“My son, obey your father’s commands, and don’t neglect your mother’s instruction. Keep their words always in your heart. Tie them around your neck. When you walk, their counsel will lead you. When you sleep, they will protect you. When you wake up, they will advise you. For their command is a lamp and their instruction a light; their corrective discipline is the way to life.” Proverbs 6:20-23 NLT
By: Jennifer Mullen
In my post Building Blocks: Teaching Your Child How to Be a Writer, one of my tips was think like an occupational therapist. All those crafts you are doing with your kids do have a purpose beyond just something to pass the time. Every time you have your children use their fingers, you are helping to improve their handwriting! There are lots of activities that you can do to teach letter formation and spelling that don’t involve paper and pencil. Here are four activities that can do just that:
1) Sorting/Building Letters By Feature:
Developing your child’s visual discrimination is an important part of learning how to interact with the written language. This activity will help your child to realize that there are just four types of lines that are needed to make the letters of the alphabet: sticks, slants, circles, and curves. There are workbooks full of just tracing and drawing these types of lines that are great as a precursor to letter formation. This link provides the template for this type of sort as pictured below. (Sorting is a skill that all preschoolers need to work on before entering kindergarten. Have your child sort and match their socks, sort their M&M’s by color, sort their Little People by hair color…and the list goes on. All of these activities develop visual discrimination.)
Here are some pictures of my daughter doing the letter sort by feature.
Sticks vs. No Sticks (Below)
Slants vs. No Slants (Left)
Curves vs. No Curves (Below)
We practice this skill often. It doesn’t have to be a skill that is practiced only while in a “school-like” setting. Driving down the road, we look at signs with letters picking out letters with each feature.
I extended this concept by building letters by feature. We used spaghetti noodles to create the sticks and slants and yarn to create the curves and circles. See pictures below.
2) Snack Letters:
What you will need:
- Can of Biscuits
- Spray Butter (optional)
- honey for dipping
This is an activity I came up with because I DESPISE PlayDoh! The idea is that you use the dough to create letters. Your child can pull the dough apart, pinch it together, roll it…pretty much whatever they need to do to create the letters.
Then sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon on top. (I used spray butter first to help it stick.)
Bake for a few minutes at 400 degrees, and then you have a yummy snack. Serve with honey as a dipping sauce.
(They tasted better than they looked, but then again anything with bread, sugar, and butter taste good when you have been on a diet!)
3) Sticker Art/Magnetic Letters:
When learning how letters go together to make words, it is important to give your child opportunity to build words without the stress of writing. Use letter stickers or magnetic letters for this. Depending on where your child is at, you may want to only provide the letters that appear in his name or you may have him pick the letters out of the pile. Have him arrange the letters in the correct order. After he can spell his name, start with sight words such as “can”, “play”, and “run”.
Allowing your child to build words in this way helps them to understand the directionally of the letters and words by being able to physically manipulate the orientation of each letter. This will also help with their visual discrimination skills.
4) Lacing Cards:
This activity isn’t just to keep busy hands busy. It can really develop a child’s fine motor skills. My daughter likes to get her lacing cards out when I have my sewing machine out. She will sit and “sew” too. You can buy lacing cards, but I thought this one was cute. My mother-in-law made it and some others using old gift cards. She glued the card together to make it more sturdy and then punched holes around the perimeter using a hole punch. You could do the same by printing the alphabet on cardstock and punch holes along the path of the letters.
I hope these activities are ideas you can adapt for your own needs. If you have any other ideas, please share!