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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sand Paper Letters

When my oldest was four, it became obvious that he had challenges with fine motor skills and he began meeting with an occupational therapist twice a month for two years.  He spent his half hour with her cutting, drawing, tracing and picking things up with tweezers. He enjoyed his time with his OT and I sat back and observed, asking questions of why and how and learned so much about a child's physical development.  One of the things that stood out to me is how repetitive movement influences the way the brain is hardwired.  Does that make sense?  The OT explained that by doing a specific motion (i.e. writing an "L" from top to bottom) the same way over and over again will set the motion to be automatic so we won't have to even think about it.  It makes sense.  I just hadn't thought of it before.
As my son began to write, it was important to teach him the proper way to write the alphabet and have him do the letters the same way each time.

This summer, when I decided to homeschool, I learned about the Montessori method. Although we chose the Charlotte Mason method, I still liked a lot of what Montessori had to offer in the way of a hands-on approach to learning. Now that my younger son is interested in writing I want to make sure we teach him how to write the proper way from the beginning, so taking an approach from the Montessori method, I made sandpaper letters.  They are so tactile, which is wonderful for young children who still associate so much of who they are and their relationship to the world through their five senses including touch.

The first time he played with his sandpaper letters, he was fascinated by their feel and intrigued by the puzzle of exactly how to form the letters. They held his attention much longer than any worksheet ever would.

Begin with a fine grain sandpaper, 3x5 cards, pen, and a ruler

Draw and cut out letters that are 2 3/4 inches across and 3 inches tall.
Glue them on to a 3x5 card and write arrows showing the child the
direction to trace, the letter, using numbers to show them which
 step to do first, second and third.

Show your little one how to look for the number 1 and to
follow the arrow to complete the first step, and then find
the number 2 to complete the second step, and so on. 

Don't be surprised if children run off with the cards to a quiet place where they can solve the mysteries of writing on their own and in time, their letter tracing cards can be used as spelling cards.
As a variation or extension, try writing lowercase tracing letters in puffy paint - still tactile and colorful.
Or, after your little one traces the sandpaper letter, have them write the letter in sand, salt, or cornmeal.
Happy writing!


  1. What a great idea! My best friend teaches several special needs kids and like many in the public sector is having to learn a lot of her "know how" from other sources...I'm going to share this with her - thanks!

  2. This is wonderful! And as an OT, I love your ideas! Adding in the tactile sense when learning letter formation really helps with retention. Thanks for sharing with us at Share It Saturday!

  3. I really appreciate for your efforts you put in this article, this is very informative and helpful. I really enjoyed reading this blog. Keep sharing and give us updates.

    Montessori Wooden Peg Board with Plastic Pegs


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