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It’s never too early to foster a love for reading and writing. As an infant/toddler developmental therapist, I understand how caregivers can use activities to support emergent literacy skills, like handling books, enjoying songs, and building language.
These literacy activities for babies are the same ones I’ve used in homes and infant classrooms. They are play-based and nurturing, making them fun for babies and easy for caregivers.
Literacy Activities for Babies 0 to 6 Months
Even in the first 6 months, babies develop emergent literacy skills. At this age, babies are motivated to interact with caregivers and enjoy new sensory experiences.
Visual Tracking Games: Move objects slowly in front of your baby for them to track with their eyes. Tracking is a physical foundational skill for reading words on a page.
Conversations: Engage your baby in gentle, expressive conversations during daily routines. Repeat any coos and smiles back to your baby.
Lullabies: Sing soothing lullabies or nursery rhymes during quiet moments.
Black & White Books: Introduce high-contrast black and white books for visual stimulation. Learn why these graphics are best for babies’ eyes.
Texture Exploration: Offer soft-textured and crinkly toys and books to engage their sense of touch.
Nursery Rhyme Sing-Along: Hum or sing nursery rhymes with simple hand movements, such as Itsy Bitsy Spider, Patty Cake, or Hickory Dickory Dock. Here is my collection of favorite rhyme and song books.
Peekaboo: Play peekaboo to promote interactive play.
Nature Sounds: Take your baby for short strolls, narrating and imitating nature sounds.
Fabric Books: Provide soft fabric books for them to grasp and explore.
Picture Sharing: Show your pictures of family members. Name the family members and describe what is happening in the photos.
Mirror Play: Let your baby gaze at themselves in a baby-safe mirror.
Bedtime Stories: Share short bedtime stories in a gentle, calming tone.
Rhyme and Repeat: Recite rhymes, alliterations, and simple phrases during the day. My family always said, “Ready, Freddy?” while leaving the house. Other familiar ones are “See ya later, alligator” or “Good night, sleep tight!”
Labeled Photos: Use contact paper to seal labeled photographs low to the ground or on the floor for tummy time.
Book Circle Tummy Time: Stand open books up in a circle around your baby during tummy time.
Exclamatory Phrases: Choose a few exclamatory phrases to model during the day. You can say “Uh oh!” when a toy falls or “Whoa!” when something surprising happens.
Literacy Activities for Babies 6 to 12 Months
From 6 to 12 months, babies practice communication skills, building the first words and signs in their vocabulary, and using their bodies to explore sensory play.
Sing-Along Playlists: Create playlists of nursery rhymes and children’s songs. Sing and dance together.
Baby Sign Language: Introduce and regularly use basic signs like “more” and “thank you” for communication.
Toy Peekaboo: Use puppets or stuffed animals to play peekaboo.
Animal Sound Imitation: Model animal sounds and encourage your baby to mimic.
ABC Books: Share alphabet books with your baby to introduce letters and letter sounds. Keep these books fun by talking about pictures and being silly with sounds.
Mirror Conversations: Talk, babble, and make faces while looking at each other in a mirror.
Nature Walks: Build vocabulary during sensory-rich nature walks. Talk about the sounds, sights, smells, and experiences.
Letter Blocks: Stack letter blocks and playfully name the letters. Add an “Uh oh, C fell down!”
Word Tracking: Move your finger along the words in the book as you read them.
Chunky Puzzle Play: Introduce simple, chunky puzzles with letters or shapes. Let your baby explore the puzzle pieces while you talk about them. No need to solve puzzles just yet!
Musical Shake & Clap: Let your baby shake musical toys or clap toys together. Rattle and clap while singing familiar nursery rhymes and children’s songs.
Nursery Rhyme Action Songs: Model the hand movements for favorite nursery rhymes such as Itsy Bitsy Spider or Wheels on the Bus.
Simple Sensory Bags: Fill Ziploc bags with different materials (rice, gel, paint, pom-poms) for sensory exploration. Add magnet or foam alphabet letters to help familiarize your baby with the ABCs. Double bag and seal the top with tape for extra safety!
Easy Sensory Bottles: Create sensory bottles using letter beads in water, rice, beans, or pom-poms.
Picture Pointing and Patting: Name the objects in books when your baby pats or points to a picture. Model this action, too!
Gentle Scribbling: Sit your baby in your lap and let them explore making marks on paper with jumbo-sized crayons or markers.
Sensory Books: Explore texture books to add more play to storytime. Explore a curated list of favorite sensory board books.
Reading Space: Create a cozy reading space for your baby. Store books on a low shelf they can reach or place a basket of books next to a cozy cushion.
Sound Books: Use books that make sounds to engage their auditory senses. Here’s a curated list I’ve created.
Ball Roll: Gently roll a ball back and forth, encouraging turn-taking play.
Nature Walks: Explore nature with commentary to introduce new words.
Library Visit: Visit your local library and bring home new board books.
Book Subscriptions: Subscribe to children’s book boxes (Little Feminist is my favorite) for a rotation of new stories.
Picture “Reading”: Babies and toddlers may not be interested in sitting still for a whole book. Instead, you can create a story about the most exciting illustrations in a favorite book.
The Importance of Early Literacy
Brain Development: Early literacy activities help babies make neural connections in their brains. This is a foundation for cognitive skills such as memory and problem-solving.
Adult-Child Bonding: Sharing books and stories fosters a strong emotional bond between caregivers and babies.
Language and Communication Development: Exposure to books and language-rich environments enhances vocabulary, comprehension, and communication skills from an early age.
Physical Development: Holding and patting books, along with turning pages, improves fine and gross motor skills. Books can help extend tummy time, too!
Lifelong Learning: Early literacy sparks curiosity, setting the stage for a lifelong love of learning and exploration.
You can check out my bookshop for my recommended books for babies. These types of books are best for babies’ developmental and sensory needs:
Other incredible book resources are age-based book boxes, little free libraries, and your local library.
FAQs about Baby Literacy
What activities promote literacy for babies?
Reading together, introducing nursery rhymes, and talking during sensory experiences will promote babies’ literacy skills.
How do you teach babies literacy?
Caregivers can promote babies’ literacy through talking, singing, and interactive play.
What are language and literacy activities for babies?
Hey! I shared all my best ideas above 🙂
Here are my favorite baby sensory activities or toddler literacy activities if you need more ideas.
What are fun ideas for literacy?
You can create a cozy reading corner, sing action songs, and explore sound books.