Simple Hands-On Alphabet Activities for Preschoolers to Learn the ABCs

In the classroom, I have always believed in hands-on learning opportunities, so with my kids I wanted to do the same. Working with letter recognition for my children at home, I started designing activities that would be easy for me to organize and simple for my child to learn.

Children learn through repetition; the more they play, the more knowledge and skills they acquire. I hope you and your child enjoy learning and playing simultaneously with the alphabet activities I have included below.

Buddy playing with the alphabet he helped paint using wooden letters and acrylic markers.

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Writing Activities For Your Beginning Writer 

Help your child build a love for writing at an early age through these fun activities.

Sensory Tray Trace

I found the shallow round containers was the best for this activity if you use rice as your filler. I bought mine at target for $10. Try and use only a thin layer of rice to make the tracing clear for your child to see as they write, I use about 8 oz of colored rice. Attach flashcards to the sensory bin’s side using 2-inch rings helped us flip from letter to letter easily.

If you use the IKEA FLISAT table. Those bins are perfect for sand or epson salt for a tracing activity. The border edge perfectly holds flashcards and paper so your child can see the letter to trace in the sand as they write quickly. My kids use their fingers, paintbrushes, and foam brushes to create letters in the different filler materials.

Trace The Alphabet with Dot Art

On construction paper, write your child’s name either as bubble letters or with a pencil. Then let your child use dot art paint to trace over the letters to practice forming letters. 

Wiki Sticks

These wax-like colored sticks are ideal for letter recognition activity while reading books. I wrap wiki sticks in ovals ready for when we start reading. Then let your child use the ovals to identify specific letters or words that you call out while reading a book. 

You can also write letters or words on paper and let your child use wiki sticks to practice forming the letters.

Play Dough Trace & Stamp

My kids love to use cookie-cutter letters to build words out of play dough. We also use the wooden letters we painted at stamps for this material. For tracing, your child can use play dough mats with bubble letters to fill in to form letters with play dough. I let my kids use expo markers in these mats as well.

Letter Recognition Activities 

Scavenger Hunt 

Using the Cricut machine, I cut out six different shapes on five different colors of paper. Then with a permanent marker, I wrote letters A-Z for a set of capital cards. Then I repeated this process to make another set for a-z with lowercase letters. I hid the cards around the room and had my kids find the letters.

Additional Activities with this material: 

  • Match lowercase and capital letters
  • Build words
  • Place words on the floor and have your child step on the letter you call out. 
  • Use as a hidden element in a sensory bin. 

Salt Paint Letter Search

You will need white paper, glue, salt, a spray bottle with water, and food coloring for this activity. I used a small tuff tray for enough space for my kids to spray the paint, but any tray that protects your surface will be perfect. The food coloring will stain, so we avoided our kitchen for this activity.

On the paper, use the glue and form letters you want to review with your child. For added practice, let your child help you use the glue. Sprinkle on salt over the glued letters and then remove excess salt from the paper. Let this dry for an hour or until dry. With the spray bottle filled with water, add 1-2 drops of food coloring and swirl once the lid is on. Let your child spray the paper with different colors as you call out other letters for them to identify.

Another way to do this activity, is to slowly drip water with an eyedropper on the paper and have your child identify what letter they see as the color bleeds outlining the letter. You can also spell out a mystery message to your child using a glue stick, then let them spray the paper to discover your message.

Eric Carle Style Painted letters

I was on a mission to make sensory ABCs for our new light table hack. Yet every try just destroyed my laminating machine more. Therefore, after multiple fails, I instead decided to paint like Eric Carle on thin white copy paper or even tissue paper works too. Then I leave it for hours to dry. I tried rushing this step, and the laminating machine pushes the paint out of the sides of the pouch. After laminating correctly, I used the Cricut machine to cut out the letters of the alphabet.

You can let your child form words and match with symbols. For examples of these animal cutouts, please see my blog for Eric Carle Book Activities about these. Another example activity is for you to call out a letter, and your child has to find the letter and put it on the light table.

Letter Flowers with words 

I made letters for teaching word families with my daughter last year, but I wanted to go back to basics and use it to focus on specific letters; she still has trouble identifying the sounds. I assessed her phonemic awareness to see which letters she still struggled to identify. These five letters I then made flowers with words on them that were CVC or simple words. The center yellow circle is not attached to the flower at first. I wrote the letters on a circle I cut from the Cricut machine. Then I let my daughter match the flower to the letter. Next, I’ll glue the ring onto a brand that will connect the letter to the flower but still rotate for continued practice.

Build a Letter

We got the building letter set from Lakeshore Learning, but Learning Resources has comparable container that works on a light table. For example, my daughter made a decorated D for a letter of the day activity. Then we compared the shapes of letters by building multiple other letters to display on the light board.

Letter Match Sensory Bin 

Try hiding letters in a sensory bin for your child to find and then match with a flashcard or magnetic letter. 

Materials that might be good to try;

  • Paint chip cards (cut out shapes or cut each shade of color out and write letters with permanent markers) 
  • Magnetic letters
  • Magnetic chips (write letters with permanent markers- you can use an expo marker to erase it)
  • Cricut shapes (from scavenger hunt activity explained above) 
  • Alphabet beads 
  • Wooden letters

Chart Letter Identification Weekly Activity

I make a weekly chart that we read together daily and notice different things on the chart—for example, the letter of the day. Using highlighter or markers, my daughter tries to identify the letter of the day as many times as possible in the sentences from the chart. If she misses any, we look together. 

Dot Art Letter Search 

Pick 3-5 letters you want your child to try and identify for this activity. Then on paper, write those letters multiple times, in random order. Call out one letter at a time, and have your child use different color dot art paint to find and paint the letter you called. 

Design Your Alphabet – Wooden Set

Using a set of wooden letters A-Z, we then decorated them with Posca markers. I use these letters for everything now! 

  • Additional Uses; 
  • Playdough letter stamps
  • Sensory bin hidden items
  • Build words
  • Match letter to item practice

Phonemic Awesomeness Activities 

Matching Game

I placed a letter bean bag in a sorting tray and then looked around the room for various items. My children then tried to identify which items had the same sound as the letter in the tray. My daughter struggled with letters b, d, and p, so I used three trays for practice. The trays, alphabet bean bags came from Lakeshore Learning. For added challenge, repeat this activity with just animals and have your child independently look for corresponding items for the trays.

Sorting Chart for Letter Recognition Practice

After reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? By Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle, my children sorted animals and colors on simple card stock. I did the same activity, but this time with letters and animals. My daughter struggled when she first tried sorting the animals since I chose letters she needs more practice with, but the most significant improvement came after giving non examples. For example, while holding up a deer, I asked, “Is this a hear, or a gear, maybe a peer?” Each time she would laugh and say no, then I let her try to find the letter d mat and say deer independently. When we first started the activity, her accuracy was about 30%, but in the end, it was 100%.

This activity is a great, simple practice for your child to help them with any struggling letter to sound recognition. Try repeating this activity with other items you have around the house, or any letters you have available will work perfectly for this practice. The letter chips I used from recycled color chips from Sherwin Williams.

Activities with Alphabet Books to Practice Learning ABCs

Below are a few activities for alphabet books, for a longer list of best books about the ABCs please see my recent blog here, Alphabet Books for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.

In 2020, right when the world stopped, I was on a mission to transform our playroom into a classroom for my young ones. My classroom always had book characters that were larger than life-sized on the walls made by my students. So after reading Chicka Chicka Boom Boom we made our palm tree with ABCs climbing the coconut tree. We also added Chicka Chicka Boom Boom 1,2,3 tree. I’ll share that project for my number activity article soon.

I used the Cricut machine to cut out the letters. My daughter and son helped paint the palm leaves. I used the book cover as inspiration for the shape of the leaves and draw and cut them on painter’s paper. We used different shades of green paint, and I let them mix the colors before adding to the leaves with paintbrushes and textured rollers.  

Shiver Me Letters by June Sobel Illustrated by Henry Cole

This book is about a treasure hunt of letters on an island. I made a sensory bin and hid ABCs in the sand of the container. My kids painted the alphabet letters I used for this bin and me the day before. I used colored sand, recycled package filler and painted chickpeas to make a beach scene from the book. For tools I let my children use a variety of science scoops, spoons, and sifters to play.

Alpha Oops! The Day Z Went First by, Alethea Kontis

This funny story about the letter Z wanting to start the alphabet, is the perfect book to practice putting letters in alphabetical order. I set up a sensory bin with painted chickpeas, colored rice, and wooden A-Z pieces. My kids reread the book and searched the bin for all the letters. Then together we put all the letters in the correct alphabetical order on the edge of the table.

I hope this article helped you. Please check out other articles I have written for all things learning literacy.

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