Today, I am excited to share more than 15 hands-on ways for kids to build a letter! Building alphabet letters is a great way to help children remember its shape and form. My class added this to our weekly Letter of the Week routine this year, and I am SO glad that we did! It seems to be making a HUGE difference especially to my lower students- those that have come with little prior exposure to the alphabet and/or no preschool experience. And that’s definitely a WIN!
The more the kids build and form that letter, the more likely it is that they will recognize it later. This, combined with our Letter of the Week Focus Wall routine and weekly practice writing the letter, our HeidiSongs Alphabet Songs, and our daily Zoo Phonics practice from A-Z are making the most difference in helping the children learn the alphabet.
Our Weekly Routine for Letter Building
As we study our letter of the week, we pick one day to do letter building, but it could certainly be spread out over many days and done in small centers. My students stay together in small groups and rotate from table to table, with everyone switching tables at the same time. On Mondays, one of our tables is letter building! When the group gets there, I have trained them to build as many letters as they can in the given amount of time, which is about 12 minutes. The children are free to get up and move from chair to chair as they build the letters.
Note: I am going to explain what each of these letter building items are. The purpose is to just give you ideas. I got nearly ALL of the workmats shown here FREE just by searching online! ALL of the links are provided for each item. Of course, some website owners required an email address before giving the free download link. Naturally, you are free to purchase a commercial version of any of these items rather than give up your email address. I’ll start from the top left of the table with the Duplo Alphabet Cards, and go clockwise.
1. Duplo Letters
My Duplo (larger Lego bricks) workmats look a bit wonky because I should have printed them at 5 x 7 inches rather than 8 x 10!! In my own defense, the instructions are in the blog, rather than in the downloadable file, so watch out for that! Be sure to explain to the kids that they do not have to match the colors when building the letters, or they may give up in frustration.
Here’s the link to the blog! (Email address required for free download.)
Here is an alternative download that I think I like a little bit better. I’m not sure of the size they are supposed to be printed at, so try just ONE before printing the whole set! (Email address required for free download.) Here is the Lowercase, and here is the Uppercase!
2. Pattern Block Letters
Our HeidiSongs Alphabet Pattern Blocks are great! I prefer to have the kids lay down real blocks on the workmat, but you could also have them glue down paper pattern blocks if you choose. The complete set is sold here, ($5) or on TpT here!
3. Golf-T Letters on a DIY (Cardboard!) Pegboard
This one is a class favorite! The kids copy the letter from any ordinary letter flashcard onto the DIY Pegbboard by inserting the golf-t’s into the holes. There are no task cards for this. The challenge in this one is that they have to dream up how to make it work.
The “pegboard’ is just a thick piece of cardboard that is cut to exactly the right size so that it will fit onto the top of a pencil basket. The cardboard has holes cut in it in a grid as shown. To cut the holes, print out a piece of graph paper with the squares about an inch apart, and then place it over the cardboard. We used the sharp point of a compass to make the holes.
4. Beginning Sound Object Letters
In this activity, the children cover the letter with objects that begin with that letter’s sound. Some examples are:
– Penguins on a P
– Bears on a B
– Spiders on an S
And…consider how many types of Mini Erasers there are! 🙂
This works well with these FREE workmats from This Reading Mama, especially since she has placed circles on up and down each letter. The kids like putting the objects into each circle. Even better, this download is TRULY free– no email address required!
5. Pushpin Letters
Using pushpins is GREAT for developing strength in the pincher grasp, because the kids really have to PUSH to get the pins into the corkboard. (And believe it or not, I’ve NEVER had a single kid stab another!)
In this activity, the children make the letters by inserting pushpins into a corkboard! Unlike the usual “Pokey Pin’ activities, in this one, the kids leave all of the pushpins in the corkboard until the entire letter is formed. So the point of the activity is to make the letter with PINS, not make the letter with the HOLES. See the difference?
The kids pin right through the paper, and can either save it or throw it away when done. Some kids prefer to make their own, without pinning through a paper, too! I purchased my set of Pushpin Letters for $5 here! *If you are looking for a FREE alternative, I think you could print these Do-A-Dot Letters out at a smaller size, and they may work just fine!
6. Sensory Letters
Got something small in your room your kids might enjoy touching and feeling? Have them build a letter with it! That’s what I use these large block letters for! We have used these to build letters with coins, dice, pompoms, and buttons, and torn paper. The favorite item so far is definitely the dice, with real money coming in a close second! Many thanks to KG fonts for this wonderful one! The font you see here is KG Red Hands Outline. Here’s a free download of these simple ones I made!
I would have put a beginning sound picture on them, but I just wanted to leave them nice and large to allow space for putting objects inside the lines. If you print them on colored paper, they look much prettier than on plain white! I printed three copies of each one on different colors of bright paper that I purchased at a craft store, and then laminated them.
7. Modeling Clay Letters
Line the bottom of a food storage container with modeling clay about an inch deep. Use coffee stirrers cut into two inch lengths and push then into the clay to form the letter. Keep a flashcard nearby for the kids to copy. This one is another class favorite!
8. Geoboard Letters (with Rubberbands)
Making letters with “geobands” (rubberbands) on a geoboard can be a bit challenging for some young children, but this is something my faster learners often chose! It is great for developing fine motor skills and helps develop that all important pincher grasp, plus it helps develop spacial reasoning as they complete the letter.
The task cards are FREE right here!
9. Kinetic Sand Letters
Who doesn’t love Kinetic Sand? Any way you do this with the kids, they LOVE it- and maybe a little too much! I put a full two pound pack into a pencil box for them. I have done this a few different ways, but the easiest way is to just give them a sharpened chopstick and let them draw the letter. (Yes, I put the chopstick into the pencil sharper, LOL!)
At first we tried this with rubber stamps (by making a letter B with balloon or bird stamps, etc.) but the images just weren’t showing up well. The kids had to REALLY press down hard, perhaps due to too much sand in the box? So it wasn’t successful, and the sand got caked into my stamps.
Then I tried giving them Q-tips cut in half, but I noticed that most of the kids used them to draw the letter anyway, ha ha! So the next time, I just gave them the sharpened chopstick as shown in the very first Kinetic Sand picture. These alphabet flashcards can be purchased on my website for $5, here!
10. Hidden Alphabet Letters with Floral Gems
For this, just print the Hidden Alphabet worksheets from my website ($4) on some bright paper and add some extra letters on the spaces where the letter will be. (If you skip this step, the letter won’t show up well when they are done putting gems on!) Then slip it into a sheet protector or laminate it. I purchased some blue floral gems at my local Dollar Store. I told the kids to find all of the target letter and cover it with the gems.
And this is what it looks like if you forget to write in some extra letters on the paper first. So don’t forget! LOL
11. Wikki Stix Letters
Kids can create letters out of Wikki Stix with or without a workmat, but it is easier for beginners to use a workmat, of course. Wikki Stix are pieces of yarn that are covered with wax. You can often find it at dollar stores. A play dough workmat works quite well for this! Here is a free set, with NO email address required!
12. MultiLink Cube (Snap Cube) Letters
These MultiLink Letters are easy to make! Just print out the FREE flashcards that you can grab here. These are meant to be printed at a 4 x 6 inch size. (Email address required for download.) There are MANY other freebies on this page as well!
13. Pegboard Letters
There are no workmats for these Pegboard Letters, so they are a bit of challenge to make. As a result, my higher kids enjoyed them especially! I am trying to figure out where to purchase one of these, since it was inherited by my teammate when his former teammate retired. Here is the link to the closest thing I can find online that has small pegs. If you know of something closer, please let me know!
14. Play Dough or Theraputty Letters (Not pictured on “B Table” photo)
Kids ALWAYS love to make these letters with play dough and/or Theraputty! The biggest problem is that if you really want them to stay on task with the alphabet building, you’ll probably have to supervise them, or they will just play with it. At least, that is what my TK kids did, even though I gave them plenty of independent playtime with it. You can download those cute Play Dough Alphabet Mats at this link FREE! (Email address required.)
15. Letters Drawn in Salt Boxes/Sand Boxes (Not pictured on “B Table” photo)
Kids really enjoy drawing letters in salt or sand boxes! It can be SO much fun, especially since they really the sensory experience of sticking their hands in the salt. The problem is that they REALLY need to be supervised with it, or it will probably get all over the place. At least that is what happened with my TK kiddos! It only took one day of cleaning up salt everywhere, and I pulled this out. But you may feel differently! Just saying…
To make them, just get a food storage container and put colored paper underneath it. Some teachers even put rainbow colored paper under it for a special surprise! Then pour just enough salt into the container to cover the bottom.
16. Magnet Letters
Give kids a cookie sheet and some small magnets. Then just have them form the letter with the magnets. I think it can be done with any workmat, or even none! I purchased the cute little Pushpin Magnets on Amazon! The magnetic board came with this set of magnetic foam letters that I also love!
17. Unifix Cube Letters
Below is a picture of a really cute set of Unifix Cube Letter Building Workmats I got on TpT for $3! The kids really like them because you don’t HAVE to link up the cubes to build the letter- in fact, you’re really not supposed to! I think that they are another good alternative to have on hand.
I did find another set of FREE Unifix cube alphabet workmats to download, with no email required- but I was kind of bummed that they were all in black and white, so I didn’t use them.
18. Hashtag Block Letters
My kids really loved these! I found them on TPT here, for $2!
Hope you find these ideas helpful and inspiring!!!! Have fun!
– Heidi 🙂
P.S. Don’t forget all our videos are available to STREAM on UScreen, FREE for the first 30 days! It’s an awesome way to bring some EASY, active learning to your students during this time, and they can always cancel right before they are ever charged, like on day 29! Check out the info page on our website for more info!
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