Literacy Sensory Bins

If you know me well, you know that I don’t teach my own children to read before kindergarten (nor do I spend time teaching my kindergartener to read when she’s home from school). I believe in play, in exploration, and in a literacy-rich environment. So, my girls LOVE to “read” and to listen to books, but our oldest didn’t read independently before kindergarten. Our youngest might not either. And that’s just fine with me, as long as they’re excited about words, reading, and writing.

So, what do we do instead? We read aloud… a lot. We have books around for the girls to “read” on their own… a lot. And we play! We play for fun. We play to build social skills and to learn about the world. And we play with words and letters.

I recently created two literacy sensory bins. They’re for both girls to use, so they can be used to build a wide range of literacy skills. In the first (pictured above), I placed pretty colored letters (from this alphabet puzzle) in rainbow rice. They MIGHT find the letters and place them in the correct places in the puzzle, but they might not, and that’s ok. Maybe my older would use them to build words! That would be really cool. Maybe my youngest would just play in the rice and make a big mess while she looks for “her letter” (the first letter in her name), and that would be cool too. Maybe they’d surprise me and do something completely different… I don’t give directions or instructions with a sensory bin, nor do I correct or redirect them once they’ve started exploring. I simply let them play and see where they take it.

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In the second bin, I wrote sight words and our family names on wood chips (mine are a few years old, but I believe I got them from Lakeshore Learning) and mixed them in with an assortment of expired beans. Our youngest dug through them, picked up a wood chip at a time, and asked what each said. Then, she blew my mind by running to get a cup and carefully placing the pieces with family names in a cup, which she then demanded to take to her room to keep safe. By not requiring a specific task to be completed, I was allowed a tender insight into her heart!

So, tell me— how do your kids “play” with letters and words as they develop naturally into readers and writers?

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