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Working With Preschool-Aged Children – Pre-Writing Fun

“Practice makes perfect.”

 

These words couldn’t ring truer for preparing a child to become a writer.  Writing isn’t an acquired skill; it is learned and practiced long before pencil is actually placed in hand.  Here are some great ideas to get your preschooler ready to write – and still have a great time doing it!

  1. Take a ziplock baggie and place about 1/4 cup of hair gel inside.  Seal the bag, squeezing out all the excess air (depending on the size of bag, you might need more or less gel, and colored gel works better).  Place the sealed baggie on a flat surface and use as a writing “tablet”.  Children can draw and doodle in the gel, wiping their “slate” clean by simply smoothing out the gel.  Place the gel baggie over a piece of paper with squiggle lines or simple shapes and have the child “trace” the shape with his or her finger.  This can even be used with large letters written on paper as well.
  2. Spread sand on a cookie sheet or other edged pan.  Have children use this surface as a writing surface.  It can be easily “erased” as well.  Use fingers as well as other items, such as straws, unsharpened pencils, pasta and even small cars to “write”.
  3. Place a dollop of shaving cream on a table.  Have the child spread the shaving cream out and then use it as a writing surface.  Children can “erase” by simply covering their marks with more shaving cream.  (I use this method at the end of the day, and the shaving cream helps “clean” my tables!)  To make it more interesting, add a drop or two of watercolor.  Children can make shapes, squiggles, pictures or even write letters.
  4. As children become more intentional in their strokes, give them several markers or crayons.  Have them trace the same shape over and over with different colors.  These shapes can be arcs, circles, lines, zig-zags, or even letters.  My class calls this “rainbow writing”.
  5. As a culminating activity as we learn our letters, I give each child an unbaked breadstick (Pillsbury makes a good one, as does my generic store-brand).  Children then form their breadsticks into either their favorite letter or the first letter of their name.  Bake and eat!

Breakfast – Its Letter Time!

Start your day off right with a few fun ideas for reinforcing letters and their sounds!

  1. Pancake letters – pour pancake batter on a skillet to form letters for the child to recognize.  Remember to pour the letters backwards so that they will be correct when the pancake is flipped!  We spell our names at least once a week in pancake batter!
  2. Set your oven to broiler, and use squeeze butter to write letters on a piece of bread.  Toast the bread in the oven or in a toaster oven (not a toaster).  The butter will brown and the letter will be very visible!
  3. Arrange dry cereal in a letter shape (such as Cheerios or Honeycomb).  See how many letters your child can create on his or her own!

There’s A Letter In My Lunch!

Every moment is a teachable moment, including meal times.  Whether your child eats at home or is away for a meal, you can find ways to make it fun and educational!

What follows are ideas that I have gathered from fellow parents through observation in my pre-k classroom.  There are loads more – share in the comments if you can think of others!

  1. Sandwich letters: create a “letter puzzle” by cutting a sandwich to resemble a letter (in my class, I have a parent that cuts the Letter Of The Week for each sandwich).  Leave the “extra” sandwich parts to create a puzzle for your child.
  2. Eating the Art: using diluted food coloring, paint the letter of the week on your child’s sandwich.  Or cookie.  Or graham cracker.  Or cheese.
  3. Create a lunch with items that begin with the same letter: bread, banana, beans, biscuit, and bacon for letter B, and cheese, carrots, corn, cup (of fruit!), and even a “circle sandwich” for letter C!
  4. Label baggies, foil and/or plastic storage items with the names of foods inside.  Sharpie pens will work on any of these surfaces (use masking tape if you don’t want to write directly on something).
  5. Write a note for your child on a napkin in the lunch box, using as many words with the same letter as possible.  For instance, in a week where letter P is being introduced, perhaps say something like, “Have a perfectly pleasant day.  Be polite and play nice!”  Even if the child can’t read, the teacher can read the note to him or her, and the child can identify the letters.

Now I Know My ABCs…

When I first started my career as a public school teacher, I had two requirements: children had to come to me knowing how to add and how to read (thus began my career in junior high!).  I felt that once they had a foundation, I could work with them to do just about anything.  But, I didn’t want to be the responsible party for learning “the basics”.

Fast forward to Today.  I’m teaching four year olds.  And, what am I teaching them?  Numbers and letters.  And, you know what?  It isn’t as daunting as I thought it would be!  So, I thought I would share a few “tricks of the trade” with you.  If you have preschool to early elementary children, these are great activities to do with them at home.

  • Cut and Paste:  Choose a letter to “hunt” and write it at the top of a piece of paper or on the front of an envelope.  Have the child scour magazines, newspapers, empty cereal boxes (anything consumable) for that specific letter.  Once they find one, they can cut it out and either glue it to the paper or put it in the envelope.  See how many of a certain letter they can find in fifteen minutes or in one magazine.  A good idea is to start with the first letter of their first name.  If the letters are in an envelope, they can be used later to create letter matching games or to spell simple words (when other letters are completed).
  • Punch-A-Letter: Using a hole punch, create a set of “confetti”.  Let the child create a specific letter using the hole punches and glue.  For starters, have the letter written on a piece of paper as a guide.  Once a child is ready to make their own letter with the punches, by all means let them do so.
  • Rubbings: Use the Punch-A-Letter activity to make a letter rubbing.  Once the punches dry, place another paper on top of the letter.  Use the side of a crayon to rub across the paper, making a rubbing of the letter. 
  • Sticker Letters: Use smal incentive stickers (circular, uniform stickers about 2cm in diameter) to create a letter.  Finding stickers that have pictures of objects that begin with that letter (stars for letter S, bugs for letter B, etc) is an added bonus to this activity!
  • Tape It Up: Use masking tape to make a letter on a piece of paper, then have the child completely color the paper with either markers or crayons.  Once the paper is completely covered, peel off the masking tape to reveal the letter!
  • Tactile Experiences: Create Letter art with various media.  Try popsicle sticks, various types of pasta or noodles, straws and toothpicks.  Cereal also makes for great letter art, just be aware of the “sugar factor” and the bugs that may find it appealing as well if it sits out for days.

What are some of your favorite ways to reinforce letter recognition?

Eating Your Way Through The ABCs

One of the best ways for children to learn their letters is through multi-sensory experiences.  By creating letters for themselves in a variety of media, they are expanding their exposure to the shapes and strokes necessary to learn their alphabet.  So, why not make it a truly delicious experience with edible letters?

Alphabet cookies can be made with pre-made dough from the store or with any plain sugar cookie or peanut butter-type recipe (see below for my favorite!).  Roll the dough into 1.5 inch balls, then have the child roll the balls into “snakes” about 8 inches long.  Shape the snakes into letters and follow the directions for baking on the package.  It might be necessary to add a couple of minutes to the baking time; keep an eye on the cookies while they are cooking.  This is also a great way to work with shapes and numbers as well.

JUDY’S ALPHABET COOKIE DOUGH RECIPE

1/2 c butter, softened
1/2 c light corn syrup
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c creamy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c unsifted flour

In a large bowl, beat margarine, corn syrup, peanut butter, sugar and vanilla at medium speed until smooth.  Lower the speed and gradually add flour until well blended.  It might be necessary to chill the dough for about an hour or until it is easy to handle.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place dough on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool on racks.  These cookies may be stored in a tightly covered container for up to 3 weeks.

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