase the difficulty by creating puzzles for family members’ names. Store each puzzle in a separate envelope.
  • Create a simple set of letter cards to be used for matching and/or a game of memory. Appropriate level of difficulty will vary for each child. (Printable alphabet cards below)
    • Two identical sets of uppercase alphabet letter cards. One set goes in a bowl, the other is spread out on the floor. Child chooses one from the bowl and finds the match.
    • Two sets of alphabet cards, one uppercase and one lowercase. Similar to above, but child matches the lower to the upper. (We call these “mama letters and baby letters”. Help the baby find his mama!
    • Alternate: place all cards face down and play a game of memory/match by turning two over to see if they match. Two sets of the entire alphabet might be a bit overwhelming, so you can cut it down to half for this game.

Developing Phonological Awareness: This is the process of identifying letters and recognizing they represent parts of speech. Much of this process revolves around LISTENING. Most of these ideas can be incorporated into whatever you’re already doing. Play listening games on hikes, while reading, while cooking, or bathing. Ideas below are organized in order of difficulty. You can start at the top and work your way down until you hit a game that is challenging but not frustrating for your child.

  • Play with RHYME! Songs, chants, rhyming books. Pause to allow your child to complete the sentence or lyrics by filling in the rhyme.
    • Songs: Down by the Bay, There Was a Moose
    • Books: Dr. Seuss, Mother Goose, Eric Carle, etc.
    • How many stomps are in this sentence? “The cat plays with yarn.” Let’s stomp/clap it out.
    • How many blocks are in this sentence? Let’s line them up. Use a block to represent each word.
    • Point out individual words in books
    • Invite your child to dictate a story and watch as you write their words (LOVE this one. It’s so meaningful and powerful!)
  • If word awareness becomes too easy, move on to SYLLABLE AWARENESS:
    • How many stomps/claps are in your name?
    • How many blocks are in your name? (Line up blocks and tap one for each syllable.)
    • Think of or notice compound words…sunflower, treehouse, birthday, afternoon, skateboard. “Wow – two small words can make one big word.”
    • Notice and highlight alliteration when reading stories: “Silly Steven saw the sun. Huh…I hear the /s/ sound over and over!: Then re-read and emphasize /s/.
    • With lunch today, I think we’ll have a fruit that begins with the sound /b/. Can you guess what that is? Can you think of any other words that begin with the /b/ sound?
  • After that, try ENDING SOUNDS. It’s the same process as beginning sounds, just a little trickier.
  • Also trickier, you can try substituting sounds. “What if we put a /d/ sound instead of the /f/ sound in fish. Dish!”