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.
Sorting is a common preschool activity that you may notice your child doing all on their own. Sorting helps make sense of the world but it’s also a great way to talk about attributes and differences in the items you are sorting. In this case sorting pets vs. wild animals gave us a chance to talk about how we care for pets and observe local wildlife. It wasn’t super simple for a 2.5 year old but when we hit road bumps a few questions lead to the final decision. After sorting we played and played and played which is exactly what I’d hoped for.
- Gather your materials. You will need a doll house ( or a picture of a house ) , some animals and if you want a basket and container to represent the wild . We used a square vase and some pine cones it doesn’t have to be perfect just enough to be separate from the house pets. Make sure that you have some animals that are clearly pets and others that are clearly wild animals and if you think it won’t frustrate your child add in a few iffy ones. Our iffy ones were the budgie, lizard and turtle.
- Place the house, animals and “wild” on a table and invite your wee one to start sorting. Let them know that all the animals need to be put in their home either in the house or wild.
- Help them sort if need be. My daughter took great care in placing each pet in the right spot. When she got to the lizard she was not sure. Eventually she decided that it should be in the wild. You and I know that people have lizards as pets but I wasn’t going to go into that if she decided it shouldn’t. Don’t get hung up on these technicality on the less obvious animals if it breaks the flow of the game but if your child will understand explain exotic pets and let them decide if they think they should or should not be pets.
- After all the sorting is done you can count the animals, ask your child to pick which pet they would like to have in their own house and to pick out the wild animals that they have seen around their neighborhood/zoo/aquarium.
- Then play! Can you tell she is potty training right now? We played and played mostly potty training each of the house pets. If only it were that easy!
Books About Pets
Not Norman: A Goldfish Story by Kelly Bennet is a story about a little boy and his disappointing pet fish Norman. All great children’s books slip a lesson between the pages and this one is about how our first impressions aren’t always right. Friendships can take a while to grow but once they do they are solid, even with a pet fish named Norman.
My Penguin Osbert by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel is a perfect book for this activity. In this story a little boy writes to Santa and asks for a very specific gift, a real live penguin! It’s not long before he realizes that a real live penguin is not as much fun as he thought it would be. He is very responsible though and sacrifices a lot for Osbert. He is thankful to Santa for getting his gift exactly right but writes a follow up letter explaining how it would be ok if Santa sent a replacement. Very cute story, it’s not short though but my 3 year old listened to it happily for a bedtime story. Laughing at the funny parts and pointing out that he wrote a letter to Santa too, but he didn’t ask for a penguin… thank goodness!
McDuff Moves In by Rosemary Wells will pull at your heart strings and make your child beg for a dog! McDuff escapes from a dog catcher’s truck and tried to brave the world alone only to be met with unfriendly animals until he meets Fred and Lucy! They take him in initially just for one night … but who can resist this Westie? My son loves this series of books and I do too. They are calm, sweet and I love the illustrations by Susan Jeffers.This post contains affiliate links
Sorting is an important skill for preschool aged children to learn and practice. You may have noticed that your toddler or preschooler has a natural tendency to sort and they do. Sorting is a way to organize and make sense of their environment. Activities like these provide concrete objects for your child to sort and organize. Colors, shapes and sizes are all great attributes to sort by but for older or more advanced learners try sorting my more than one or more subtle attributes. Here are 9 of our favorite sorting activities for kids.
On the way to preschool a few weeks ago my son and I got to talking about foreign species of animals and how destructive they are to the habitats they invade. In that rather complex conversation I realized my son knew a lot about habitats but there were some animals he simply said came from the zoo … it was time for some learning cloaked as a game. I finally got around to making this over the weekend and we had fun.
- Gather your materials. I used construction paper and scissors for the paper habitat mats I made, double stick tape and a glue stick. You will also need a marker and lots of animal toys. Some of ours are bath toys that weren’t all the way dry… oops.
- Start by cutting the sheets of construction paper in half , this size is perfect for the mats and then you can use the other half for the cut outs.
- Decide which habitats you will make. I decided on jungle, farm, antarctic, and forest because of the animals we had on hand. Remember to use the toys you have for learning, with some brain storming you can save money and play with all those extras that don’t get much use. My helper played with the animals while I brain stormed, with her goggles on of course.
- Create. I loved doing this. If you have older kids see if they want to create this for their younger sibling(s).
- Label them and call for someone to come play!
- With my five year old I let him sort and when he tried to put the raccoon in the jungle I asked ” Have you seen racoons around here? Do we live in the jungle?” and let him answer and adjust. Always ask why because sometimes they have a darn good reason that may only make sense to them but it will likely open up a teaching opportunity for you. Younger kids like my daughter can do an simplified version with only one mat and a simple yes or no sorting activity. I’d focus mostly on labeling the animals and their attributes at that age.
- After he sorted the rest I took some and placed them in the wrong place. Asking why a monkey couldn’t live in the antarctic, or why a whale wouldn’t enjoy swimming in the pond in a forest. This forced him to consider why animals live in specific places. We also touched on domestication and how farms and zoos are different. It was the best part of the lesson and wouldn’t have happened without the sorting game as an ice breaker.
The Next Step
These are my ideas for extending the activity for children who are ready for it . The next step for this would be to purposefully put an animal in the wrong habitat and ask your child to write down a list of things they would need to survive in the wrong habitat. For example a monkey in the antarctic would need warm clothing, fresh fruit delivered, a enclosure built off the ice, maybe even some snow boots! Let them make the list but make sure they answer why they need each item too!
A House for Hermit Crab is a book I have owned for many years. It offers so many learning opportunities for young readers and doesn’t loose any of the entertainment in trying to hard to teach. The hermit crab feels drab and each month he asks different sea creatures to help decorate his shell . As the shell is getting more and more beautiful it’s also getting more and more snug and almost time for the hermit crab to leave it behind and find a bigger one. The book teaches about sea creatures habitats, months of the year and moving. More than moving it teaches about change . Change is difficult for all of us but a little trickier for most preschoolers which makes this book so valuable.
I love rainbows. With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner rainbows have been popping up every time I sit down to brainstorm activities. This one was particularly fun because it used things I am cleaning out of my craft
dump closet , incorporates my son’s incredible love of pretend play ( he’s a garbage sorter) and most every preschooler’s desire to sort. You can do this in 2 parts sorting one day, making a rainbow the next or if I was still teaching I’d do this as a cooperative group project. My 4 year old did all the way up to putting the trash on then lost interest until I started putting some on and he ran back to the table saying he could do it better (is everything a competition in your house too? Sigh) so we did the gluing together.Make sure whatever materials you use that they are safe for the age/ ability of child you are doing this with.
- Gather your materials. You will need a large piece of paper ( I used a grocery bag cut open ), glue, scissors, colored pencils/markers , 7 small containers, small squares of paper in the colors of the rainbow, a mixed mess of “garbage ” -paper/ buttons/foam/plastic toys/ribbon in the colors of the rainbow.
- Start by putting the paper in the containers to sort the “garbage”
- Next fill a container up with all the “garbage”
- Start sorting.
- I was so pleased with how much he liked this part of the activity. It seemed to go on and on forever as he pretended to need a coffee break from his job at the garbage sorting factory. We are not short on imagination in this house.
- While he returned to work I made the rainbow with colored pencils.
- Time to add glue. We added two glue for a few colors at a time.
- Add the objects! We did this part together
- Add more glue.
- Add more objects.
- Let dry.
Duckie’s Rainbow by Frances Barry is a clever little book , you walk with her as she passes things like a yellow cornfield and blue pond until the pages above create a rainbow . I love the idea but reading it with my son ( who was 2 at the time) all he wanted to do was turn the pages as quickly as he could to make the rainbow. Not a big deal but this would make a better story time book then a bedtime one for that reason.
Planting a Rainbow by Lois Elhert is a wonderful book to use for teaching about flowers and colors. The illustrations are bold and bright, perfect for little curious minds. I have always liked this book because you can sit down and dive into it reading each flowers name on every page , or browse it more casually with a younger child simply noting the colors.
This project too complicated for your toddler? Yesterday in my Link &Learn weekly linky this awesome rainbow project from Toddler Approved was linked. When I saw it after writing this post I knew it would be a perfect link to share as an option for younger kids so I added it in .