25+ Engaging Print Awareness Games for Pre-Reading Success

25+ Engaging Print Awareness Activities

Print awareness is often overlooked when it comes to pre-reading but it is an important indicator for reading success.

25+ Engaging Print Awareness Games & Activities

Looking for fun and interactive ways to boost your child’s print awareness skills? Look no further! In this article, we have compiled a list of 25+ engaging print awareness games that are guaranteed to set your little one on the path to pre-reading success.

These are the exact same games and activities I played with my students when I was teaching my preschoolers and kindergarteners to read. These activities are designed to enhance your child’s understanding of how print works, including concepts such as letter recognition, letter sounds, and word formation.

As parents of young children, you’re likely aware of the importance of providing your child with a strong foundation in reading and writing. But did you know that developing early literacy skills can have a wide range of benefits for your child’s overall development?

The Benefits of Early Literacy Skills

As children learn to read and write, they become more familiar with the structure and syntax of language, and this can help them communicate more effectively both verbally and in writing. They may also develop a richer vocabulary, and spoken language which can help them express themselves more clearly and engage more deeply with the world around them.

But the benefits of early literacy don’t stop there. Teaching your child concepts of print is a skill they will need forever.

Learn strategies to help you teach print awareness in this video!

Children who are strong readers and writers are:

  1. More likely to succeed academically in all areas, not just language arts. Studies have shown that early literacy skills can help children excel in math, science, and social studies, as well as reading and writing. By developing these skills early on, children are better prepared for the academic challenges that await them in elementary school and beyond.
  2. They also have a positive impact on children’s social and emotional development. When children read and write, they’re exposed to new ideas and perspectives, which can help them develop empathy and understanding for others.
  3. Children may also develop stronger critical thinking skills, which can help them navigate complex social situations and make informed decisions.
  4. Reading and writing can be a source of comfort and enjoyment for children, helping them to relax and unwind after a busy day. When children develop a love of reading, they’re more likely to continue reading throughout their lives, which can have numerous benefits for their overall well-being.

From alphabet puzzles to sight word scavenger hunts, each game is carefully crafted to make learning enjoyable and effective. Whether you’re a parent, teacher, or caregiver, these activities can be easily incorporated into most children’ daily routines, making learning a seamless and enjoyable experience.

Get ready to ignite your child’s love for reading and lay a solid foundation for their future literacy skills with these 25+ must-try print awareness games.

What is Print Awareness?

Print awareness is the understanding of the mechanics of reading. That means understanding how print works, including the knowledge that print carries meaning, that books contain letters and words, and that reading is done from left to right and top to bottom.

Why is Print Awareness Important?

Print Awareness is important because research shows print awareness is a key predictor of future reading success. By familiarizing children with the concepts of print at a young age, you’re paving the way for fluent reading, better comprehension, and a lifelong love for books. The earlier children understand print materials have words and those words have meaning, the earlier they will understand the building blocks of reading. Then they will be able to develop additional skills like reading printed words.

If you take the time to fully develop print awareness, your child will be much better equipped to enter school.

How Can Parents Foster Print Awareness at Home?

I compiled a list of activities and games parents and caregivers can play with their children. The best part of these activities is the quality time you’ll be spending with your children, strengthening your bond while promoting their learning.

Before we begin, it is important to remember that all children develop differently. Some children need time to process, while some children may soak up information quickly. Whatever type of child you have, reading needs to be fun – it must. If you make reading a chore your child may become avoidant or less confident in their reading. If your child is tired, bored, or ready to move onto the next game, let them move on.

How Often Should I Teach Print Awareness Skills?

I would say at least 2-3 times a week is a good way to make it part of your routine. If you, as a parent, enjoy reading aloud, reading alphabet books, and talking about how books work, then you can incorporate print awareness skills into your daily life. Again, we are talking about no-stress “practice”.

Even if you don’t enjoy reading, it doesn’t mean you can’t teach the concepts of print to your child. You can still read a stop sign and show your child various forms of print. You can go to story time at the library together, and sit with children and model book awareness as you read a story together. You can explain the different functions of books as you turn pages together.

How Do Children Develop Print Awareness?

Children develop print awareness through exposure to the printed language. I love reading aloud to children. I love when I turn pages of a book and pretend they are stuck together, or read a story “wrong” and watching get children riled up. I like to get messy with kids. It is because I created lesson plans with the games I am showing below, that I was able to create successful readers.

There is nothing more exciting than watching a child read their first word and know they read the word because they understood the letters on the page have meaning. Most of my students were reading at a second or third grade level before they reached kindergarten.

What are the Three Components of Print Awareness?

The three components of print awareness are:

  1. Understanding letters and sounds,
  2. Understanding the connection between the sounds and letters,
  3. And understanding the idea of print and how printed text works.

What Age Can I Begin Teaching Print Awareness?

You can read books to your child when they are infants. Every time you read to your child you are teaching the concepts of print. You can further develop your young learner as soon as they’re old enough to play/read board books.

As I mentioned above, these are the exact games and activities I used in my lesson plans to help students develop print awareness. Concepts of print were everywhere.

I understand parents are busy. I only saw my students for a few hours a day but it was structured time. The benefit for parents is you will see your child for years. You can take time to develop these skills slowly with your young learner.

Print Awareness Skills

Let’s recap what we’ve learned so far:

Definition of Print Awareness:

The understanding that print carries meaning and that it is read from left to right and top to bottom

Examples of Print Awareness:

Recognizing words and letters in print, understanding the function of punctuation and spaces in print

Activities to Promote Print Awareness:

These include reading aloud together, pointing out words and letters in the environment, using spoken words and practicing writing letters and words

Print Awareness Games & Activities

Print awareness skills develop differently in each child. It is not a contest. It’s a journey. It doesn’t matter how many words your child can read, but how much they understand what they are reading.

The written language is tricky but by playing these games and engaging in these activities, you will begin fostering a print aware child.

I. Out and About:

  1. Have your child identify the words on food labels or packaging in the grocery store. Make your grocery list together and point out letters. Read the items aloud as you write them.
  2. Point out signs on billboards or on stores. If you see a stop sign on the road, point out the letters together.
  3. Take your child to read alouds at the library or bookstore. They’re free and you can meet other like-minded parents.

II. At Home Books:

  1. Make a book with the child by writing a story and illustrating it together. Develop a beginning, middle, and end, for your story. You are fostering creativity, story development, and print awareness.
  2. Use magazines to make collages. If your child is very young, you can cut the letters and your child can glue/paste them onto paper.
  3. Make a flip book together. Flip books are really fun for kids because they have something small to take with them. They will tell their story over and over!
  4. Websites like BookCreator.com, allow users to digital books. You can include images and make comics. The app will even read the book to you. I’ve published several of these with students.
    III. Outside Print Awareness Games:
  5. Practice writing letters and words in sand, shaving cream, or on a chalkboard.
  6. Take this outside. Write letters and words in sidewalk chalk or using a stick in dirt.
  7. Play a game of “Alphabet Hopscotch” by drawing letters on the sidewalk or floor and having the child hop from one to the next.

IV: Flash Card Games:

  1. Play a game of “Letter Bingo” using cards with letters or words on them.
  2. Play a game of “Letter Go Fish” using cards with letters or words on them.
  3. Write letters on Jenga blocks. Children can pull a block after they’ve called out the word.
  4. Play a game of “Print Match” by having your child match identical printed words or letters. You can use flash cards for this game. You can also use alphabet blocks and play sorting games with them.
    V: Sensory Games:
  5. Make a game of tracing letters and words with a finger or pen.
  6. Use a sensory bin. Place a large letter in the bin and cover it with rice. Ask your child to find the hidden letters in the rice.
  7. Alternatively, you can place letters in a sensory bin and give them a bowl of Cheerios. Ask your child to “trace” the Cheerios by placing them on the letters.
  8. Glue bumpy beads onto letters and have your child trace them with their fingers.

VI: Reading books

When your child begins making simple words, you can play simple word games. Play a game of “Word Scramble” by writing simple words on cards and mixing up the letters. You can play this with sight word games or three-letter words. I recommend teaching letters in groups of four.

  1. Encourage your child to “read” a familiar book aloud and point to the words as they say them.
  2. Buy or borrow alphabet books from the library to read together.
  3. Start reading the names of authors and illustrator names to familiarize children with format of books. Read the front cover first. You can also make a habit of reading the back cover of books to learn more about the author.
  4. Pretend pages of your book are stuck together. Ask your child to “help” you turn pages.
  5. “Accidentally” get the story wrong. Let your child correct the story.
  6. Hold the book upside down or backwards and begin reading aloud. Let your child “correct” you.
  7. Create a word-of-the-day. If you read the word and your child points it out, maybe they get to do a dance or complete a silly action. You can do this for question marks or if you find an exclamation mark.

Tips for Developing Print Awareness Skills

  1. Incorporate Reading Into Daily Life
    If you want to be successful in teaching your child to develop early literacy skills, you will need to incorporate reading into your daily life. Your child’s environment needs to be print-rich with various forms of story books.
  2. Try to Make Sure the Fonts Are Similar.
    For example, Arial “a” is different from Comfortaa “a”. This is often really confusing for children. I always begin with the Comfortaa “a” because it is most commonly written that way.
  3. Lowercase Letters Vs. Capital Letters
    I always begin with lowercase letters because I learned to teach reading well before I learned to teach writing. In the United States, kids learn both at the same time, and capital letters are easier to write since they are less curvy. You should choose one to teach depending on where your child is in the process. Either way, I have noticed learning one then learning the other makes it a little easier for children to process.
  4. Concepts of Print
    Print materials are everywhere when you look for them. You do not need anything expensive or fancy for your child to develop print awareness. As long as you incorporate reading into your daily life, print concepts will follow.
  5. Input Happens First
    If you begin teaching pre reading when your child is very young, they may not have any output. That’s totally normal. Children listen and absorb before they have spoken words.
  6. Consider Your Child’s Development
    It’s important to consider your child’s age. Young learners don’t have the ability to concentrate for long periods of time. This is a general guide for concentration time & age.

What Is The Difference Between Print Awareness and Book Awareness?

The difference is print awareness focuses on the contents of the book, the words, the pictures, and the stories. Book awareness focuses on book making.

What Does Print Awareness Look Like In The Classroom?

In the classroom, print awareness can take the form of labels. I had everything from the air conditioning to the ceiling labeled. Everything had names, even the chairs, desks, and cubbies. I had the entire school covered in labels. Ha!

As we passed labeled items, I would spell the words out loud – even if it was a letter we hadn’t covered yet. When we walked to the bathroom, I would spell bathroom or hallway. It was mostly just input at first. Sometimes kids would memorize the words because we had gone over them so often. However, slowly but surely, I would see their little light bulbs turn on and the letters had meaning.

Reading books is so important. We often read books more than once a day. Reading was a reward for good behavior. One child was able to pick out their favorite book in the morning and another in the afternoon.

Once my students were a bit older, I bought a storybook with many different stories. If we had a really good day, I would read one of the stories in the book.

My Experience

I want to highlight this, not to brag, but because I want to illuminate the possibilities. I taught my students at least 150 sight words and to write about 3-4 paragraphs before they went to first grade. I wanted my students to enter school as confident readers so I created lesson plans that were rich in literacy.

I think it is one of my greatest achievements. I write this not because of how many words they were able to read but because they fully understood the concept of reading, and I think we can do that here in America, too.

By the time students left my class they were confident speakers and understood written language. Many, many of my students went on to win national speaking contests and writing contests in English. If you want your students/children to understand literacy well, make it part of everything you do.

How Do You Assess Print Awareness?

These are some of the questions I used when assessing print awareness in the classroom:

  1. Is the student holding the book correctly?
  2. Does the student understand how to turn pages of the book?
  3. Does the student understand that the book tells a story?
  4. Is the student able to point to the words on the page?
  5. Is the student aware of print?
  6. Even if they read the word incorrectly, did the student understand that one word on the page equals to one word in the book?
  7. Can the student match one line of text with their reading finger?
  8. Is the student able to read letters? We will cover this part of print awareness in another post but letter recognition is part of print awareness skills.

If the child understands the basic functions of reading books, and how books work, they are on the right track. If they are confused or they get lost, they need active intervention, examples include one-on-one time together reading.

Many children will develop these skills as you read together. Some children may take time. Don’t panic if they need time. Just keep an eye on the student and continue to practice with them.

I understand that everything in schools comes back to assessments. I hate this idea more than I can articulate with words. However, I understand the our necessity to track progress in children.

Conclusion: Print Awareness for Pre Reading

Teaching print awareness with your child is an essential step for the pre reader. As you begin to play games and activities together, you will watch your child develop print awareness. The concepts of print take time to develop. Printed words are tricky at first and the English language is filled with exceptions.

As we learn more about how to teach children to read, we learn more about how to create successful readers. Most children and young learners enjoy playing games and completing activities. They enjoy active intervention and need a strong foundation before they can become confident readers.

Once I understood the building blocks of reading I was able to teach children how to read. Print awareness skills teach the concepts of print. These skills kids will need as long as they read printed words.

Post Script:

The most important part of teaching your child to read is to keep learning fun. Do not push them before they are ready because reading will become tedious and it could potentially hurt their progress. Our goal is always to help raise children who love reading and who will possess a lifelong love of learning.

It’s important to remember that these are general guidelines and that every child is unique. Some children may be able to focus for longer periods than others at the same age, and attention span can also vary depending on the context and task. Additionally, attention span tends to improve gradually over time with practice and development, so children may be able to focus for longer periods as they get older.

Children should never be penalized for wanting to stop or if they do not have the motivation to play.

And, you’re interested in my coaching program, check out this page! Happy Reading!


I am an educator with almost 15 years of experience teaching in Japan, Hawaii, and in Los Angeles. My goal is to change education and the way we view literacy instruction in America.

8 thoughts on “25+ Engaging Print Awareness Games for Pre-Reading Success

  • Sheila
    17 September 2023 at 08:32

    This is so critical to future success with understanding (and enjoying) reading. Thanks for bringing awareness to it!

  • Stephanie
    17 September 2023 at 09:25

    Very well put! And I am a strong believer that in some cases and aspects of life, they need to be couraged rather than forced. You can force a kid to read a book, but if he’s not enjoying it and not in the mood to read, he’s not going to retain it, and will only grow to loathe reading. The same goes for games and other educational activities. To get the most out of, it’s important to make it fun and engaging.

  • Olga
    17 September 2023 at 10:32

    Thank you for this detailed article. My oldest son started kindergarten, and he is curious about reading books. I wanted to help him, but I didn’t know what to do. I`ll try your tips and I hope it will help our journey.

  • Tracy McHugh
    17 September 2023 at 13:44

    So important to instill reading when kids are young. The printables are great resources!

  • Sanober
    17 September 2023 at 17:11

    I wasn’t aware of the concept of print awareness, but I was trying something very similar with my toddler. This was very helpful. Looking forward to learning more.

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