“Mama? What does that say?” He asks as we slug along in the rain towards school.
“No parking.” I answer glancing at the sign on the wall.
“Mama? What does that say?” My daughter asks as she skips ahead of us.
All the way to school. All the way to the park. On the subway. At the store.
Everywhere we go these days my twins find words – environmental print – and I hear that refrain. “Mama? What does that say?”
Words are all around us.
We love books. That’s pretty obvious right? I’ve probably said “I love this book…” a hundred times on this blog alone.
This week I challenge you to think about environmental print – those words that are all around us.
So first, what is environmental print?
Environmental Print is the print we see around us every day. The labels and signs that grown ups read all day without thinking about what we’re doing. It is some of the most useful writing and reading in our world.
Sharing environmental print with our kids is just one more way we can show how important and helpful reading and writing are for life.
And, as a bonus, this is often the first reading kids can do. When you point out environmental print as reading kids suddenly feel empowered. They can read that McDonald’s or Target sign too!
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6+ Playful Ways to Explore
1. Look for Words to read in the Living Room or another room.
Looking around our living room there are games with titles popping out from one shelf. There is a magazine on the end table. There are BRIO trains peeking out from a basket on our shelf, many with their Thomas and Friends names proudly written on their sides. What words or letters can your child spot?
Okay I know this sounds a little weird, but especially when you’re in those diaper changing / potty training years you spend a lot of time in the bathroom. A LOT. And when you have twins you basically feel like you live there for 3 years.
We had some fun waterproof books that hung out in our bathroom, but we also liked to have fun looking for letters and words. Shampoo bottles. Toothpaste containers. Toilet paper and Kleenex….you get the idea.
Want more? Look for words in the kitchen too. They’re everywhere!
2. Read a Book with Environmental Print
There are some fun books that look at environmental print, (books like this by Tana Hoban for example) that look at signs and other print around us.
3. Read a Magazine or Newspaper
I love a good story. I was the kid that curled up with Laura Ingalls Wilder and cruised through all of the Nancy Drew mysteries on the shelf at the library. Bookworm is definitely a good descriptor for me.
This is not every child.
Reading is not just about getting lost in a really good story. It serves so many purposes and sharing some of these with children is important.
Another way to do this is to share magazines. There are some really great ones for kids. Below are the 3 that we have subscriptions to – I’d love to hear about your favorites too!
1.Highlights for Children
My kids like the silly pictures, the short poems, and the stories in these magazines. They have 3 different levels of magazine starting with an adorable baby one. My kids have been getting these since they were about 1 and they are consistently a hit.
2.National Geographic for Kids
My kids are huge STEM fans. My son loves all things nature, weather, and physics based. My daughter loves anything to do with animals. National Geographic for Kids offers both.
This one is more for older kids and mine (at almost 6) are just starting to get into it. It is also based out of the UK so it can be more difficult / costly to get in the US. It happens to be one of the highest quality magazines I have every seen for children. If you child likes fantasy and fairy tales especially then check out this one.
4. Look for Words that Start with a Particular Letter
For older preschoolers and early elementary schoolers – give them a letter to hunt for around your home or classroom. I have found that it helps to hand them a letter to refer to. Either a puzzle piece version of that letter or just write a letter on a post it note for each child.
For example, Sam is looking for the letter W. You write Ww on a post it note and hand it to him. Then have him hunt for that letter in the room. Can he find it on a book title? A food label? On a sign walking around your neighborhood? When he does – read the word that has the W in it aloud.
More W Ideas? The A-Z Play at Home Hop is focusing on W this week.
Try ideas like a Waterbeads Sensory Bottle and Lavender Wands and more.
5. Write and Read Chalk Messages
Chalk is just so full of possibilities. We love it on paper. We love it on chalkboards. We love it on sidewalks. We love especially love it on wet sidewalks – have you tried that?
We are stretching the definition a little here, but I call this one ‘creating your own environmental print’.
Chalk can also be used to practice reading. Every since we learned this Sight Word Chalk Game from An Educators’ Spin On It it has become one of my twins’ absolute favorite things to do outside. I think you could also do something similar with Letters for younger kids. Or even colors? Numbers? Again those limitless possibilities.
6. Read Signs While You Walk or Drive
I felt like once my kids were tall enough to see out the windows in the backseat a whole new world opened up to them. Around the time they turned 3 they became particularly obsessed with the signs so we started playing a couple games related to this useful environmental print.
2 Games We Play on the Go
1. Look for X
Have your child look for a particular sign. For example, stop signs. How many stop signs can they count between home and your destination? You can also look for red signs, green signs, stoplights, railroad signs, etc.
2. Navigate with Mom
This one we played a lot when they were learning their letter names. Once we got reasonably close to a destination (usually around the time they were antsy and needed a little distraction) I would ask if they could help me navigate.
I would explain we were going to the zoo (for example) so we needed to look for signs with the word Zoo. Could they help? What letter did they think Zoo started with? Hmmm…ZZZ – a Z! Can you look for a z? Then they would usually be able to spot the sign – if not I would point it out – and then say “oh good! That says we’re 5 miles from the zoo!” Okay we need to keep watching. The next one should show us where to get off…and proceed like that until we reached our destination.
More ABC Literacy Ideas
It’s time again for another fantastic month of alphabet fun with the 31 Days of ABC! All this month you can look forward to 31 more days of activities, crafts, books, apps, and more, all dedicated to teaching young children the alphabet.
I am so happy to be working with an amazing group of kid bloggers, who will be sharing their ideas with us in the coming days. So join us as we jump, skip, hop, and read our way through the alphabet this October!
Don’t forget to follow our 31 Days of ABCs Pinterest board for even more great ABC ideas!
31 Days of ABC
Teaching the ABCs – October 1
A – October 2
B – October 3
C – October 4
D – October 5
E – October 6
F – October 7
G – October 8
H – October 9
I – October 10
J – October 11
K – October 12
L – October 13
M – October 14
N – October 15
O – October 16
P – October 17
Q – October 18
R – October 19
S – October 20
T – October 21
U – October 22
V – October 23
W – October 24
X – October 25
Y – October 26
Z – October 27
123’s – October 28
Prewriting – October 29
Books, Songs, & Apps – October 30
Printables – October 31
Bonus Author Spotlight: Shirley Hughes
This post was originally shared as part of our a Read a Day Challenge. Each week we dive into a new or beloved author along with other reading challenge books.
Shirley Hughes is the best of the best for me. She writes. She illustrates. She creates these characters that you know. That you feel like you’ve always known. She brings the messy, cluttered, beautiful every day life with children alive for kids and their parents around the world and has been doing so for decades. Shirley Hughes has published over 70 books in her lifetime which is so staggeringly awesome I had to triple check to make sure I had that correct.
I know favorite books and authors often become that because of when and where and how we are introduced to them and part of my affection is likely because of my when and where and how, but she is delightful. I hope you will surround yourself by books she has written and/or illustrated this week and let me know your personal favorite.
Alfie Gets in First by Shirley Hughes
Since Hughes has been writing books since the 1960s and is based in the UK there are many I haven’t read. Many that aren’t in print anymore. (70 books – that’s so many!) I think Don’t Want to Go is fun for younger preschoolers and Ella’s Big Chance is one of the most original takes on the story of Cinderella.
I have also read every single story about Alfie in existence and he is my favorite and her most well known work. My absolute favorite story about Alfie is An Evening at Alfie’s because it is the one I remember most from my childhood, but this is the favorite for my kids.
Alfie Gets in First is the first story about Alfie. On the way back from the store, Mom sets the basket of food with the keys inside and then goes to help Annie Rose out of her stroller. Alfie hurries ahead of them and slams the door shut. Suddenly he is trapped on one side unable to reach the latch and Mom is on the other side. It is an every day moment that could happen to anyone everywhere. It is a story about family, about neighbors, about childhood, and ultimately about some clever problem solving on the part of one sweet little boy.