I love getting out large pieces of paper, writing words and pictures on them, and have my toddlers and preschoolers color over them. This is a great pre-reading activity that helps children to memorize words (which is a much bigger part of learning to read than most people think). Best of all, it’s so easy to set up and do!
I have done different versions of this activity with every one of my children, and it has been a HUGE part of what has helped them to all start reading at very young ages.
- Paper – You can use rolls of paper, large sheets, smaller sheets, or even just plain computer paper. You can also do this activity using a spiral notebook or composition notebook so that you can save all of your drawings to read later.
- Markers – I love buying markers like these in bulk when it’s back to school season. You can also use crayons or colored pencils, but markers require less effort for little hands and produce a very satisfying line.
- Stickers – I love getting the big Melissa and Doug sticker set like this and this. You get a lot of stickers for $5/book, and the kids love them.
- *Write-On Wipe Off Books – I have tried many different write-on wipe-off books, and the ones by Priddy Books are by far the best. (Don’t forget some Expo markers.) Little ones don’t need to be ready to write their letters to enjoy coloring in these books. My toddlers and preschoolers love coloring over the letters, pictures, and words and this is another great way to get children familiar with their ABCs andto learn more vocabulary.
- Write a smattering of short and familiar words on the paper. I like to use words that reflect their interests, but start each child with many of the same basic words like: hi, clap, wave, cat, dog, sun, bus, car, etc. (You can always type “teaching three letter words” into Google to get more ideas for words to use and resources like this as well.)
- Draw little pictures next to some of the words. When a word is new, I like to draw a little picture next to it. Many times I’ll even choose words based on how easy the picture would be to draw! But then after they are familiar with the word, I don’t draw the picture every time so that they can memorize the word without the visual aid.
- Keep writing while they color. My little ones love coloring side by side with me. I don’t typically prepare these ahead of time (unless I’m holding a baby and trying to video record at the same time), but rather we do it together. Sometimes we’ll work on the same sheet and other times they’ll color one while I prepare another.
- Write down names of family members. Even though names are typically longer and have more complicated spelling patterns, these are among some of the first words my little ones are able to read. In addition to the names of family members, you could also include their ages, relation (brother, sister, cousin, etc.), favorite color, girl/boy, etc.
- Write down letters, numbers, shapes, and colors. Children who have a strong understanding of these basic concepts will have a very strong foundation in the basics needed to succeed in preschool and kindergarten. Some of my children like seeing the whole alphabet written out, others just like a smattering of letters and the same goes with the other categories as well.
- Use stickers for a treat. Every so often, I like to mix things up with stickers. After putting the sticker on the paper, I will label it.
- Repeat, repeat, repeat. I am a big believer in following a child’s lead, and so I like to do this activity whenever my child shows an interest. This might mean we’ll do it every day or only a couple of times a month. Right now, Julian(2) LOVES coloring and so we do this activity often. I use the same words over and over again until he has mastered them or loses interest, and then I’ll cycle in new words.
Here’s a video of Julian coloring some words that I have prepared.
This activity seems so simple and so easy it’s like, why even write a blog about it? But I’m telling you, it is PROFOUND in helping children learning how to read.
Not only that, but it is a fun and special bonding time between you and your child where you’re working together, sitting side by side, having little conversations, learning about his or her specific interests, practicing the fine motor skills necessary to hold a writing utensil, and having fun!
We get so busy as parents, that doing an activity like this allows for a moment in a hectic day where you can teach, bond, and build memories together, and what could be better than that?