Playing into Literacy

The following is from an article written for Family Day Care.

The photo below might look like the cushions off the lounge, a yoga mat and a child’s chair but it is a garbage truck !


Play helps children develop thinking skills and enhance their desire to know and to learn and to enjoy being themselves. (Early Years Learning Framework, page 15)

There are many ways adults can scaffold learning about literacy through play in order to prepare children for school. Capturing teachable moments and building on a child’s interests are ways of expanding their vocabulary and learning. parents and carers are in a unique position to nurture learning through play.

The development of Oral language

Oral language is the basis for learning. An adult modelling for a young child how to extend their few word utterances into a sentence helps children understand how language works. Adding descriptive words like colours and size words and using the language of position helps children build their vocabulary. To be a reader and writer children need first of all to be a talker. This means speaking in sentences and using descriptive language.

Social Skills

Family Care, preschool and school are group experiences. Children need to be able to co-operate, take turns and share, to be happy and successful in these settings. They need to be able to communicate their needs and ideas with peers and adults. This requires an understanding of group behaviours and routines. As care givers we need to facilitate the development of social skills, clear communication and the ability to follow simple instructions. We need to respond positively to each child in our care developing their sense of self worth and their view of themselves as learners.

Creative and imaginative play

Play that is open ended and child centred fosters imaginative and creative minds. Read to children at every opportunity. Encourage children to replicate stories you have read to them. Keep supplies of material and bits and pieces for imaginative play. Boxes can become anything and combined with masking tape the opportunities are endless. Have available supplies for playing homes, cafes, police, nurses and doctors. Encourage children to engage in imaginative play and scaffold the language they need to use in the roles they adopt.

As children become interested in writing there are many ways to expand and develop that interest. Have paper available for drawing, labelling and writing lists. Encourage children to write their names. Help them to learn the left to right order of the letters in their name. Keep post it notes handy so children can ‘write’ a message to mum and dad. Label objects around the play area and draw student attention to the labels. Including a visual image or photo with the label enables everyone to ‘read’ the label. Point out the labels to children, “This label says Lego. It is on the box where we keep the Lego. See how the word Lego starts it is the same letter that is in your name, Liam.”


The challenge is for all adults who interact with children to look for ways to scaffold their language development, develop social skills and provide opportunities for children to be creative and imaginative in play. This will support them as learners moving to school.