Everyday ways with literacy and numeracy

Helping your child to develop skills in literacy and numeracy can be as much fun for you as it is for your child. And it’s never too early to begin.

A child’s everyday routine offers a great many opportunities to:

  • learn and practise new words
  • count how many
  • compare prices
  • decide how big
  • attempt to problem solve
  • recognise what colour
  • predict what might happen next
  • listen to sounds
  • describe a scene
  • play creatively
  • learn by copying an adult.

Opportunities to practise skills in literacy and numeracy help to enhance a child’s knowledge and comprehension.

In the car

Toddlers and preschoolers:

  • Use describing words for speed and direction, fast, slow, rapid, turning, slowing down. Use your voice to reflect speed, and try new words such as accelerating and reversing.
  • Count the number of red cars, green cars, and yellow cars.
  • Count trucks and buses.
  • Look for street signs that begin with a particular letter.
  • Listen to stories on CDs.
  • Ask children to spot familiar landmarks and tell you something about them.
  • Sing aloud in the car, encourage hand movements, clap, and beat time.
  • Recognise symbols, traffic signs, and numbers on number plates.
  • Choose an advertising sign that has a particular word in it. Ask your child if they can see letters that make up that word.

Early primary:

  • Challenge your child to spell their name by spotting a number plate or street sign that has the first letter, then the second and so on, until they have all the letters required for their name.
  • Keep familiar picture books for long travel and ask children to read or tell you about the story.
  • Spot something beginning with a letter of the alphabet. After five successful spots, change the letter.
  • Count bus stops, train stations, traffic lights.
  • While stopped in heavy traffic or at big intersections, ask your child to spot a sign and then make as many words as they can from the letters used on the sign.
  • Catch public transport so that you can discuss timetables and routes, and estimate times to reach your destination.

In the supermarket

Toddlers and preschoolers:

  • Use size words such as: many, few, bigger, less, heavier.
  • Use describing words such as ripe, tinned, packet, frozen, or words such as delicious, fresh, healthy, junk, filling, sweet, sour, or spicy.
  • Write down the items needed and encourage your child to copy the letters from your list to their list.
  • Count how many bottles, tins, and packets in the trolley.
  • Count items by colour.
  • Count pieces of fruit and total how many in the bag.
  • Encourage children to help you carefully place items on the check out counter and name each item as they do so.
  • Ask your child to tell you which isle number you are currently in.
  • Talk about volume and which containers hold more.

Early primary:

  • Involve your child in making a list, or in writing the list for you.
  • Let your child carry the list as you shop and read out as many product names as possible, ignoring pronunciation.
  • Hand items to children before they are put in the trolley, and ask them to check the use by date.
  • Ask your child to help you read the labels, for instance low-fat, polyunsaturated, high fibre, and take these opportunities to explain about healthy eating and nutrition information.
  • Count fruit and match fruit to price signs.
  • Involve your child in unpacking groceries and checking off items on the docket.
  • Ask your child how many bananas they think you might need if everyone in the family ate one banana a day for a week.

Using technology

Toddlers and preschoolers:

  • Sit with your child as they learn how to switch a computer on and off, use the mouse, look at colours on the screen, and recognise letters and numbers that you key in.
  • Encourage toddlers to key in numbers and letters, particularly those that spell their name.
  • Key in a letter (for instance M) and ask how many words they can think of that start with the sound Mmm. As children guess, key these words in and ask what other letters might make up that word.Turn the volume down on an age appropriate television program and ask your child to describe what they think the characters are doing, or what the story is about.
  • Upload family photos and ask toddlers to recognise and tell you who is who.

Early primary:

  • Encourage your child to keep in touch with extended family and friends via email.
  • Guide them as they research the Internet, make e-cards, play age-appropriate games.
  • Involve your children in compiling a family Internet policy so that they begin to understand the importance of cyber safety.
  • Include children in compiling a family television and computer usage roster. Encourage them to draw up columns and insert names, times, how long each child can use the computer or length of television viewing time in any one sitting.
  • Count how many advertisements appear over the duration of a program.
  • Look at the viewing guide together and talk about how times and channels listed in the guide fit together with times on clocks and buttons on the remote control.
  • Ask your child for a quick review and their opinion of a television program they have just watched. For example, what happened in the beginning, the middle, the end; how many animals appeared; when and where was the story set; how do they think the main character would spell his name.
  • Count how many seconds an advertisement takes. Compare the length of different ads. Guess how much it costs for 30 seconds of advertising, and based on that estimate, work out how much it would cost for 1 hr, 45 mins or 2 hrs of advertising.

Around the home

Bath time

  • Experiment with water measurement using different sized plastic containers.
  • Wash half or quarter of the body or one of two legs, or arms, or ears, or alternate toes.
  • Count off fingers and toes as you dry between them.
  • Move water using hands or feet and describing words: splash, wave, flow, gurgle, bubble, drops.
  • Read labels on shampoo bottles and talk about directions for use.
  • Provide a bottle of bubble liquid and count each bubble either before, or as it bursts.
  • Guess which letter by drawing soapy letters on your child’s back.
  • Talk about water temperature: hot/cold/warm/warmer. Use this time to explain about taps, water levels and safety.
  • Make up silly rhymes about swimming, floating, washing and drying.

Meal time

  • Read recipes together: quantity, volume, adding ingredients in order.
  • Measure quantities: teaspoon, tablespoon, cup or weight measured on kitchen scales.
  • Encourage your child to read out the ingredients while you mix or vice versa.
  • Set the table, counting out knives, forks, spoons, and plates.
  • Teach an older child how to use a kitchen timer/microwave etc.
  • Wash, dry and put dishes away sorting by size, type, colour, and shape.
  • Experiment with drawing up a menu, recipe cards, orders for kitchen take-away.
  • Talk over the dinner table.


  • Count clothes in the laundry basket. Count socks, buttons on clothing, steps to the post box, or the total number of chairs in your home.
  • Encourage your child to keep their own calendar.
  • Enjoy the local library.
  • Play guessing games, rhyming games, ball games, board games, and charades.
  • Go on nature walks, sound walks, sight walks, or one colour walks.
  • Cut letters from magazines to make words, or words to make sentences, or pictures that communicate a sound or scent.
  • Provide props and materials for pretend play.
  • Have fun with a dictionary or thesaurus. Read out a word, try to guess what it might mean.
  • Read quietly or read aloud—individually, together, as a family, and often.

Spend time with your children, sharing, listening, storytelling, and encouraging them to communicate. Have fun days where you choose an activity and communicate just in smells, or sounds or feelings. Read to your children constantly and look for ways to make every learning opportunity a teachable moment.

Source: The Australian Scholarships Group