Prep: 20 Minutes / Activity Time: 15 Minutes

Researchers have suggested that family members can contribute significantly to a young child’s language and literacy development by calling attention to pictures and the printed word during everyday activities. This activity will not only offer many opportunities for conversations with your baby, but it also will show him at the earliest age that pictures and printed words convey messages that are personal and meaningful.

  • 2-3 empty cereal, cracker or shoe boxes
  • colored paper that can be used to cover each box, such as left-over wrapping paper
  • a pen, marker or crayon
  • nontoxic glue or double-sided tape
  • scissors
  • 2-3 photos of family members or pictures of objects that interest baby


Step 1: Begin by gathering your supplies. Cut a sheet of paper large enough to cover or “wrap” each empty box. You can also use a sheet of construction paper and cover just the front of the box. Cover or “wrap” the empty boxes with the paper, securing the sides with tape or glue.

Step 2: Next, glue or tape one photo onto each covered box. Print the name of the family member, friend or pet below the photo. Be sure to use large letters.


Step 1: Locate an open space that is away from furniture corners. Spread out a blanket or quilt on the floor. Position your baby on his tummy on top of the blanket.

Step 2: Place one of the assembled boxes on the blanket within view of your baby. If your baby is beginning to push from his chest or arms and lift his head, you might stand the box in front of him.

Step 3: Position yourself next to your baby. Bring your baby’s attention to the photo on the box. Babies love looking at photos of family and pets. Talk to your baby by naming the person or pet and describing what he sees. For example, you might say:

Who do you see? There’s Grandpa! He’s blowing out the candles on his birthday cake. Grandpa loves you soooo much! Look, this says Grandpa.

Step 4: Allow your baby a few moments to explore the photo on the box. After he loses focus, switch to one of the other boxes with another photo and talk about what baby sees.

Step 5: As your baby grows and is able to turn his head and eye gaze, try placing two boxes in front of your baby. Be sure to talk to your baby by naming and describing the photos in detail. By exposing your baby to the printed word that labels the photo, he is starting to learn that letters, or print, carry a communication meaning.