This color matching activity with letter magnets and colored candy canes has been a huge hit in my classroom this month. My students range in age from two and a half years to a little over three years old at this point of the year, my goals for them with letters are simple. I hope that by June they recognize their first initial ( but there is no pressure if they don’t) and that they know that these shapes are letters. Sounds simple, right? Well, it is and at this age and for the following few years kids should be playing with letters, not sitting down and being drilled on them. Trust me they will be in desks soon enough, let’s focus on play as long as we can.
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Gather your materials. You will need letter magnets, construction paper in colors matching the letter magnets, scissors, a marker, and something to hold the paper candy canes to the magnet board. If you don’t have a magnet board, use cookie sheets instead. My favorite magnets for little ones are these from Melissa and Doug.
Draw a candy cane shape on one sheet of paper, stack the other 3 and cut. Draw on some lines. Add the candy canes to a magnet board, fridge, or cookie sheet along with some magnetic letters. Pop a few matches on the candy canes as examples or you can play together for a few minutes to get them started.
I don’t add the whole alphabet, it’s just too much at this age. Instead, I try to choose meaningful letters, which could be first initials, family initials like the first letter of your name or a siblings name and in a class each child’s first initial. As recognition develops I add in more. Also, I teach upper and lower case letters in concurrently so I have a mix of those too.
It will take you 3 minutes tops which is good because an extra three minutes at this time of year is not guaranteed!
Color matching and sorting with letter magnets is wonderful because it is a developmentally appropriate activity for this age group. Using letter magnets as the colored objects to sort is a fun and pressure-free way to introduce letter recognition. The best part of this activity for me is how easy it is to differentiate. Children who have started to become interested in letters early can ask a teacher as they are matching the colors ” What letter is this?” or say ” I put the H on the blue!” and be supported in their learning as they do. The child who is only interested and developmentally ready for color matching is still benefitting from the process of matching. They will notice the letters when they are ready.