September 11, 2014

DIY: Alphabet Rocks


While I certainly strive to expose my children to a rich sampling of experiences, lessons, and information, when it comes to the basics, I have to admit that we are somewhat behind. Little Smith is only a few months away from his fourth birthday, and he can't write any letters, can only recognize a couple, can't write or recognize numbers, all skills that I know many children his age have mastered. I have to accept most of the responsibility, I really haven't stressed all the fundamental targets. But whenever I have attempted to tackle letters or writing, he also hasn't expressed much interest. 

His preschool program, which is based on the Reggio Emilia approach, is very much child-driven... meaning all kinds of projects are available to him, but they work to develop the areas in which he is naturally motivated. He loves building, he spends hours constructing elaborate tracks and tunnels and towers. He makes the most exquisite free and fluid watercolors. He studies birds and trees, assembles marble mazes, rides the pretend bus with his friends. Basically, I'm saying he's awesome! But so far his attention for drawing specific shapes or learning his abc's is very limited. 


Armed with back-to-school energy, I decided to take inspiration from something I had seen on Pinterest (finally, I almost never follow-through on all those 'pins') and use Little Smith's interest in nature and collecting as the launching point for some alphabet exposure. We started with a lengthy rock collecting expedition through our neighborhood. I tried to steer him towards smaller rocks, but once you've developed a relationship with a rock, it can be tough to cast it aside. I was grateful we brought the stroller and could store our treasures in the basket, because this was a heavy load. 

Next I actually put the rocks through the dishwasher. I wouldn't have bothered if we lived in a more rural area, but a lot of these came from driveways, roadsides, and streams of questionable water quality. I just wanted a fresh start for their new life. Little Smith helped me sort, and we studied the shapes of each letter and tried to find a rock that seemed like a good soul-mate. We talked a little about color, and then I took over. 


Since he isn't yet up to drawing or painting letters, he set his paints free on the cast-off rocks while I lettered our alphabet. I used acrylic paint, and tried to go for lighter shades (I added white to each one) just so the coverage would be better and the letters would be more visible. 


And here is the cool part, he is taking an interest; arranging the stones in a basket and pulling out a handful at a time, asking questions, and learning some of those letters! I'm actually comfortable with giving him the space to let all of these skills come at his own pace, but I also feel excited that I was able to reposition an idea and stir some new inquiry. I think the physicality of the rocks is helpful to the way that he thinks. It was a fun little project, give it a try!

15 comments:

  1. Very cute idea, I like it! :-)

    http://tinajoathome.com/

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  2. So fabulous! I love this project.

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    1. Oh thank you! We need to get more projects going, we had a good time.

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  3. What a fantastic idea! My son was/is very physical too-- he wanted to touch everything and abstract concepts like letters were never his favorite. Being able to actually hold an "M" made a world of difference for him-- I wish I had thought of this clever idea, he would have loved it!!

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    1. Having the rock qualities really did seen to help over something like magnets. He loved it :)

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  4. Such a great idea, Lilly! I love this and couldn't agree more... right now Emil yells "Nooooo! STOP!!!" whenever I sing the ABC's. I have no idea. It's kind of hilarious. And I have no idea what he knows/recognizes yet. I do love that you made something concrete for W. I think boys in general tend to learn through physical experiences, and this is no exception.

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    1. That's so funny, W never wants me to sing anymore either. I do have a terrible voice, but he used to love it :) they know what they want, those kids.

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  5. This is awesome! What a creative way of teaching boys using something that appeals more to them. Now if only we could somehow incorporate all of my son's necessary grade 7 skills into Minecraft! ;)

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    1. I'm sure someone is working on a video game middle school curriculum... right?! ;)

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    2. If you find it, let me know. ;)

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  6. I did this with sea shells. My boys loved it. I've heard that tracing letters in sand is another great, tactile way for children to learn to form the letters.

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    1. Oh I love the idea of sea shells, I bet those are beautiful (and lighter than rocks!).

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    2. The Montessori style sandpaper letters can be excellent for this too, you can even get them in book format. Surprisingly pleasant to trace with your finger too! Good idea Mama Smith :)

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    3. That sounds brilliant, I'll take a look at those. Thanks!

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