Do you ever get overwhelmed with the incredible amount of learning tools available? Do we need them all? Ever wish there was a tool that you could use for multiple learning experiences? I’m here to tell you that magnetic letters are that ONE item you can use to cut the clutter down significantly and help your child learn letters and words.
Come check out some great uses for magnetic letters with these great strategies I use with my own kids.
Uses for Magnetic Letters
Magnetic letters are a great tool to have in your home. In fact I have several sets of the letters as they are extremely affordable. They are obviously great for teaching letters, but they are also helpful when learning words!
I recommend having at least two sets (three if you want a spare set to play with) and a cookie sheet at home. The cookie sheets are great for organizing the letters on and for practicing with the letters. A word of caution though, the cookie sheet with the letters should be out of reach of little hands when not in use. Kids love to get their hands on nicely organized things and wreak havoc! You can always have another set for independent play on the fridge or magnetic chalk board.
I shall explain below why it’s a good thing to have several sets, and particularly why it’s important to have two sets on the cookie sheet (hint- it involves forming words).
ABC song– It is important for kids to learn to match the letter name, sound, and symbol. Next time your child is signing the ABC song, pair it with finger pointing to the letters on the board.
Take this skill a step further and have the child push the letter up a little. This way they are not only touching each letter, but they are physically moving it.
Tracing– kids can simply trace the magnetic letters with their finger as they say the letters name and/or the sound the letter makes. They will learn the formation of the letter before they even embark on writing the letter on their own.
Letter hunts– This is when you need several sets of letters. Choose 2-4 letters you want to use. Then collect all the magnetic letters (upper and lower) you have from each set and put them on the board, fridge or floor. Have the child sort the letters into letter groups. Be sure they say the name of each letter as they move it.
You want to use mostly letters that the child knows and only one letter they do not know. This helps the child learn a new letter without all the frustration of identifying several unknown letters. Young children should have about 2-3 and older kids can handle 3-4 letters.
Also, try not to put similar/confusing letters together. Don’t have a kid hunt for lower case b/d, g/p/q, upper and lower l/i and other such pairs as they can get confused.
ABC grab bag– Put an alphabet set into a bag, hat, bucket, etc. and have the child pull a letter out. They must name and/or give the sound of that letter. It’s up to you if you want to keep the letter out so they eventually pick all the letters, or if you want the letter put back in so the child never knows what they will pick. In the latter instance, I would play the game for a set period of time (two-four minutes).
Say it, Build it, Write it– This is a great activity to do with a child when introducing a new word in a book. I don’t usually like to introduce new words to kids unless we find it in the context of a book. Without seeing the word in use the child will have a harder time learning, remembering, and correctly using that word.
*Click on the picture below to get a copy of the Say It- Built It- Write It printable!
If I have a chance to read through the book first, or if I have selected a book specifically for certain vocabulary words, I will have the child practice the word before we read the book. If not, we read, find a vocabulary word and stop at the end of the page. We pull out the “say it, build it, write it” sheet and practice the word. Then reread the page with the word and move on. The child can practice that word again the next day for reinforcement.
To use the “say it, build it, write it” sheet
- Say It: I collect the paper, the cookie sheet full of letters, and I write the word at the top for the child.
- I say the word then the child says the word.
- Build It: Next I have the child use the magnetic letters to write the word. Depending on the child’s abilities, I either pull a few letters (the letters in the word and a few extra) for the child to pick from. Or I have the child find the letters from the entire alphabet on the cookie sheet.
- Write It: Once they have spelled the word with the magnetic letters, the child writes the word in the box below.
The reason it’s a good idea to have more than one magnetic letter set on the cookie sheet is for the those words that have two of the same letter in it (bottle, start, etc).
When a child is learning words it is helpful to separate the beginning and ending sound. This helps a child identify beginning letter sounds, a word family (-at, -ag, -it, etc), blends (bl, st, etc), digraphs (sh, ch, th), etc. It helps them sound a word out by separating the sounds in the word and putting them together.
With the magnetic letters, put the word you are going to work with in front of the child on a table, on a cookie sheet, fridge, or other magnetic board. Model for them breaking the word apart (bag, b-ag). Then show them how to put the word together by dragging the beginning sound to the ending sounds (b-ag, bag). Why do we bring the beginning sound to the ending sound and not the other way? Because we read from left to right. When we drag our finger across a word, we start with the beginning and drag our finger across to the end.
Push it, Pull it
Another way to practice sounds in words is by an activity called “push it, pull it.” Have the word in front of the child and model for them pushing the letter/sound clusters up and sounding out the word and then pulling them down. This is to reinforce the sounds in the word by having the child manipulate the word physically.
Aren’t Magnetic Letters Great?!
I love magnetic letters. They are so affordable and so useful when teaching kids. Another reason to have multiple sets is when the inevitable happens and a child gets ahold of them and loses some letters. At least you know you have reinforcements!