I love doing active alphabet activities with my toddler. They don’t have to be big running or throwing games ( although those are great too) just simple ones that aren’t restricted to a table or sitting. The other day on the walk to her brother’s bus stop she pointed to the half moon and declared ” A lowercase moon Mama!” and since that declaration we’ve been exploring and seeking out more lowercase letters in our books. As you will see this activity was still challenging for her as I thought it would be but we worked on it together and I have left it up in our playroom to use as a talking point . In a class it would be a great group project too. For more alphabet ideas for beginners check out all of our Alphabet For Starters series.
- Gather your materials. You will need some craft paper , scissors, fall leaves ( make your own or pop to the dollar store before they all disappear) , markers , painter’s tape and double stick tape. I also have a container of crayons because my daughter wanted to color some of the leaves as well.
- Start by writing out a variety of upper and lowercase letters on the leaves. I did half the alphabet in upper and half in lower. Do however many you want in any combination. Remember we are playing not drilling. I made a good number of letters that are the same in either one too. This builds some freebies in which is always good for confidence building.
- Next make a bare tree with your craft paper. I cut free hand because I am way better at cutting than drawing. Do what works for you. Attach it to the wall with painter’s tape. While you do that if you have a little artists with you waiting to learn let them color the leaves and don’t forget to slip in a few ” You are coloring the uppercase m !” etc… getting into the habit of labeling what they are doing really helps make it more natural and it teaches them in such a natural way.
- Add double stick tape to the branches and the roots. Now ONLY use this if you are not planning on repositioning the leaves. They can be taken off and moved immediately but after they are on for a few minutes they will rip. If you need to be able to move them use contact paper sticky side out held on with permanent double stick tape.
- Make a pile of leaves and start sorting. She always starts with her first initial. You will have to explain to your child that upper case letters go on top and the lowercase on the bottom. I try never to use the terms big and little since you can have a 6 foot high lowercase b or a tiny uppercase one. Using the proper terms especially when they are just starting out really helps. I found myself saying ” Upper goes up and lower stays low!” as we went through the letters.
- Encourage them to find letters they know or like and then hand them ones that maybe they are struggling with. My daughter is only 2 so I am not purposefully handing her any letters yet as it’s all introduction and play. If she was older and mixing up b and d I would target that or maybe g and j … do not turn this into drill and test. It’s hard not to sometimes but keep it light and fun. If your child puts a uppercase letter with the lowercase don’t worry instead ask them about it they may be confused and you can address that, they may have a really good only a 4 year old can think it up reason or they may catch their mistake and correct it themselves which is 20 times better than having someone correct it for you. This is as far as she went and I was thrilled .
- I sorted the rest out loud as she played with her doll house next to me.
One of our favorite things to do in the fall is to go to the Harvest Festival at a farm down the road. Last year we took our apples and pressed them into cider, the kids jumped off bales of hay and my son even rode a horse . He has been looking forward to this for a few weeks and when I asked him what sort of sensory tub we should make for his sister he suggested a fall farm sensory tub. So we went to the store to choose what to put in the tub. We looked at all the items and decided on a wild rice and lentil mix and popcorn. If you follow me on Facebook you may have seen this update. It was the trip to gather these items that nearly drove me to drink at 2pm. In the end the massive spill at the store was well worth it because the sensory tub was a hit . Do not miss the tips in the tutorial about what toddlers can gain from sensory bins.
- Gather your materials. We used dried wild rice, unpopped popcorn, dried lentils and fake apples and fake acorns. Sometimes I have the sensory tubs ready to go all pretty and presented and sometimes I have the kids help. The day we made this someone refused to nap so she helped with every step. Fist we gathered all the animals that belong on a farm from our playroom. This is a great basic sorting lesson for kids too.
- Next we poured our filling in. After putting the popcorn in we took time to draw letters in the popcorn. My daughter loved it . A fun sensory based letter activity.
- Add the wild rice, lentils, animals, vehicles, and farmers ( you may recognize a few characters ).
- Play! At first her play consisted of putting animals on the tractor and laughing saying ” Dat animal no drive!” and then replacing it with a figurine of a person. Apparently this is seriously funny to a two year old. I was cracking up at her which was nice after our major shopping meltdown.
- Fine motor skills were next. These little apple sauce cups were a perfect for filling and spilling and she filled them one tiny grain at a time.
- She counted apples and only tried to eat one . Of all these activities within the activity only one writing in the popcorn was initiated by me. That’s the awesomeness of sensory tubs!
- When the filling started scattering on the porch on purpose I gave her one warning that if she threw it down on purpose that I’d pack it all up. Spills from regular play are not disciplined. Still two minutes later she was done and the tub looked like this.I keep the filling in the plastic bags and them inside ziplocs ( usually double them up to avoid bugs) and the toys in a bag so we can pull it out again in a flash. We normally play with one these for a few weeks. Repetition is a great thing for kids it’s not boring so don’t feel like you need a bright shiny new thing every day.
Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown is one of my very favorite books to read to my daughter before bed although it took a while before she warmed up to it. I was worried because I loved reading it to my son and couldn’t wait to share it with her. The story is simple readers see a day in the life of a big red barn and all the animals inside. Each animal is introduced in the seamless text that reads like a melodic poem. It’s calm , soothing and Felicia Bond’s illustrations are perfect, I love how the sky subtly changes as the night beckons. A wonderful book for anytime, but especially poignant before bed.
Fall Mixed Up by Bob Raczka is such a fun fall book for kids. Every page is filled with funny mix ups like Showing pictures of Bears gathering nuts and geese hibernating. My son loved the idea of a Thanksgiving dinner of all candy! I read this to both my kids and while my 2 year old liked the pictures and laughed a long with her 5 year old brother really she was just giggling because he was. My son however thought it was hilarious and corrected each picture as we read. The illustrations by Chad Cameron are stunning as well and a perfect accompaniment to the silly text. If this book doesn’t make you crave a pumpkin spice latte I don’t know what will. Very cute book!
The Cow Loves Cookies by Karma Wilson was as good as I expected it to be and I am a fan of the author. The story has just the right amount of rhyme, rhythm and absurdity that makes for a great picture book. Readers follow along as the farmer feeds all the animals their traditional foods except the cow, the cow loves cookies. The text is paced so well that you can’t help but read it in a sing song and the repetition lends itself to listener participation. Even on the first read your kids will be adding in ” But the cow loves cookies!” . While having fun kids will learn about farm responsibilities, what animals eat and maybe a thing or two about milk and cookies too. The illustrations by Marcellus Hall express so much emotion and have a funky vintage feel that makes the whole book a pleasure to read.
School is starting and I am officially brainstorming new Autumn and Halloween crafts and activities. One of my favorite ways to start is to look at what we have already done and share my favorites with you. All these activities and fall crafts for kids are easy , fun and they are also educational.
Toddler Friendly Glittered Pumpkin
Candy Corn Counting
Pumpkin Patch Letter Match
Leaf Rubbing Tree
Acorn and Squirrel Match
Cereal Box Apple
Leaf Painting For Toddlers
Alphabet Apple Tree
Simple Fall Sensory Tub
Letter O Owl
Cereal Acorn Craft
Exploring nature doesn’t have to be in a far off place, a neighborhood park , school yard or your own backyard will work just great. Explore , talk about what you see, hear and smell. Touch things even they aren’t going into your bag for the collage, explore and take note of how the garden, forrest or park you are in has changed since the spring or summer. I love when I can do an activity with both kids seemlessly and this one was super easy .
- Gather your materials. You will need 1-2 paper grocery bags, scissors,crayons, glue and a yard , park or forrest to explore.
- Start by handing each child a bag and heading outside. Can I just say that my little paint covered point and shoot camera works great for inside crafts when movements around too big or fast, but getting a good shot of either child was next to impossible. Especially a wobbly 15 month old.
- Explore- let your child lead the way. Hopefully the other child( or 5) agree and go the same way, or at least in the same general vicinity.
- Put everything they find and want to glue to the collage in the bag . Don’t say no to little things yet, let them discover later of it won’t glue.
- Huge sticks are totaly ok to refuse, but let them figure it out by asking how it will fit in the bag. Offer scissors to cut a small piece off.
- Head back inside and prepare for part two. I did this while they played in the playroom around me, but don’t feel like you have to do this all in one go. Do this after bed time and continue with part two in the morning if that works best for your family. You will want to empty out the contents and place them on a table – or even a shallow box. Using the bag cut it open and draw an acorn. Tape it to the table to stay steady.
- Now invite the children to chose from their treasures and glue them to the acorn.
- Hmm the pine branch is too big to glue down… what could we do?
- Cut it!
- I helped my daughter add the glue and she happily banged the leaves she gathered down. I was so surprised to see she remembered exactly which leaves she found and used them in her collage.
- Gluing is my son’s favorite part of most art because he pretends it’s a bomb ( yes this stage is still driving me batty but I am trying to roll with it)- his sound effects surprised his unamused little sister…
- Let everything dry overnight.
- Cut out. Display if possible – kids love seeing their own creations displayed with pride.
More Acorn Crafts!
If a nature walk isn’t possible for you try another one of our acorn crafts .
Click the images for the original posts
I love sensory tubs and one of the reasons is illustrated beautifully in this post. They aren’t just a chance to scoop and pour ( although don’t discount the importance of that) they are also a chance to make believe, create a new mini landscape and practice imaginative play. Children love to explore so when you create a sensory bin allow them to add to it as well, it’s not a static item but rather a dynamic experience for them to create with.
- Gather your materials. You will need a big pan or plastic tub, some multicolored unpopped popcorn , red quinoa, and brown rice. You will also need some fall leaf confetti, and scoops. Obviously you don’t need to follow our contents exactly but I do love the corn since it ties into other Thanksgiving crafts so well. Orange lentils, wild rice, flax seeds etc… all have a fall feeling to them too.
- Pour the dried grains etc.. into the tub. Have your child help with this , my son loves ” cooking up” the sensory bins.
- Add the fall confetti. Be careful some of ours were pretty small, fabric leaves are another larger option for younger children.
- Add the scoops and containers and start playing.
- Follow your child’s imagination, we went and got some construction vehicles.
I get asked all the time what I do with these tubs after he’s done playing. I pop them into ziplocs and keep them , and pull them out for quiet play time often. The variety keeps him interested and as long as the bags are sealed from moisture and insects you can keep them indefinitely.
The Little Engine That Could Saves the Thanksgiving Day Parade by Watty Piper is unremarkable. The story is about a school band who has a flat tire and hitches a ride on the train to get to the Thanksgiving Day parade on time. My son liked the instruments and the train but the story was pretty boring and it was obvious to me why this was one of the only Thanksgiving books left at my local library. If you have a child who is wild about trains I would maybe check it out of the library but it’s not worth purchasing in my opinion.
Thanksgiving at the Tappleton’s by Eileen Spinelli is a really cute story that offers many opportunities for parents to talk about lying, disappointment and what really matters at Thanksgiving. The Tappleton’s Thanksgiving dinner is doomed, first the turkey falls in the pond, then there are no pies left at the bakery and then continues to get worse. No one wants to be the person to ruin the holiday dinner and keeps it a secret that the part of the meal that was their responsibility is ruined. Of course this means they end up eating liverwurst and pickles for dinner but Grandma saves Thanksgiving by reminding them all that it doesn’t matter what they are eating but who they are eating with.
Patty’s Pumpkin Patch by Teri Sloat is a great alphabet book and story in one. Readers follow a pumpkin patch from planting the seeds until after Halloween when they gather the seeds for the next planting. I really like how this book combines an alphabet book with both upper and lowercase letters corresponding to some animal or insect in the story . I also like the easy rhythm of the rhyming text and the engaging and detailed illustrations . All in all I think this is a great fall book!