Alphabet For Starters – Easy Touch and Feel Alphabet

alphabet for starters no time for flash cards

Make your own touch and feel letters for your littlest learner easily and without breaking the bank. These frugal and educational letters let beginners explore letters through their senses.  Alphabet For Starters is our series of simple activities for children just beginning to explore and learn letters. A great rule of thumb for when to start is when your child starts pointing out letters on shirts, in books or boxes. If they haven’t yet but this they might enjoy it,  try these activities and see if they are interested. If they are engaged  jump in and explore some more,  if they aren’t don’t push. We want letters to be fun, playful and interesting and if we push them on kids that aren’t ready we set up everyone for frustrating experience.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some construction paper , double stick tape ( or glue if you have time to let it dry), scissors, a marker, some materials that have various textures.  We used felt, some sticky back sparkly foam and regular sticky back  foam. I also used some emery boards but they didn’t stick to the double stick tape, and I was going to use some contact paper for sticky but forgot….  The main thing to remember is to have a handful of different textures.
  2. Start by choosing a few letters . I limit the letters only because I want my daughter who is almost 2 to explore them without being overwhelmed.  There is no way she’d go through and explore each at this stage so I only made a handful. If you want to make all 26 letters go for it just follow your child as they explore .
  3. To make the letters I started by cutting some construction paper in two and writing a letter on it. alphabet for starters no time for flash cards
  4. Add double stick tape or glue and stick the felt on. The foam has a self adhesive back so it’s even easier to use. alphabet for starters no time for flash cards
  5. After adding the textured material I cut the letters out .
  6. Added more double stick tape.
  7. And popped it on another sheet of construction paper so they are a little sturdier.
  8. Time to play!  She intuitively started tracing the letters. As she did I narrated a little ” That M is sparkly!” ” Does it feel nice on your finger?”
  9. She loved the squishy foam.
  10. Use descriptive words like, soft, smooth, squishy and of course label the letters as you play.
  11. The sparkly foam made a really scratchy sound and she loved it!alphabet for beginners

For her 6 letters was just the perfect amount. We’ll play with these letters again soon , and slowly switch in new letters as she is ready. Follow your child’s cues if they aren’t able to verbally tell you when they are past the prime learning zone. Once they are visibly less engaged, move on to something new.

Alphabet Books For Beginners

LMNO Peas by Keith Barker is such a cute alphabet book. The only characters are tiny little peas which just happen to be one of my daughter’s favorites foods right now so this was a hit by the letter B. What makes this book such a great pic for beginners is that it’s filled with big colorful letters. The text is a simple listing of jobs and roles for each letter of the alphabet with the peas dressed up as all these things among the huge fun letters. My favorite pea is the one dressed as Elvis , how could you not love a book with a pea dressed as The King? More important than it’s sense of humor is how well my daughter sat and flipped through the pages with me, exclaiming loudly when we got to a letter she knew and still happily engaged when it was one she didn’t.

Alphabet Under Construction by Denise Fleming is a wonderful example of what an alphabet book should be. Perfect for toddlers and preschoolers learning their first letters, the text is short , the letters are front and center and the illustrations are fun and interesting. My son loves this book, I grabbed it at the library after remembering how much my Pre K class loved it too.Many alphabet books are too long to read entirety at circle time or in one shot with a toddler but this my 19 month old will sit through Z every time. {This review is from when my son was 19 months old in 2008. His love of this book was really a jumping off point for his love of letters in general. I wish I could say I taught him his letters but really reading this one particular book over and over at his request probably did the trick. }

Chicka Chicka ABC by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault  is a fantastic board book and shorter version of the longer book. My kids love this book and it’s the perfect amount of text for a toddler, the illustrations by Lois Ehlert are so bright and bold that even very young babies will respond to it. The text is so melodic I don’t know many who can read it without adding a sing song voice to the reading. I love this book.  A must have for all bookshelves.

Need more alphabet books?  Here are a bunch!

Sticky Table Art

contact paper ideas

Last week we were snowed in and getting antsy. I decided to make a sticky table for my kids to explore with but when I looked at all the supplies I had to stick to it they were all choking hazards except these colored craft sticks . I thought it was going to be a 5 minute sparkler but as you will see my son ran with it. I loved  reading stories to his sister who lost interest after 5 minutes like I expected and just watching him giddily create.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some contact paper, painter’s tape to tape it to the table, scissors and whatever you want to stick to the table. With older kids I’ve used sequins, buttons, tissue paper, pom poms…
  2. Tape the contact paper down backing side up.
  3. Peel the backing off and trim.
  4. Explore the feeling- my son loved the feeling on the back of his hands, he just kept doing that.
  5. Add the sticks.
  6. My daughter liked placing the sticks and the resistance when she picked them off. Also she was doing it very carefully working on her pincer grasp ( fine motor skills).
  7. My son saw the possibility to create immediately grabbing the bag and asking if he could have all the sticks and his sister’s too.
  8. I just let him go. 
  9. And go
  10. And go.
  11. If you look closely you can see a few houses in his creation – they are clone bases apparently. I just love that he was so engaged, so excited and watching those wheels turning so passionately was exhilarating. 

 

DIY Puffy Paint Fish

My daughter loves fish and I have been wanting to make another batch of homemade puffy paint so I decided to combine the two. We love this paint because it dries puffy even the big globs! I was planning on doing this just with my daughter but when my son heard we were making puffy paint he put away his Lego and ran to the play room. Making your own puffy paint is so simple and this time we mixed in some colored glue which added a lesson in color mixing into the fun.  If you are making a big fish like we did make sure you have a place for it to dry away from little hands for a good 48 hours. Smaller puffy paint creations will dry faster.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some craft paper ( paper grocery bags cut open work great), shaving cream ( plain jane variety), plain white glue, colored glue , a marker, tape, a bowl and some spoons. If you are adding a face you will also need some googly eyes and a pipe cleaner for the mouth.
  2. Start by taping down your paper and draw a big fish.
  3. Now spray some shaving cream into the bowl. The official recipe I like calls for 1/2 cup of glue and 1 1/2 cups of shaving cream. I just eye ball it now we do it so much. My son loves spraying it.
  4. Add glue.
  5. Stir.
  6. Pop it on the fish.  She hated getting her hands dirty – I had an old towel and baby wipes handy.
  7. Add colored glue.  I was very impressed she didn’t try to eat it.
  8. Explore.  Both my kids opted for the spoons. They take after their dad, I was eager to mix it with my hands.
  9.  We popped it in my master bath that is never used. It was a perfect place to be out of my daughter’s reach for the two days. But first we added two eyes and a pipe cleaner mouth.
  10. Let dry. Ours dried for 2 days then I cut it out.

 

Over at my other blog I have a fun fish themed idea for children just starting to recognize their colors. Check it out.

 

Books About Sea Animals

Secret Seahorse by Stella Blackstone is a fascinating and beautiful board book. The story follows a little seahorse that hides on each page as it makes it’s way along the ocean back to it’s family. The illustrations are felt, fabric, sequins and other fun and very beautiful hand stitched creations. I am never ready for the next page because the previous has so much to look and marvel at. Kids like finding the seahorse on each page too!  My son and I re read this tonight to my daughter and she liked it but he was still loving it, which is pretty impressive for a board book. It’s just so pretty!

O Is for Orca: An Alphabet Book by Andrea Helman is a book about the nature of the North West packaged in an alphabet book.  Each page is dedicated to one large photo and a animal, plant or other part of North West nature.  My son was reluctant at first wanting to read a Star Wars chapter book but only a page or two in he was asking not to skip any of the text and we were discussing the information about the sea animals and he was eager to make a nest in our apple trees for the spotted owls who we read were endangered. Many of the letters represent sea animals like sea stars, urchins and of course orcas. There are a lot of facts in this book and if I were reading it to my toddler I’d skip the paragraphs and go through the alphabet and each photo only. That is what I love about books like this you can adapt them so easily to your audience.

Baby Beluga by Raffi is a classic children’s song cleverly illustrated into a beautiful book. I grew up on Raffi in Canada and am still shocked when moms don’t know who he is, if he is new to you go to your library and check out one of his cds. My son loves this book, there are so many sea creatures to point out, it’s great for toddlers. I must say that I am unable to read this without singing the song. It might be a good thing to read it before listening to the song .

 

Playdough Play – Toy Prints

We play with playdough daily, usually more than once. My daughter is fascinated with it and her favorite thing to do with it is to press objects into the playdough and make prints. This was not a planned post at all, and all the photos were taken with my phone since I didn’t want to interrupt her play to grab my camera that was downstairs. Simple discovery play like this is my favorite and such a fun way to connect with your toddler.

 

We started with our playdough and usual cookie cutters. I usually switch the cutters and color of playdough out every few weeks. Then she grabbed this light up wand of her brothers and started making prints. She was in giggly heaven, especially since it lit up every time she hit it hard enough into the play dough.

Then we grabbed some duplo and made prints . These we all agreed looked like cheezits!

We flipped the duplo over and made little “buttons” and she very carefully pressed each one.

Her giggles and my photo snapping attracted the attention of my son who brought over a gear to press into the playdough.

Activities like these that use toys you have in new and novel ways with a sense of discovery ” Hey what sort of print with that block make?” is such and easy activity but trust me it will go on for a long time, happily! We also used little people which if you press the bottom into the playdough make a shape rather reminiscent of a nipple. My nursing daughter pointed that out to me right away , the picture was rather life like so I skipped it. Other fun toys were train tracks ( skip the trains the playdough will get stuck in the wheels) and chunky puzzle pieces .

Winter Train Table Sensory Play

Just because you haven’t gotten any snow doesn’t mean your kids can’t play with it! We are lucky enough to have a train table that my dad made ( he’s been hacking Ikea since before it was hip) and this week we took some time to play with pretend snow . This is a wonderful multi- age sensory activity and worked great for my 5 year old son and 18 month old daughter, they each explored and played learning different things but having the same amount of fun.

 

  1. Gather your materials. We used our train table , extra trains and some cotton balls. If you don’t have a train table grab a bath mat, large shallow bin or just a coffee table and set up some trains or trucks then add in the “snow”.
  2. Start by being a little goofy and pretending to be clouds that are snowing . Give the kids the cotton balls and let them decide where the snow goes. I talked to my son about weather, asked him to look outside and tell me if he thought it would snow today in our yard. For my daughter we focused on the color white and the word “soft” feeling the soft cotton balls in our hands and on our faces.
  3. Play.  This is where some kids and many parents ( and even teachers) clam up. Now what? Here are some things we did that were fun.
  4. My son pretended to be delivering snow from one end of the train table to the other and we counted the snow as we loaded up the train, and then the pile when we dropped it off. 
  5. My daughter had a ball putting the snow into the little train house , through the windows. Hello, fine motor and hand eye coordination practice!
  6. We made a blizzard.
  7. We pretended to be the wind and blowed the snow.
  8. And more play.  What I loved so much about this was that it made the train table feel new again and we played with it and the snow on and off for days.

Books About Trains

Freight Train by Donald Crewes. Donald Crews’ Freight Train is a classic book.  It is rather simplistic in nature, but it is good for the younger train fans as it talks about the different kinds of freight cars and teaches about colors. My son loved this book at 2 and will still grab it at the library and read it when we are there three years later.

Tracks by David Galef and Tedd Arnold is a hilarious book about a man named Arnold who is in charge of directing the crew who lays down the train tracks.  Arnold’s glasses break, and his vision becomes a bit skewed.  What will the mayor think of this wacky track?  You’ve got to read it and find out!

Terrific Trains by Tony Mitton is another great book. My parents bought my son this whole set and at first I was sceptical of it just because it is a set and I guess I judged a book my it’s cover because I love all the books in the set. They are informative, fun, have great rhyming text and my son will sit for them and often requests them at bedtime too!