The saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” and this can definitely be the case when it comes to a letterbox filled with annoying junk mail! But what can be seen as an awful waste of paper can actually be re-purposed into some wonderful literacy learning through play for young children – after all, anything which gets children talking about and engaging with printed material is one more step on the road to becoming literate.
Here are eight ways to play with literacy inspired by the humble store catalogue;
1. Collage: cut out pictures of grocery items from your catalogue and allow your child to get busy with a little flour and water paste. Talk to them as they work, asking questions about the items they choose to paste on their masterpiece – “What type of fruit have you pasted here?” “Can you find another green vegetable to stick on your picture?” “Which person in our house likes to eat xx?” Even young toddlers will enjoy this activity and older children can be challenged with tasks such as sorting the grocery items into groups.
2. Concentration: next time you are at the supermarket, grab two of the same catalogues and use them to make a game to play with your child. Cut out matching pictures and glue each onto a square of cardboard. Play concentration by turning all of the pieces over and taking turns to find matching pairs.
3. Bingo: Again grab multiples of the same catalogue to cut out matching pairs of pictures and glue one set to some cardboard squares and use each of the matching images to make a set of bingo base boards – each should contain a random assortment of the matched images. To play, each player chooses a base board, the matching cards are all placed face down and then players take turns to find all of the images on their board. The first player to find all of their grocery items is the winner.
4. Which item is it? Use one or two pages from a shopping catalogue to play a simple guessing game. Ask your child to find the item you are thinking of by giving them a series of clues. Clues might relate to the colour, size, shape and function of the item. Then swap and let your child take a turn at making up the clues.
5. Home corner play: if your child enjoys imaginative play, set up a role play shop with toy groceries or tins from your pantry, a pretend cash register and a shopping basket or recyclable shopping bag. Don’t forget to add some catalogues for customers to use to make their shopping list. You might also like to write/draw some shopping lists to include in the play – just be sure to include words and picture clues for pre-readers and early readers.
6. Shopping list: Next time you are using supermarket catalogues to find the specials (or coupons) to write your own shopping list, invite your child to sit with you to make their own. Provide them with paper and a pen and allow them to role play making a shopping list. Talk to them about what you are writing as you make your list to help them learn that writing has purpose and is useful.
7. Developing vocabulary and memory: this is a classic game for a family or group of children aged 4 years and up to play. Sit in a circle and nominate one person to start by saying “I went to the shop and I bought an … (chooses one item)…apple” The next player says “I went to the shop and bought an apple and a … (chooses another item) … loaf of bread.” Continue around the group with each person having to remember each of the previous items and adding one more of their own.
8. Rip it!: Older babies and young toddlers love ripping and tearing so why not give them a catalogue which you are no longer needing to practise the development of fine and gross motor skills (finger, hand, arm) important to later learning to write.
You may also like to visit this post for more information about introducing props into your child’s play.