Nothing is more magical than your child’s first reading experience.  As parents, it’s amazing to finally see our children working through their first storybook or writing new words. However, long before they read their first word, creative homemade activities are the perfect ways to trigger an early love for books and reading.  These fun and simple experiences help our children appreciate literacy and prepare them for future learning experiences in school.

Fishing for Letters

The first step in the journey of reading is letter recognition.  Toddlers take great pride in singing the alphabet song or pointing out the letters of their name.  Capture this excitement with a larger-than-life fishing game.  Take advantage of warmer weather and drag out your toddler’s mini pool.  Fill it to the brim with water and add large foam letters.  Add bubbles or food coloring for extra fun.  Provide your child with a toy net or a handheld kitchen colander to act as their “fishing pole.”  Use sidewalk chalk to draw large alphabet letters on the sidewalk surrounding the pool. Challenge your child to “fish-out” the right letters to match each one.  Be sure to help them say the right name for each letter. This fun game is the perfect way to teach simple letter recognition and keep your child cool in the summer heat.

Lego Match-Ups

As your child grows more and more comfortable with basic letter recognition, help them begin the early stages of word-building.  Although they are still a long way from skilled reading, learning to recognize word “shapes” and letter order is a huge step toward early reading skills.  Use a permanent marker to write a simple word on a long Lego Duplo block.  Next, write individual letters on smaller Duplo blocks.  Show your child the long block with the word and help them find the right letter blocks to build a copy of the word.  Be sure to say the word with your child, so they know what they’re “spelling.” As your child grows more comfortable with their Lego word-building skills, add new words or ones with more letters.  With practice, your child will be able to comfortably recognize letter order and even read simple words by memory.

Cozy Reading Nook

As parents, one of the best ways we can encourage a love of reading is to show personal enthusiasm and excitement toward books and reading opportunities.  Encourage your child to spend time each day with their favorite books even outside or your usual story time together. Many children love flipping through picture books and stories even if we’re not currently around to read them together.  They can mentally revisit the story or use the pictures to create new imaginary stories of their own.

Create a cozy, private space for their “reading” time. A makeshift tent with blankets and chairs or a large cardboard box are easy “reading nook” options.  For a more permanent reading nook, use a ceiling canopy or hang a set of curtains to partition off a corner of their bedroom. Add a mini shelf for their favorite books and plenty of soft pillows and blankets.  Favorite stuffed animals make excellent reading buddies for your child’s quiet time.  By making their reading nook important, we’re teaching our children that reading itself is an important, enjoyable activity.

Weekly Library Adventures

Libraries are an amazing resource for families, particularly those with young children.  Weekly story time, summer reading programs, and special arts and crafts programs are just a few of the benefits libraries offer to young children.  Although your child may not be quite ready to read, introducing them to regular library visits at an early age is an important choice for their future.  Librarians are masters at telling stories and introducing children to new genres and words. Story time with new friends is the perfect way to show them how much other children love books.  This also allows them to learn valuable listening and comprehension skills they’ll use for school.

Set aside time each week or month for a trip to the library together. Allow them to pick new books and learn how to care for them with the proper “book etiquette.” Regular library trips offer great opportunities to bond with your child and grow new memories you can both look back on through the years to come.

Homemade Picture Books

Even before they’re ready to write, allow your child to play author with a set of their own homemade books.  Being able to create their own stories is hugely empowering for children.  It helps them see the importance of telling stories and letting their unique voice and ideas be heard. This is critical for children who are shy or struggle with communicating to others.  Expressing themselves on paper can act as the stepping-stone for learning to express themselves to those around them.

Using paper bags or basic construction paper, fold the sheets together and staple securely.  You can also use a hole-punch and yarn to string the book binding together instead.  Provide your child with the blank books and plenty of art supplies to create their stories.  Use these picture books at your next story time together and allow your child to share the story they created.  Be sure to save these precious books to look back on together.

Children that love reading have huge advantages for their school years, particularly in comprehension and critical reasoning skills. As you prepare your toddler for school, look for fun early-reading activities you can both enjoy together.  Toddlers that develop a love for books ultimately grow a love for learning.


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