Today's first graders are expected be prepared to learn more than any previous generation in history. To achieve these lofty expectations, they must possess two fundamental skills: literacy and numeracy.

Here are fun literacy and numeracy activities child care providers can use to cultivate essential learning skills:


To develop literacy skills, first graders must be able to identify word types and patterns.

Activity # 1: Highlight by Word Type: Nouns, Pronouns, Verbs, and Adjective*

Materials: Newspaper or magazine and 3-4 colors of highlighter pens.

Process: This process often works best when working on one word type at a time. Begin by defining and identifying the purpose and function of a noun, pronoun, verb, and/or adjective (starting with nouns is preferable). You can read a paragraph from a magazine and highlight the word type you're discussing throughout the paragraph with one colored highlighter. Once the child understands the concept, you can turn them loose on anther paragraph or paragraphs. Even if the child can't read entire sentences or even read of the words in the text they should begin to see a pattern emerge on the page. As they learn new word types, have them designate a particular highlighter color for each type of word. Continue this process until they can consistently and correctly differentiate these various word types.

*Advanced first-graders can also work on learning adverbs using this methodology.

Activity # 2: Create a Silly Story

Materials: Newspaper or magazine, scissors, glue, and pen.

Process: Building on the skills learned in the previous activity, select a portion of text from a newspaper or magazine. Next, glue this section of text on a sheet of paper. Use your scissors to cut out the nouns, adjectives, and verbs from the text. Once these words have been removed, have your first grader add a new noun, adjective, or verb to the text. To increase the dramatic aspect of this activity, read each sentence independently to your first grader. After all of the words have been filled with new words, read the passage back to your first grader.*

*You can extend this activity by having your child draw their silly story on blank sheet of printer paper.


Similar to literacy, numeracy skills start with understanding numerical relationships and patterns.

Activity # 1: Counting in Breakfast Bunches

Materials: Two bowls and a few ounces of your child's favorite breakfast cereal.

Process: Begin by pouring a few ounces of your child's favorite breakfast cereal into one of the two bowls. Next, explain to them that numbers can be counted in bunches (2s, 3s, 4s, etc.). Next assign the first grader the task of moving a particular number of cereal pieces in particular bunches. For instance, move 10 cereal pieces in bunches of 2s. Progress through advancing bunches of cereal pieces to 10. Eventually, you can have the first grader work on subtracting in bunches as well.

Activity # 2: Sidewalk Pizza Cutting

Materials: a sidewalk (or other open concrete/asphalt space) and chalk.

Process: Now that your first grader can count in bunches, they should be ready to tackle fractions.  Begin by drawing a big circle on the sidewalk. Next, have your child imagine that the circle is a pizza. Explain to them that a whole pizza can be cut evenly into many portions and that these portions are called fractions. Demonstrate how a pizza cut in half by one line has 2 pieces, thus each side is "1 half of 2 or 1/2". It's critical to write this number next to the circle. Have your child draw their own circle and instruct them to "slice" the piece into equal parts using fractional numbers (1/2, 1/4, 1/6, 1/8, etc.) *

*Advanced learners can also be introduced to the idea of even and odds numbers using this activity.