Use some pipe cleaners and threading beads as a fun, multi-sensory and kinaesthetic way to learn letters of the alphabet and literally feel the way that they are formed with your fingertips! This is a lovely pre-writing and reading activity for pre-schoolers and older children who need to practise their fine motor skill coordination too.
We have been having lots of fun practising the letters of the alphabet (graphemes) and the corresponding sounds that each one makes (phonemes), and have been trying to do this in as multi-sensory a way as possible. Young children learn best through feeling , touching and doing, rather than being shown or simply listening. What better way to discover the shape and form of letters of the alphabet than to literally make them with your hands? Read on for ways to adapt this for younger children too.
The girls have been loving their creative learning space in our home and there have been lots of beads threaded onto sparkly pipe cleaners as a result of free access to the creative materials recently. Some we shaped into hearts and circles to become simple hanging decorations, and with the many others we thought we would have a go at forming letters from their names and the rest of the alphabet! [I would always suggest starting with letters from a child's own name before going on to learning the rest of the alphabet, as these will be the most significant to them and the ones they will need to learn to write and read first.]
So, using a simple jar of pony beads and some sparkly pipe cleaners, they threaded them on until each pipe cleaner was full. Older kids could even introduce pattern making at this point if they’re interested in extending the play.
We bent over either end of the pipe cleaner to keep the beads in place, then talked about the shape that each letter makes. Is is curved? round? spiky? Does is have a tall hat or a flick tail? We practised first by drawing the letters BIG in the air (a good gross motor link to help consolidate the learning in an active way.) Then we had a go at bending them to form the letters.
Where some letters crossed over and/or needed to join up, we twisted the wire over and around itself, and it clung together well.
For younger children who are not able to form the letter shapes, I would use this as an exercise in threading, and make the shapes with the child so that they can see. Then use them as a lovely sensory alphabet learning tool, for tracing fingers over and feeling the shape and form of each one in a very concrete way.
What they are learning as they play:
physical: fine motor skills and coordination, bending and forming shapes, pincer grasp when holding beads
literacy: naming letters of the alphabet (graphemes), sounding letters of the alphabet (phonemes), recognising letters from own name and significant others
See all our Playful Literacy ideas and activities here. There are lots of fun and creative ways to learn with no need for worksheets!