We’ve been doing our play-based preschool for about 4 months now, and I am amazed by all the learning going on at our house! I think a part of me was skeptical that Miss H would learn so much through reading living books and playing, but she really has. Learning the alphabet through play has really worked for her, but now it’s time to mix it up a little. Even though Charlotte Mason said that young children learn through simply being outside, I wanted to find ways to learn the alphabet in the great outdoors. These ideas integrate nature study and learning the alphabet.
Learn and Practice the Alphabet Outside
Frosty Window Writing
Write letters on a frosted or steamy window. Then you can teach your child responsibility by having them clean off their fingerprints 🙂
Sand Table Letters
If you have a sand table, sandbox, or access to some good ole’ dirt, put a small amount on a flat surface, and have your child write letters in the sand. This is actually one of Charlotte Mason’s suggestions for having children learn the alphabet through play!
You could also make your own Kinetic sand, and stamp letters into it.
Painting with Water
Miss H loves doing this in the summer! Get a tub of water and a paint brush, and have your child paint some letters. Of course, they’ll have fun painting other things, too. This also allows children to explore evaporation because it will disappear quickly (at least in our dry climate!)
On a warm day, have your child lie on grass and try to make letters with his or her body. Some shapes will be nearly impossible, but some will work! If you have two or more children, making letters together is a great way to have them practice teamwork!
Tactile Nature Letters from Living Montessori
This site has printable letters that your child can cover with small things that start with that letter. For example, for the letter ‘P’, your child could cover the letter with small pebbles. To be honest, we don’t do much that involves having to print resources, so I’ll have Miss H make the letters without the template underneath. Maybe I’ll draw them on the ground with sidewalk chalk, “paint” the letter with water, etc.
- Miss H and I gathered sticks outside, and then soaked them in the sink for a bit
- We used twine to tie the sticks together. Cut about 8 inches of twine, and start wrapping around the sticks, leaving about an inch and a half at the back of the stick.
- When you’ve wrapped up the sticks and have about an inch of twine left, tie the pieces together in the back.
This isn’t a super quick process, but making a letter or two at a time is really fun!
Look for the shapes of letters in nature. We often notice the ‘V’ shape that geese make as they fly south for the winter, or the ‘T’ that crossed branches make. You can look for letters on man-made objects as well, like the peaks of a fence making the letter ‘M’. We found a stick that made a perfect ‘Y’ on our last nature walk. For an extension, have your child take photos of the shape.
This activity is similar to Charlotte Mason’s suggestion that children should search for shapes in nature to learn geometry.
Take a nature walk, and search for things that begin with a certain letter of the alphabet. One day, take an ‘A’ walk, and look for apples, ants, etc. On another day, search for things that start with ‘B.” Note: While it’s tempting to look for the whole alphabet in one walk, it will be more beneficial for a young child to do one letter at a time.
You can read more about nature walks here.
Have your child write the alphabet in the air with their finger. At night, try to connect the stars into letters. You could also do this during the day with clouds.
Letter Search Pile
Put together a pile of leaves, grass blades, sticks, etc. Just throw it all together! Search for letters in the pile with your child. If you can’t find any, just toss the pile around a little! Some letters will be easier to find than others, like C, L, V, A, H, and X.
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