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!

Playdough + Drinking Straws = Simple Fun

Guest Post by Cathy James

IMG_4638

 

Playdough is such a versatile play material that we really can’t get enough of it in our house. My elder daughter is nine now and we’ve been using playdough since she was around the age of one. We make a fresh batch using our favorite homemade recipe every few months and have it out to play most weeks. That’s a lot of playdough playing! I think it’s remained one of our favorite ways to play because we’re always adding new elements – new ingredients or accessories to give it a twist and invite the children to try the dough a different way.

Have you ever tried adding drinking straws to your playdough? This was a super frugal material for us as they’d already been used for scissor practise and making some contact paper art – but how would the kids use it with playdough? It’s always interesting to offer a new combination of materials, sit alongside an observe, and see what they children discover.

IMG_4613-1
Firstly, my 5-year-old discovered the drinking straws were great for making circle patterns in the playdough – and sometimes the playdough stayed inside the straw and she made lots of holes.

IMG_4619-1 Even more fun was discovering that with a gentle squeeze she could make lots of playdough worms pop out of the straws.

IMG_4640-1 She tested out how to make the straws stand upright in the dough and we mixed in some math play by ordering the straw pieces from the biggest to the smallest. She also made families by collecting all the straws into matching color groups – great classification practise while she played.

What could you add to your playdough this week to give you children something new to discover? We’ve tried chocolate, toothpicks, pencils and leaves with great fun results.

5733152631_944482ec16_mIf you’d like a printable version of our favorite playdough recipes, together with a year’s worth of ideas of things you can add in with your playdough, please stop by NurtureStore to get a free copy of our Let’s Play Dough ebook. I’d love to welcome you over on our Facebook page too – please come and like NurtureStore and I’ll keep in a regular supply of new play ideas.

 

Cathy James is the creative force behind NurtureStore a blog devoted to play ideas, kids’ crafts and fun activities.

St. Patrick’s Day Sensory Play & Craft

St. Patrick's Day Craft

Crafts for toddlers often has more than one goal. My main goal is special time together but often I have a secondary goal like fine motor development, learning colors, or sensory play. My daughter is 20 months old and I have no laundry list of things I want her to know at this age , my goal is to expose her to lots of fun activities and see what she takes a liking to. She loves water play so I thought she might like to try puffy paint again, I was right. This is a great activity for preschoolers too, don’t think simple crafts like this are only for toddlers.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some plain old shaving cream, green paint ( darker the better), something to stir with , plain white glue, a marker , scissors and heavy paper. 
  2. Start by drawing a shamrock on heavy paper don’t worry about it being even close to perfect you will be slopping and squishing puffy paint all over it! 
  3. Time to mix. My son who was playing Lego in the playroom but didn’t want to make a craft did pop up to help mix.  I do this so often I don’t measure anymore. I usually use about a cup of shaving cream to about 1/4 cup of glue. Then add the paint until it’s the color you want. Ours was greener than it looks but definitely a mint green. 
  4. Start playing. 
  5. She wasn’t sure at first.
  6. But soon both her hands were squishing, spreading and exploring. shamrock craft
  7. Yay fun !! We played and played.
  8. She was not happy when I told her it was time to wash hands.
  9. But washing the container in the sink was a great treat… for both of us. toddler craft
  10. Let dry (at least 24 hours so the paint stays puffy even after you cut into it) and cut out. toddler st. Patrick's Day Craft

 

Playdough Play Mats – Silly Hairdos!

This sensory activity allows kids to use their imagination to give you or themselves a new hairdo with playdough. My toddler is a huge fan of playdough play and it’s great stuff for toddlers and preschoolers… but my 5 year old gets bored easily sometimes. It’s not essential we all play the same things but it’s nice to play and be silly together .It was inspired by this paint project from Putti Prapancha . Adapting it to playdough  allowed us all to sit and play together .

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some sheet protectors, some photos of faces that you can cut, playdough ( ours is store bought but homemade will work a-ok), a few sheets of construction paper, some scissors, painters tape, double stick tape and a garlic press.
  2. Start by cutting out the faces from some family pictures. Cut off the hair! playdough ideas
  3. Tape them onto the construction paper using double stick tape.
  4. Slip it into a page protector. I had to trim my construction paper to fit.Tape to the table with painter’s tape if you have a little one like my daughter who takes great pleasure in “clearing off” tables.
  5. Start playing. We used the garlic press, our hands and scissors to make the hair. preschool play dough stuff
  6. My daughter loved putting it on my face, apparently she wants me to have a goatee. Don’t worry about toddlers putting the hair in the “right” place, there is no “right” place.  Talk about who they are looking at , talk about how squishy the playdough is and ask if they have hair etc… no need to make it a battle of wills, this is supposed to be play, so let them explore.
  7. We rotated through the pictures taking turns ( another good lesson) .He loved mixing the colors in the garlic press.
  8. Squeezing it out.
  9. Adding it on. For some reason the concept of chest hair has been a big topic at our house – not something I was expecting until closer to puberty but ok. He added some on his sister and himself. Have fun with this.

Books About Families

Something From Nothing by Phoebe Gilman is one of those books that you read and think oh I love it, but will kids? I am here to tell you yes! They love this old Yiddish folk tale about a little boy, his very special blanket and his grandfather who made it for him. Over the years Joseph’s blanket transforms into a jacket, a vest, a tie, and handkerchief and finally a button. The story is beautiful and kids love not only the repetitive text when the grandfather is sewing but also the continuing storyline of the mice that live under the floor boards who use the scraps of material for all sorts of things. There are no goofy gimmicks, no lights or sounds just a great story and beautiful illustrations in this gem! A fantastic book about family and growing up.

All Kinds of Families! by Mary Ann Hoberman was not what my son or I expected at all. The story is really disjointed both connecting similar objects into families and talking about the generations of a family. I like  that it explains that there can be all sorts of families  and that it talks about how your family makes you into new things like a son, sister or cousin but I think mixing the two is too disconnected for the average picture book reading kid. To be honest it was a little disjointed for me too.  My son was ready for it to be over half way through and that is never a good sign. Usually by the time he’s asked if it’s over he’s tuned out. The illustrations were cute but even they didn’t save it for us.

The Family Book by Todd Parr is a book that doesn’t give readers a narrow definition of family , it doesn’t say that your family has to look a certain way, or be the same as your neighbors. As a teacher I really appreciated the matter of fact way it embraced diversity. Kids see that families are not all like theirs and it’s important to validate the truth while recognizing that while they may not all look alike, all families are made with love. Great book , cute illustrations and children love it.

This post contains affiliate links.

Rainbow Gelatin Sensory Tub

rainbow gelatin sensory tub

I know tomorrow is Valentine’s Day but my mind is already planning St.Patrick’s Day. If you need a Valentine’s Day craft idea we have those too but I had to share this because it was too much fun to keep to ourselves any longer. The major bonus of this project was that for toddlers who are putting everything in their mouths it’s no biggy if they take a bite. I added koolaid to make it smell great and sour to discourage eating it. This must be kept in the fridge so make some , you won’t regret it.

  1. Gather your materials. I used 6 foil pans I had on hand but any container will work to set the gelatin, you will need plain gelatin packets 4 per color, food color, spoons, a pot, measuring cups and koolaid for scent/added color. Also a big tub and some bath toys for playing.rainbow gelatin sensory tub
  2. Start by mixing your colors. I used koolaid mostly for scent but also for color.
  3. Make the gelatin. I used the recipe on the back of the knox gelatin box adjusting it to  1/2 as much liquid ( 1/2 cup of cool and 1 cup hot and 4 envelopes of gelatin) as the recipe called for to make it thicker for play using plain water with color/ koolaid in it. I made all 6 colors.rainbow gelatin sensory tub
  4. Let cool – I had to stack them in my fridge so I popped a few in the freezer for a minute to stiffen and totally forgot about this purple one… if froze, and was unusable. The kids didn’t miss it at all.
  5. When set slice into pieces. I used a knife then scraped it into the tub using a spatula.
  6. Add kids and toys. He was so excited he was bouncing, this is the best picture of many very blurry bouncy pictures I took.Rainbow Sensory Tub
  7.  You can probably tell we did this in our bathroom, please find a place where tiny bits of color won’t ruin anything. The gelatin won’t stain hands but can be absorbed into clothes and other fabrics. Please go somewhere where kids can have fun without you hovering and you won’t have to search for stain removers on Pinterest after this project. Our bathroom was perfect, I had a damp cloth handy for little bits that got shaken off hands or toys and flung all over. It also had a door to stop kids from running into the rest of the house before hands were washed. All this said it was still completely worth it.

    Rainbow Sensory Tub

  8. They stuck them on the side of the tub.
  9. Smelled it. Rainbow Sensory Tub
  10. Tasted it ( love my son’s face, he’s telling her not to eat it). Rainbow Sensory Tub
  11. Mixed them all up and had a blast. Rainbow Sensory Tub