31 Days Of Sensory Play {Day Thirteen} Active Alphabet Activity


Welcome to Day Thirteen of 31 days of Sensory Play.

I’ve talked before about often children need to run around to sit still. Getting to play activities is so much easier when they are ready to do them. Instead of just charging around the house which is often their preferred default option I like to add a little bit of mystery and change.

Usually they are busy in another room playing and I set up a few things in another room. As always the problem with gross motor activities is getting a decent picture of the action. The kids seem to move a mark speed and everything just seemed to be against us to show you.

I picked up these kitchen mats at the local DIY store as they were less than the price of a fancy cup of coffee.  Plus they lasted longer than that coffee……

We have carpet so I didn’t want too many because they might be too slippy? We have big windows and dark carpets so it’s not as easy to see either. We turned a moaning LO into a smiling little one who actively plays this game himself now.

Here’s what you do

Have your child call out the letters of the alphabet. We did a mixture of sounds of the letter and letter names. We like to get our phonics on here too! Plus is makes a nice change from the alphabet song and the LMNOP mess that happens in the middle…..sigh.

I wrote them down using the four corners and middle if needed. The LO watched as I randomly put down the letters. I used a whiteboard pen hoping it would wipe off again. It did but not so well. It would have been nice to be able to reuse the mats and put the letters into a different order.

Lay out the mats in a pattern. We chose stepping stones, hop scotch and finally some at one end of the room and the rest at the other end.

Yes he was worn out and very happy at the end of all the running around.

Call out the letter and he has to find it and stand on it. Better still get the help of that huge pile of fluffy animal pets and get the “Lion” to jump on the “ssssssssss” and eat him for dinner.

The beauty of this activity is how simple it is to make it active. It’s possible to be flexible with the letters to be upper, lowercase or a mixture. You can use letter sounds, names or both. As he masters this game we’ll at some blend sounds like ch, th etc.

We can set time limits to find it quicker and choose to place the mats on different floors of the house or different rooms to get them working hard. Keeping the letter in the head and walking over distance is hard work because there are so many other distractions around. But it helps with focus and step directions. I would go with them for some of the letters and ask questions to keep his interest or bring him back on task.

We wouldn’t do all of those things in the same session. But we can use this game over the months to add some active alphabet learning.

Now he plays my role with his fluffy pets and has taught his big brothers a game. Nothing makes him beam more than sharing something with them.

For more active alphabet activities and games see my Pinterest board.


Your turn

Come back and share your experiences, stories and activity.  Share your post here in the comments or share your photo on Facebook

Find the other days in this series

Next: 31 Days Of Sensory Play {Day Fourteen} Sweet Potato Chips

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Your baby can play

You may recognize the title is similar to a popular reading program for babies… Your baby can read Yes I did say baby and reading in the same sentence. Just like makeup and 5 year olds ; limos for young girls parties; cropped tops for tweens…things are getting pushed down.

I’ve been really saddened recently with the amount of people interested in spending large sums of money to teach their babies how to read through rote and repetition. I don’t think babies should or need to be reading at all.  It’s not right or developmentally appropriate for them to be not playing. When you take them from their blocks or investigations to sit in front of a screen that’s what you do take them away from playing. I feel I need to say it, it’s alright! your baby can play. It’s how they learn.

It is tempting and you may feel like everyone is doing it but they are not.

Authors of Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn–and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less explain how to make the best of your time with your child, they show how to practice their own three “R’s”

Reflect: Stop and ask if a formal, structured activity is right for your child and whether you’re reducing the time that she could spend learning through play.

Resist: Just say no to stuffing your child with information and do so knowing that the research in this book [Einstein Never Used Flashcards] backs you up.

Recenter: Reassure yourself that you made the right choices, because growing up should be full of play , not work.

What can you do?

  • Not buy into the myth that faster is better.
  • Don’t believe that we have to make every single moment count otherwise we’re failures. Moments do count but let our children lead their lives.
  • We aren’t the only ones to teach our kids. By providing high quality experiences we can but only hope to enrich their lives and not predict their place in society.
  • Know that children are not empty vessels that we have been charged with filling as quickly and fully as possible but instead let them use their innate abilities to discover, learn and experiment as well.

Don’t get me wrong. Some children are ready faster than others. Great! But the majority are not. It is important not to squander our time with our children but planning each and every moment. It isn’t healthy. There must be down and unstructured time. It’s in these idle times real learning happens. They get to put into practice what they’ve learnt and are thinking. We can learn from other forms of media but be age appropriate and realistic. Don’t always believe the hype. Marketing with a pinch of science doesn’t equal a good play experience. Messages are often inflated. Yes, if we let them discover and learn everything this would not be a good practice but the prevailing attitude we receive is that if we push our agenda onto our kids they will succeed. 1+1=2. This type of thinking does not account for variations in personality, age, gender, race or economic status.

How do we do these things here?

Give babies and toddlers wooden spoons, cotton reels, lemons to play with. Construct a treasure basket where they can really learn through play.

Change your thinking from perfect pictures, perfect activities or perfect crafts to emphasizing the process over the end product. This is what creates a love of learning and not a need for perfection. Failure is good it leads to improvement. We want them to love the process to do it again and not feel like they have no part in the process but merely imitating what we want. We want to encourage creativity.

Allow time for pretend play so kids can work through the complex emotional world we live in. We fill their heads with ABCs as early as possible and keep adding to the academics. Playing in the Wendy house, constructing a fort, serving lunch in your restaurant are all necessary play activities to go alongside the academics. It’s where language is learnt. It’s where they work out troubles one teddy to another. It’s where they work through problems.

Read and learn what makes for a great foundation from the source. Try The Hurried Child-25th Anniversary Edition

So before you reach for that expensive DVD set that promises you lots of sitting down drilling your wriggly 2 year old. I hope you’ll consider using that program in light of wider reading and not just the jacket sleeve. That you’ll consider activities and actions I’ve already outlined. That you’ll keep the 3 R’s in mind and make wise decisions for your family.

What do you and your two year old do?

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Parents Dance with your child

This post is part of part of the PhD in Parenting Carnival of Play From April 1st to April 15th. Pop on over and find some other great play posts. Welcome to those that popped over.


A friend swore blind that her unborn baby recognized the theme to Eastenders. The wiggling baby would then be absolutely still and if the baby wasn’t moving would start kicking.

Mothers who sing know how even the most upset babies are quiet and listening. What baby doesn’t like to be rocked? Sling mammas will testify to that. Kids love music and movement- dance. It seems fundamental to their core. My toddler has just learnt the joys of dance and can be seen bopping whenever a new beat starts. It could be a jingle on the TV or Kid’s nursery rhyme CD or music for Mummy or Daddy. There he is bending his knees; up and down and swaying almost to falling over. Not a bad feat for the little guy who is just mastering walking.

 He has that big grin on his face. It’s a great chance for self expression and creativity. He’s learning about how his body works and picks himself off the ground when an enthusiastic sway and swing lands him there. We try different action songs but we come back to the ones that use the whole body. ” Hokey cookey” “Row row row your boat” “One finger, one thumb keep moving” He likes the repetition and the movement. Besides it makes him feel better.

You really can’t be sad dancing. Try it!

Dancing is good for the grey matter too. Children learn by doing and movement is one of the main ways they learn about themselves and their world. The control of muscles, posture and balance help with the simplest activities of sitting still.

My older child makes up routines for us to follow after we’ve been marching around to “Oh the Grand old duke of York” He gets his inspiration there and after a few weeks of Boogie Beebies in the Autumn. He learns and so do we, after a fashion, to follow instructions and sequencing skills needed when he’s older.

Dancing promotes memory as he’s quick to tell me “No! no! no!”  when I march instead of clap my hands. I guess my memory is not so good. We do our dancing at home. Many choose the dance classes route. There are so many different types of dance available now and accredited dance teachers empower boys and girls to really express themselves.

Dance isn’t about Ballet and strict routines anymore?

Dances you can do

  • expose babies to different types of music.
  • Dance and sway around your room with them in your arms. Invigorating for both of you. Also a really good mind lifter.
  • Jump and hop in time to the beat with your toddler just like you used to-in the olden days.
  • A favorite oldie but goodie. Get your child to stand on your toes and you hold their arms with them facing you. You can move shouting out instructions. Lift up your feet and move together.
  • Older children may like dance with props; ribbons, musical instruments or as animals (stomping elephant, flying bird, slithering snake.)
  • My older son loves Animal Boogie. He sings sometimes and moves like the animals other times.
  • Start with an Action songs CD and make up your own routines and actions if you don’t know them.
  •  Talk about the music and move in that way. Star trek: Next generation theme (Don’t ask!) is a favorite in our house so we get shooting starts and rockets across the room.
  • Enroll your child in a dance class. You always feel better after a good boogie.

I found it banished grumpy kids and my tiredness for a little while with a big helping of dance. You’ ll feel heaps better for it and the kids get all those great benefits.

Get actively involved with your kids today. What dance activities do you do?

Baby Explorers

My LO ( 7mtns) spends a lot of time rolling, rocking and reaching out to grasp something on the floor. Using his new found freedom to get to where he wants to go. You can almost see how him thinking, planning and plotting; trying to zero in on a new object in the distance then plot his path to it with plenty of pit stops, distractions and ‘helpful’ siblings along the way. Steam is coming off that head the amount thinking going on in there.

Since he didn’t come with elastic legs or wheels that would restrict his mobility anyway. He’s happiest right now moving at his own pace, getting used to these stronger muscles, mouthing what he finds and building up his sensory bank or knowledge about how things look, feel, taste, smell and sound. He gets little hits of sensory stimulation. Too much of everything is totally overwhelming to a baby as it is too us.

What treasures does he find?

  • a lift the flap book
  • wooden block
  • Set of teething rings
  • sunny patch from a nearby window. How the light changes and the area is warm.
  • stain on the carpet….opps
  • soft toy
  • Silky Superman cape….thanks bro’
  • metal teaspoon
  • cushion left from the pretend wall of his sibling
  • window to look out
  • …..er fluff and things we don’t see but they find
  • chair leg
  • Breeze on his face and a fluttering curtain
  • Castle top
  • Burp cloth
  • Shadows on the floor

He’s content. When he fusses, we try a new area.

Why would you want to hinder this movement phase by giving him elastic legs that give him one thing to do that he has very little control over? Why would you take him from self exploration ( don’t we learn better when we are self motivated?) and enclose him in plastic ( to make him safe-granted) that allows him to propel himself around. Under aged driving with a child with poor muscle control…..hmmm doens’t sound good for anyone there.

Trapping a mobile child in a station to play doesn’t seem right either. My LO loves to move so I can see him becoming very frustrated being trapped. The play items are brightly coloured and plastic ( over stimulation and tasteless). As a play item they do little else than the one thing; be it spin, make noises or five things at once etc.  Once you’ve seen it do that the next 400 times will be the same….

We use a Bumbo for snack and meal time. He’s had no need, yet for distraction to feed. When it happens he’ll have a high chair with a tray. There are plenty of safe places for me to leave him that allow him freedom of movement whilst I nip to the loo, answer the door, rescue a lost toy for his brother.

When he’s tired he lays right where he is and takes a two minute rest. Then he’s off again.

Self generated play- independent play- play that teaches through exploration and discovery. Controlling their bodies is a developmental skill they can only master with plenty of opportunities for appropriate play. He’ll be ready soon enough to sit and engage but right now that’s when he finds something interesting.

Baby push ups and beached fish impressions are necessary and needed and it is play.

Play’s purpose isn’t to entertain but discover and engage especially at this age.

Forget the TV– The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends, No TV for under 2. But there’s BabyTV and Educational DVDs marketed to your child. Do you believe what’s on the box? Advertising and marketing or what respected Pediatricians who study and know babies tell us. Your choice.

I believe there’s plenty of other things to do with the under 2 child anyway before we need to use TV or DVDs, apart from the free activities in the email from this site :).

There are lots of other views about TV

Educational TV time for babies won’t create a genius child

TV for Babies: Does It Help or Hurt?

no tv for under 3
…Well the LO  is rolling out of sight and it looks like he’s heading for the Thomas train track his brothers have so lovingly built so I best divert him before World War III breaks out.

What do your LO do for play at this age that puts them in charge of their play? I’d love to hear.

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