I have a bedtime routine, as I'm sure you do with your children. We have a bath, we put on pajamas, we brush teeth, we choose some books to read together, and snuggle for a little while. During the snuggle time, I have found that the children often wanted me to rub their back or gently scratch their backs or tummies. This is a great way to bond with you child as well as to relax them before they fall asleep.
What I've also found is that this is a fantastic way to build literacy skills. It began as a soothing game where I would gently "draw" each letter of the alphabet on their back with my finger as I quietly sang the alphabet song to them. Then, I began drawing one letter at a time (out of order) to see if they could guess which letter I had drawn. In this way you not only practice letter recognition, but also expose them to the correct form in which to write the letter.
The child is feeling the letter formed from the paper's perspective.
Sometimes I will even say quietly to myself "up, down, up, down" as I trace for an "M", or ""over, up, and around" for an "e" so it reinforces the correct way to write the letter at the same time. The kids just think I'm whispering to myself. :)
For children that need a little bit more of challenge, you can write a letter and have them tell you the sound the letter makes (phonemic awareness). Or, you can spell out three or four letter words, or the child's name. I have also drawn shapes ("guess the shape" game) and numbers. For younger children, write the numbers on their back with your fingertip as you count in order up to 20, or 100. For older children, silently trace your finger to form the numbers on their back and have them guess the number you wrote.
Depending on the night and the child, our games may last only a few minutes. Other times they take longer as we move from one game to another. Sometimes, it is just plain tickles, back scratches, or cuddles.
That's the best part about this- it is mostly about the love.