Want a different way to make learning to read fun? All you need is clothespins and paint sticks, and your child will have some hands-on learning tools for spelling, alphabetical order, and sight word practice. An added bonus is that opening and closing the spring-type clothespins is a great strengthening exercise for the fine motor muscles that kids need to master handwriting.
What You Do:
- Create your alphabet. Use one colored marker to write a lowercase (small) letter on each of 26 clothespins. Label another 26 clothespins with uppercase (capital) letters in a different color.
- Make extra clothespins for lower and uppercase vowels (A, a, E, e, I, i, O, o, U, u) and common consonants (like R, r, T, t, S, s, P, p, M, m, N, n).
- Use a colored marker to draw a happy face on the left end of each horizontal paint stick. Your child will attach the clothespins to these paint sticks to make words. The happy face will help your child to remember to work from left to right. If the happy face is right-side-up, he can start by clipping clothespins by the happy face, and be confident that he is spelling in the right direction.
The time spent creating the tools for this activity will pay off wonderfully as your child explores all the ways to use these alphabet clothespins for learning.
- Use the clothespins and paint sticks to practice spelling familiar names. Challenge your child: Can he spell his name using all capital letters? Using both upper and lowercase letters? How about his new teacher's name, or the name of a family member?
- As his teacher broadens the alphabet to include both lower and uppercase letters, have him try to find and clip matching uppercase letters beside each lowercase one.
- At some point, your child's teacher will talk about "alphabetical order." In spare moments, like at the end of the afternoon, take out the clothespins and invite him to put them all in alphabetical order in time for dinner!
- Practice new spelling and reading sight words from school with the clothespins. When your child starts to bring early reading books home, look them over together first, and practice making some of the short words you find with clothespins.
The clothespin alphabet is a hand-crafted, loving way to introduce your child to the alphabet and the many words a young writer can make and read!
Cindy Middendorf, an elementary teacher for 30 years in Tioga Couty, New York, is the author of Differentiating Instruction in Kindergarten, and a nationally respected teacher trainer and mentor.