In kindergarten, children are expected to become masters of the alphabet. By the end of kindergarten, children should be able to recite the alphabet, identify individual letters and associate most of the letters with their corresponding sounds.
If your child is a mover and a shaker, there's no better way to practice alphabet skills than to get her outside, and exercise the alphabet! Here's how to help your child make letter-sound associations, while also getting some healthful exercise.
What You Do:
Assist your child in using the sidewalk chalk to write each letter of the alphabet in a line on the sidewalk. Leave about a hand's width of space between each letter. (If you are doing this on the lawn, spread out the labeled foam pieces or papers.)
Have your child say the first letter, A, and touch it with her pointer finger on the sidewalk. Then say the sounds associated with the letter: /a/ as in “apple,” and /ay/ as in “acorn.” For each letter, have your child repeat the sounds to you, then complete the associated exercise as described below:
Apples and Acorns A's: Reach up with one hand, stretch tall and make a twisting motion as if picking an apple from a tree, then bend down and put the “apple” in an imaginary basket on your toe. Switch hands, and repeat motions to pick an acorn. Say an /a/ or an /ay/ word as you pick.
Bendy Beach Ball B's: Hold the beach ball in front of you with arms outstretched at your waist. Say a word that begins with /b/. Now hold the beach ball to the right, and bend to the side. Say another word that begins with /b/. Back backward and hold the beach ball over your head, as you say another /b/ word. Continue in a clockwise motion, bending with the beach ball and saying /b/ words.
Crab Crawl C's: Walk on all fours with your backside facing the ground, and your chest facing the sky. Say /c/ words while you crab crawl.
Drop Down and Dangle D's: Start in a standing position. Have a partner say a word aloud. If it starts with a /d/ sound, drop your upper body forward and let your arms dangle toward your toes. If it doesn't start with a /d/ sound, stay standing.
Easy Eggshell E's: Run in place super fast, like you're running on broken eggshells with bare feet. Say /e/ words while you run.
Five Flap and Fly F's: Flap your arm wings and fly like a bird. When your wings come up, say an /f/ word.
Get Up and Grow G's: Start by squatting near the ground and hugging yourself in a tight ball, like a seed waiting to sprout. Put your hands together over your head as if getting ready to dive. Then say “Get up and grow, grow, grow…” as you slowly stretch up toward the sky and rise to a standing position. When fully standing, raise your hands as high as you can, and let them come apart, like a flower that is blossoming.
Too Hot to Hold H's: A partner tosses the beach ball to you. As soon as it touches your hands, pass it back. It's too hot to hold! As you pass it back, say a word that begins with /h/.
Inflate It I's: Put your hands in front of your mouth, like you are blowing up a pretend balloon. Slowly move your hands apart, as if the balloon is being inflated. Continue until your arms and hands are outstretched, making a giant circle. When you can stretch no more, say an /i/ word, and let your balloon pop!
Jumpin' Jack J's: Traditional jumping jacks (legs apart, while clapping hands over your head; then legs together with hands at your side), with the added twist of saying a /j/ word on the clap.
Kickin' K's: Kick the beach ball back and forth with a partner. On each kick, say a /k/ word.
Left Leg Lift L's: Lie on the ground on your right side, with your head propped up on one hand, and your legs extended. Lift just the left leg a few inches in the air, then bring it back down. Say a /l/ word on every lift.
Mad March M's: March in place, with big, strong steps. Say an /m/ word on every other step.
Neck Nod N's: Nod to the front, to the side, to the back, to the other side, and so forth, in a clockwise direction. On each nod, say a word that begins with /n/.
Octopus O's: Sit with a partner on the ground inside the letter “o” (a hula hoop). Lean against each other, back to back. Let your legs and arms (and your partner's, too) extend outside the hula hoop so that you have eight arms and legs, like an octopus. Wiggle your octopus arms and legs, and take turns saying /o/ words with your partner.
Poppin' Popcorn P's: This is a leapfrog exercise, played with a partner. As one person pops over the other's back, she says a /p/ word. Then she squats down, and it's her partner's turn to pop over her back and say a /p/ word.
Quick Quicker Quickest Q's: Hold the hula hoop in the air, and try to twirl it around your wrist. Twirl it quickly! Now quicker! Quickest yet! Notice that the hula hoop looks like the circle in the capital Q, and your arm looks like the tail.
Ready to Run R's: Get down into a push-up position. Use your legs to “run” in place on the ground by bending one leg toward your chest and leaving the other leg extended. (Your feet actually stay on the ground, while your legs bend one at a time. Your upper body supports your weight.) As you “run,” say /r/ words aloud.
Six Super Slide S's: Take a giant step to the right with your right foot and slide your body to meet it. Say a /s/ word as your slide. Then slide to the left. Repeat for a total of six slides.
Ten Toss the T's: Toss and catch the beach ball ten times. On each toss, count aloud and say a /t/ word.
Up, Up, Up and Under U's: Stand across from your partner. You and your partner hold onto the hula hoop with both hands so that it makes a flat circle in the space between you. Then raise it three times, and say “up, up, up” until you're holding it as high as you can above your heads. Say “under” and step under the hula hoop with your partner, still holding it high in the air. Each of you says a /u/ word, then you both drop the hula hoop so it forms a circle at your feet.
Very Velcro V's: “Stick” like Velcro to your partner by locking arms with her. Walk forward. Take turns saying a word aloud. If it starts with /v/, you both jump up together. Don't let go!
Waddle-and-Winging-It W's: Make duck wings by bending your arms at the elbow. Waddle by bending back and forth to the sides as you walk and flap your wings. Say words that begin with /w/ as you walk to a finish point.
Crossover X's: Stand with your hands on your hips, and your legs slightly apart. Jump up and cross your legs so that they look like an x when you land. As you jump, say a word that ends with /x/, such as “fox.” Repeat, and switch your legs around.
Yo-Yo Around the Yard Y's: Walk quickly around the outside edge of your yard while you use a pretend yo-yo. (Make an up and down motion with your hand in front of you.) Say /y/ words as you yo-yo.
Zigzag Z's: Zig (quickly run) forward, and zag backward as fast as you can from one starting point to another. Say /z/ words as you zigzag.
Liana Mahoney is a National Board Certified elementary teacher, currently teaching a first and second grade loop. She is also a certified Reading Specialist, with teaching experience as a former high school English teacher, and early grades Remedial Reading.