Preschool Reading Games for Literacy Development

Childcare Activities

Preschool Reading Games for Literacy Development

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During the preschool years it’s important to help children build strong foundations that will stand them in good stead when they start primary school; this includes the skills they need for learning to read. We have already suggested some ideas for activities to support the development of literacy skills in general; in this article we will focus more specifically on preschool reading games that help children practice those skills.

While preschool children are not expected to be able to read when they start their reception year, it will give them a head start if they can:

  1. Recognise their own written name
  2. Identify letters of the alphabet
  3. Distinguish rhyming sounds

In addition to these skills, which we will explore further below, one of the most important factors in learning to read successfully is a love of books. This is something you can help foster in your nursery simply by:

  • Providing a wide range of books for all preschool ages, which are easily accessible and displayed in an appealing way.
  • Creating cosy spaces where the children can explore the books on their own, or in groups.
  • Reading books with the children regularly, and making story time as interactive and fun as possible (eg reading out poems with actions, taking it in turns to lift the flaps).

Preschool Reading Games

1. Games to help with name recognition

As well as making sure that everything ‘belonging’ to each child is labelled with their name (eg coat hooks, placemats, sticker charts etc), there are plenty of fun preschool reading games you can play to help them learn to recognise their written name:

  • Write the letters of each child’s name on individual pieces of paper, tape them to the floor in a sequence, and then get them to jump from letter to letter (in the right order), calling them out as they do.
  • Write the children’s names on pieces of card (you might want to laminate them so they can be used for multiple activities). Sit in a circle, with the names on the floor in the middle, and sing a name learning song. As each child’s name is sung, they have to pick out the right piece of card.
Preschool Reading Games: Circle Name GameSinging name learning songs is a great way to practice name recognition
  • Do some tracing activities, for example write each child’s name in large letters on a piece of paper and get them to trace the letters using pipe cleaners or play dough. Outside, write their names on the ground using chalk and they can trace them with a wet paintbrush.
  • Make each child a name puzzle by writing the letters on a piece of card and cutting it up, so they have to put it back together in the right order.

2. Games to help with learning the alphabet

Make sure you have plenty of alphabet resources available to your preschoolers, so that they have the opportunity to play with letters whenever they like. These could include foam letters, magnetic letters, letter beads, letter cutters, letter bingo sets etc. Here are some fun preschool reading games and activities for helping children to learn the alphabet:

  • Make a winding alphabet path outside with large chalked letters in circles or squares; the children take turns walking, running, hopping or jumping along it, calling out the letters as they go. Try adding obstacles and toys along the way (eg blocks to climb over, beanbags to throw into buckets). 
  • Use a set of letter cutters to cut out the alphabet from play dough. Divide the letters between the children and see if they can lay them out on the table in the right order, as a group.
  • Spread out some foam letter mats on the floor, and call out letters for the children to move to, one at a time, ie “Sophie, move to the letter ‘d’”. Make it more fun by adding an action beginning with that letter, eg “Sophie, move to the letter ‘d’ and do a dance!”
Preschool Reading Games - Playground LettersJumping around letter squares helps children learn the alphabet

3. Games to help with distinguishing rhymes

Many books for young children feature rhymes heavily, and reading these together is a great way to embed rhyming sounds into daily life and get the children used to hearing them. Singing nursery rhymes is similarly beneficial. Try some of these preschool reading games to explore rhymes more actively and build the skills that they will need for reading:

    • Write a few sets of short rhyming words onto some building blocks, and get the children to build towers by stacking the blocks that match. Who can build the tallest tower? This can also work well using pictures instead of words on the blocks.
Preschool Reading Games: Building BlocksTry writing rhyming words on building blocks for children to match
  • Hide some pictures of things that rhyme around the nursery (or in the garden), and get the children to find them. Once they have collected them all, help them sort the pictures into piles or pairs of matching rhymes.
  • Collect some pairs of rhyming objects/toys and jumble them up on a large tray; play this game with one child at a time taking a turn at matching all of the pairs up.

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