Easy Literacy Based Crafts for Toddlers

Any craft can be literacy based, all you need to do is read a related book first, and introduce new vocabulary/ concepts. Pairing books with crafts helps make concepts and vocabulary salient for little ones.

Last week Rylin casually informed me that she’s not a baby.  She very earnestly said, “Mommy, I not a baby.” as she furrowed her brow.  It was like daggers to the heart, but she was right.  The quads aren’t really babies anymore.  They are transforming into children with opinions, thoughts, and voracious appetites for learning.  They never cease to amaze me with bits of knowledge they absorb.  I want to nurture this love of learning, and literacy in particular so I’ve begun literacy based crafts.  It sounds fancy, but I promise it’s simple.

Part of our day is devoted to semi structured learning activities such as flash cards, songs, and story time.  A few times a week we do a craft, most typically one I remember doing from my days in the classroom and sometimes a Pinterest find.  Crafts in themselves are fantastic for toddlers; they can teach direction following, concepts (e.g. shapes, colors, counting, alphabet recognition), develop fine motor skills, and inspire creativity.    However, children learn and recall new concepts best when associations are presented to them.  Therefore, I’m now pairing our craft activities with literature (aka toddler appropriate board books).  When I have a craft project I’d like to do, I peruse our library to find a book that coordinates with it (or a favorite book inspires a craft).  I read the book to the quads as I present new vocabulary and concepts related to the book.  As I read, I also ask many “wh” questions (e.g. who, what, when, where).  Of course, these questions are all asked with toddlers in mind.  For instance, I may say, “what animal is this?”  I also try to help the quads draw connections between the book and their world by pointing out things in their environment or that they’ve seen other places.  Following the story, we do the craft, which I hang in the quads new “art gallery” (aka a wall in their playroom).  As days and weeks pass, I continue to ask the quads about their art and the corresponding story.  When I re-read the story, I bring up their art and they proudly tell me about it.

Does it still seem complicated?  I assure you, it’s not!  Here are two recent crafts:

1. Coffee Filter Butterflies

I remembered doing this craft while working in a daycare and found two books from our shelf related to butterflies.  We happened to have The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Caterpillar Spring, Butterfly Summer so I chose those for our literature. Any book related to caterpillars or insects would suffice.

Vocabulary Introduced: Butterfly, Caterpillar, Cocoon

“Wh” Questions: What did the caterpillar eat? What did the caterpillar turn into? Where did the caterpillar sleep?

Butterfly Summer and The Very Hungry Caterpillar were both in our library so I pulled them for this activity.

First, the quads scribbled on their coffee filters with maker.  I used Sharpie to write their names.

First, the quads scribbled on their coffee filters with maker. I used Sharpie to write their names.

I sprayed the coffee filters with water to make the marker run, creating a watercolor effect.  Then I pinched the middles together and wrapped them with pipe cleaners to create our butterflies.

I sprayed the coffee filters with water to make the marker run, creating a watercolor effect. After the filters were dry, I pinched the middles together and wrapped them with pipe cleaners to create our butterflies.

Simple toddler craft: coffee filter butterflies.  Scribble on coffee filters with washable marker, spray with water, allow filter to dry then pinch together with a pipe cleaner.

I love how every time I ask the quads what a butterfly used to be they say, “caterpillar”.

2. Muddy Car Tracks

One of the quad’s favorite books is Little Blue Truck.  Again, it reminded me of working in day care and painting with car wheels.  I read the book as well as another related to cars and spent time discussing mud.  It was fitting that it was a rainy day so we peered out the window and watched the raindrops create mud in the yard.  Afterwards, I explained that my plate was covered in mud (brown tempera paint), and our toy cars got stuck.  The quads then had a great time dislodging the cars and creating muddy tracks on construction paper.  It’s been at least three weeks since we did this project, and the quads still talk about their muddy tracks, and tires getting stuck.

Vocabulary introduced: mud, stuck, tracks, tires

“Wh” Questions: What does blue truck say?  Who helped push the trucks? Where were the trucks stuck?

The Little Blue Truck was ideal for introducing the concept of mud.  However, any book related to vehicles would work for this project, and the paint could be any color to create tracks.

For this project we used: construction paper, tape, brown tempera paint, and Little People cars.

Toddler craft: roll cars through paint to create tracks.  Brown paint looks like mud.

I taped the edges of the paper down to keep it in place as they rolled cars.

Chikldren's art gallery wall using picture frames.

This is our new art gallery wall in the playroom. I used the frames from our old study, and found another to expand it. The quads LOVE seeing their materpieces and telling about them. It probably doesn’t hurt that I constantly ask them to talk about their art.

Anytime we do a craft, I try to keep it simple using basic supplies we already have, most of which I collected from the Dollar Tree.  There’s no need to make things complex or expensive for toddlers.

What is your favorite toddler craft and/ or book?  Any we should try?






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8 thoughts on “Easy Literacy Based Crafts for Toddlers

  1. Saving toilet paper rolls for making binoculars. Staple two together , hole punch the outsides of each and tie on yarn to make a hanger. They can paint , sticker, color or decorate however you want. Books to go with them are I Spy books, jungle books, yard books. in my teaching days we made animal footprints and had the kids follow them all over the school to places we had animals hiding. Inside fun on bad weather days and just as much fun outside. Looking through the binoculars clearly doesn’t magnify a thing , but helps them to focus on the items they are looking for. Lots of fun.


    • I’ve been saving tp tubes just for that! I like the animal paw print ideas with it, especially for a rainy day! We may need to go on a bear hunt soon.


  2. Wednesday morning we went to story time at the library and the theme was birds. They read a few bird books and sang bird songs and then at the end gave out little paper cut out birds. When we got home, I traced and cut out a few more birds, and then had the kids color on them. Then I taped them onto some string and hung them from the overhead light in the play room! Now we have a bird mobile, the kids like to point at it and say the birds are “high up.” And I ask what color birds they see, etc.

    Surprisingly I don’t do a lot of art with the kids because I hate cleaning it up!! I say surprisingly because I am an artist / art therapist and I love making art, but I hate hate cleaning! I really like your coffee filter butterfly idea, we have those supplies so I may try that on our next rainy afternoon. We have lots of fun places to hang art in the play room so maybe we need to fill it up 🙂


    • Ooh! I love the mobile idea! We have a fan in the play room, and could hang a mobile below it.
      I love art, but I’m not a fan of clean up either, I try to do low mess as much as possible. The butterflies weren’t messy so that’s a good one for you 🙂


  3. Practical learning at its best! Lately my LO loves anything that challenges his fine motor skills (loves taking off the cap of the glue stick, twisting it up and down, and closing it again…or cutting things up and trying to glue them down). Another favourite is trying to spell out letters or numbers with paint. My LO recently made an aquarium out of paper plates with pictures of fish that he glued down inside. There was colouring, gluing, and glitter – it was a hit!
    We often try to do crafts to reinforce the new books that he’s reading. Need to get a craft wall like yours to show it all off now!


    • Harper could be good friends with your LO. He is obsessed with opening and closing things. Sometimes I have to take containers from him so he’ll do something new. I love the paper plate aquarium idea! Several media are always fun. I would like to start doing more letter/ number crafts because the quads are interested in both…must capitalize on it now =) Oh yes, you should display LO’s artwork. He’ll be so proud. The problem comes when you get too much and something’s gotta go…


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