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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Cork Board Letters

cork board letter puzzlesOver the summer my son is focusing on play but I am focusing on working on his fine motor skills.  This activity satisfies both .  The best part of these letter puzzles are how adaptable they are. You can make letters, shapes, even spell simple words. You could provide your child with a card next to each group of pegs to let them know what letter it is or leave it as a puzzle for them to figure out like I did to combine fine motor and spacial skills.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a cork board, some pushpins and elastics. Cork Board Letters
  2. Start by stretching two elastics across the board to make 4 distinct areas. peg board letters fine motor skills
  3. Using the push pins I created 4 letters. pegboard letters for kidsI wanted to make sure that they could be made into letters so created them myself. Then removed the elastics and called my son. cork board letters kids literacy activity
  4. He dove right in.peg board letters five motor development The A was easy but the B was tricky.peg board fine motor and letter recognition in one It took a while for him to see that it was a B but once he did he couldn’t make the B fast enough.  alphabet letters
  5. I took all the pegs out ( adults only if you aren’t careful the elastics can pull the pegs out and they go flying) and reconfigured them into 4 new letters.  These were easier and he flew through them but he was still getting lots of opportunity to fine tune his fine motor skills. cork board letters

Advanced Alphabet Books

These books aren’t your basic alphabet book. They offer challenges that will appeal to school age children but could still be shared with kids 5 and under.

animalia by Greame Base

Animalia by Graeme Base is iconic in teaching circles, you can loose yourself for hours in the detailed illustrations. The book is an alphabet book on steroids! Each page had a wonderful paragraph in each letter such as for the letter L ” Lazy Lions lounging in the local library.” The pages are filled to the gills with pictures of things that start with that letter as well. Parents and kids a like will fall in love.

all aboard

All Aboard!: A Traveling Alphabet by Bill Mayer was more fun for my husband and I than for my son when he was a toddler, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s a book of pictures, with hidden letters in them. For example the letter O is overpass with loops of road and hidden in it is an O. Some letters were easy to find some were hilariously hard. We read this to my son tonight at bedtime and while we stared at the letter H ( highway) picture debating where the h was, he fell asleep between us in his bed. This is a great alphabet book for families with children just learning and those who have mastered the alphabet. Oh and the debate was settled , we were both wrong. The final page highlights the letter in each picture in a compilation of the whole alphabet.

Al Pha's Bet

Al Pha’s Bet by Amy Krouse Rosenthal is a rare find. An alphabet book that can keep a 5 year old who says alphabet books are for babies, completely engaged. The story follows Al who has bet himself that he can win a contest ordered by the King figure out an order for the brand new 26 letters that were just invented. In a string of adorable events and a little chance the alphabet as we know it is put together. My son thought it was hysterical that P was put in the line up after Al went pee. It’s a cute idea for a book and abstract enough to be a bit of a challenge for preschoolers but just the right level of interest for kids that think they know it all when it comes to the alphabet.

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Painting with Cookie Cutters

abc activityWith summer around the corner I usually shift from more involved activities to simpler ones . We used these alphabet cookie cutters for a playdough activity ages ago and they were the perfect tool for this painting activity.  I loved how amazed my daughter was every time she lifted the cookie cutter up to reveal the letter below. This is such an easy way to play with letters. There is no structure just colors, tools and exploration. This post is part of our Alphabet For Starters series. A series of posts that introduce and play with letters.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some paint, plates, alphabet cookie cutters ( or any shape really you don’t have to do the alphabet) and some paper.
  2. If you want to extend the activity a little take some time to mix colors with the paint. We used different colors and added white paint with each . My daughter called them ice cream colors. I have to agree! There are no pictures of us mixing the colors because her mixing got rather exuberant . Remember to have a wet cloth on hand so you don’t have to stash the toddler covered in paint under your arm while running to get one like I did.abc painting mixing
  3. Spread the paint on the paper plates, lay your paper down and go for it!abc painting colors
  4. She had a blast and it’s such a natural activity for letter recognition. You don’t even have to prompt your child if they are at all familiar with letters they will likely announce which they are using.  If not feel free to say things like ” Look you made an orange H ! Cool! ” but keep it light. I have no clue why her foot is on the window ledge but I am rather in awe of her flexibility.abc painting with letter cookie cutters
  5. Keep going and if your paper is large rotate it for more room to stamp.abc letter painting
  6. Let dry and display. Try to always display your children’s creations even if you only hang them up for a short while. Let them feel pride in their accomplishments.

Awesome ABC Books 

eating the alphabet

Eating the Alphabet: Fruits & Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert is an alphabet book extraordinaire and perfect for a letter F eek, since it’s all about food!  Wonderful paintings of fruits and vegetables seem ultra simple and it is but somehow the way the author has pieced this simple book together is brilliant. Maybe it’s that children learn about food at the table multiple times a day and feel proud being able to identify not only some of the letters but some of the pictures too! From a teaching standpoint I love that there are both upper and lower case letters on each page! This book will grow with your child, and beware it will also make you hungry.

chica chica boom boom

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom: Anniversary Edition by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault is one of my absolute favorite books ever. Many alphabet books are great tools but this one not only entertains it never gets old. It’s text is musical , it’s premise is brilliant in it’s simplicity and kids love it. My favorite line is ” Skit skat scoodle doot. Flip flop flee. ” I hope I am conveying how much fun this book is to read out loud. I have never had a class who didn’t like it and if you don’t have it, you should!

alphabeep

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.

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Alphabet Activity – Flower Garden

by Allison McDonald alphabet activityWe have been doing so many playdough and other sensory activities lately that it was about time to get back to a simple and playful alphabet activity. This alphabet activity is part of our Alphabet For Starters series. This series is all about playing with letters, discovering them without pressure. This alphabet garden is super simple but can be made more challenging with a few simple changes.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some contact paper ( rumor has it that the dollar store is carrying it now! ), some green construction paper, multi-color construction paper, scissor and a marker or two.letter flower garden
  2. Attach the contact paper to the wall sticky side out. She loves to “get stuck” on the wall . letter flower mural
  3. Next step is making some grass. Fold your green paper, and cut.letter garden grass
  4. Next cut some stems and flowers. I did tulips because they are easy to free hand cut.letter garden alphabet activity for toddlers
  5. Add letters to your flowers. Now here is where you can easily customize this activity. For my daughter I did plain old lowercase letters. You can do upper or a mix or write letters on the stems and have it turn into a match game.letter flowers for alphabet activities
  6. Set the pieces out and let your kiddo explore.letter flowers
  7. My daughter loves flowers and she got right into it. alphabet letter activityWe talked about the letters, the colors of the flowers and how the stems are different lengths. Don’t pressure young kids to do every letter. My daughter put a handful on while we played the first time and then I left it all set up and a few days letter she returned and added a few more. I will leave it up for a few more days and I am sure she will keep adding a few every day.letter flower alphabet The whole point is to play and discover letters. As she adds the letters to the wall she naturally says ” Look this is A,  it’s your letter Mama!” and we talk about it .flower letters for toddlers

If you are looking for a more traditional letter of the week approach we have many letter of the week ideas here. My son loved cutting and pasting so we made fun letter crafts when he was learning his letters. Find what works best for your child, what they enjoy and don’t forget to have fun!

 

Easter Egg Letter Match – Alphabet For Starters

easter egg letter recognition activityby Allison McDonald

This uppercase lowercase letter match activity is not ground breaking but combining it with an Easter theme helps makes letter recognition practice and skill development into play.  Adding a fun novelty like a holiday theme does wonders for kids motivation and a motivated child is a child ready to learn. This activity is part of our Alphabet for Starters series which focuses on fun playful ways to learn the alphabet.  A few easy adaptations for different levels would be doing a straight identical letter match having only all lower or all uppercase letters and doing this with sight words for emergent readers.

  1. Gather your materials. I got this egg tray at Walmart for under a dollar. I almost bought all 4 colors but I restrained myself and let my daughter pick her favorite color. You could use an egg carton just as effectively no need to buy anything special. You will also need some paper, marker , plastic Easter eggs and a bucket for the eggs. A circle paper punch is optional for the letters in the tray. You may also want some tape to tape the paper in the tray down. Ours got staticky and interrupted the flow a few times. easter egg letter match 2
  2. Start by writing lowercase letters on small pieces of paper. Try to include a majority of letters your child knows ( about 2/3) and some you know have been challenging in the past. This will hopefully give them a good balance of ” This is challenging but I can do it!” which is the perfect zone for learning. Easter Egg Letter Match 3
  3. Pop them in your tray. easter egg letter match 5
  4. Write the corresponding upper case letters on the eggs in marker. easter egg letter match
  5. Put the eggs in the bucket and invite your letter matcher to the table. easter egg letter activity for kids
  6. Start matching. easter egg letter match alphabet activityShe wanted to put the lowercase letter in the egg after matching them which is a fun add on even though a few of the eggs didn’t want to close back up and that frustrated her greatly. I think an older child would do wonderfully with this add on even if it proved to be too much for a 2 year old. I was tricky for her but with some help she got it. After that it was smooth sailing.easter egg letter match 4 I thought Q would give her trouble but she was a champ.Easter Egg Letter Match 10 Celebrate any and all victories. Easter Egg Letter Match 9

Books About Easter

Where-Are-Baby-s-Easter-Eggs

Where Are Baby’s Easter Eggs? by Karen Katz is a great way of having an Easter egg hunt while reading a story. If you aren’t familiar with the ” Where are  Baby’s …” series of life the flap books, they are simple books where the reader searches for an item finding other things first before finally finding the title object, in this case Easter eggs. My daughter loves these books and plays with them even when we aren’t reading them together. I love the bright illustrations and the simple holiday theme.

Easter books

The Best Easter Eggs Ever! by Jerry Smath is an adorable book about Easter. The story follows the Easter bunny and his 3 young assistant bunnies as they prepare for their big day. The Easter Bunny is getting tired and a little bored of his polka dot design for the eggs and decides to send out his assistants in search of new designs. The little bunnies head out with one egg and paints to all different places to find inspiration. When one of the little bunnies is captivated by the night sky she doesn’t notice how dark it is and how lost she has gotten. The Easter Bunny and his other assistants find her and in the morning the new designs are celebrated. My son loves an inside look at any sort of secret place like  the Easter Bunny’s or Santa’s workshop so he was drawn into this book immediately. I liked the illustrations and how detailed they were , it certainly got me excited about Easter.

easter books for kids

The Night Before Easter by Natasha Wing is a Easter version of the classic “Twas The Night Before Christmas” . With fun pictures and an Easter Bunny so joyful I wanted to apply for his job this book was a hit at our house. My son was engaged through the whole book guessing at the rhymes and listening intently from one page to the next. Of all the books this was the only one that really engaged my toddler as well. She pointed out animals and loved the little boy in the book. Great Easter book.

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