Everyday Play with Signs

by Sukie Jackson

“No Caterpillars”-all about signs

No left turn sign

“no caterpillars”

After having studied insects this fall, it makes perfect sense that five-year-old Dorothy would “read” the above sign as “No Caterpillars.”  As a part of our class’s transportation theme we have been looking at and talking about all different kinds of road signs. They provide wonderful literacy opportunities related to letter recognition, reading and writing. Think about “H” for hospital, no “U” Turn, and a “P” for parking. Children will quickly learn and recognize the letter “X” when they begin looking for exit signs.

Children love guessing the meaning of signs with pictures including bicycles, children playing, deer crossing and even falling rocks.  Discussing why they might be needed, and where they might be seen helps children begin to understand the function and importance of signs and to read meaning into symbols, pictures and letters.

Signs come in many different colors, shapes and sizes. Children may notice that orange signs relate to construction work. Blue ones help people find services and brown signs are common in national parks and areas that offer outdoor activities. Yield signs are triangular. What shape is a stop sign?

Once children get started reading signs, you and they may want to create some at home too.  A child-friendly sign holder can be made by hot gluing or duct taping a clothespin onto a block. When asked if she would make a sign for the snack table, Skylar had the idea of tracing and coloring an apple. Homemade signs with a combination of words and pictures honoring your child’s artwork would make great centerpieces for the dinner table.

Making signs

Apple Chips sign by Skylar

I can’t look at a No Left Turn sign now without thinking of Dorothy’s “no caterpillars.” I’ve been thinking that maybe our school backyard needs a “Caterpillar Crossing” sign.


Special thanks to teacher Karen Brown who got many of us Ruth Washburn teachers started reading signs with children.