It truly is possible to have fun and learn something at the same time right in your own backyard. Next time you're in the backyard (or at a park with a big yard or field) with your preschoolers and beginning readers, try some of these simple literacy activities.
- Act out verbs. I always use a "bag of verbs" in my beginning reader story times. Each child takes a turn selecting a word from the bag (or basket, or jar, or whatever) and we all act it out together as a group. Doing this activity outside expands the possibilities. Kids can not only sit, stand, and turn around; they can also do a somersault, hop on one foot, run like a rabbit, or kick like a ninja (without hurting anyone else.)
- Put on a skit. Backyards (and back porches, and front stoops, and driveways...) make excellent stages. Help your kids write or memorize a short skit, and then have them perform it for your family or even some of the neighbors. If you're feeling especially fancy, add costumes, scenery and props made from household objects.
- Play with a “Magic Ball.” In this game, the leader names an adjective (heavy, sticky, cold, hot, light, etc.) then the children pass a ball around a circle, acting as though that adjective applies to the ball. This is a great way to expand kids' vocabularies to include more interesting describing words. (Credit for this idea goes to Mass Literacy.)
- Play yard games with a verbal component. Games which involve giving and following directions and asking questions help kids to develop speaking and listening skills, which in turn lead to better reading skills. Here are just a few suggestions, with links to instructions on how to play.