When my kids were little, I wanted to get them ready to read in a fun way. I looked to all the right books for activities. But if I decided to have my daughter write letters in a cookie sheet covered with shaving cream, I knew that the doorbell would ring and I'd return to a overturned tray on the good carpet and a preschooler with foamy cheeks declaring herself to be Santa Claus. Not like that happened or anything.
Anyway, there were tons of great ideas to introduce reading concepts, but I didn't need great ideas - I needed easy ideas. I have all sorts of respect for the moms who take Junior around photographing items to make a personalized alphabet book with a laminated cover. However, I was a bit energy-challenged, that is to say, lazy, and these are some games that worked for me.
1. Easy ABC's Maybe the shaving cream thing seems a bit involved, but there are many easy opportunities to learn the alphabet. Going to the beach? Take turns drawing letters in the sand and watch the waves wash them away. Need to get outside? Grab a big paintbrush and a bucket of water and "paint" letters on the sidewalk. Stuck coloring again? Draw multicolored letters for your preschooler to name or decorate. Since my three year old niece has been crazy about erasing things, I write letters lightly in pencil and let her erase them after she names them. She also likes scissors, so I draw words for her to cut out. Look for little chances to toss in some ABC's.
2. Storytelling 101 "How was your day, dear?" sounds cliche, but not to a preschooler. Take time to talk about the day's events. What did we do today? Then what did we do? Help your child find the words to describe his day and tell his story. Of course, you can also add some fun elements of your own. A phrase like "Is that when the dancing elephants came in?" can take the story in a whole new direction. Sometimes it can even thwart an oncoming case of the grumps. I've seen it happen.
3. Rhyme Time Even with my daughters in fifth and eighth grades, we still like to make up silly rhyming songs. We're just better at it now. But preschoolers won't judge your imperfect rhymes. In fact, the sillier, the better! Work together to think of the next line as you drive to the grocery store. Giggling is encouraged. While you're checking out, you can try my other favorite rhyme game. Pick a word and figure out which words rhyme with it. You can let them come to you, or you can go through the alphabet sounding out each letter. So, rose leads us to explore b-b-bows and d-d-does. This little time-killer works with phonics and stores up some rhyming pairs for your next silly song session.
Look for many more quick tips at PBS Parents and share some favorite games of your own in the comments.