Ministry of Education, Guyana

Learning at Home: 9 Early Literacy Activities

When I was trying to help my children navigate the exciting journey of learning to read, all I really wanted was for us to have fun. I love books and reading and wanted them to have the same joy. I knew that just by talking, reading aloud, singing and listening to my boys as babies, toddlers, and then preschoolers, I was helping prepare them to read.

Kids learn and grow in many different ways. My active boys learned best when they could be active, connected to the real world, and learn through play. We made up ridiculous knock-knock jokes. We put labels on everything. We played dress up, had musical puppet shows, and filled the pots in the toy kitchen with “sound soup” made from ingredients that all started with the same sound (carrots, cars, cards, candy, clothespins).

To extend your child’s language ability and vocabulary, I’ve pulled together lots of activities that take little paper or preparation and can fill your home with letters, sounds and word fun. I hope they help you smooth your child’s journey to reading and writing.

Find Time to Rhyme
Rhyming Ball. It’s easier for kids to recognize rhyming words than it is to come up with them. In this game, kids can show the rhymes they know. Sit facing each other a few feet apart and roll a ball to your child. Then say two words. If the words rhyme, your child should roll the ball back to you. If the words don’t rhyme, your child should keep the ball until you offer a pair of words that rhyme.

Vary the game: Have your child say a word and then roll the ball to you. Roll back the ball with a word that rhymes with your child’s word. See how long you can keep things rolling!

Simon Says Rhyme. In this version of Simon Says, Simon offers up groups of words. “Simon says, took, look, book are words that rhyme.” If players recognize and say that the words rhyme, they can take one step forward toward a designated finish line. Simon can also say “Simon says, pig, pie, pole are words that rhyme.” If players recognize and say that the words do not rhyme, they can take one step forward. When Simon tricks players by not saying “Simon says,” players have to take a step backwards. Keep playing until everyone crosses the finish line.

Rhyme Workout. Get kids to stretch their rhyming muscles! When you call out a word, your child has to think of the body part that rhymes with that word and then touch it. Model a few examples: I say “jelly” then you touch your (belly) and I say “hear” then you touch your (ear). Then do the workout with your child! Call out the rhyming word: I say “snow” then you touch your _____ and then say the rhyme together as you both move – “snow, toe!” Go through as many body parts as you can (feet, knees, head, arm, hand, cheek, hair, neck, back, etc.) Keep your child thinking and moving by changing up the rhyming words when you repeat body parts (grow, toe).

More rhyming ideas:

Play with Letters and Sounds
Print Hunt. Come up with a list of letters (such as the letters in your child’s name) or simple words your child recognizes. Give your child the list and a bag and tell her to fill it with things in your home that have that letter or word printed on it. To get her started, show her how she might find the letter “A” on the shampoo bottle, on a can of beans in the cupboard, or on her crayon box. (To help your child stay focused, you can also set up one room in your house with a set number of objects that you’ve hidden for her to find.) When she brings you her full bag, have her write a list of her inventory and compare it to your original list.

Name Match. This quiet letter recognition activity is more independent but takes a little up-front effort. Write each letter of your child’s name on a separate piece of paper. Hang each sheet on the wall to spell out his name at his eye level. On blank stickers, post-its or small labels, write the letters of your child’s name, one letter per sticker in no particular order. Make lots of stickers! Show your child how the letters on the wall spell his name and the same letters are also on the stickers. Then ask your child to pull off a sticker and match the sticker to the letter on the wall. Have your child continue matching as long as he’s interested and leave his name on the wall so he can return to this activity over several days.

Extend the activity by asking your child to find items in your home that also begin with the letters in his name. Have him look for 2-3 items and place them on the floor under the appropriate letter. When he’s done collecting, have him show you what he’s found.

Guess My Letter/Word. Engaging your child in letter-sound play is something you can do almost anywhere, anytime to help your child learn the names of the letters of the alphabet and the sounds those letters make:

  • “I'm thinking of a letter and it makes the sound mmmmmm. What letter makes that sound?”
  • “I'm going to say a word but I'm going to say it slowly. Can you guess this word? s-a-a-a-a-t.”
  • “I'm thinking of a word that starts with the same letter as your name. Can you guess what it is?”

Find as many ways as you can to play with every letter and sound, over and over again!

ABC by Me. Provide paper and guidance for kids to create their very own alphabet book. This is a project to do over several weeks as making pages for one or two letters per sitting is a good pace for kids this age. Once they understand the concept, kids work on their own to draw, use stickers or cut out pictures from catalogs or magazines to illustrate each letter of the alphabet. Help your child create captions for each illustration. When she’s finished, hold a little publishing party for her book!

More alphabet fun:

Build Vocabulary
Thinking Up Categories. This is a fun game for the whole family. Explain that you are going to play a word game where everyone will have a chance to contribute a word that belongs in a specific category. Start by clapping with a slow beat and chant “Think-ing up cat-e-gories. Such as” and then name your category. Your category might be something your child is passionate about — dinosaurs, ice cream, ocean animals — or something that he recently experienced — a book about trees or a trip to a farm. After the chant, “Think-ing up cat-e-gories: fruit,” offer a word for the category, such as “strawberry.” Then the next player restarts the chant and gives a new word for the category. If a player can’t think of a word to contribute or repeats a word already given, he is “out.” Or if someone needs help thinking of a word, they can request hints. Continue playing until no players are able to contribute another word. Then start a new category!

Once your child understands the concept of categories, he can also play a version on his own, collecting and sorting objects by colors or textures, toys as things with wheels or things that make noise, or books by subject. Provide a basket or bin and be sure to ask your child to explain his category collections to you.

Storytelling Sack. Kids often don’t know where to start when telling a story. You can help them find the words with prompts from a storytelling sack! To make a storytelling sack, get a fabric drawstring bag or a pillowcase. Fill the sack with small, interesting items — toy animals, LEGO figures, toy tools, craft items and other random objects. To start the storytelling, gather a group to unpack the sack! Each person takes a turn removing one object at a time. The first person uses the object to start a story. As each storyteller removes an object, she uses it as her prompt to add to the story. The person who pulls the last object from the bag has to end the story. You can also encourage your child to make her own sack filled with items important to her and then have her share stories that use some or all of the items in her sack.

More vocabulary fun:

Play online Vocabulary games with your child.
Enjoy these picture books recommended by Reading Rockets, full of rich vocabulary words.


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