Friday, February 6, 2009

Do I need any white out for this? {Sandpaper letters}

Handwriting. When can kids start practicing? How many pieces of paper, markers, pens, pencils, carpet stains, and holes in the paper from rubbing the eraser too hard do you have to endure? In this next activity, even though it might take some preparation, it will help your child have the coveted handwriting in the first grade classroom one day and will appeal to their sensory sides as well!

Here's what you need: foam core board (red, blue, and green), a ruler (I happen to have a lipped ruler used for sewing which is FAB-U-LOUS!), fine grit sandpaper, glue of some sort, and access to an Ellison-Press machine (usually churches {with a great children's program} or schools have these) OR you can painstakingly trace and cut out your own letters yourself using this template! Or, you could buy your own set here (or many other places on the web).
Here's a close-up of the fine grit sandpaper I used. You don't want the heavy grit sandpaper . . . it will tear your sweet baby's fingers all to pieces!
Step by Step instructions:
Cut the foam core board into equal pieces - 21 blue (for consonants) and 5 red (for vowels - a,e,i,o,u) and 10 green (for numbers 0-9). Glue on the sandpaper letters on each square and let dry.
Here's why you should do it: In young children, they go through "sensitive periods" and at the age of two to three, their senses are especially heightened. Tracing these sandpaper letters create a "muscle memory" and help the child focus on correct letter formation rather than holding the pencil correctly, staying on the paper, making letters too big or too small, etc. The sandpaper letters provide an exact guide and the texture taps into their heightened senses.
Here is my proof that this really works: I taught in a Montessori classroom for three years before I had Lawton and decided to stay home. My three year olds (there were five in that group) were with me for all three years because Montessori classrooms are multi-aged. When they were in their "kindergarten year" (my third year) I realized that they ALL had excellent handwriting, much better than any of my other kindergartners had ever had! I attribute their skills to the repetitive use of sandpaper letters, because they were the only group that I taught that used these letters in their "sensitive period".

First, you model the correct letter formation. You can say the sound of the letter as you do it - notice I said sound, not name, of the letter. This is important - keep visiting this blog and you will see why later! ;) This makes the sound "a" (short a, as in apple). I am using two fingers because 1) it helps with control of the tracing and 2) is a prelude to correct pencil grip.Then let your little one have a turn . . .
Lawton insisted on laying out and tracing his name - which was okay because he has had these for a while and knows how to spell and write his name (in lowercase letters). If you are just starting out, I would pick only a few letters to even put out (like some letters in their name!)
Disclaimer!!! Do your child a favor (and their pre-school/kindergarten teacher a favor)! Teach your child to write their name in lowercase letters, not capital letters (even though they are easier to learn!) It will be such a hard habit for them to break! (I only have made a set of capital letters so far - if you can and really want to do this, I would make (or buy) lower case letters first!
Can't you see the concentration on his face? ;)
I made some numbers in green, too. You have to learn how to write these, too, you know!
Here's how I store ours - in a cheap photo box! It works and is "pretty".

Moms - be sure and slather on the lotion after this activity! Our hands aren't quite as soft and supple anymore! :)


  1. Laura Beth,
    Hey! THanks for the great ideas! It's always good to hear ideas from other people who have experience. I used to work with kids a lot on their handwriting but I love your ideas. =)


  2. neat new idea for a blog! it makes me realize i haven't sat down with lilly and practiced ANYTHING in a while!!! i have been such a slacker! great idea for the sandpaper--i love that and will definitely try it. i always used the ziplock bags with finger paint in them to trace letters in, but i think i like this better.

  3. So where did you find foam core board in those colors? I haven't been able to find that where I've been looking.

  4. Hola, Soy estudiante de 2 semestre de psicología, y me ha interesado mucho conocer el materia María Momtessori, ahora mismo necesito conocer cual es la incidencia de este material para tratar niños con ansiedad y/o TDAH, no he podido encontrar autores que traten este tema, me pueden ayudar con algunos autores donde pueda encontrar esto, gracias, exitos tus ideas son muy buenas !!!! ha y tambien soy mamá, considero que esta es de las mejores formas de enseñar.