Early Literacy Skills are skills that children need before they begin to learn to read.  There are 5 simple practices that you can do to help your child develop these skills.


Play helps children learn naturally about ways to express themselves and how the world works.  There are no rules when it comes to play and you don’t need fancy toys.  In fact, YOU are your child’s favorite toy so make time during your day to play!

baby chewing book

You can start play with even the smallest of BABIES and the best time to play is when baby is alert and awake.  Start with simple activities, such as “Peek-a-Boo” and “This Little Piggy Went to Market” and introduce more complicated fingerplays, songs and action rhymes as babies get older.  Other things you can do with your baby:

  • Let babies explore objects that are safe, such as measuring cups, empty boxes and soft balls.  Older babies will have fun playing by putting objects inside boxes and taking them out again.
  • Sit with your baby in front of a mirror and make funny faces.  Talk to your baby as you look into the mirror and remember to laugh and have fun!
  • Babies love to play in the water while you watch.  Put a small tub outside, add some water and water-proof toys and let him splash and play in his own private pool.

Mom daughter reading

For TODDLERS, pretend play about real life is important.  Follow their lead and play around their interests, whether its a pretend doctor appointment or tea time with stuffed animals.  Playing is also a great distraction for an upset toddler.  Here are some other things you can do:

  • Offer a toy to your toddler and watch and see what she does.  Let her try to figure out how the toy works and let her discover what she can do with it.  Join in and play and show her other ways the toy works.  For example, a stuffed animal can pretend to do many things such as get dressed, have lunch and read a book.
  • Toddlers are learning to walk, run climb, use stairs and throw a ball.  This means they need lot of active, unstructured playtime to build strength, balance and coordination.  They are also beginning to learn how to take turns and involve others in their play.
  • Listen and dance to music together, either your favorite or your child’s favorite.  Add simple shaker instruments or drums and create your own band!

Preschool boy with bookPRESCHOOLERS still like to play about real life but they also might introduce fantasy into play such as pretending to be a teacher or talking to imaginary friends. Using more real props in play, such as restaurant menus or shopping lists, also helps reinforce the importance of print in your child’s life.  Other activities for preschoolers include:

  • Create a dress-up box with old clothes, jewelry, hats and shoes and see what your child will do with them.  Continue to add new things from time to time to keep it interesting and different.
  • Get a preschooler outside and let them explore their world.  Take them to the park and talk about what you discover.
  • Simple board games and puzzles can be introduced to preschoolers.  Say positive things like, “Good Job”, when they complete the puzzle or “Let’s Try Again” if they are upset because they lost the game.

For more info and ideas: Center for Early Literacy Learning Parents Guide