By Scherrie Donaldson
Cooperative play and learning is critical in families with children of various ages and academic abilities; when done successfully this type of learning fosters a sense of familial community, a fun learning environment and healthy competition.
During the summer, families are usually spending much more time together. Finding activities that include everyone is a great way to continue practicing and building on skills from the school year. The Learning Resources Letter Blocks toy turned out to be a great resource to get my three boys all involved, playing together & learning from one another.
My toddler is a pre-reader who has some delays in his speech development; as a family we have been working on encouraging him to use his words and express his wants/needs verbally. He is definitely a tactile learner and enjoys learning through hands-on exploration. Therefore, the Learning Resources Letter Blocks are a perfect fit to get him excited about practicing letter recognition, colors and other basic pre-reading skills while playing alongside his older brothers.
We first started with identifying the letters of their names to help him get familiar with the ideas that letters make up words. Each child picked the letters of their names and created a name structure using the Letter Blocks. They really enjoyed trying to vertically balance the cubes in different ways to spell out their names. This activity promoted name recognition as well as developing fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination.
Next, we began to physically put together simple words that the toddler suggested using the Letter Cubes. He would shout out a word and the older boys would spell it. We also used some homemade dough and used the Letter Blocks as letter molds to spell out the words. The two-year-old loved being in charge of the game and is really able to verbalize more vocabulary words with us as a direct result of this activity.
Finally, the older two boys participated in a race where they had to think of an answer to my question and quickly spell their answer using the letter cubes. I asked questions like “Name an animal”, “Name a color”, “Name something that you can find in the sky” and other prompting questions that prompted them to use their memory and language skills. The game got tricky because there are not multiples of each letter, do they had to be able to redirect and possibly change their answer quickly.