Learning the alphabet comes in many forms. Our Alphabet For Starters series is all about playing with letters in a creative environment and this letter activity was a huge hit! There are lots of ways of changing it around for different levels too so don’t miss my notes after the tutorial if you want to do this with children who aren’t just starting out with letters. This may seem like a simple letter activity and it is but it’s sneaky too. Little fingers have to peel the apples off giving their fine motor skills some serious work.
- Gather your materials. This picture is incomplete because I shifted my plan part way through and so glad I did, the final result was a blast! You will need some craft paper or paper bag, brown paint, paint brush, marker, scissors, contact paper, and green, yellow and red paper . A basket is not a must but if you have one grab it.
- Start by cutting a truck from craft paper or a paper bag. I taped it down because my daughter is exuberant with paint ( you’ll see) and this helps keep it all in one place.
- Paint with a brush…
- Or your hands. You really don’t need to have your child(ren) help make the tree but when kids help make the activity there is a deeper connection to the learning.
- While that is drying and you are done washing the gallons of paint off your toddler make some apples from red and yellow paper.
- Add letters.
- Once it’s dry tape the trunk to the wall . Add tape to the back of green paper and add it to the tree.
- Cover the top of the tree with contact paper sticky side OUT.
- Add the apples.
- Make sure that you are leaving a corner of the apple off to peel off.
- Basket in hand and ready to pick her apples!
- She really had a great time and got excited to announce which apples she was picking. As always she chose the first letter of her name first followed by the mine, her brother’s and her dad’s. It’s exciting to see that she connects letters to people meanings outside of the immediate activity. As soon as we were done she bolted from the playroom full basket in hand to show her dad all her letter apples. I would have taken a shot of his but he was sorting laundry and well my literal dirty laundry has no place on the internet .
How to take it to the next step :
- Have a chart of lowercase letters and have your child peel off the uppercase apples to match the lowercase letters.
- Use sight words instead of letters. Call out the sight word and have your child find , peel and pop them in the basket.
“A” Was Once An Apple Pie by Edward Lear and Suse MacDonald is an adaptation of the classic Edward Lear poem that had both my children transfixed. The bold bright colors kept my daughter who is 10 months old wide eyed the whole time and the playful way Suse MacDonald adapted the text had my son listening from A-Z as well. It was incredibly fun to read allowed tongue tying me at times which resulted in us all giggling hysterically in a heap. A book that can do that is a must have in my opinion.
Alphabet for Starters is our series of playful activities and crafts to introduce letters to children in fun ways. These magnets are not just pictures with corresponding letters they are photos from a real life experience, with memories and meaning attached to them. This is what sets them apart from a batch of flash cards you can pick up anywhere. Even better is that all of the photos were taken by my son and I fit in some learning on the go for him too.You can do this with any theme or event so long as it’s meaningful and engaging for your child.
- Gather your materials. Before you head out to take photos make a small notebook with paper ( ours are old business cards) and write out or have your older child write out the alphabet. This was strategic on my part since my son struggles a little with writing especially writing small and the business cards forced him to write small.
- Next play tourist in your own city . My son played photographer and checked off the letters as he took the photos. Do not worry about trying to get every letter of the alphabet that isn’t the goal . The goal is to make meaningful and deep connections so focus on the letters with good and memorable experiences with them.
- After you get home it’s time to edit , crop and add the text to the photos. I love picmonkey.com . Upload and edit each photo , add the text then save to your computer.
- I then made a collage on picmonkey with the photos and printed it out.
- To turn these photos into magnets you will need a few more things . Adhesive magnet sheets, contact paper and sharp scissors.
- After cutting all the photos out place them face down on one sheet of contact paper. Add a second sheet over and press.
- Cut out. I should say that you can skip using contact paper to “laminate” the photos but it will make them last so much longer if you do.
- Peel the backing off the adhesive magnet sheets and place the photos on face up.
- Trim.Pop them on the washer , fridge or a cookie sheet and invite your little one to play. My daughter immediately told me what each one was and grabbed the M is for Map magnet and told me in a super excited 2 year old way that that was HER and she was reading the map! In the days that followed she has recounted stories while playing with them which is a really exciting step in early literacy. My son plays with her as well reminding her of bits and pieces of our trip to the zoo in the process.
Sometimes I plan out crafts and they rock and I share every step with you all saying ” Do it just like this!” today’s sparkly alphabet craft will not be ones of those times. I did almost all of this the hardest way possible but since my daughter was engaged and having fun with the letters I didn’t bother to scrap it all and start again when I had the right tools. This is another post in our Alphabet For Starters series that is all about playing and being exposed to letters in a fun and pressure free way. My daughter may only be 2 but sometime in the last few weeks she has become obsessed with princesses, fairies, pink and purple. When I asked her what kind of letter activity she wanted to do she said “Princess sparkle!” well it sounded like ” Pinpess spakles” but I knew what she meant. So we made this , a huge mess and had lots of fun.
- Gather your materials. You will need a canvas, some vinyl letters ( we used small and large but I’d skip the small if I were you), paint brushes , paint and sparkles. So as you will see we ended up scraping the paint and going for glue instead. If I were you I’d find some great glitter paint that is dark enough to create the relief . Or you can do it the hard way like I did, results are great but it wasn’t the easiest.
- Start by choosing letters and placing them on. We did it in alphabetical order because we’ve been learning the alphabet song and I’d since and stop before the right letter ” A B C D E …” and she’d say F and then I’d hand her the F to stick on. Her fine motor skills are not developed enough to peel the stickers off the pages ( they are stiff) but placing them on is still a great skill builder.
- Take a photo of all the letters and where they are with your camera or phone, you’ll see why.
- So our plan was to add glitter to the paint – but the paint was too think and the glitter was too fine and our plan was a flop. You could easily just used paint.
- We grabbed glue instead.
- I sat her on my lap to paint the glue on, it’s washable but I still wanted to wipe down anything she got it on right away.
- Make sure everything is covered in glue , I evened it out after she was done.
- Add glitter, lots and lots of it. Make sure your dust buster is charged up , ours wasn’t and I had to make the playroom off limits for 12 hours while it charged.
- Let it dry but not for too long. Using your pinky finger nail, and a photo of where the letters are on the canvas find the edge of the stickers and carefully peel off. See this is tricky but without a toddler helping and a picture of the the letters I did it without too much trouble. The important part is to find a corner only disturb a small amount of glitter and carefully peel.
- Let dry for a few days, shake over a garbage can or drop cloth before displaying.
Books with a little sparkle
The Very Fairy Princessby Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton is a cute book about a little girl who loves all things princess related. What I like about this book is that it’s message isn’t heavy handed and it celebrates princesses while sneaking in some very positive messages too. In a world where many parents ( me included) have issues with this whole princess thing and struggle to find that balance this book has it. It tells you it’s ok to want to be a princess and to “let your sparkle out!” and talks about confidence in the process. I must admit though I am a total Julie Andrews fan and I am not sure I’d ever dislike anything
Maria , I mean Mary Poppins I mean Julie Andrews wrote.
The Sissy Ducklingby Harvey Fierstein is a lovely book. As a mom to a son I worry about him getting teased when he is older if he isn’t into sports, or likes to bake cookies more than play video games. This book address that, in a cute but frank way. I especially love how the dad isn’t super happy that his son is into more traditionally girly things. I think that even though we hope that all parents would be immediately supportive the reality is, that parents are human too and acceptance can take time even when there is lots of love.
Yesterday the whole family was outside playing and working in the front yard and my daughter ( who is almost 2) was helping me weed. She loved it and after we were done weeding we checked on our carrots that are almost big enough to eat . This all gave me a great idea for an outside sensory filled alphabet activity for our Alphabet For Starters series. What Alphabet for Starters is all about is to play and introduce letters to children just starting to show interest , point them out and recognize them. We try to incorporate other areas of learning into the activities too. Today’s has a strong sensory element and if you want to do this inside you can use a tub and fill it with coffee grounds or rice.
- Gather your materials. To make the carrots you will need an orange pool noodle ( a red one could be radishes too!), a permanent marker, some green ribbon , a knife and scissors. For the rest of the activity you will also need some soil and patch of garden if you are doing it outside or a tub and filler for a sensory bin. Pail and shovel are optional .
- Start by slicing your pool noodle. Bread knives work the very best but our cheap steak knife was ok too.
- Next write letters on the noodles with a permanent marker. You will notice I did not to 26 letters. If your child is capable of staying engaged the whole time with 26 letters by all means do. At 23 months I am not expecting my daughter to stay that focused, this shouldn’t feel like work to her it should be a fun new experience.
- Next cut some ribbon and tie it to the noodle as the top of the carrot.
- Head outside and plant them. All ready for my little carrot farmer!
- Time for a letter harvest. As they picked them we looked for the letter on each carrot.
- She was also counting as we went , perhaps it’s time for a math for starters series ?
- After filling up the bucket we found a few of our favorites ( R and O ) and then picked some real veggies.
Books About Vegetables
Eating the Alphabet: Fruits & Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert is an alphabet book extraordinaire and perfect for a letter F eek, since it’s all about food! Wonderful paintings of fruits and vegetables seem ultra simple and it is but somehow the way the author has pieced this simple book together is brilliant. Maybe it’s that children learn about food at the table multiple times a day and feel proud being able to identify not only some of the letters but some of the pictures too! From a teaching standpoint I love that there are both upper and lower case letters on each page! This book will grow with your child, and beware it will also make you hungry.
The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss is a rare gem, it has been in print for over 60 years and has delighted generations . If you aren’t familiar with the story, a little boy plants a carrot seed and everyone tells him “It won’t come up.” this doesn’t stop the little boy from patiently taking care of this little seed, that eventually grows into a giant carrot. The message is a universal one of sticking to your guns even when everyone tells you you should give up. My son loved the story the simple pictures that will bring you back to your own childhood, at least they did for me. A true classic.
Coco The Carrot by Steven Salerno is an absurd tale of adventure, and I loved it. Coco is a carrot who dreams of a life larger than the vegetable drawer . She dreams big and goes for it. Unlike most carrots that end up in stew she becomes a famous hat designer and is the toast of Paris with her Monkey companion Anton. If you are scratching your head but oddly intrigued you will like this book. It was long but my son sat with me giggling and telling me ” Carrots can’t do that?!” more than once. I loved it because it is so absurd that she is a carrot, but the story itself is about going for your dreams, hitting bumps in the road and realizing that your dreams shift and change and that’s OK. There is great bits of humor for the adults as well, something I always appreciate!
Crayon resist painting is a classic children’s art project and this is how we turned it into an alphabet activity. Our spin on the classic crayon resist is a fun way to learn letters by magically making them appear when painting the paper. We may know it’s not magic but I dare you to tell a squealing toddler that its not. To them it’s alphabet magic. This is the 6th installment of our Alphabet For Starters series, posts dedicated to introducing and playing with letters for beginners.
- Gather your materials, you will need some water colors, water, a paint brush, white paper, white crayons and scissors.
- Start by cutting plain paper in half. I found that making them a medium size was just the right size for her to paint and not lose the excitement of discovery.
- Write letters in upper or lowercase in white crayon. I went over the lines a few times to make them nice and thick. Do not try to do every letter in one sitting, it will take a fun activity and make it daunting for many kids. Instead have the materials on hand to make more in a jiffy if they are super into it. My daughter kept asking for the letter R so we made a few of those.
- Mix the paint. Now The best paint is watery so it beads off the crayon easily. I mixed the paint brush in water color and riced it in the water a few times then used the water as the paint.
- I am often asked what my kids do while I prep or if I prep the night before ( you overestimate my competency if that’s what you think) – no I set something out for her to play with like these instruments and then invite her to play when ready.
- Time to Paint. She was not sure at first.
- “What is it ?” ” A!”
- Let’s do more!
- O! She had fun and later while playing in the playroom she sat at the table and re-did the activity with a dry brush and the dried paintings. A sure sign that it was a hit.