## Saturday, June 30, 2012

### 15 Activities with an Alphabet Puzzle Mat

When the girls were 5 months old, they received a Foam Letter & Number Floor Mat Puzzle.  It was useful to keep them from getting hurt as they learned to crawl, stand, and walk, but they soon discovered that they could take the pieces out (and throw them / put them in their mouth), so it was retired shortly after their 1st birthday.  Recently we re-discovered this puzzle mat when cleaning out a storage closet.  I was debating whether to even keep it, but L and E (35 months) have been asking for their Alphabet Mat every single day this week.  Accordingly, I've been making up tons of new activities with this toy, and wanted to share some of these ideas...

Constructing the large-scale puzzle is a fun challenge for my 3-year-olds because they have to match up the letters and numbers and also piece together parts using larger motor skills than they usually use for puzzles.  To mix things up a bit you could:

1) Challenge the kids to build rectangles of various dimensions out of the tiles (we have 36 tiles, which has many factors), and then measure the area (all the same) and the diameters of their rectangles.

2) Can you put the puzzle together so no two tiles of the same color share a side?  What about sharing a corner?  What is the minimum number of colors to accomplish this?

The puzzle also gave us an opportunity to examine the shape of each letter and number more closely:

3) Which letters have straight lines, and which ones have curves?

4) How many holes does each letter have? (This is an introduction to a concept of Topology called Homeomorphism)  For older kids, extend this concept by asking them to use playdough to transform one letter into another without changing the number of holes

5) Flip the letters along either the horizontal and vertical axis to test symmetry:

6) Place a large piece of paper (like butcher paper or easel paper) over the letters to do a crayon rubbing (it's helpful to pic symmetric letters and them use the bumpy side for the letters and the smooth side for the background

7) Invite the kids to match up other moveable alphabet pieces you may have (small puzzle pieces, alphabet tiles, flash cards, etc..) to the alphabet mats

8) Gather a variety of objects and challenge the kids to sort them on the alphabet mats based on the letter they start with.  L and E were both quite good at this one, since they've been practicing with our Alphabet Boxes.

My kids love anything involving physical activity, so there was a lot of running and jumping on the mat:

9) Call out a letter by either saying the name of the letter, the phonetic sound it makes, or a word that starts/ends with the letter and ask the child to jump to it.  You could do this with numbers too:

10) Place the letter tiles in alphabetic order - make an alphabet train the circles all around the room.

11) Make a number line and practice counting forwards/backwards by jumping on each number.  You can also practice addition by showing the kids how to start on the first number and then jump forward the required number of times.  L and E both really loved this one.  We did more of the Number Line Activities that we've done in the past.

12) Throw a bean bag on a specific number or letter and then name it (or, if it is a letter, name something that starts with that letter):

13) Play BINGO, or even Tic-Tac-Toe, by putting letters into a bag, picking them one by one, and then placing a marker on the matching letter until you get a complete row:

14) Play twister by calling out letters ("Right hand on 'A', Left foot on 'R'):

15) Spell out words using the foam alphabet puzzle pieces.  Call out some letters for the kids to find.  Then ask them to use them to spell out a specific word.  For older kids, you could let the kids unscramble the word themselves.

I did most of these activities with L and E, who had such a good time playing these games that they forgot they were reinforcing their phonemic awareness and number concepts.  I'm amazed at how a simple toy that was forgotten in a storage closet for 2 years has been such a source of entertainment (and learning) for my kiddos.

UPDATE: I was so inspired by how much my kids enjoyed early learning games that I created the La La Logic Critical Thinking Curriculum for 3-6 year olds, which includes online brain challenge games, printable worksheets, enrichment activities and more!

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#### 4 comments:

1. Looks very fun and educational.

2. Such a great education toy and so many different things you can do with it! Thanks for sharing at The Sunday Showcase!

3. Hello ,
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4. This is such a great toy. Children can not only play with it but can also learn alphabets and numbers easily. Learning will be a fun activity.
toys come to life

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