Friday, 27 May 2022

Literacy and numeracy for preschoolers

How literacy develops

Literacy is most commonly understood as reading and writing. But before children can read and write, they need to learn about sounds, words, language, books and stories.

The building blocks for literacy are the ability to speak, listen, understand, watch and draw. As your child gets older he’ll learn to connect letters on a page and spoken sounds, and to write those letters themselves.

How you can help your child develop literacy

Talking, singing, playing sound and word games, reading, writing and drawing with your child are great ways to set up a good literacy foundation.

Talking and singing with young children helps them to develop listening and speaking skills. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Use rhyme whenever you can, in songs or by using phrases like ‘snug as a bug in a rug’.
  • At mealtimes, talk about the food you’re preparing, what you’re doing to it, how it tastes and what it looks like.
  • Play games like ‘I spy’ using colours. This can be lots of fun for preschoolers. For example, ‘I spy with my little eye, something that’s green. What’s something green I might be looking at?’

Reading with children develops their vocabulary, ability to listen and understand, and ability to connect sound and written words. Shared reading also teaches your child about the pleasures of learning through books. Try these ideas to share reading with your preschooler:

  • Make a routine, and try to share at least one book every day.
  • Follow your child’s lead with reading – encourage them, but don’t push them. Experiment with different books to see what he likes, and just have fun!
  • Encourage your child to turn the pages and talk about what he sees. Use your finger to guide your child’s eyes from left to right across the page as you read, and point out certain words or phrases.
  • Play ‘find the letters’ games, especially with the letters in your child’s name.
  • Point out punctuation marks like full stops, exclamation marks and question marks. Explain what these mean – for example, ‘There is a question mark. When we see one of those, we know that somebody is asking a question’.
  • Link books with real life. For example, if you’ve read a book about playing in a park, you might like to take your child to the local park and point out swings that look like the ones in the book.

Scribbling and drawing help young children develop fine-motor skills for writing with pencils and pens later in childhood. Here are some activities to try:

  • Encourage your child to draw and write using pens, pencils, crayons and markers.
  • Encourage your child to try some letters or write their name on all the artwork he creates.
  • Ask your child to write their name on a birthday card or a letter to Granny. Praise them even if it’s just a scribble or a big swirl of colour.
  • Help your child use playdough to make the letters of the alphabet or numbers.
  • Give your child opportunities to use letters of the alphabet in different forms – on blocks, magnetic letters that stick on the fridge, and puzzle pieces.

Preschoolers – developing numeracy skills

About numeracy

Numeracy is the ability to apply maths concepts in all areas of life. Numeracy skills involve understanding numbers, counting, solving number problems, measuring, sorting, noticing patterns, adding and subtracting numbers.

Why is developing numeracy important?

We all need numeracy and maths skills to do everyday things like:

  • solve problems – for example, which brand and size of tinned beans is the cheapest?
  • analyse and make sense of information – for example, how many wins does my team need to get to the top of the competition?
  • understand patterns – for example, what number would the next house in this street be?
  • make choices – for example, which bike is the best value?

How your child develops numeracy

Your preschooler has probably already learned some numeracy skills through everyday play and activities. For example, she might be able to count her teddies, tell you how many slices of apple she wants, or divide her playdough in half.

She also learns about maths concepts when you point out:

  • big and small (size)
  • high and low (height)
  • heavy and light (weight)
  • fast and slow (speed)
  • close and far (distance)
  • first, second and last (order).

Ideas to help your preschooler develop numeracy skills

Everyday situations

Everyday situations at the supermarket can give young children fun and relaxed ways to practise early numeracy skills.

Try these ideas at the supermarket:

  • Ask your child to help you count fruits or vegetables as you put them in a bag.
  • Count the people who are lining up in front of you to pay. Count again as each one pays and leaves so your child can see the number getting smaller.
  • Pay with cash, and show your child the numbers on the notes. Explain what is happening when you receive change.

Highlight maths in daily life

For example:

  • Ask maths questions involving everyday activities, such as ‘What’s the volume of the milk carton?’
  • Look at maps and timetables on public transport to work out how many stops to your destination.
  • Look for patterns, for example in tiles or bricks on buildings, or a pattern on shirt. Ask your child, ‘Why is this a pattern? Which parts get repeated?’


This teaches your child early numeracy skills from measuring or counting. Children can pour and stir from a young age. Older children will be able to measure and weigh, and do some easy cutting under careful supervision. For example, you might let your child cut up some soft fruit like melon for a fruit salad. Use mathematical words like ‘half’, ‘bigger’ or ‘more’ to describe what she is doing.

Using a growth chart

Measuring family members with a growth chart is a good introduction to maths and numeracy concepts like height and measurement. These things are easier for children to understand when they can relate them to something real – like themselves. When you put the growth chart somewhere prominent, like in a doorway or the hall, your child is reminded of the concepts every time she walks by.


Source: The Education State

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