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Exploring environmental print in the preschool classroom

Providing a print rich environment gives children an opportunity to explore and interact with various types of print in a variety of ways. As defined by Amanda Rock on About.com:

In a print-rich preschool environment, preschoolers are exposed to a host of different materials geared at reading and writing. Not only are the materials readily available for little ones to access as they wish, but their use are encouraged on an organic level — their utilization comes naturally, through lessons and play.

When preparing activities or classroom displays, think about print that is meaningful to the children in your class.  One way to do this is with the use of environmental print.

What is environmental print?

Environmental print is everywhere – it is the print of everyday life: signs and logos, comics and catalogs, newspaper and road signs.  There are a variety of fun and meaningful ways to bring environmental print into your lessons and classroom .. here are a few ideas!

Food containers, menus and magazines

You can provide clean, empty food containers as props in the dramatic play area.  Better yet, have the families bring in food containers from food and products they use at home.  Children will be able to recognize and talk about the food and other items they use at home.



This is also a great way to represent the cultural diversity of your classroom!


Also bring in magazines, cookbooks and menus as items that children can use in play.  As they pretend they are following a recipe or ordering from a menu, they are “reading” the items in the context of their own experiences.

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Road signs

Pictures of street and road signs are another option for bringing environmental print into your classroom.  Encourage families to talk about what different road signs mean when they are driving around town.

You can include road signs in your block center .. either printing your own signs or buying pre-made wooden or plastic ones.


Or print some larger road signs to display on bulletin boards, walls or backs of cabinets.


Cereal box puzzles

Another simple way for children to play with environmental print is to make some cereal box puzzles. Ask each child to bring in the empty box from a favorite cereal.  Teachers can then cut off the front, and then cut the cover into pieces like a puzzle.  For younger preschoolers, cut it into 2-3 large pieces – add challenge for older preschoolers by cutting into 4-6 pieces.


Put each box into a ziploc bag (to keep each cereal puzzle together).  Children can then try to put together the cereal box puzzle. Not only will the picture on the box give them clues to putting the puzzle together, but so will the PRINT.  Ask them to read it to you when complete!


Vanessa Levin (Pre-K Pages) also has a lot of information and ideas for using ENVIRONMENTAL PRINT in her classroom, including using empty cereal box covers or lunch packaging to make a classroom book – check it out:  Environmental Print | Pre-K Pages

How do you currently incorporate environmental print into your preschool classroom?

Consider the diversity of your students, neighborhood landmarks and culture of the community. Can you brainstorm other ideas of print that would be meaningful to the children in your classroom?  How could you incorporate this type of print into a future activity?



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