103 Ways to Inexpensive Literacy Play

  1. Count baby’s toes. Count baby’s fingers. 1-2-3-4-5
  2.  

  3. Sing lots of songs to baby. You are my sunshine.
  4.  

  5. Rock baby while you sing a lullaby. Hush little baby.
  6.  

  7. Play patty-cake. Pattycake-pattcake-baker’s-man
  8.  

  9. When your baby babbles, babble back. Imitate baby’s sounds and intonations.
  10.  

  11. Use your pointing finger. Trace the shape of letters on your baby’s
    belly. Say the letter. A, B, C
  12.  

  13. Take baby’s hand. Pat something soft. Say soft
  14.  

  15. Feel other things. The ball is round. Push the ball to mommy.
  16.  

  17. Blow gently on your baby’s face. Have baby blow on your face. Whooooo…..
  18.  

  19. Stick our your tongue. Get baby to show you her tongue. Make t sounds.
    TTTTTT.
  20.  

  21. Show baby your teeth. Make the sound S. Get the baby to imitate you.
    SSSSSSSS.
  22.  

  23. Press your lips together. Exaggerate. Make the sound B. Say bbbbb.
    Ball.
  24.  

  25. Trace the shape of letters in the sand together. Spell the child’s
    name. A-D-A-M spells Adam. That’s you!
  26.  

  27. Trace the shape of letters in the water together. Spell wet!
  28.  

  29. Tell baby what you’re doing as you do it. I’m buttoning up your
    sweater. Pushing the button through the buttonhole…..there it goes!
  30.  

  31. Point out colours. Have baby and toddler point out colours. Yellow
    flower, green pickle, blue teddy bear.
  32.  

  33. Play I Spy with the preschooler. I spy with my little eye
    something that is bright pink!
  34.  

  35. Hold baby’s hands. Stretch them wide to show big. Say big.
  36.  

  37. Take baby’s hand. Point up. Say up. Point down. Say down.
  38.  

  39. Play peek-a-boo.
  40.  

  41. Play jack-in-the-box and other action games to teach concepts such
    as up and down. Jump UP! Crouch DOWN!
  42.  

  43. Play Ring-a-rosy. Sing and do other action songs that show direction,
    size and action.
  44.  

  45. Clap to the beat of skipping songs.
  46.  

  47. March to the beat of counting songs. The ants go marching one by
    one, hurrah, hurrah.
  48.  

  49. Bang to the beat of a poem on a tin plate with a wooden spoon. Alligator
    pie, alligator pie, if I don’t get some I think I’m gonna die!
  50.  

  51. Say nursery rhymes while waiting in line–anywhere.
  52.  

  53. Talk to your child throughout the day…about the weather… about
    what you’re making for lunch and how you’re doing it… whatever…
  54.  

  55. Tell stories about when you were a child.
  56.  

  57. Have Grandma or other people tell your child stories.
  58.  

  59. Listen to your child. What is he or she saying? Have a conversation!
    Ask your child to tell you what he or she did. Did you see a kitty
    today? Tell me about the kitty…
  60.  

  61. Call each other on “play” telephones. Chatter away!
  62.  

  63. Let the child make a choice. Respect the choice, even if it’s not
    what YOU would have picked. What sweater do you want to wear, the
    blue one or the yellow one?
  64.  

  65. Let your child do things to help you. Put the napkins on the table.
    Fold the face cloths. Put away the toys. YOU might do it better, but
    that’s not the pint! Say thank you! Great job!
  66.  

  67. Smell a flower together. Smell an orange.
  68.  

  69. Taste something sweet. Taste something sour.
  70.  

  71. Feel different things. Describe them. Ooooohhh, the ice cube is
    cold!
  72.  

  73. Listen to sounds all around you—the bow-wow of the dog, the
    drip-drip of the faucet, the tick of the clock, the grrr
    of the vacuum cleaner. Imitate them together.
  74.  

  75. Hug. Say “I love you!”
  76.  

  77. Put magnetic letters on the fridge. Look for both upper case and lower
    case letters. Spell easy things. Mom. Dad. Cat. Dog.
  78.  

  79. Use magnetic letters to show how sounds relate to letters. M is
    for mmmmm. Mmmmmeow says kitty.
  80.  

  81. Eat Alphabet Soup for lunch! What letters are you eating right
    now?
  82.  

  83. Make “Alphabet Soup.” Cut out letters. Put them in a pot.
    Stir! Pull our a letter. What letter did you get?
  84.  

  85. Name the fruits and vegetables at the grocery store. Where’s the
    banana? Put the banana in the grocery cart.
  86.  

  87. Cut out felt shapes. Cover a board with felt. Stick the shapes to
    the felt board. Say the shape and point at it. Circle. Square. Triangle.
  88.  

  89. Put the shapes together to create things. Name them. Snowman. Wagon.
    Bike. Tree.
  90.  

  91. Look for used toys where baby and toddler push shapes into a container
    through the corresponding hole. Try garage sales.
  92.  

  93. Play with stacking bowls. Count them. Line them up side by side.
    Big – middle – little.
  94.  

  95. Take the bowls out the “stack”. Put them back together.
    Fit them inside each other.
  96.  

  97. Turn the bowls over. Hide things under them. Where are they? Which
    bowl is hiding them?
  98.  

  99. Stack blocks. Stack boxes. Stack measuring spoons one inside the other.
  100.  

  101. Match things. Put all the clothes that are green in a pile.
  102.  

  103. Match socks. Then put them in piles–Susie’s socks, Mommy’s socks,
    Daddy’s socks…
  104.  

  105. Match fruit. Put all the oranges together. Put the bananas together.
  106.  

  107. Play what’s different, what’s the same. Put toy vehicles together
    in a pile along with different items. Pick out the items that “go”
    together. They all have wheels….
  108.  

  109. Try what’s different, what’s the same with other things.
  110.  

  111. Play card games together such as Go Fish! or Old Maid.
  112.  

  113. Make your own card games. Make two of each “kind” of card.
    Try shapes. Or numbers. Or letters of the alphabet. Or pictures of objects
    familiar to the child. Put the cards face down. Pick a card. Then try
    to find the match.
  114.  

  115. Count crackers. Count carrot sticks. Count socks. Count steps you
    climb. Count everything!
  116.  

  117. Start a penny jar or a piggy bank. Let the child put the pennies in
    it. Count them together.
  118.  

  119. Play with wooden puzzles with little knobs so the baby and toddler
    can lift out the shape and put it back in.
  120.  

  121. Play with jigsaw puzzles. Use scenes that are bright and simple. Use
    puzzles with only a few pieces.
  122.  

  123. Make jigsaw puzzles. Use greeting cards (stick to two or three pieces).
  124.  

  125. Cut out the shapes from greeting cards. Paste them on paper to make
    new pictures.
  126.  

  127. Cut out pictures. Use flyers, catalogues. Paste them on paper to make
    collages.
  128.  

  129. Make greeting cards. Fold a blank page in half, and paste the cut
    outs on the front. Have the child “sign” the inside. Scribbles
    are fine!
  130.  

  131. Make a “mailbox” by cutting a slot into a shoe box. “Mail”
    the greeting cards to each other.
  132.  

  133. Write the child a simple letter. Put it in an envelope with the child’s
    name on it. “Mail” the letter. Play mailperson!
  134.  

  135. Have the child “write” letters to each other. Scribbles
    count! Have the preschooler “read” the letter to you.
  136.  

  137. Play hopscotch. Say the numbers out loud as you jump from square to
    square.
  138.  

  139. Draw shapes in the hopscotch squares instead of numbers. Jump from
    triangle to square to circle.
  140.  

  141. Write a letter of the alphabet in the hopscotch squares. Jump from
    letter to letter.
  142.  

  143. Put letters in the hopscotch squares that spell the child’s name.
    Jump from square to square to spell the name.
  144.  

  145. Make “macaroni” art. Squeeze glue on a page. Stick uncooked
    pasta to it.
  146.  

  147. Make sand art. Squeeze glue on a page. Put sand on it. Turn the page
    over, so that the sand sticks to the glue.
  148.  

  149. Write a letter of the alphabet on the page with glue, and then do
    sand or macaroni art. Or print the child’s name with the glue.
  150.  

  151. Make a “treasure chest” from a shoebox. Put in simple safe
    craft items. Put the box where the child can get it on his or her own
    and play.
  152.  

  153. Keep lots of “writing” materials handy. Have colouring books
    and crayons and paper.
  154.  

  155. Have chalk and chalk board.
  156.  

  157. Try join-the-dot books. Keep them simple. Stick to 1-10, and large
    clear numbers and dots!
  158.  

  159. Finger paint.
  160.  

  161. Construct things. Make a village out of cardboard boxes.
  162.  

  163. Do other activities that require the hand-eye coordination that’s
    needed for future printing. String beads. String buttons. String pasta.
    Use a shoelace and items with big holes so the child can manipulate
    them.
  164.  

  165. Punch holes in a piece of cardboard. Have the child “sew”
    or weave wool through the hole. Remember to tie a knot at the start!
  166.  

  167. Stick the child’s “work” with magnets to the refrigerator.
  168.  

  169. Label things around the house. Use sticky Post-It notes if you want.
    Print the word on the Post-It. Have the child stick it to the object.
    Chair. Toy box, Book. Door. Daddy
  170.  

  171. point out the words all around you. On your walks point out the Stop
    sign. That means Stop!
  172.  

  173. Point out the sign on the store or the other places you go.
  174.  

  175. Point out the words on the cereal box.
  176.  

  177. Point out objects in flyers and catalogues that get delivered to you.
    Where’s the little girl? Where’s the picture of the puppy dog?
  178.  

  179. Use words to do something together. Follow a simple recipe to make
    cookies. Read each step of the recipe aloud as you do it. Make sure
    the child gets to do something fun, like mix the batter or grease the
    pan! Enjoy the snack together. MMMMMM good!
  180.  

  181. Find the instructions on the side of a box, maybe a frozen dinner
    or putting together a household item. Read them and let the child help
    do the steps.
  182.  

  183. “Read” the colour comics together.
  184.  

  185. Make a simple book together. Just staple or sew together pages.
  186.  

  187. Try a book that features a different shape on each page. Or make
    a touch book. Put a cotton ball on one age, and a piece of fun-fur on
    the next page, and then tinfoil on the next…
  188.  

  189. Make a “what’s under the flap” book. Just draw a picture, and then
    tape a flap over top of it. Lift the flap to reveal the picture.
  190.  

  191. Take photographs. Make a book of people and objects familiar to the
    child. Label the photos. Look at them together. Add to them. Who’s
    that?
  192.  

  193. Make a scrapbook together. Try a theme. Maybe collect leaves or flowers
    or things you’ve found outside on walk. Or make a scrapbook of the child’s
    are.
  194.  

  195. Make a simple map and then follow it. This is how we get to…
  196.  

  197. Hide a treasure in the house. Draw a simple map to find the treasure.
    Follow the map together.
  198.  

  199. Keep a dress-up bag or chest. Put in it– a wig, old shoes, cowboy
    boots and hat, a magic wand and crown, etc. Play dress-up. Play make-believe.
    Put on a play.
  200.  

  201. Make a cassette tape of the child’s voice. Start when she or he is
    just a baby. Record babble. Play it back to baby. Make tapes when the
    child is a toddler and preschooler too! Let the child enjoy hearing
    herself. Make a tape of yourself. Tell a story. Tell a joke. Sing a
    song.
  202.  

  203. Go somewhere in your neighbourhood together. Go to the park. Or the
    library. Or the zoo. Or the pet store. Talk about it later. Draw pictures.
    Make up a story about it. Have the child tell someone special about
    his or her adventure.
  204.  

  205. Make a grocery list together. Check the cupboards and refrigerator.
    What do we need? Let the child tell you a special item or treat
    to add to the list. Then go shopping together! Use the list. Let the
    child help you find the items, take them off the self, and put them
    in the cart.