If you follow Maria Montessori’s methods for educating young children, then the answer is obvious. Yes, sandpaper letters are worth the money! But what about other folks teaching kids using traditional practices? Do you really need sandpaper letters or is a deck of letter flashcards enough?
How Sandpaper Letters Used in Montessori Education
Sandpaper letters engage kids in using three of their senses: visual, auditory, and tactile. Teachers introduce no more than three letters at a time. First, they demonstrate how to make the letter, tracing it with their index and middle fingers while making the letter sound.
Different from traditional methods of teaching letters, the emphasis here is on the sound the letter makes, not the letter name. Letter names come later. Also, in Montessori education, children start by learning the lower case letters first as opposed to the upper case letters.
Three-Period Lesson for Sandpaper Letters
Naming (Introduction): Teacher introduces through demonstration. She traces the letter and says its sound. Then the child does it.
Recognizing (Identification): Teacher makes a sound and asks the child to find the letter. “Please trace “sss.” Child takes the letter and traces it.
Remembering (Cognition): The teacher places a letter in front of the child and asks the child to recall. “Trace this and tell me what it is.”
My Favorite Letters
Even if you aren’t following Montessori methods, sandpaper letters are worth the money. Your kids will love using these beautiful letters and you can use the letters for many different activities.
In my opinion, it’s better to buy fewer high-quality materials that you can use for various purposes, rather than lots of cheap products that fall apart after a couple of uses.
You can purchase here
They are perfectly sized for small hands, attractive to look at, and durable. Made of wood and come in a storage box
Alphabet Activities Using Sandpaper Letters
Trace the letters with fingers. You can use verbal cues to make sure your child forms them correctly each time. Then you are reinforcing the letter formation both kinesthetically and verbally.
Use as a guide for letter formation practice in salt trays, play dough mats, and shaving cream for example.
Fill a basket with small items that begin with the letter sound. Take out each object and name it. Draw attention to the beginning sound. Do this to teach individual letters, groups of letters, or a culmination of all the letters in the alphabet your child has learned.
Sound scavenger hunt
Place a sandpaper letter in a basket and have your child wander through the house finding items to fill the basket that begin with the same sound.
To change it up, also look for items that end with the letter sound or have it in the middle. After collecting a bunch of objects sort them into groups based on beginning sound, middle, or ending.
Spread the letter on the floor and have your child arrange them in a long line in alphabetical order. Singing the alphabet song slowly many times is very helpful for this activity.
Guess the Letter
Tell your child to close his eyes. Place a letter card in his hand or in a fabric bag. Have him guess what letter he’s holding based on how it feels. This is challenging, because kids have to visualize the letter based on touch, and the letter is not necessarily in the right position. It could be upside down or sideways. They have to figure it out based on the characteristics of the lines, curves and orientation.
If you have a set of magnetic letters, letter beads, or letter tiles have your child match the letters by placing them on the sandpaper letters.
Mommy and Baby Letters
Match lower case letters (babies) to their upper case letters (mommies). You can do this if you have a set of sandpaper letters in both lower and upper case, or you can mix and match lower case sandpaper letters with a set of upper case letter cards or magnets.
How to Make Your Own Sandpaper Letters
Some people make their own sandpaper letters. When I weighed the time it would take to make them and the cost of the materials, I decided it wasn’t worth it for me. That’s not to say you wouldn’t be interested in DIY.
Other Tactile Letters
Sandpaper letters are wonderful for muscle memory. If they are a hit with your child you may want to try other tactile letters. Use a glue gun to cover letters with pipe cleaners, glitter, split peas, feathers, ribbon, yarn, sequins, and any other small items.
Sandpaper letters are worth the money. You can use these quality letters to introduce letter formation and letter sounds simultaneously. But you can also use them for other engaging alphabet activities. They will stand up to lots of little hands for some time.