Language and literacy activities for preschoolers is one of our favorite topics because developing language and literacy skills in your students offers a number of important benefits. It supports their cognitive development, improves their creativity, builds their language skills, helps improve their concentration and problem solving skills and the list goes on.
And fortunately, teaching ABC’s can be as easy as, well, ABC. Plus, it’s a lot of fun!
There are a number of easy, fun and engaging literacy activities for preschoolers to help your students become strong readers and communicators. Below are 10 of our favorite language and literacy activities for preschoolers that will help your kiddos develop skills that will serve as a foundation for their entire educational journey.
Read Aloud to Them
First and foremost, read aloud to them. Yes, it’s easy and likely something you’re already doing, but its importance can’t be understated.
Reading to your class is probably the single most important way to build literacy skills in preschoolers. And while they might not understand everything being said, it’s a critical first step for helping them understand the written language.
As a rule of thumb, toddlers enjoy books that rhyme and have a good rhythm. Repetition is something else to look for. While selecting age-appropriate books is important, just like anything else, don’t be afraid to introduce more challenging books. Also, make sure the books you choose cover a wide range of topics. Not only will this keep them engaged, but it will help broaden their horizons by introducing subjects they’re unfamiliar with.
In addition to a wonderful preschool literacy activity, this is a great way to bond with your students, which is important to their development. Plus, a regular reading period gives them something to look forward to.
Kick the Alphabet Cup
This simple, fun activity from Fun Learning for Kids helps children identify letters and sounds. As a plus, it gets them up and moving. And best yet, it’s easy to set up and only requires a small ball, plastic cups and a marker.
You simply write a letter on each cup, line up the cups on the floor and have your students kick the ball to knock over a cup. You then have them pick up the knocked over cup and have them sound out the letter.
At first, you might have to sound out the letter with them. As they progress and learn their letters, you can instruct them to kick over a specific lettered cup, e.g. “now, can you kick over the ‘A’?”
Additionally, in this activity, as well as all the others, it’s a great idea to have them trace the letter as they pronounce it. This practice is wonderful for helping develop fine motor skills and eventually, handwriting.
Sing a Song
Not only does singing help communication skills, but kids love it. Partially because our brains are pre-programmed to appreciate music. Additionally, singing is closely related to cognitive development and when you incorporate it, it helps lessons stick better by reinforcing letter names and sounds.
There are a number of great ABC songs, including the classic, easy-to-follow Alphabet Song. If you want to take a deep dive into other options and expand your repertoire, there are countless ideas on the internet, and one of our favorites is Jack Hartmann’s Kids Music Channel.
Regardless of the songs you sing, this is one of the best language and literacy activities for preschoolers. And don’t worry if you can’t carry a tune – your students won’t care!
This activity from No Time for Flashcards not only helps improve literacy skills, but it’s also a great sensory activity. Simply grab some playdough and alphabet cookie cutters and you’ll be on your way.
Give your students a glob of the putty and the cutters and let them loose. As they begin to press out letters, you can verbalize what they’re doing, e.g. “look at that, you’re making a ‘B’.”
Then, you can then instruct them to pick out specific letters and make molds as they learn and develop a better grasp of the alphabet.
When it comes to literacy activities for preschoolers, this one can’t be beat.
For this preschool literacy activity, have students take turns pulling out toys from the classroom toy bin. As they pull out an item, ask them to identify it. For example, if they remove a stuffed bear, you can say, “that’s a bear, and bear begins with ‘B’.”
As your students become more familiar with letters and the alphabet, you can ask them to find an object in the toy bin that begins with a specific letter, for example, ask them to pull out an object that begins with the letter ‘B.’
Finally, you can expand this activity in a couple of ways. First, you can ask them what color the object is or if it’s a toy animal, what sound it makes. Second, you can encourage your students to make up a story with the item, since storytelling is also an important part of building literacy skills.
Speaking of storytelling, this deserves its own place in the list of language and literacy activities for preschoolers.
In addition to reading your students stories, it’s also important to have them practice storytelling. This helps them build confidence and strengthens their ability to communicate their thoughts, feelings and ideas. It also helps them develop their creativity.
There are several amazing language and literacy activities for preschoolers that can help them develop their storytelling skills.
One of our favorites is using a prompt jar. Simply write easy words on pieces of paper or use pictures, and put them in a jar (for this activity, at this age, animals work well). Have your students take turns selecting prompts and telling a story based on what they select. If a student gets stuck, that’s perfectly fine. After all, at this age, they likely won’t be able to create complete sentences or complex sequences. If they do need a little help, you can always offer suggestions like, “what sound does your animal make?” and “show us how your animal moves.” And don’t be afraid to join in the fun!
Recite Nursery Rhymes
Nursery rhymes are an excellent preschool literacy activity and fun way to get your children using words since they’re easy to learn. Also, because nursery rhymes are made up of patterns, they are easy for preschoolers to grasp, and they help them develop an ear for language.
You likely have a nice collection of nursery rhyme books already, but if you want to branch out, Bilingual Kidspot has a great list of nursery rhymes here.
Play I Spy
This guessing game has been around for ages and is one of the first activities children learn to play.
Play I spy, and say, “I spy with my little eye, something that begins with a ‘B’.” Then see if your students can identify the object. They’ll likely miss and grab something that begins with a different letter, and that’s OK. Simply, in a re-affirming way, correct them.
This is a perfect preschool literacy activity since it also helps them build their vocabulary. Additionally, it’s a good exercise for teaching students how to take turns.
When exploring literacy activities for preschoolers, How Wee Learn shares a great version of a learning card game, which also happens to be one of the easiest and oldest ones in the book. Also, since all you need is paper, scissors and markers, it makes for a quick, simple activity if you’re crunched for time.
Mail a Letter
This is our own take on another No Time for Flashcards activity.
During an arts and crafts lesson, have your students draw pictures, such as simple shapes or animals. Then, take each drawing and put it in a sealed envelope and on the outside, write the letter (both uppercase and lowercase) of the image. For example, if the picture is of a cat, label the sealed envelope with a “C c.”
Then use a cardboard box to make a classroom mailbox. During your next literacy lesson, have students take turns pulling out the envelopes. As they remove them, you can say, “that’s a C,” (or ask them to identify the letter based on ability) and have them open the letter and remove the drawing, and say “‘C’ is for cat.”
This preschool literacy activity is a fun way to teach letters while also incorporating art. As a bonus, your kids will be excited to open the letters and see what’s inside!
If you’re looking for other resources for language and literacy activities for preschoolers, we offer a number of professional development courses related to this topic, as well as curriculum development and more.
In all, ChildCare Education Institute offers 150+ online courses in both English and Spanish that can help you incorporate literacy activities for preschoolers into your lesson plans.
Visit the ChildCare Education Institute for more information on all our offerings and to see why tens of thousands of early childhood professionals just like you trust CCEI for all their professional development needs. CCEI offers more than just language and literacy activities for preschoolers, learn more today!