As a mom (and teacher), I strive everyday to engage, nurture, and expand the mind of my little one.
Here you will find the books, music, and activities most useful to me in my endeavors.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Teachable Moments: Foam Letter

My daughter knows all the letters of the alphabet*. I attribute her letter recognition success to something quite simple: a set of foam letters. Foam letters that are meant to be used in the bathtub, but ours have never made it upstairs. Foam letters given to Natalie for her first birthday. Foam letters that we have been "playing" with and learning from for an entire year now. That's quite a return on the investment, and I absolutely LOVE that in a toddler toy! What appears to be a simple bath toy to some, I see as a very powerful teaching tool. It also happens to be my most consistent approach for letter recognition practice.

Here are a few of my favorite Foam Letter Activities - all tested on my very own baby girl*, who happens to be able to name all 26 Upper Case letters.

There's the extremely obvious, pick a letter and name it. Toddler grabs a letter from the pile, mommy (or daddy) names the letter, letter gets set aside and repeat. But don't get stuck in a rut with this simple, effective activity.

Perhaps you envision this as a quiet activity. Sitting side-by-side on the floor. Getting through all 26 letters before your toddler tires of the experience. Wouldn't that be nice? If that's not your reality (whose reality is that!?), seize the moment to get through at least a few letters by making it a game … it's what happens between the letters that ups the fun factor …
  • Throw the next letter and have your toddler “fetch” it - I swear, I don't mean that to sound as canine as it does. Whether she is just starting to get around or loves to run, this is great!
  • After your toddler names the letter, have him toss it into a bin or run and put the letter on a table across the room.
  • Have your toddler help you hide the letters all around the room and then go on a scavenger hunt to find and then name each one. This is a good re-purpose for that Easter basket, too. Natalie loves this!

Teacher Thought: There's also strong research to support the importance of movement in early literacy and learning.

Don't forget these options – with less focus on letter recognition ...

  • Sort 1: Is it a Letter or a Number? We make two piles … neatly or with enthusiasm
  • Sort 2: What color is this letter? We name the colors and make piles for each.
  • Tactile: Look closely at our foam letters and you're sure to see teeth marks. I am guessing that foam feels good on sore gums. I also really love that Natalie has discovered that some letters have "holes" in them and her fingers can fit through. This is great cognition for future letter writing.

I consider these to be beginning foam letter activities. Give these a try, and I'll share some more advanced skills in a later post. Yes, there's more. There's so much more you can do with these letters!

I should also mention that these activities - obviously - work with other letter formats. But I have found these foam letters to be extremely durable, just the right size, and drool-friendly!

*A disclaimer of sorts - all toddlers develop in their own special way. My daughter knows the letters of the alphabet but still struggles to use a spoon and fork with proficiency and often resorts to using her fingers. There's no judgement here, no competition; just me sharing my thoughts :)

Does your toddler have a set of foam letters? If so, how do you use them?

1 comment:

Teri Vashkelis Benson (Lisa's sister) said...

This is Teri - sitting at the island in Lisa's kitchen enjoying all your great ideas - and we love foam letters! We also like leaving messages for Eric on the wall so that when he gets up bright and early to shower, they're the first things he sees. And we've come up with some funny ones too! There are also foam cars, roads, trains, etc., that I got at Target that Dominic likes for the bath too. I bought them from Target about a year ago, they were about $15 and I think they're called "Street Pack" or something like that in the same foam as the letters and numbers. I'm glad Lisa shared your blog with me I'll be back to visit it and send to my friends as well! Teri