ABC and 123: A Learning Collaborative: Letter Toss

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Letter Toss


My 2.5 year old is all boy.  He loves to run, jump and climb his way through the day.  When I create educational activities for him, I usually incorporate some kind of movement so that he can burn off a little extra energy while he's learning. This game, called "Letter Toss", is a new family favorite. It's flexible enough to use with children who are practicing letters or words.

To play, you'll need:
  • 1 large piece of paper
  • 1 pair of scissors
  • 1 marker
  • 1 muffin tin
  • 1 rock, marble or penny
Cut out paper circles that will fit snugly in the bottom of your muffin tin. On each circle, write a different letter or, for older children, write a different word. I like to include one or two letters my son already knows and then fill the remaining spots with letters that are unfamiliar to him. Seeing something he recognizes helps him build confidence and make connections more quickly.

Next, give your child the marble (or whatever item you chose for him to throw) and ask him to toss it into the muffin tin. When the marble lands, have your child name the letter under the marble. In this example, your child would say, "{T}". If the marble lands on a letter that he does not know, name it for him and ask him to repeat after you.  


Once your child masters letter names, you can increase the difficulty by having him name the SOUND each letter makes.  In this example he would say, "{T} says /t/".  Then you can ask him to make up sentences filled with {T} words. For instance, your child could say, "Tom told Tim to talk to Tony" or "Texas toast tastes terrible to tiny tadpoles". There are so many possible combinations of words that can be used and it's a fun challenge to create longer and longer sentences.   

Children who are learning to read words can play entertaining variations of this game too. The most obvious goes like this: When the marble lands on a certain word, your child reads it out loud or, if he has too much difficulty sounding it out on his own, he repeats the word after you.   

You can mix up the practice by asking him to use the word his marble lands on in a sentence. For instance, if the marble lands on {she}, your child might say, "SHE is a great friend." Let's pretend that he threw the marble again and it lands on {and}. He could add to his story by continuing, "I like to jump rope with her AND play hopscotch."   

And finally, a third variation of this game helps your child with spelling. First, ask him to look at the word under the marble and spell it out loud. When he's finished, have him spell the word with his eyes closed and then spell the word again with his eyes open. Looking at the word the first time through ensures that your child spells it correctly. When he closes his eyes during round 2, his brain stretches to recall the spelling and then, when he opens his eyes again, he has the chance to check that he spelled the word correctly.   

It's amazing what a piece of paper, a muffin tin and a marble can do, isn't it?!      

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  1. I too have active boys and I love this idea!

  2. Thank you, Michelle! I love knowing that the activities will be put to good use.

  3. Thanks for this creative idea that includes learning the alphabet, visual-motor skills and...can be expanded to practice handwriting! You can bet that I will be putting it to good use, too!

  4. Love this! I am always looking for ideas that are flexible and include movement. The only thing I might add is having them to "skywrite" the word or write it with their finger in the palm of their other hand, in the third variation, before they close their eyes and spell the word orally. I can't wait to use this with my small groups next fall!