• 8 Teacher-Recommended Literacy Games You Can Do at Home!

    The keys things to make your own literacy materials are versatility, re-purposing, and creativity.
    by Anna Rhea Manuel .
8 Teacher-Recommended Literacy Games You Can Do at Home!
PHOTO BY iStock
  • I enjoyed making homemade literacy materials for my classes when I was working as a reading teacher. I liked to use eco-friendly materials because I didn’t want to stock up on things in the classroom that would eventually end up in a landfill. Making it myself also made it a lot cheaper than buying ready-made materials, which you can only use once. And going the DIY route made it possible for my students' parents to recreate our class activities at home. Here are some ideas to make cheap (or free) and fun learning games for your children. 

    Clay 

    Who doesn’t like clay? Aside from its texture and endless possibilities we can shape it into, playing with clay also develops a child’s eye-hand coordination, small hand muscles that help them with fine motor skill tasks (such as tracing, writing, and cutting), and creative problem-solving. 

    What you can do with clay

    • Make it! It’s so easy. You can make it together with your kid! I follow the "recipe" from this video: 

    • Create figures (or use cutout stampers) and tell a story with the characters.
    • Write letters/draw shapes on a table/floor and shape the clay to cover the letter/shape.
    • Pound a long slab of clay on a surface (about 8 inches long, 4 inches wide,1/4 inch thick) and write/draw on it with a stick (I find the top end of a small paintbrush/chopstick works best because it’s dull and easy to handle for kids).
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    Salt

    Yes, your ordinary table salt! This activity mimics writing on paper but has a magical element to it because whatever they write disappears.

    Pour 1/2 cup of salt in an A4-size box/tray (a colored bottom works best). Make sure the salt is shallow enough that if you dip your finger in it and move it along, it leaves a trail. Encourage your child to write/draw in it. You can write a letter/number and ask your child to trace it and/or copy it.

    Ice cube tray or muffin tin

    If your baking days are over or have an extra ice cube tray lying around, use them as a literacy prop instead!

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    Sorting

    Ask your child to sort out things according to color, by hand (example: small pompoms, buttons, beads, clips, balls of colored paper) and place them in the different partitions. You can also have them use a pair of small ice tongs or big laundry pegs to strengthen their hand muscles and control, which they would need when they start to write.

    Matching

    If you have leftover muffin liners lying around, write a word on each (i.e., sight words your child is learning) and place one on each tin compartment. Get markers (or “pato”) of the same color – one color for each child. Play three-in-a-row where you call out a word, and they place a marker on it. The goal is to put three same colored markers in a row. You can also play this game with numbers, letters, or colors instead of words.

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    Flyswatter

    Have one at home? Use it for a literacy game! Write letters/numbers/color/words on separate sheets of paper and stick these on the part of the wall your child can reach. Call out one, and he/she swats that word! Kids love playing this because they get the thrill of feeling the impact of their strength (i.e., hitting a wall and feeling its impact on their arms and body.). See this game in action on the video below.

    Chairs

    I’m sure you have a few of these! And yes, another literacy game idea for you. Ready three to four chairs (I suggest the lighter ones you’ve got). Write a word on separate sheets of paper. Tape one sheet on the back of each chair. Call out one, and your child sits on the chair with that word. You can also do this with letters, numbers, or colors.

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    You know this one: play music, and when it stops, your child chooses a chair and reads out the word taped on it. Take that chair out and proceed with a few more rounds.

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    Big bags

    I love storytelling activities with kids, and they do too! For this activity, get the biggest bag you can find (I use a canvas bag) and place 8-10 different objects in it (it could be anything). Without looking inside, take one object out and start the story. Take turns doing this as you continue the story. I find these sentence starters helpful in developing a plot: 

    Once upon a time, there was a… Everyday… But one day… So… But…So… But… So… Finally… 

    Feel free to modify, shorten, lengthen. It depends on what you and your child find fun!

    Toys

    Your child’s favorite toys, from cars to action figures, can help reading/math time fun! On a large paper (A3 size) or surface, draw lines on a “parking lot.” Inside each parking slot, write a letter/word/number. Ask your child to “park” their marker on the slot that says it. 

    What I found kids like about this activity is the drama or role play that goes on before the “parking” happens. With cars, kids can make car sounds, with action figures, they make flying/kicking/superhero sounds actions. It’s cute, it’s fun! Here's a video to show you. 

    Plates

    Plates are useful things! I usually use the paper plate for these literacy activities.

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    Number/letter recognition

    Write numbers/letters around the edges of the plate (if using plastic, I suggest you put paper tape around and write on the paper tape. This way, you can reuse the plate for other activities). In the middle, put a spinner (i.e., pen, pencil, or a dusty old fidget spinner). Agree which side of the spinner is the pointer. Spin it. Once it stops, read out the number/letter. 

    Addition/subtraction

    Divide the plate into 3 sections (1/2, 1/4, 1/4). Write a plus or minus sign in the middle of the 1/4 sections. Place the number of objects you want added or subtracted on either section. Place the number of objects that is the answer in the 1/2 section. Tactile and concrete are keys that make this activity effective for children. 

    Literacy activities are within your reach – explore your kitchen cupboard or your child’s toy box. Play around with these ideas, get in touch with your creative side, and save up on shopping educational toys for your child!

    Born to a family of teachers, Anna Manuel is a reading advocate and a children’s book author with a degree in Language Education, with a minor in Special Education, and a Master's in Reading Education. She is the master storyteller behind Melbourne-based Heads and Tales, which offers storytelling sessions, family literacy workshops, performances, and more. Her work and latest book, Leo’s Pet Bug, focuses on empathy, which she believes keeps us connected and thriving.

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