The Importance of Environmental Print

Updated: Feb 21, 2020

While grocery shopping the other day, I observed a mother and young child shopping. Mom had her grocery list and her son had his own. You might be wondering, “What’s so special about that?” What I didn’t mention is he was about three or four-years-old and his list was one that he clearly “wrote” on his own. His “words” were a few letters, some scribbles, and some pictures. He crossed off items on his list as mom crossed off items on her list. They talked about what she was picking up and putting in the cart as they went through the store. It was such a sweet interaction and one where the benefits for each were numerous. The ongoing conversation, while subtle, helped to instill the connection between spoken words and printed material, the very basis for learning to read. It also demonstrated mutual respect and love between a mother and her child.

This interaction got me thinking about the importance of Environmental Print or familiar print that surrounds children in their everyday lives such as traffic signs, restaurant signs, food containers, charts, labels, logos, and more. Environmental print is everywhere! For example, children might recognize the Target bullseye, McDonald’s arches or even a stop sign. The mother I observed at the grocery store was encouraging her son to be curious about the world around him through writing and environmental print. Their discussion included specific names of cereals they were buying, what snacks to choose and more.

There are so many fun ways to encourage young children to be aware of Environmental Print and the world around them. Here are a few quick and easy suggestions:

  • While dining out encourage children to “read” the menu and engage in conversation when ordering. Some children’s menus even have photos of the food items as well as the printed name.

  • In the car, engage children in conversation about passing signs and billboards spotted along the way. For example, you might point out speed limit signs, exit signs, road signs, and various billboards advertising different products.

  • At the grocery store, encourage your beginning readers and writers to create their own grocery list or engage in a conversation about the various packages. Give children a box of their favorite food and play an I Spy game as you go through the store. You might point out various letters, words, or logos found on each package.

  • Encourage young children to assist in the kitchen. Pointing out the steps found on a package of brownies or reading along on a recipe teaches children the relationship between the text and the steps needed to complete the task. Some prepackaged brownies, cookies or other tasty treats, include both illustrations and the printed words required to complete each step.

  • Create an Environmental Print Collage using catalogs, mailings, food packages or any other print rich material. Encourage children to cut out recognizable words, logos, symbols, etc… as they create a one of kind collage. Display the collage where they can read it and add to it as they recognize more environmental print.

What other ways can you share environmental print with the young readers and writers in your life? Download this reference page with even more suggestions. Young children are so curious about the world around them! By engaging in meaningful conversations with your child, you help foster a love of learning and ignite the flames for a love of reading and writing, too!

Happy Reading,


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