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Identifying the letters in the alphabet, and learning how letters are formed is an important early literacy skill. Long before picking up a pencil preschoolers need to have strong fingers, hands, and a strong core before they even begin to print letters. These developed skills will make it easier for them to maintain a proper posture, pencil grip, and sustain a writing activity when they are finally ready to start printing.
Needless to say, learning about letters and letter formation doesn't have to wait! Below I've pulled together some of my favorite hands on ways to learn letters, that use low cost materials that can be found around your classroom, or home.
1. Sensory Bin Seek & Find
Provide the children with a letter recording mat (Apple Activity Pack) and letters to find. A small shoe box will work great! For this activity I used shredded paper from the dollar tree. To extend this activity: provide the children with an uppercase letter mat, and lower case letters.
2. Pom Pom Letter Formation
Tracing Letters with manipulative's is a great way to practice letter formation. For this activity I combined my Alphabet Letter Tracing Mats with pom pom's. Pom pom's a great low cost manipulative and can also be used as math counters, or patterning. Combine math and literacy! You can count how many pom pom's were used to form each letter, and make patterns! You can also use these mats to practice forming letters with other manipulatives, stickers, or collage items.
3. Letter Writing Tray
I love writing trays! They are a great pre-writing activity for kids who are learning to write. Children can focus on letter formation, and build strong fingers before having to worry about how to properly grip a pencil or crayon.
They are most commonly made with salt, or sand. Simply add a small amount of salt or sand to a tray or cookie sheet, and let the fun commence!
In addition to tracing the letters with their fingers, young children can also use small objects such as mini erasers, or glass beads to "build" each letter.
For this activity I changed the scale settings on my printer to print the Letter Formation Mats 4:1! It's such an easy way to make smaller task cards!
4. Stamping Letter Buddies
For this letter activity I combined letter stamps with the ABC Recording Mat found inside my Apple Activity Pack. Children search for the matching letter "buddy" stamp and stamp it next to the letter on each month. This can easily be turned into a lowercase & uppercase letter matching activity as well. To extend this activity you can encourage the children to stamp their names!
5. Play Dough Letter Formation
Using dough for letter formation is another low cost activity. Children are building strong fine motor skills when they pinch, tear, squeeze, and roll the dough to form these letters. For this activity I've combined play dough with my A-Z Dough Letter Mats. To extend this activity: after making each letter have the children talk about the different shapes they see. Do they see a circle, a line?
6. Sticker Letter Match-Up
This is another low cost activity that I created using stickers (found at the Dollar Tree) and the letter recording sheet from my Apple Activity Pack! Stickers are another fun way to incorporate a fine motor activity with literacy.
7. Magnet Letter match up relay
Get those bodies moving! For this game I combined the uppercase letter mats and the first sounds mat from my Apple Activity Pack to create a fun relay game. Place the uppercase mats at one end of the room, and the first sounds mat at the other end. Children "pick" a letter from the mat, and take it to the other end of the room to place on the first sounds mat. Extend this activity: Have the children crawl, or hop their way back!
8. Foil Letter Rubbings
To make foil letter rubbings you will need raised letters (I picked these wooden letters up at the dollar tree, but you could use magnet letters or other toy letters), some small pieces of foil, and a craft stick for smoothing the foil.
Simply place the foil over the letter and use your fingers to press the foil around the shape. After you are done, use the side of the craft stick to smooth out your foil, and repeat again! Provide the children with longer strips of foil to make letter rubbings of their names!
9. Play Dough Hide & Seek
I ran across these fun letter erasers at the Target Dollar spot! They are perfect to create a play dough hide and seek letter match-up game. Kids really have to use their fingers to dig through the play dough to find all of the letters. If you don't have letters like these you can use other small items such as letter beads. scrabble letter tiles, or even write letters on other mini erasers to hide!
10. Stencil Fun
Stencils are magical, and they aren't just for paper! I picked up this set of plastic stencils at the dollar store! Simply secure them to an easel (or take them outside). Add pre-torn pieces of washi tape to the side of the easel so the children can independently attach the stencils. Place some chalk nearby and they are ready trace!
Show the children how to carefully remove the stencils to reveal the letters! It's like magic!
Build bilateral coordination skills by encouraging the children to use chalk in both hands, and color the stencils at the same time.
Stencils can also be used with bingo daubers, finger paint,
and spray bottles filled with liquid water colors.
11. Pipe Cleaner Letter Formation
Pipe cleaners are another low cost item you can use to practice letter formation! For this tactile activity kids can use the letter formation cards as a guide to create their letters. Depending on their skill level, you can provide them with pipe cleaners. and scissors or a variety of pipe cleaner pieces already cut to different sizes.
12. Roll & Find Letter Match Up
For this activity I combined mini alphabet blocks with the letter recording sheet from the Apple Activity Pack. Provide the children with a bingo dauber (or markers of your choice), a few blocks, and a plastic cup. Children roll the blocks and mark the corresponding letter to each mat. Extend this activity: turn this into a group game by providing all of the children with a mat, and giving each child an opportunity to "roll" the blocks for the whole group.
13. Cover & Find First Sounds
For this activity I combined a salt tray, a paint brush, apple eraser "markers", a reduced copy (2:1) of the apple letter recording sheet, and full size copy of the first sounds mat found in the Apple Activity pack. For this activity, tape the recording sheet to a tray, and cover with salt. To play, your preschooler will gently wipe away the salt until they reveal a letter beneath the salt. Once a letter is revealed, they will mark the corresponding first sound image on the mat with a marker. Play continues until all letters have been revealed.
14. Pattern block letters
Younger preschoolers will enjoy using the pattern blocks to create letters. This is an excellent opportunity to talk about the characteristics of each letter, they will be able to recall this knowledge later when learning to write letters.
These pattern block mats also encourage children to consider how each letter is formed. Letters are made of up curves and lines, becoming familiar with these curves and lines helps children develop a knowledge base about letters to draw from when they are learning to write
15. Alphabet Clip Cards
These ABC clip cards are a fun way to learn and practice matching uppercase and lowercase letters!
Easily set up this activity by printing, laminating, and then setting out with clothespins or markers.
Children use a clothespin (or marker) to mark the matching lowercase letter on the bottom of each card to the uppercase letter on the top.
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