Playful Learning Spaces – Create a Literacy Table

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This post is the third in our new bi-weekly series, Exploring Reggio, which we are presenting together with The Imagination Tree, An Everyday Story, Twodaloo and Learn With Play at Home. You can read our introductory post here, which explains our aims for the series. This week we are focusing on purposeful literacy.Playful learning space for early literacy

This is a simple literacy table that we have set up in our living room. I rotate the items on the table from time to time, which helps to keep R interested. I try to keep things simple and uncluttered but at the same time bright and playful, hopefully encouraging him to engage with the materials. R is five years old, so my aim in having this available to him is not to have him form perfect letters as he writes, or to even write actual words (although he does do that regularly). The intention here  is simply to encourage exploration of  letters and their forms. Sometimes he will write notes and letters to loved ones, sometimes he will stamp letters randomly across a page and other times he will draw pictures.

A simple writing space for kids

Below I have listed the materials that I currently have out for him and some of the ways that he has responded to them.

These scrabble inspired letter tiles are in a wooden bowl, and I arrange some of them to form a word which I change regularly. The word might be something we have been learning about, something we have discovered on one of our walks, or something R has asked me about recently. When he is writing a note or making a card, he will sometimes asks me how to spell a certain word. I will use these letter tiles to show him the word and then he will write it out himself using the tiles as a guide.

Setting up a literacy table for kids

I like to offer some open ended manipulatives on our literacy table. These are from our completely wonderful Spielgaben set.  You can read more about these wonderfully educational toys in my playfully learning with Spielgaben post. I have selected some shapes that could be formed into letters. R loves making letters from anything he sees – straws, chenille sticks etc and so these manipulatives are perfect for his learning style.

Loose parts to encourage literacy

I love watching R forming words with these pieces. There is so much creativity and problem solving happening, and they are brilliant for fine motor skills as well. One of my Exploring Reggio co-hosts, Deborah from Learn With Play at Home is exploring the Spielgaben set in a similar way in her Enticing Literacy post.

encouraging literacy with loose parts

Our literacy table also includes a small wooden box with a set of alphabet rubber stamps. R loves these. They are quite small so just like the Spielgaben set, they are wonderful for fine motor skills.

How to set up a literacy table

On this occasion he stamped random letters in a row across the top of the page and then declared them to be a sign for a store that sells clay. He followed this up by drawing a picture of the store. I love that he has made the connection between letters having meaning and conveying a message. I also love that using the stamps encouraged him to then put pen to paper with his drawing.

Using stamps to promote literacy

I recently purchased some alphabet stencils for our literacy table.

Literacy table ideas

R was very curious about them the first time I put them out and proceeded to trace the entire alphabet.

Encouraging writing with a literacy table

These foam alphabet stickers are a great way to add some playful learning to a literacy table. They are so tactile and the bright colours make them wonderfully inviting.

Encouraging literacy for kids

R used these letters to make a card for a friend. I arranged some of the scrabble letter tiles to form the word “dear” and R used that as a guide to write “Dear Ben” using the alphabet stickers. Again he put pen to paper as he wrote “love from R” and then drew a picture of his friend. It was such a sweet and thoughtful card.

Early writing prompts for preschoolers

Creating a simple space like this has really encouraged R to write. He has always been interested in drawing but his confidence in writing words beyond his own name has really grown since he has had this literacy table.

How do you encourage a literacy rich environment in your home?

Ideas for encouraging writing

Don’t forget to visit my wonderful co-hosts in our Exploring Reggio series to see how they approach purposeful literacy in their homes.

The Imagination Tree – Library Role Play Area
An Everyday Story – A Literacy Rich Environment
Twodaloo – Meaningful Literacy
Learn with Play at Home – Enticing Literacy

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  1. Kat

    This is lovely Ness. We have a literacy box with similar items in but unfortunately not the space to have a designated table. I love the way you have yours set up, very inspiring.

  2. Oh, that vintage alphabet stamp set is so lovely. I do have some very similar that are new, modern ones but that old wooden box completely adds to the charm! I want. haha. Oh, and the wooden scrabble tiles! Awesome. I want to dive right in!

  3. Love this Ness! Thanks for sharing – Miss Daisy is loving exploring letters and letter formation at the moment so these will be handy ideas! :)

  4. Oh my goodness, we have a vintage stamp set, too! I scored it at a thrift store but haven’t brought it out for the twins yet as it is a little delicate, but it’s going to be such a great tool one of these days. This is a gorgeous set up- what child wouldn’t be tempted by these inviting materials? Great job!

  5. I love this and can’t wait to set up something similar for my five year old. Do you have any ideas for keeping it safe from little sister’s hands? (We live in a 2 bedroom apt, and they share a room so there isn’t a “shut the door” option. Homeschooling is fun, but we have to pick up and put materials away when naptime is over.)

  6. Very nicely done.

  7. I really really want the spielgaben pieces for making letters for my dayhome. But over $400 is way to pricey for me for a complete set. I can’t seem to find out anywhere if I can just buy that one set. Any ideas

    • Jim

      Hi Laura.
      Thank you for your interest in Spielgaben and you can send us an email at and we will check to see if we can sell partial set. Thank you for your interest, Laura.

  8. This is delicious! What a lovely way to explore the wonder of words. Your gorgeous son is very fortunate!

  9. This is brilliant! My 4&1/2 year old is all about letters and spelling these days, so this looks like a perfect set up for him. We even have that same table set. Thanks for the ideas!

  10. Yanic

    We are getting our Speilbagen set this December, we cannot wait. What a wonderful space. I’m in the process of creating a learning space for my daughter at home (starting preschool in January) and this has given me so many amazing ideas!

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  13. Gwendolyn

    Wow… these are ideas are really helpful! Thanks! My young cousins (of different ages) often come over to my house and homeschool blogs have really helped me keep them occupied (in an educational way) :)

  14. This is perfect! This is exactly what I needed to find today. I am in the final steps of finishing my closet make-over. We are turning it into a writing center for my two boys. I taught for 12 years and it is amazing how I was drawing a blank. I thought I was all done and then I saw your foam letters! That was the missing piece! Thank you!

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