10 Fun Summer Literacy Activities for Young Children

Welcome summer! Today is the official first day of summer, so I thought today would be the perfect time to post 10 fun literacy activities to do with young children! Most of these are designed to be done outside, however you could adapt them for indoors as well. Warm weather is here! Get those kids outside!

  1. Water painting/writing. You will need: clean paint brushes, pails filled with water. The sponges on handles work well. You can find them in the craft section of any major store. For the pail, I would suggest a plastic pail with a handle from the dollar store, or the summer section of most big box stores. Have the children dip their paint brushes into the water, then paint on any surface outside (approved by you of course). Doors and sidewalks work best. Challenge them to write their name, letters, numbers, and shapes. Or they could use stencils too. We’ve done this activity at school several times- the kids love it!

2. Sidewalk Chalk. This is basically the same idea as number one, but with chalk! You can buy sidewalk chalk at the dollar store, craft stores, or most big box stores. Give each child some chalk and write away! You could even try using water and chalk together. If the children are not writing letters on their own yet, you could write a letter with chalk, and then have the children trace over it with their wet paint brush. Or water first, then the chalk! Give it a try!

3. Go on a letter hunt. Print out the entire alphabet on card stock. Many websites have free printable alphabet cards. Or you could write the letters on index cards, one per letter. Or you could buy alphabet flash cards. Laminate or cover each letter in clear contact paper for durability. Next make a list with the alphabet on it- this will be your check list. Then hide each letter outside on the play ground or in your back yard. You could use blue painters tape to help them stay in place. Have the children find the letters! Each time they find a letter, they could bring it back to you and you can check it off your list. For more advanced children, you could have them tell you the sound of the letter, and/or a word that begins with that letter as they hand it to you. Variation to this game: give each child their own alphabet check list. When they find a letter, they simply check it off, and leave it there for the next child to find. Keep going until they have found every letter! If you think this might be too difficult to find all 26 letters, you could always start out just hiding a few letters and continue this for a few days until they have found them all.

4. Go on a scavenger hunt. In a word document, make a check list with clip art- pictures of things that you can find outside in your play space. Examples- grass, dirt, slide, see-saw, birds, clouds, flowers, dandelions, balls, swings, trees, etc. By each picture leave a space to write the letter that each item begins with. For younger preschoolers you could type 3 letters by each pic and they circle which letter they think the word begins with. Give each child the check list with a pencil. When they find an item, they should circle it, and then write next to the picture which letter it begins with.

5. Alphabet hop scotch. You will need a large sidewalk or driveway and sidewalk chalk. Draw hop scotch squares. In each square, write letters, or for readers, write words. As the children jump in each square they have to say the letter, letter sound, or word they see. For “double squares” they should say the letter or word on the left first and the letter or word on the right second.

6. Pass the beach ball. This is a fun group activity! You will need a beach ball or large bouncy ball, and a black sharpie marker for this activity. You can buy beach balls or large bouncy balls at the dollar store or any big box store. Blow up the beach ball and write the entire alphabet all over the ball. The children should stand in a circle. They will take turns throwing the ball to each other. Whichever letter their hands are nearest to, they should say the name of the letter and its sound if they know it. To add another challenge, you could have them say a word that begins with that letter also. You could also help them learn left and right with this game. You could say “this time look at the letter near your left hand”. Then the next time have them look at the letter closest to their right hand.

7. Find the letters in the sand. If you have a sandbox, you could use it for this activity. Otherwise, you could bring a small container of sand from your sand table outside. You will need either foam or magnetic letters. Hide them in the sand. Let the children find the letters!

8. Environmental print walk. Take the kids on a walk in the neighborhood. Look for signs. As they see them, have the children take turns saying which letters they see and what they think the sign might say. Give them hints as needed, but if it’s too easy give them higher thinking questions to help them understand. For example, if you walk past a stop sign many of them will probably say it says stop. They’ve seen this sign so many times they just have it memorized and know what it says without being able to read! When this happens, ask them, “how did you know it says stop?” Direct them to look at each letter and the shape and color of the sign.

9. Story time outside! You will need: a comfortable area outside, and some age appropriate children’s books (preferably board books). Before heading outside, make sure you lay down the rules of this outside story time. For example- books stay on the blankets, stay in area by the books until you say it’s ok for them to go play, and so on. You could bring some blankets and place them in the grass. Have the children sit on the blankets and look at books! Read a few stories to them. Sing simple songs- Alphabet song, Itsy bitsy spider, bringing home my baby bumble bee, twinkle twinkle little star, and so on.

10. Ice painting. You will need: ice cube trays, food coloring, craft sticks, large piece of white butcher paper. Add food coloring to water, pour into ice cube trays, put one craft stick in each slot. Set in the freezer until frozen. Outside, lay the butcher paper out on a sidewalk or grassy area. Place something heavy at each end of the paper so it doesn’t blow away. Give each child one ice cube and paint away! They can paint their names, letters, shapes, numbers, or paint whatever they choose! I know what some of you might be thinking– they’re going to think these ice cubes are popsicles! You could skip the craft sticks if you like, and let them hold the ice cube as they paint. But, before heading outside, explain to the children they are going to do some ice painting onto paper and that these are not popsicles. After they are done painting they will get to enjoy eating real popsicles! Have the real popsicles ready for them to eat after they finish painting. Even if some of the kids try eating the ice cubes- it’s just water and food coloring, no harm done!

Let me know if you try any of these fun activities!

Photo credit: Photo of boy and girl reading: Designed by Freepik


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