Last week we played with our Alphabet Garden and a commenter asked how I could make it for children who loved cars and trucks. This is the letter sorting game that I came up with for cars and trucks. You could do it as a magnet activity like we did or put it all on a sheet of contact paper like our alphabet garden, whatever best fits your child. This activity is part of our Alphabet for Starters series that is focused on making playing with letters fun and dynamic. This can be adapted to any level. For children just beginning to notice letters they can simply put the letters on the road. Don’t worry about sorting into cases. For older children use the letters to spell. Write words with a missing letter and have your older child fill in the blank. Here is what we did for my daughter who is familiar with both upper and lowercase letters and enjoys sorting them.
- Gather your materials. You will need some black construction paper, green construction paper ( scraps would work great), clear contact paper , pictures of cars and trucks ( mine come from wrapping paper) , self adhesive magnetic sheets, a white crayon, scissors, a marker and a cookie sheet from the dollar store.
- Start by making your cars and trucks. Cut the cars out. Add the letters. I didn’t do every letter in both upper and lowercase. I chose letters that my daughter has trouble with mixed in with some sure fire bets so she would be challenged but confident in her ability.
- Lay a large sheet of contact paper down sticky side up and lay the cars face down. Place another sheet on top to sandwich the cars inside. Or laminate if you have access to a laminator. I am very jealous if you do. Nothing gets a teacher ( even a former teacher) more excited than laminating something. Cut into individual cars and trucks.
- Add the magnets. Now if you have a child who is well past the putting things in their mouth stage cut little squares and stick them on the back of the cars. If you want you could also lay the whole laminated car on the sticky back magnet sheet and then cut . This will make it harder for the to peel any small piece off. Please always remember that all our activities are designed for children to do with a parent within arms reach and only if they are ready for the activity. You don’t have to make the pieces magnetic for the kids to have fun, it’s just a bonus.
- Make a simple road and some signs saying UPPERCASE ROAD and lowercase road . These give visual cues even for kids that aren’t reading independently . You can add magnets to these if you want too. Painter’s tape is a great choice if you are skipping the magnets but want these pieces to stay in place temporarily.
- Ready to play! This is what it would look like if I handed it to my 6 year old. For my almost 3 year old it looked like this. She ended up sorting all the letters but I gave them to her in bite size pieces so she wasn’t overwhelmed.
- She loves cars and trucks right now ( well really bulldozers are the best) so she was all into it. After the first few were put on she asked me for more. Remember to label what your child is doing and to sit back. If they ask for help be ready to support but don’t take over.
- The trickiest part for her were letters like w and o. She thought for a long time before placing them down. She just kept piling them on. And was insistent that she show it off at the end. I was impressed with how many magnets piled together still stayed in place.
Alphabeep!: A Zipping, Zooming ABC by Debora Pearson is a great book for older toddlers and preschoolers. The transportation themed book uses rhymes and colorful illustrations to go from A to Z. The text was a bit long for my young toddler but I shortened it and he was able to enjoy the book , children 2 and up will love it just the way it is! This is on my must buy list. Edited for 2013 : My daughter also loved this book and had me read it twice at the library which is a glowing review.
For more Alphabet Books check out our list of 50 Alphabet Books We LoveThis book review includes an affiliate link.
I usually brainstorm general ideas from interests my kids have , lessons I want to teach them or themes from books we’ve discovered. Then some days your toddler is antsy and you grab window markers and decide to color and clean the ride on toys you have on your deck. This car wash play was so much fun. We have washed toy cars and trucks many times before but this was a great way to mix in some creativity . My one disclaimer is to please test the window markers on your toy cars before assuming they will wipe off. Ours did without any issue even the bits that weren’t wiped right away but I’d hate for any toys to get ruined so please test first!
- Gather your materials. You will need some window markers, some warm water, a soapy sponge and some plastic riding toys.
- Start by coloring the cars.
- Don’t mind the dirt , that car is used as a tank in my son’s imaginary WWII play with pine cone bombs and is more than ready for a wash.
- She loved making dots. One tip is to use dark colors that show up well first to give your toddler a good sense of making marks. The pale ones may frustrate young ones when they are hard to see.
- Dip your sponge in the water . To be honest I think she liked wringing out the sponge more than anything and I liked that she was having fun.
- Wipe away the coloring.
We will definitely be doing this simple activity again and again! I already have ideas for my son that include spelling words.
Shape School Bus
Tire Track Painting
Cut and Paste Garbage Truck
Letter r road
Race Car Crafting with Dad
Diaper Box Firetruck
Upcycled Mat Roadway
School Bus Photo Craft
Cereal Box Gas Pump
Milk Carton Fire Station
Recycled Vehicle Crayons
Drinking Straw Truck
Valentine’s Day Dump Truck
We can’t leave you out without some books too .
Lots of great car and truck book suggestions here.
I am titling this post Daddy Craft Day but really anyone can have fun doing these, I usually buy craft kits for my husband and son to enjoy together because they come with instructions and I can leave and not bother them more than taking a few pictures! My son loves to create and my husband likes to make concrete things so kits like these are perfect! This was a gift from a dear friend for my son’s 3rd birthday and I saved it for a weekend daddy project.
- Gather your materials. You will need a craft kit- they are using Creativity for Kids Set of 3 Fast Car Race Cars which is not recommended for kids under 3, and honestly I would not allow my child to do without close supervision until at least 6. There are many small pieces. Also newspaper to cover your tables , water and a damp cloth to wipe up spills.
- Let them dive in. They painted.
- Then we took him out of the house for a few hours, because waiting for the paint to dry was torture for a 3 year old.
- When dry they added the stickers that came with it.
- They they raced them- well they still are racing them days later. My mom came into town and my son very proudly explained that he made these with his dad, NOT his mom. So even if you aren’t the parent or caregiver that normally does creative things , grab a kit and sit down and enjoy the fun that comes from making something with your child. From my family room , I heard my son say to his dad “Daddy I like doing things with you.” That is all that needs to be said!
Books About Dad
Daddy’s Song by Leslea Newman was a big hit with my son. The book is a lullaby that a father sings to his daughter before bed. It’s whimsical and at times down right funny. The illustrations by Karen Ritz keep up with the whimsy and make it all seem like a silly dream. Then the end of the book brings us all back to reality with the most important message, that even if all these silly things did happen and turned the little girls world topsy turvy, that her dad would be there and still love her. Big thumbs up from us for this sweet but not sappy book!
Piglet and Papa by Margaret Wild. I was so happy to discover that this author wrote a daddy book to compliment “Piglet and Mama” which I reviewed and loved for Mother’s Day. Papa pig and piglet are playing and piglet thinks she may have made her daddy very angry and worries about his love for her. The other farm animals help by reassuring piglet and finally she finds Papa pig and the other animals were right he does love her more than anyone in the whole world.
I was asked tonight where I find inspiration and I answered everywhere and that is the truth. My son is so into car models right now, it all started with him noticing the H on a friend’s Honda and slowly it’s developed into a chorus of ” Honda! Chevy ! Audi! BMW! Toy-woda!” every time we drive anywhere. I decided to harness that and work in some phonics. To say he had a blast is a massive understatement.This would make a great group project too!
- Gather your materials. You will need a car magazine , some craft paper( or any large piece), a marker, some crayons, scissors and a glue stick.
- Start by drawing a road on your paper.
- Add the alphabet with your child, have them tell you what’s next after you write each letter if they are able.
- Hand them the crayons and have them decorate the road- we kept it simple with grass, yellow markings and black for the road. There is no wrong way to do this.
- While my son did that I ripped some pages out of the magazine looking for different makes that start with different letters (Audi, BMW, Ford, Honda…) If your child is able to have them search . My son refused to let me do this alone, but he was searching only for Hondas.
- When I had enough I cut the cars out more carefully.
- While I did that I handed my son some of the discarded pages for him to practice cutting too, his cutting skills aren’t fine tuned enough yet and if I had given him a car to cut out, it would have been pure frustration , but he felt included by cutting the scraps.
- Time to glue them on.
- Choose a car, identify it and identify which letter it starts with. If your child needs some help here is what I did. My son had issues with was I for Infinity. When he did I repeated the sound and said ” like Igloo” by giving hints he was still able to figure it out himself which for most almost 3 year olds is key to their pride. With children who are not identifying sounds yet, tell them which letter it starts with and have them find it on the page.
- Find the letter on the page.
- Add glue
- Add the car.
- Repeat with all the cars.
- When all are glued on go through them again and label them with their names.
- After I taped it to the wall he picked out a car for me, a Mercedes! Good boy!
Little Red Car is one of my most viewed song videos click here to watch it !
“The Berenstain Bears and the Big Road Race” by Stan and Jan Berenstain shouldn’t be overlooked. Both my son and i really enjoy this book from the ever popular series. It’s a good story about being persistent and they sneak lots of learning into the rhyming text. Colors, opposites and more can be reinforced by this retelling of the classic tale of the tortoise and the hare.
“Everything I Know About Cars” by Tom Lichtenheld is hilarious! I grabbed it at the library today knowing I would need some car books to pair with this activity and didn’t preview it at all. All I knew is that it was a book about cars I had never read. At nap when I finally opened it with my son in his car Pjs- I realized it’s very long, and probably more approriate for 4+. I didn’t put it down though because after reading this on the first page I was hooked :
A collection of made-up facts, Educated Guesses and silly pictures about Cars, Trucks and other Zoomy things
The author had me at zoomy things. My son only made it through the first few pages, but I couldn’t wait to open it back up after he was asleep. The book takes the readers through the history of cars ( totally made up) , the basics of road trips, kid designed cars … and ends with a tutorial on how the reader can draw their own made up car. I really liked this book and plan to buy a copy for my 4and 7 year old nephews who will love the humor ( yes some of it is pottyish but still fun) and the illustrations.