(I will keep updating the blog. This is first published in 2022, and last updated as of April 2022.). I have since then launched my own Science of Reading course that will help you understand HOW a child learns to read so you can make full use of the resources you already have at home, and the supplies you are about to purchase. Please take a look HERE
Table of content (Click to jump to different sections)
- Age 1-2
- Age 2-3
- Age 3-4
- Age 4
- Age 5-6
- Age 6-7
The first few years of a child’s life are critical for speech and language development.
“Early childhood is the story of parents”30 Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain
As parents, you can do A LOT at home to support. Beyond the first two years of your child, progressing from crying to babbling to speaking, your child may also begin to show signs of learning about reading and writing. As parents, how can we support our children’s language + literacy development at home?
First and foremost, here are two books that I have found to be inspiring and useful in my own parenting journey:
Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain on AMAZON (here)
Beyond Baby Talk: From Speaking to Spelling: A Guide to Language and Literacy Development for Parents and Caregivers on AMAZON (here)
Let’s start with reading: Teaching young children to read at home requires some research. Reading is a science after all. And, in order for the reading instructions to be effective, it must be done systemically for your child to make the connection between graphemes (letters) and phonemes (sounds).
Here are some resources that may help:
These books are considered classics for a reason! They contain a lot of repetition which is fun to read. At this stage, it is important for YOU to enjoy reading as a parent, so do pick books you wouldn’t mind reading every day. Although children cannot understand the books at this stage, they will enjoy hearing YOUR voice and the bonding with you.
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?
2 Dear Zoo
3. The Foot Book
4. Where is Baby’s Belly Buttons
5. The Very Hungry Caterpillar
At this age, I also find that cloth books or waterproof books are great as they can be washed and taken into the bath or folded and stuffed into bags! There are so many choices out there, and this is the one that I bought for my kids. Since animals is such a common theme in books and songs, I wanted the cloth book to have an “animalistic” interactive element in it!
I suggest singing to your baby at this age. Here is my personal list of nursery rhymes in English, Cantonese, Mandarin and Japanese on Spotify (HERE)
At this age, puzzles, blocks, and Play-doh are great for developing your child’s fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and problem-solving skills! . I especially find that playing with Alphabet puzzles with my boys has helped them recgonise letter orientation at an early age.
Melissa & Doug See-Inside Alphabet Wooden Peg Puzzle (here)
I like that the letters have PEGS.
If you have friends with kids between 2-3 years old, I thought emily.in.the.wonderland has a pretty cool gift that is an alphabet puzzle!
Melissa & Doug ABC Picture Boards (here)
I love this puzzle set because it has both lower-case letters, upper-case letters and an associated picture in the middle.
I started using Jolly Phonics when Kei was 2.5 years old. I created videos to teach the 42 sounds of the English language as part of the program. You can see my YouTube playlist HERE
Starfalls website (here)
Starfall app (here)
Related blog: Teaching my child to read using traditional VS technology-based resources
Here is a Montessori inspired alphabet cut-out you could use to pair with any phonics activities (HERE). Notice the vowels are in red.
At this age, I strongly discourage asking your child to hold a pencil to write. Instead of writing, your child should be doing a variety of activities to develop their gross and fine motor skills. Instead of using a pencil, children can practice letters and words by writing in sand, on a chalkboard or whiteboard, or by simply doing sky writing. You can watch a short clip on what sky writing is (HERE)
Wooden Montessori Sand Tray with Lid for Writing Letters on AMAZON (HERE)
You can also hack this by using a plate, or a kitchen tray and ALPHABET cards (HERE)
Upper and Lowercase Letter Formation cards (HERE)
Shaping and playing with play-doh are great ways to develop fine motor skills, strengthen the hands and improve eye-hand coordination. For the longest time, I made my own play-doh just in case my kids stuff the pieces into their mouths! Some children could benefit from learning their alphabets through Play-doh shaping.
I like this playdoh mat because as your child gets older, they can also write on the bottom (HERE)
You can use the same play-doh method for learning Chinese strokes and characters. Although I never did this with my children, this may appeal to some families (HERE)
Here is a great Play-doh recipe that does NOT require cooking on the stove (here)
Your child may/may not be reading at this age. Both Kai and Kei did because I taught them. You can read more about the resource that I used HERE
Here are two very useful websites that has a wealth of resources to support early literacy:
Little Minds at Work (HERE) The Measured Mom (HERE)
At this age, children might be ready to hold a marker, chalk or pencil. Chalk is really a wonderful writing tool for their child for the following reasons:
- Chalk is tactile and your child can feel their movements as they write
- Chalk is easily correctable. It can easily be erased by their finger or brush.
And as for chalkboard, here are some benefits:
- Chalkboards invite children to write. Each one is a literal blank slate, just waiting to be covered with a new idea.
- Because they are so easily erased, chalkboards encourage practice
- Chalkboards offer resistance as chalk drags along the boards’ rough surface. Children get a feel for what they are writing. (Ideas from “The write start”
Here are some of my favourite writing tools for this age:
Magnetic Board from Taobao （here）
Magnetic board from AMAZON (here)
This website (HERE) suggests:
True enough, I didn’t start using pencils and paper until my kids were past 4 years old! Here are a few examples of what my kids were doing when they were almost turning 3. Notice I was doing a lot of #backandforthdrawing and storyscribing. Kei’s literacy journey is documented on Instagram HERE. Kai’s progress is HERE.
Here are some suggestions on what else you could use instead of pencil.
IKEA Mala Easel (here)
You don’t need a fancy board! This IKEA one is sufficient!
Chalkboard-Paper Wall Stickers (here)
If you don’t have space for an easel, you may want stick a chalkboard paper on the back of the door, or on cabinets!
Chinese blackboard sticker （here）
If your house doesn’t have space for an easel, you can post this blackboard sticker on the door or on the wall.
Crayons are must-have at this age that allow children to explore colors, shapes and textures on paper. I find triangular ones such as these on the left (HERE) easier to grasp for little hands. However, I don’t think you need to display all these colours at once. I’d put out around 5-8 colors so they don’t feel overwhelmed.
There is really a huge variety of crayons in all shapes and sizes. The best way to figure out what works best for your child is to offer them different crayons in your writing center. Trust that they will pick the ones they like.
TIPS: I actually started off with cheap Daiso ones. I find that it didn’t matter during the earlier years since my kids kept dropping them. I transitioned to better ones as they could colour and draw better.
In my IG LIVE workshop (HERE), I mentioned that you can actually work on WRITING skills without making your child physically write. This can be done via STORYSCRIBING. You can see the examples below:
I wrote about storyscribing in my blog titled “What we need to know about children’s stages of writing developent” (HERE)
At this age, open-ended play, puppet toys, figurines are great as it encourages imagination, creativity and storytelling if you take the time to talk about their scene with your child. I like @mrsspeechiep ‘s suggestions of toys to promote speech and language development. Which ones do you currently have?
At this age, your child may be showing some interest in scribbling and drawing. My boys have transitioned from whiteboard to sketchbooks, and were going through sketchbooks after sketchbooks. My favourite ones are spiral bound sketchbook with a thicker cover such as this: HERE. The one from the video was purchased from Takashimaya, Singapore. It’s the only one I found which a plastic sleeve inside the sketchbook.
I suggest buying sketchbooks in A4 size, and an additional one in a smaller size so your child can put in their backpack. We often doodle while waiting for food in restaurants!
Here are two videos of Kei drawing at this age:
When kids are first starting to write letters and words, I find that big unlined paper works best. As mentioned, I used mostly whiteboards and sketchbooks at this age. I didn’t start getting my boys to write until past 4 years old. Instead, Kai and Kei drew a lot with me during this age, and I did a lot of storyscribing.and #backandforthwriting.
You can read more about storyscribing on my blog: What we need to know about children’s stages of writing development (HERE)
Let’s talk about pencils. Please spend your time trying out different pencils that may be the best fit. Many people are aware of how pencil size affects how effective their child writes or draw, but pencil pressure can play a huge role in legibility, whether pressing too hard when writing or writing too lightly. I have a preference for pencils with a softer lead, which makes a darker mark on paper. 2B is my pencil of choice. Implications of that is your child doesn’t have to press as hard to make their drawing or letters legible.
Some children may prefer thicker triangular pencils like these HERE on Amazon:
These pencils from Popular Bookstore really worked for me. (HERE) They are 2B pencils. They are the only pencils my kids use!
Particularly at this age when they are attempting to write more, I find that a good eraser is CRITICAL to drawing/writing success. I am not joking! I’ve purchased erasers that smudge my child’s writing, which is extremely frustrating. So far, this is the ONLY eraser that I like. I am a classroom teachers, so I have indeed bought and tried many erasers in my life. This is from STABILO and I’ve linked it HERE
Do note that although I am not advocating the physical act of writing at this age, you can still have your child play with something like this to get familiar with the shape and form of the English alphabet
Amazon link HERE Lazada HERE
There is a stylus pen that your child can use to trace over letters with beads popping to the surface.
I won’t go into too much details on PHONEMIC AWARENESS. In school, I follow a program called Heggerty which has daily listening activities to support Kindergarten and G1 students’ phonemic awareness.
Below are other resources from Mrs. Winterbliss on PHONEMIC AWARENESS. Students identify the phoneme represented for each picture and blend the sounds together to identify the mystery word.
CVC words (HERE) Blends and Digraphs (HERE) Please click into the links to see other related activities.
Anna from The Measured Mom also has an extensive blog on phonemic awareness and phonological awareness (HERE) with activities you can purchase.
I did a lot of identifying beginning, middle, and end sounds using Octonauts and Paw Patrol figurines. Any types of mini props would work very well! I did not use worksheets or tracing paper at this age.
You can download and print these FREE alphabet cards HERE
For blending, if you are on the go, there is an app called “Blending Board” which you can use to avoid bringing all the letter tiles and letter cut outs. HERE
For blending practice, I made a lot of flashcards, and created my own props:
Scholastic has a great post on the literacy development as this age (HERE). Raisingchildren.net.au also describes each state of language development (HERE) Below is an excerpt :
If you have attended my phonics workshop (HERE), I mentioned the importance of getting your child to read decodable books. Here is a great blog on decodable VS levelled text (HERE).
Here is also a great visual on why DECODABLES are important:
5. READING- DECODABLE TEXT
I subscribed to the annual membership on The Measured Mom (HERE) which is where I have access to this short vowel decodable text in the video below. The website is great for homeschooling families as all activities follow the Science of Reading:
You can start with CVC, blends, and digraphs decodable text (HERE) . Thanks for an IG mommy who shared this with me! I just want to stress that the order of letters and letter combinations in which you are teaching phonics matters.
Here is Anna’s decodable passages which I used with both my children (HERE)
I also love A Teachable Teacher‘s long vowel decodable passages HERE
Another set you can purchase if you are homeschooling is from Hello Literacy (HERE)
These literacy specialists follow the Science of Reading, and encourage phonics to be taught in a systematic way.
As for other recommendations, I also really like the decodable books on a reading platform called Raz-Kids. Students have a choice to listen to the books, and read and record. If your child is studying at an international school, chances are, your child is already using this platform, and should have access to this section of the app. On Taobao, they are selling books from Raz-kids too (HERE). There is a difference between the Levelled books and decodable books on the website. Make sure you read clearly before selecting.
I very much prefer decodable passages to decodable books because they are short, and do not drag on. Decodable passages are appropriate since they are short and to the point. I never invested in purchasing decodable books. However, if you are interested, The Measured Mom has some great recommendations HERE:
These are just a few of them.
Bob Books have also been voted as the best to purchase from many literacy coaches (HERE)
6. Levelled Books
Instead of getting my kids to read regular picture books, which have all kinds of vocabulary, phonics pattern and sentence structures, I read levelled books with my children alongside decodable books. I am a huge fan of the Oxford Reading Tree’s Biff and Chip series. Not only is the language simple without colloquial expressions or figurative language that may be confusing for young readers, the storyline is also engaging. Each book centers around Biff and Chip’s adventure with the magic key. There are many different Biff and Chip series, and I prefer the classic Magic Key adventure. They have all the books online as well if you subscribe as a paid member up as an educator HERE .
I cannot say I love other levelled books that I’ve read. They didn’t work for my English as a Second Language students because of the expressions
At this age, Kai enjoys reading at his bed at night. For the longest time, I tried to look for a simple bedside light. I found one on Taobao HERE
Some children may show interest in writing at this age, and Oxford has some free alphabet writing pages you can print out HERE. Lettershool also has a lot of resources to support tracing and printing (HERE) although I never used them with my kids!
Instead of tracing, I advocate drawing with your child. If you are following my Instagram account, you might know that I taught both my boys to draw by using simple shapes. I can see that drawing has helped with their writing later on. I can’t stress how important drawing is!!!!
Drawing is not only an open-ended activity, but is low-prep, child-centric and child-led. The drawings from your child may not be as Instagram worthy as the fancy crafts and sensory trays you see on social media, but the benefits and drawing warrants attention. Drawings aren’t just some decorations on the page. They serve a functional purpose that supports writing.
“The process of drawing gives your child the opportunity to plan, brainstorm and develop new ideas.”
Afterall, writers often create pictures with their words. So why not offer children time to draw first?
Here is a great resource you can purchase so you can guide your child to better draw HERE
On Taobao, these types of step-by-step drawing books are fantastic. I have this set that has many different themes: (HERE)
I also have an Instagram post on how drawing helps with writing (HERE)
This book is gifted to me by a friend in Japan. She bought this from Daiso, but these types of books aren’t available in Singapore. Just showing an example of simple drawing books that are help at this age:
Some children may continue to need to practice printing. A kit like this may help (HERE) with lines on the white boards, cards to copy, and a-z reminders at the top.
If you are subscribed to Twinkl, these resources may also be helpful (HERE)
Children may be making letter reversal errors at this age. This is very common, and using visuals will help::
These posters will be able to support your child printing certain letters correctly. I’ve linked to a set of FREE bilingual posters HERE
Your child should continue to be reading decodable books for practice, For those who are struggling, ZOOM cards may help with reading fluency. The child reads one card a day, and you can time them to track progress.
Zoom cards link is (HERE)
Here is a bundle of PHONICS activities (HERE)
It’s important that children recognize a large number of high-frequency words by sight so they can read fluently.
I purchased this set for my classroom, but never used it at home with my own children (HERE)
Anna has a great blog about teaching high-frequency words (HERE)
Some children may also be ready for early chapter books. Anna, from The Measured Mom, researched on 250 early chapter books from Grades 1-3.
As for G1 (6-7 years old), these would be appropriate:
“Knowledge of word families helps children build vocabulary. Instead of memorizing spellings and meanings of all words, they learn how to spot patterns, identify root words, and understand their common meanings or sounds. This helps in word recognition leading to the development of their reading fluency”
These mini posters are great. I don’t use them at home, but I do have them in the classroom HERE from Taobao.
Here is a blog on what I did to teach Word Families: How I teach Word Families at home (HERE)
For us, this was a good age to set up a writing center to encourage open-ended writing activities. HERE is a more detailed blog about our writing center, with links to different supplies that I won’t include here.
Kai has been writing, and I mostly use papers that I made myself from my blog: Offering Structured Choice to Encourage Writing (HERE)
I have yet found a journal notebook in Singapore, but (HERE) is one from Amazon that would be perfect for this age: The lines are all coloured.
Here is another great journal book from Lakeshore (HERE). If you are in Singapore, I believe there are lakeshore products (HERE)
I also thought this from TAOBAO is not bad given there aren’t many choices in Asia (HERE)
And of course, you can always just download this writing paper which I have modified.
I just want to mention that if your child is getting phonics instructions at school, your role at home could be more relaxed. You can spend help your child apply the phonics rules at school by writing with them. Do check out my post on Supporting your child to write stories with a clear Beginning, Middle and End (HERE) for suggestions.
I highly recommend understanding some more complex phonics rules yourself, and putting up reminders at home one at a time after each phonics pattern is taught. I really love this set of posters (HERE)
10. Sight Words
There are two types of words in the English language: Phonetically regular words such as “at, lash, mascot”, and high frequency words which are not phonetic such a “one, said, two” At home, I combined the teaching of high-frequency words with decodable words. I only chose to explicitly teach the ones that could not be sounded out easily.
Anna has a set of printables that can be used to reinforce the spelling of sight words (HERE)
Something like this may help as well! (HERE)
Here is another package that is similar in layout. (HERE) I did not use this for Kai, but decided to use this with Kei recently. He seems to really like it!
It may be helpful to purchase these types of dry erase pockets (HERE) so you don’t have to keep printing out worksheets.
A lot of the work I do with writing at home is made from scratch. For instance, the Beginning Middle and End template, and all the graphic organisers can be found here:
I purchase a lot of phonics bundles, and this one is by far my favorite one. It requires children to do word sorting, and word sorting is one way to help children see and understand the patterns in words. Another benefit of word sorting is that it’s interactive, and promotes higher-level thinking skills.
I put each Word Sort in envelopes and place them in my literacy center. The link of this purchase is (HERE)
If you are not in Singapore, this grammar workbook is from the US and is not bad. It covers the main grammar topics (HERE)
Here is another bundle that looks promising because of the grammar points that these children at this age level could be introduced to HERE
I very much prefer grammar books published in Singapore because they are catered to students learning English as. a second language.
Although this one on the left is a BRIDGING book, I’d use this in a G1 classroom (HERE)
This page hosted by a Hong Kong content creator also offers some FREE grammar worksheets from an English as a second language approach (HERE)
And that’s it! This took me a LONG time to write, so I hope linking these resources help. If I have missed anything please reach out to me in the COMMENT below or on @msclaudias_bento (HERE)
Do check out my other literacy-related blogs:
- IG / ZOOM LIVE: Starting the “Write” Way for Ages 3-6
- Setting up a writing center for a 6 year old
- Offering structured choice to encourage writing
- Supporting your child to write stories with a clear Beginning, Middle and End- foldable trilingual template
- Using “Touch and Tell, Touch and Say, Touch and Read” strategies to foster independence in writing
- What we need to know about children’s stages of writing development
- Guiding your child to write authentically (3-5 years old)
- Ways to encourage your toddler to write stories at home
5 thoughts on “MUST-HAVE literacy resources to support your child at home (Ages 1-7)”
Thank you for providing these tips and resources.