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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Sandpaper & Felt Shape Matching

sandpaper and felt texture puzzleThis was not a planned project at all.  My daughter and I were painting Easter eggs in the playroom when I saw all the materials for this all together in my closet and inspiration hit. This is a simple and quick shape matching activity but it also has elements of fine motor, sensory and the carrots give it just a touch of an Easter craft. You could do any shape to fit whatever theme you are learning about any time of year , another reason I think this is such a great activity.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some sandpaper, felt , yarn, crayons and scissors. sandpaper and felt carrots67
  2. Start by drawing your carrots with crayons. In my experience using marker on sandpaper is a bad idea. The sandpaper bits end up in the felt tip and the markers are never the same again. Crayons are much more forgiving and vibrant. sandpaper and felt puzzles for easter 2
  3. Cut your felt and yarn to size. Do not worry about an exact match. If exact means a lot to you reverse the order and use the felt shapes as a template and trace around them so they are exactly the same size. Either way your child will love it. sandpaper and felt texture puzzles
  4. Invite your little one to come explore the sandpaper. Talk a bit about the texture by asking questions and /or labeling what they are doing.sandpaper and felt carrots
  5. Time to match up the shapes.sandpaper and felt puzzles for toddlers Talk about how soft the felt is too if there is a natural chance to do it. If your child is engaged and not at all interested in exploring the textures don’t sweat it. Follow their lead .
  6. I had my daughter remove the shape after putting it down to see how “sticky” the sandpaper was. She was fascinated that her fingers didn’t stick but the felt did. sandpaper and felt puzzles for easter
  7. Add the yarn.sandpaper and felt fine motor skills This was tricky but it was supposed to be. Just remember to walk the line between challenging and frustrating. She matched up a few and that was enough – this is supposed to be fun not a test of fine motor skills. sand paper and felt puzzles

Books About Carrots

the carrot seed

The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss is a rare gem, it has been in print for over 60 years and has delighted generations . If you aren’t familiar with the story, a little boy plants a carrot seed and everyone tells him “It won’t come up.” this doesn’t stop the little boy from patiently taking care of this little seed, that eventually grows into a giant carrot. The message is a universal one of sticking to your guns even when everyone tells you you should give up. My son loved the story the simple pictures that will bring you back to your own childhood, at least they did for me. A true classic.

Coco The Carrot

Coco The Carrot by Steven Salerno is an absurd tale of adventure, and I loved it. Coco is a carrot who dreams of a life larger than the vegetable drawer . She dreams big and goes for it. Unlike most carrots that end up in stew she becomes a famous hat designer and is the toast of Paris with her Monkey companion Anton. If you are scratching your head but oddly intrigued you will like this book. It was long but my son sat with me giggling and telling me ” Carrots can’t do that?!” more than once. I loved it because it is so absurd that she is a carrot, but the story itself is about going for your dreams, hitting bumps in the road and realizing that your dreams shift and change and that’s OK.  There is great bits of humor for the adults as well, something I always appreciate!

carrot_soup

Carrot Soup by John Segal is a cute book about planting a garden, in this case carrots, tending it and then reaping the rewards…. or maybe not. Rabbit carefully planned out his garden, took care of it but when it was time to gather all the carrots they were all gone!  Throughout the pages there are hints to where the carrots might be, your child will likely figure it out before Rabbit does. My son liked this book and I loved reading it with him as he was rather exasperated that the Rabbit couldn’t figure out the mystery!

 

Princess Sensory Tub

princess sensory tub activity  I keep the basics of sensory tubs in ziploc bags under the bottom shelf of my pantry and for days my daughter has been asking to play. Ours days have been nuts and whenever she asked was never enough time to play. Until this morning. I grabbed one of the bags from previous tubs and decided to make something extra special for my little princess obsessed girl. As soon as I told her it was a princess theme she insisted on wearing her full costume.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a tub ( ours is a lasagna pan ) , white rice, multicolored sequins, princess figurines, beads or jewels, pompoms , glitter, small cups and some spoons.  The things about these tubs are that there is no exact recipe you can add what you have making sure of course that whatever you add is something appropriate and safe for your kids.  Princess Sensory Tub 2
  2. Start with just the basics in the tub .Princess Sensory Tub Our rice and sequins were already mixed so I popped it in the tub. Then invited my daughter to add what she wanted when she wanted. The princesses went in immediately . princess sensory tub 3
  3. Next she added the pom poms and beads with a spoon. This is great for eye hand coordination . Princess Sensory Tub 4
  4. She spent a lot of time scooping and pouring and mugging for the camera Princess Sensory Tub 5before adding some glitter to the mix!Princess Sensory Tub 6
  5. Next she pretended it was soup and pretended to feed herself princess sensory 6and her princesses. princess sensory tub 0At some point she switched crowns too.This is what I love the most about sensory tubs , all the pretend play that blossoms as they explore. She asked for her pony and kept going. princess tub 7
  6. The sign she was done for me was this little face I caught on camera… that handful of rice didn’t end up in her mouth or in a tub as I snapped this picture I warned her if she threw it on the floor we would put the tub up. princess sensory tub 44
  7. And that was her choice. We’ll play again another day. The rule of accidental spills being no biggie but if I warn my kids and they dump, pour or throw anything on the floor it’s the end of the fun, for today. princess sensory tub 77

Princess Books For Little Readers

princess books for girls

The Very Fairy Princessby Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton is a cute book about a little girl who loves all things princess related. What I like about this book is that it’s message isn’t heavy handed and  it celebrates princesses while sneaking in some very positive messages too. In a world where many parents ( me included) have issues with this whole princess thing and struggle to find that balance this book has it. It tells you it’s ok to want to be a princess and to “let your sparkle out!” and talks about confidence in the process. I must admit though I am a total Julie Andrews fan and I am not sure I’d ever dislike anything Maria , I mean Mary Poppins I mean Julie Andrews wrote.

Princess and The Pizza

The Princess and the Pizza by Mary Jane and Herb Auch is really a cute re telling of the classic Princess and the Pea. They have modernized it and made it a little more feminist in the process, exactly my kind of book. The text is a little long for toddlers but my son sat through about half before wanting to go back and look at the illustration of the horse on the first page. The message is sweet, saying that a woman doesn’t need a man or marriage to attain her goals! Beware though it will make you crave pizza! ** Edited for 2013 my daughter recently found this book and we have been reading it most nights this month . She loves it and sits happily through the whole book , laughs at the funny parts and while she doesn’t get all the subtleties she loves this book.

Princess Pruney Toes

Good Night, Princess Pruney Toes by Lisa McCourt  is a fun carefree book about a happy loving father and daughter. Princess Pruney Toes emerges from her bath to rule over her kingdom before bed. I love that the dad in this story follows along with his daughter’s imagination. I think it’s so important for parents to play with their kids and what’s better than pretend play? This lovely book is another fresh look at what makes a princess and that even princesses wishes can be easy to grant.

Forest Friends Sensory Tub

sensory tub for kids Sensory tubs are a fun for kids  to explore using their senses but also their imagination. We live near a forest with hiking trails and after we went as a family for a hike we came home and created this to extend the experience and play.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a container, forest animal figurines, pine cones, rocks,  filler like lentils, dried beans, and pasta. For this tub we used the saved filler from our St.Patrick’s Day Sensory Tub and our Butterfly Sensory Tub. I keep all the filler in ziplocs and save them for later play.
  2. Pour the filler in.
  3. Arrange the animals and pine cones.
  4. Invite your little one to explore.  Tip : even if the room you are in has no rug use a bathmat or small area rug under the tub because as the filler spills ( and some always will) to slow them down from scattering.
  5. She immediately started feeding the animals one at a time. I went with it and asked a few questions about what she was feeding them ( ham) and what they were doing in the forest ( playing cards).
  6. I leave sensory tubs together for a week or two and we play every few days usually with the same theme but always let her lead the pretend play.

Books by Audrey Penn

A Kiss Goodbye by Audrey Penn is a sequel to one of my favorite books ” The Kissing Hand” . In this book Chester the little raccoon has to leave his home to move to anther tree because his is being chopped down. This book really focuses on the feelings of fear of the unknown, the loss of security and the uncertainty that comes with moving. Feelings that even as a 34 year old mom and veteran mover I am still facing ! This is a great book and while you grab it grab all the other books the library has by this author, you won’t regret it.

A Pocket Full of Kisses by Audrey Penn is another book in her Kissing Hand series. Chester is not so happy about having a little brother and suggests that he gives him back! I love that jealousy doesn’t stem over toys or material things but rather over Mama giving his little brother a kissing hand too.  My mom has always called me sunshine and I will grudgingly admit that I do not like it when someone else earns this name, it’s an instinctual reaction and I am in my 30s! When Chester raccoon bursts into tears kids and adults a like can relate to it. Mam raccoon handles it beautifully and Chester understands that no matter how much love a mama has for one child it doesn’t take any way from others. This book was a great vehicle for discussion about our upcomming arrival and I urge other parents dealing with a new sibling or jealousy to check it out.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn is an absolute favorite . Chester is a raccoon who like most of us doesn’t like change. In his case it’s starting school. He wants to stay home with his mama and play with the friends he already has instead of going to school away from her and his friends. So his mama explains to him the magic of the kissing hand . The real magic is the message that we have to do things that scare us sometimes but that the love of our family is always with us to help us through. Go get this book. See how perfect is this, mostly for me this week, I hate leaving my son, letting go is good for me but man I miss his snuggles when I am away!

Messy Sensory Tubs For Kids

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messy sensory tubs for kids Sensory tubs are fun and messy sensory tubs are even more fun, at least for the kids. Summer is a perfect time to take these outside and not worry about your floors while your kids explore. I am asked often how I handle sensory tubs and pouring everything out . If you saw this instagram showing my daughter pouring rice out you know I am not immune to this and you may notice it was taken outside on our porch. She is in a messy phase and I don’t want to just stop sensory exploration so I head outside too . The way I handle pouring out of the tub is that accidental spillage is no biggie but pouring it on the floor for the sake of pouring it on the floor gets one warning. If it happens again the tub is removed or child redirected to another activity but the key to getting them over this is you try again, same rules.

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Beach Sensory Tub
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Coffee Grounds Sensory Exploration
Alphabet Sensory Tub
Shaving Cream Fireworks
Ocean Sensory Tub
Butterfly Sensory Tub
Cloud Dough
Rainbow Gelatin Sensory Tub
Swamp Sensory Tub
DIY Water Table
Spring Bird Seed Sensory Tub