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27 Early Years Literacy Activities and Games

We’ve put together our favourite literacy games and activities that will get your little one reading, writing and learning new vocabulary whilst having lots of fun along the way! These activities will help inspire little minds into becoming big readers and even help promote problem-solving, communication and a love for learning. Whether you need an engaging rainy day activity to try at home or want to spark some sensory learning, keep reading for some exciting activity inspiration.  

parent and child writing

Children learn best when several of their senses are being engaged at once and sensory play has a variety of cognitive and physical development benefits, so, give these sensory inspired literacy activities a go to enhance their learning.  

Add a dash of extra fun to your alphabet hunt with this magical melting ice! Your children will love finding creative ways to melt the ice and find letters. This is also a great way to spark conversations about solids and liquids.  

Why not enhance your next water table activity with this sensory twist on the classic alphabet soup activity? Not only will this help develop reading and writing but this also supports motor skills too!  

All you will need is a water tray or large bowl, plastic alphabet letters and some empty spice containers for hours of excitement.  

child's hands messy play

This truly is an out of this world literacy activity that not only develops children's reading and writing skills but the motion of drawing letters in the sand will help develop early motor skills too. You can even sprinkle some glitter for added sparkle! (click the image for the full activity!)

You can even experiment by switching the pencil for different tools like tongs, different toys or even their hands and feet! 

Early years literacy activities are even better when you add a dash of messy play! Give this simple sensory shaving foam a go at home to encourage your little one to write letters with their hands. Be mindful of the shaving foam you use if your child has sensitive skin.

coloured foam letters

Sensory Letter Hunt

This sensory letter hunt is an exciting early years literacy activity that builds children's ability to recognise letters and encourage reading and writing from an early age. They will also love exploring new textures as they rummage through the sand to find their alphabet treasure!

What better way for your child to learn their ABCs than with this exciting multi-sensory light box game? 

This activity is perfect for all age groups and can be adapted to suit different stages of development for lots of stacking fun! 

Desert Sand Writing Tray

It’s important for preschoolers to try writing using a variety of different materials to perfect those fine motor skills. So switch out the pens and pencils and give this desert-themed tray activity a go at home. One of the best bits is that the trays are easy to clean up afterwards!

Marvellous Munching Monsters

This is a fun activity to teach children about alliteration and develop vocabulary. First, create your monsters using playdough, googly eyes and pipe cleaners and ask your child to come up with a name for it beginning with M. Then decide what the monster might eat, of course, monsters only eat foods beginning with the letter M! This is a fun way to learn about alliteration and get creative with words, some of our children came up with Mog who eats mangoes, Maisy who eats mushrooms and Milly who eats marshmallows!

child holding playdough activity

The children at Fennies Walton creating their monsters!

Spelling and Reading activities

These games are an excellent way of building basic spelling, reading and writing skills that your child will use for all their future learning. 

Storytelling Baskets

Bring story time to life by creating your own storytelling baskets using props inspired by their favourite book. This is a great visual way of developing literacy skills as it brings a deeper understanding of the story that’s being read.  

child holding letter W

Alphabet Game

This is one of our favourite early years literacy activities that will not only help your little one learn the letters of the alphabet but develop their fine motor skills too!

Your child will love playing detective with this fun hunt for letters of the alphabet to help develop early literacy skills. The magnifying glass is optional! 

We love this engaging early years literacy activity that will teach your child phonics, laying the building blocks for important literacy skills. It’s important for children to learn about phonics as this can help turn them into fluent readers allowing them to quickly recognise familiar words with the ability to sound out new words they encounter.  

parent and toddler reading a story

Let's Tell A Story

This activity will spark your child's creativity as they get to structure their very own story inspired by items you find around your house. This is a great way to develop early literacy skills and get your child excited about reading and writing.

Find two sets of musical instruments such as shakers or triangles and ask 2 children to sit back to back, placing one set of instruments in front of each child. Once each child has played their instrument the other must guess what it was. Being able to differentiate between sounds is the building block to developing communication and language skills.

Singing should be incorporated into your daily activities as it’s a great way to encourage children’s language development through rhyming and repetition. For this activity simply add objects to a bag that represent a song, for example, rubber ducks for ‘Three Little Ducks.’ Ask your child to select an item from the bag and encourage them to sing along to the song!

View both activities in full here!

This simple shopping game will help develop your child’s memory and listening skills which lay the groundwork for when they learn to read and write.

child singing

Sing Songs Together

Rhyme introduces children to different patterns of language. They are a fun way for children to pick up new vocabulary.

The best part about this activity is that you’ll only need items you already have. Simply fill your ‘listening treasure box’ with objects that make a noise, cover the box with a cloth and make the noise (whether this is a bang, a scrunch or a tap) and encourage your child to guess which object is making the noise.

Listening is not simply hearing. It is the ability to interpret the sounds you are hearing. This activity provides the perfect opportunity to develop these skills.

Learn more here.

Poems are perfect to introduce children to reading and incorporate rhythm and rhyme which builds their language skills. Poems provide another means to introduce children to new vocabulary and many contain repetitive phrases that children can easily remember and repeat.

Extend learning at storytime by simply discussing the book you’ve just read. Talking about the story can help develop language and critical thinking skills as this encourages children to recall the plot, the characters and any stand out points. This has a positive effect on their working memory, as well as giving them an opportunity to process the story and ask any questions that come to mind. Enhance conversations by posing alternative twists and endings.

parent and toddler talking

Now Hear This

Ask your child to tell a story and help them develop the tale by asking engaging questions like "and then what happened?" making sure you're enthusiastic and responsive throughout the activity, helping develop vocabulary and imagination.

View the full activities here.

Get the creative juices flowing with these crafty early years literacy activities you can try at home! Your little one will love getting involved in the process of making the materials needed for these games whilst learning lots that will help develop their literacy skills.  

This simple activity is a great way for children to learn about rhythm and rhyme! Simply add pictures or objects to a saucepan in rhyming pairs, for example, you could include a mug and a rug as well as a bee and a key, then encourage your child to select each rhyming pair. Learning about rhyming words helps children recognise that some words sound similar to others which is a fundamental skill for learning to read.

The children at Fennies Walton enjoying rhyming soup!

children playing at nursery

Repetition and rhyming in nursery rhymes help with memory and new sounds which are crucial skills for reading and writing. Why not try making some song sticks as a way to support your child’s language development? 

These creative story stones are a great way to enhance storytime and your child will love being inspired by their favourite books. Here’s some ideas about how you can incorporate your story stones into playtime.

We love this creative learning inspiration around the classic children’s book, ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar!’ Why not try these activities like looking for a caterpillar in your garden, making a tree, and even trying a fruit smoothie.

Linking activities to your child's favourite story is a great way of solidifying their understanding of the story and introducing new concepts or ideas using their interest. Rageena, Head of Education

Some evidence suggests that taking learning outside can improve children’s concentration and support general well-being. So what better time to enjoy the great outdoors than by trying out some of these early years activities in the garden? 

Take your child on a listening walk and keep an ear out for all the sounds around you. Encourage them to focus on all the different noises they can hear like birds singing, cars driving past and even people talking. This helps develop their knowledge of environmental sounds helping to recognise familiar noises they may hear in their day-to-day life. You can even make listening ear hats to wear on the walk!​

toddlers outdoor reading activity

The children at Fennies Walton enjoying a listening walk!

Sometimes the classics are the best! And a simple game of I spy can promote critical thinking skills, memory, new vocabulary, phonological awareness and let’s not forget self-esteem when you get the right answer!  Here’s 10 ways you can play I spy at home and liven up those long car journeys! can 

Here’s 10 ways you can play I spy at home and liven up those long car journeys!

Olivia Jones

Olivia Jones

Content Writer

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