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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Awesomely Easy Toddler School: Letter A

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.  My opinions are all my own.

Last time, I introduced Toddler School as a way to incorporate learning into your toddler's every day routine.  Today, I'm going to go over specifically what we did with the letter A, so if you wanted to, you could use this as a kind of template to make it easy on yourself.  No need to reinvent the wheel!

Just as an aside, please remember that this is not forced or meant to be a super structured sit-in-a-desk time.  This is a fun, do whatever she's interested time.  Not every child responds to this kind of thing.  If yours doesn't, you'll have to get sneakier or more creative about how you introduce information to them.  You can still do it, but maybe not in this way.

Ok, but if you do want to do what we are doing, this is how we do it.

Calendar Time and Number Play

First of all, we start out day by doing our calendar.  I talked about it in my last post.  The calendar is a great way to practice counting, number recognition, prereading skills, days of the week, months, and more!  I also use calculator play, number puzzles, and the Poke a Dot books for number and counting practice throughout the day.  These are not really related to my alphabet theme, but I do try to make a point to do at least one number activity or book with her each day.

She loves playing with "her" calculator.

Alphabet Unit

As I said in my last post, I decided to do units based on a letter of the alphabet.  Each unit lasts approximately two weeks.  During that time, I try to cover two famous people (one man and one woman), at least one animal (usually a bunch), one place, and one object, all beginning with the target letter.  I also choose a character trait that is usually based on at least one of the people we are studying.  (It may or may not begin with the target letter.)  Here are the ones I chose for the letter A.

Man:  Albert Einstein

I have some leeway in whether I want the first or last name to start with the target letter, and it varies depending on which person I choose and honestly, which books my local libraries have.  We found a couple of simple ones on Einstein, and we emphasized that he worked hard and studied so that he could discover new things.

Also, I recently got her this book, Quantum Physics for Babies:

It is awesome, and the last page says, "Now you are a quantum physicist," with a picture of Einstein, so it got read a lot.

Woman: Amelia Earhart

This was Cricket's favorite part of the whole letter A unit.  She absolutely loves Amelia Earhart!  We got several books from the library about her, but Cricket's favorite by far was this one, called I am Amelia Earhart.

It really is a cute book, and apparently the illustrator used to work for Marvel Comics and some other big names.  Cricket would often repeat the lines Amelia said, like, "This is awesome!" and "This isn't a good idea.  It's the BEST idea!"  We emphasized that Amelia Earhart was very brave to do all the things she did, and the book makes a point of saying that she wasn't a natural pilot.  She just worked harder than anyone else.  I loved that part.

Brian found an old pair of tinted goggles that
immediately became her "Amelia Earhart goggles."

I used this coloring page for Amelia Earhart, but you can find plenty just by Googling it.

Animals: Alligator, Ant

We got a book about alligators and crocodiles and had fun reading it and looking at the pictures.  I used this coloring page for the alligator.  It is actually a whole set of letters made in the form of animals that begin with that letter, so I am making a little book out of them as she colors each one.

Places:  Atlantic Ocean, Antarctica, Australia, Alabama, America

Letter A is the jackpot when it comes to places.  Print off a map and you'll realize that the majority of the continents begin with the letter A, as well as several oceans, states, and countries.  (Not all of them begin with the traditional "A for Apple" sound though, so I used those for letter recognition, but not for the phonics emphasis.)  The main place we focused on was the Atlantic Ocean because it went along with the life of Amelia Earhart.  We also found some library books about Antarctica and Australia, so we ended up talking about those some, too.  They were a cute little series that was just perfect for a toddler attention span, with cool pictures and facts.


I printed off a world map to cover the oceans and continents, and I printed off a map of America and a map of Alabama, because we live there.  We also checked out a colorful children's atlas to look through, and a couple of books on Alabama.  Cricket especially liked Y is for Yellowhammer.  It goes through the alphabet and tells an interesting fact about Alabama for each letter.  They make them for several different states.

Object: Apple

The activities from 1+1+1=1 (more about them below) were all apple themed, so that was our main object, but of course, we talked about lots of words that started with A when we found them in our books or just out and about.  I think we even managed to eat applesauce and/or an actual apple sometime during the two weeks.  I am not stressing about trying to coordinate snacks to fit my theme (like some blogs I've read).  This one just happened to fit.

I also used this airplane coloring page because we were already talking about Amelia Earhart, so she had seen the word airplane a lot. The word airplane doesn't start with the traditional "A in Apple" sound, so we didn't focus on it for the phonics part, but we did use it for the letter recognition.  Airplanes are also great to talk about because toddlers are just starting to be aware of airplanes in the sky, so it comes up regularly.

By the end of our two weeks, our kitchen cabinet display was pretty full.

Character Trait:  Bravery

I know it doesn't start with an A, but since bravery came up naturally in the Amelia Earhart books, I made a point to emphasize it during these two weeks and beyond.  When she did something on her own the first time, we told her she was brave like Amelia Earhart.  We talked about how being brave meant doing something even when you were a little scared, like going into her bedroom when it was dark and turning on the light herself.  This has been something we have continued to talk about with other historical figures and Bible figures, emphasizing that there are many different ways to show bravery.

Bible Activities:

As I mentioned before, I printed off these amazing verse cards and put them on a ring.  The verse for A is "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.  Joshua 24:15."  Cricket had no trouble memorizing this.  I would just read it to her and show her the card each morning, and for almost a week, she just listened.  Then one day, in the middle of lunch, she just started saying it.

I have to say, I was a little skeptical of trying to get her to do memory verses.  I didn't know if they were too long or too complicated, but she picks them up so fast!  We still review all of them every day, but she absolutely can say them by memory by the end of the two week unit, just saying them once a day like that.  Kids' brains are amazing.

We also read a Bible story every day from our Big Picture Interactive Storybook.

I did a blog post a little while ago on how and why we chose that storybook Bible.  We are loving it so far.  The stories are a little longer than Cricket's normal books, and since there is one story per page, sometimes she gets anxious for me to turn the page, but she usually makes it through the story ok, and she is definitely picking things up.  The other day she started repeating, "God always keeps His promises," which was the theme of the story on Abraham we had read that day.

I also try to make sure we listed to some praise and worship music or some verses set to music at some point during the day.  Pandora has a great praise and worship station, and Seeds Family Worship has some AMAZING Scripture set to music that she and I both love.

Other activities we did during the two weeks:

Play Dough

I have a set of alphabet cookie cutters that my sister-in-law gave me, and boy have they come in handy over and over!  Here's a set you can get on Amazon:

When we were talking about the letter A, I gave her the A cookie cutter and she had a blast making her own letters.

Google eyes and pipe cleaners are also super fun.

Alphabits are the new Cheerio's at our house.  I got them for her birthday party, but she loved them so much, I've kept getting them!  (And they're surprisingly not full of sugar!  They have a pretty short list of ingredients, too.)  She loves pointing out the letters as she's eating them, and even spontaneously decided one morning to look through her bowl of dry Alphabits to find the letters that spelled April.

It didn't even occur to me to do that, but we've done it several times with different words since then.  Whenever she finds a target letter in her Alphabits, we make a point to say the sound it makes.

Alphabet toys and puzzles

I absolutely love my Melissa and Doug Alphabet puzzle.  It is how she learned her letters in the first place, back when she was potty training.  She would spend forever working on that puzzle, and by the end of the week, she could recognize every letter and say the word for the pictures underneath them.  She still plays with it a lot.

Other alphabet toys that I love are the foam bathtub letters,

the magnet alphabet on our fridge,

and this Light Up Alphabet Apple that I got at a consignment sale.

They are all great review and practice for letter recognition and phonics sounds, and there are lots of things you can do with them.


As I mentioned before, I use several printables from 1+1+1=1.  It is a great site with just TONS of stuff you can use for your young child.  I just use a few basic ones, like the traceable target letter and the letter with a couple of pictures around it, both of which I put in page protectors so she can use dry erase crayons to color every day.

If you haven't discovered this combination yet, you're welcome.

Toddlers are not able to write letters accurately yet, so don't push that.  Just let them color the picture and watch you make the letters.

I also print out a couple of her pages on cardstock that Cricket can play with over and over.  There is always a little puzzle picture for the target letter, a matching shadow game, a sequencing game, and a lacing picture.  Cricket loves these and often asks to play with them several times a day.

So there you go.  That's everything I used for the two weeks we focused on the letter A.  Please remember, I didn't do all of this every day.  Some of it, like the play dough, I may have done once a week.  It just depends.  Also, remember this is just an introduction.  This isn't kindergarten.  My goal was for her to be able to recognize the letter, give the sound it makes, (or one of them anyway, since it's a vowel), and learn some stuff about people and places.  I didn't work on lots of phonics practice or writing drills.  It's just directed play.

I hope this helps inspire you.  If you come up with other ideas, please post them in the comments so we can all try them, too!


  1. Just reread this for the first time in a long time and am so encouraged (and charmed, honestly) as you share your day. I love that I can draw on the resources you learned teaching kids and on your natural imagination, because many of these things I wouldn't have thought of myself. It is such fun to see you and Cricket learning by enjoying your day together, what a fun example that God made learning part of who we are. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and heart so I can use it too!

    1. Aww, you're so sweet! I'm glad it is an encouragement to you and your sweet family. And your so right, it's so fun to see how He wove learning and curiosity right into our personality from such a young age! Children really are fascinating! Give everyone a hug for me! :o)