Shell Letters – Alphabet Activity

learning activity letter formationThe beach and playdough are two of our very favorite things. Put them together and you have the perfect tactile summer letter activity. My daughter has been able to recognize her letters for a long time as well as their sounds but forming those letters is still something we are working on often. This alphabet activity combines textures to make creating letters truly hands on.  As you will see after the initial activity she modified it for more play while I sat back and marveled at how quickly she went from a baby to a child… some days you just need to stare at them don’t you?

Gather your materials. You will need some shells, playdough, a cutting board or other playdough friendly surface, card stock, marker, some fun containers and a little letter engineer ready to explore.shell letters letter recognition for kids

I made little letter cards and since our shells were so rigid I only wrote out letters with straight lines like A, E, F, K, etc…beach shell letters

Start by setting things up. When I make an invitation to learn like this I usually have it set up so she knows what to do and then let her explore with out me interjecting. In a classroom I would have this set out on a table and allow the students to come and go ( or not come and go) as they pleased.shell letter cards

First she pressed the playdough down into a flat surface.shell playdough letters

Then she dove right in using the shells to create letters that matched the cards.making letters with shells and playdough

Some took more planning than others.thinking sabout how to do it shell letters

Then she changed things up and started using the shells to write in the playdough. writing with shellsAs the play shifts encourage the exploration. Activities like this are invitations and when they start exploring like this please don’t stop them. She was still learning and having fun even if she wasn’t still doing the planned activity. That is not a bad thing, roll with their discovery! shell letters explore

 

 

 Books About The Beach

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At-The-Beach-

At the Beach by Anne and Harlow Rockwell .A little girl visits the beach with her mom. She plays in the sand, hunts for shells, takes a swim before she settles in to a nice beach lunch. A visit to the beach can be a full day and this story gives the reader a great description of what to expect. This is great for young kids who haven’t been to the beach. It explains using a young girl’s point of view what you bring to beach and what you can expect to do once you’re there. The illustrations are muted and warm and fill the page and included our young red-haired beach girl enjoying herself in each one.

squirrel

Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach by Melanie Watt is hilarious, I actually snorted while reading it. I love books like this that have absurd humor thrown in with a great story. Before you even start flipping pages on the inside flap you will notice a blurb that ends with “This story is not suitable for pirates” it just makes me giggle! The story follows the most anxious squirrel you’ll ever encounter as he tries to make his own beach, only to end up at a busy one! What I love about this book are the details, the small asides will have you laughing and the main story will keep even young ones totally entertained. Super fun and a great message about overcoming fears as well.

what lives in a shell?

What Lives in a Shell? by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld is great book in my favorite science series the Let’s-Read-And-Find-Out . This book is a little long for toddlers but really great for preschoolers and easy to break into parts. The book starts talking about snails, then moves to turtles and finally sea shells. Like the others in the series this book break down facts to a preschoolers level without loosing any substance. If you are looking for a non fiction book for your little one, you must check out this series, they are hands down my favorite non fiction for young children.

Painting Snow

outside activities for kids I know most of you have had a ton of snow this year but we just got our only real snowfall this weekend. My kids were all over it. After we made Olaf in the snow ( seriously check him out ) we warmed up and while having hot chocolate I noticed our water table full of snow and sprang into action! Having spent my first 26 years in Canada I have painted the snow many many times but never with my own kids. This can get messy so have old towels ready , other than that explore and have fun mixing colors in the snow.

Gather your materials. You will need some paint, plastic cups, paint brushes, snow, and a water table or large shallow container for the snow. color mixing in the snow

Fill your container with snow and pour all different color paint int he cups. One color per cup.

Call a little one to come and make a mess. My daughter was more than happy to oblige. color mixing outside in the snow

Paint.paint snow

 

Mix.paint the snow and have fun

 

When you run our of area to paint just grab some more snow ,pack it on top , and keep painting! painting the snow and color mixing

When it was time to come in I had a bowl of warm water and oxyclean ready for her mitts. The paint came off easily!snow painting activity for kids

How do you get creative in the snow?

Books About Snow

winter books for kids

Check out some of our favorite books about snow . You can find the reviews for all of these books here.

Easy Finger Paint Recipe

best finger paint recipe When I was a teenager my older sister and I both worked as day camp leaders. I worked at a nice rec center with a huge wave pool, rock climbing wall, skating rink and lots of art supplies. She didn’t. She worked at a tiny rec center with a few multipurpose rooms and a small neighborhood pool. She made these finger paint for her camps all the time. On a rainy day I decided to bust out her old and easy finger paint recipe and have fun with my 3 year old who loves to cook and finger paint. The result was a fun day with my favorite 3 year old and a surprisingly clean kitchen. So often we just make the paints or playdough or cloud dough but involving the kids in the making creates a deeper level of learning and exploration.

The recipe :

1/4 cup of cornstarch
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 cup of water.
food coloring or a little washable paint if you are concerned about staining.

This recipe is easily doubled or tripled for bigger groups.

Food color will stain hands/ clothes if not washed right away but the experience of making paint from scratch was worth pink hands for a few hours. You may not want to do this with nice clothes on or before family pictures. The alternative is to use some tempra paint in the place of the food coloring.

 

Gather your materials. You will need cornstarch, water, sugar, food coloring, a pot, a bowl, measuring cups, spoon, spatula, finger paint paper, containers and toothpicks for stirring. non toxic finger paint recipe

 

Start by mixing the dry ingredients. I measured out the ingredients for my daughter so she could do this independently and because I had JUST enough cornstarch that if we spilled too much the recipe would have flopped. Planning ahead is not my strong suit. With a slightly older child getting them to do the measuring would be rad.  home made finger paints

” All of it Mama?” Her face lit up when I said yes. So glad she likes to cook because by the time she is old enough to do it herself I will be so so over making dinner every night.cooking finger paints

Mix. Your kids will probably notice what she did which is that sometimes the spoon gets stuck while mixing. That’s the cornstarch. If you have extra cornstarch while the paint is cooling grab some and explore it in a shallow pan with some water. It’s a fun sensory activity. how to make finger paint

Once it’s well mixed pour it into the pot and warm over medium heat. I had it on low while she was stirring and then turned it up and stirred it myself.  Also I used a big spatula for her to stir with so she wouldn’t be too close to the warm pot. When it starts to thicken take it off the burner and stir. It will get even thicker as it cools. easy finger paint recipe for kids

I let it cool mostly in the pot then spooned it into the containers until it was completely cooled.

Add a few drops of food coloring. I asked her how many and then we counted together. Math and cooking are best buddies! homemade finger paints for kids

Mix! food coloring finger paintsAs you can see I popped a bib on her since food coloring stains but it was way too small…. So when it was time to paint I grabbed an apron for her. Worked much better!

Time to paint. I covered the kitchen island with a paint drop cloth and gave her some finger paint paper and let her go for it. finger painting with homemade finger paints

And go for it she did.

finger painting

When she started painting her arms it was time for one last picture and to move on to washing up in the sink.finger painting turns to arm painting Not only did this help get the excess off her hands it also got the dishes clean too. She had a blast cooking, painting , and cleaning. She was so excited to tell her dad that she made a painting with paints she cooked and I loved that she told him all about each step hours later. My intention wasn’t to have her do a retell of the activity but it happened naturally. I love watching kids learn!cleaning up finger paints

Dollar Store Salt Tray { Alphabet Activity }

learn to write Writing letters in salt or sand is a classic Montessori activity. They give children a sensory experience while also learning how to form letters. What I have always loved about salt trays is that if a child doesn’t like how their letter turned out they can gently shake it and start again. These items were all bought at the dollar store . You could easily make 4 salt trays for $4 with the supplies listed. Exploring letters in all different ways lets kids experience them and make meaningful connections. Do not worry about how perfect the letters are at this stage, let them explore them and get used to the different kinds of lines and curves that go into them all. This post is part of our Alphabet for Starters series , a series of posts that aim to make learning the alphabet fun and creative instead of full of rote memorization. See more from that series here.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some sentence strips, a sharpie, scissors, salt, and a pie plate( came in a pack of 4). You could also use a cookie sheet, shoe box lid or casserole dish. dollar store salt tray
  2. Cut the sentence strips into smaller cards. You could also use flash cards but as you might guess I don’t have any on hand .dollarstore salt tray alphabet activity
  3. Write out letters with the sharpie. You can write uppercase, lowercase, or a mix like I did. Go at whatever pace your child is at but don’t forget to put in a few challenges. For beginners stick with straight line letters like L , T, H  and the completely curves ones like C and O they have always been easier in my experience that when you mix the two together. We want kids at this age to have some initial success before we challenge them so that their confidence helps carry them through the harder bits. dollar store alphabet activity
  4. Pour in the salt. My daughter LOVED this so much we did it many times over…. and my porch still has salt on it. salt tray activity
  5. Stack the cards and start writing.dollar store learning letters with a salt tray My daughter who turned 3 in June had a touch time with some of the letters but when I explained to her she could shake and try again she perked up. alphabet activities for preschool In one sitting she did 6 letters. Do not expect to go through the whole alphabet especially with a 3 year old or an older child new to this activity. learning to form letters with a salt tray

z

Alphabet Books

f

z is for moose

Z Is for Moose by Kelly Bingham is a hilarious alphabet book that will have you and your child giggling throughout. The books is all about a zebra who is making an alphabet book and his over zealous friend Moose who is very very excited to be involved. So excited in fact that he can’t wait for M to be called and ends up crashing a bunch of other letters. When M does come he’s been replaced by a mouse. Moose’s reaction will turn your kids giggles into chuckles and all the while they will be working on letter recognition. Love this book!

Sleepy ABC

Sleepy ABC by Margaret Wise Brown . Although I have a legendary hatred of Runaway Bunny I generally love this author. I like this book, and the illustrations will zip you back in time for sure.  Unlike many alphabet books it has a great rhythm for reading it all without breaks.  My one complaint is that the child is tucked into bed then a few letters later is out listening to a story from another woman not their mom. I am not sure perhaps those are different children, didn’t bug my son one bit, but left me wondering. Like the title suggests it’s a good alphabet book for a bedtime read, it even ends with something I say often ” Go To Sleep!”.

Alphabet Under Construction

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. }

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Sea Glass Sensory Tub { safe for little hands }

mod meltsOne of my very favorite things to do when I had some downtime is to go to the beach and search for sea glass. It’s such a calm and focused activity. My daughter really wants to help but doesn’t have the patience to search for very long. So when I was asked to check out the new Mod Podge Mod Melts for a sponsored post I knew just how I could create something for her while trying out this new product. This sea glass sensory tub was a huge hit. My daughter has (finally) moved past the mouthing stage and so these little shapes are fun and great for her fine motor development too . If your child is still putting things in their mouth try larger items like big seashells and try this out when they are ready.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some play sand , a tray or container, Mod Podge Mod Melts and mold , a high temp glue gun, paint and a jar.mod podge melts sea glass
  2. Start by creating your “sea glass” the melts are easy to use . all you need to do is place the melt sticks in your glue gun like you would a glue stick. Fill the mold and wait. Our heart n=mold was small so I only waited about 5 minutes and them popped it out. mod podge melts craft idea Make many.mod podge make your own sea glass
  3. Paint! We used acrylic paint in green and blue . I painted 1/3 blue, 1/3 green and left the rest plain. I am not sure how well my camera captured it but it really looks like sea glass! The paint dries quickly if you use a sponge to apply it.mod podge melts beach glass sensory bin
  4. Pour your sand into the tray or container.mod podge beach sensory bin
  5. Add your “sea glass” I hid some under the sand and put some above .modge podge melts
  6. Invite your beach comber to come and search. My daughter immediately dove in.  mod podge beach glass sensory bin
  7. Pop them into the jar .mod podge melts sea glass counting activity
  8. After you have found them all scatter them and count. Next she hid them all and repeated every step. This is a pretty intuitive activity I wasn’t having to hover or instruct. I think I showed her the jar without any clear instructions and the rest she figured out and explored with me clicking pictures and enjoying how intent she was.mod podge melts counting beach glass sensory bin
  9. She even gave me a heart for my sea glass collection .mod podge melts make your own beach glass

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