Letter of the Week Series: Sandpaper Letters


So anyone with a child is school will be familiar with the letter of the week – a fixture in Early Years education. Each week, the class picks a particular letter to focus on – recognising it, practising the sound, writing or tracing it, and learning words that begin with that letter, are all parts of the focus. Kids often bring in items that begin with that letter for a Sound Table. It’s a lovely all-round introduction to a letter and its uses!

We want to help our kids learn without running drills after school! So, this Letter of the Week Series is a bunch of activities we can do for each of the letters of the week to help complement the school work and encourage letter writing and reconition to be fun and crafty!

Today, I’m writing about the amazing Sandpaper Letters – a staple of Montessori education that helps to familiarise little pre-writers with the shape and feel of a letter. They are v pricey, but they are a Desert Island material for sure. Deb at Living Montessori Now has a fab post about what letters to introduce first (if you’re homeschooling) and how to DIY some sandpaper letters for cheap!

Since V-bot started school, we’ve been using them a lot to trace our fingers over the shape of the letter of the week.

Like typing, or driving, writing is about training the hand to move without conscious thought. The way to do this is to repeat the exercise until it’s automatic! The more the better – until it’s second nature. But we don’t want it to be boring 🙂

For us, this video about introducing and using the Sandpaper Letters was helpful, as was this resource from Info Montessori.

Our Process (Age 24 months, ish)
– “Wow, look V-bot, we have some sandpaper letters here!” “Here is an “l” “luh, luh, luh, luh for lunch and llama!”
– “Can you touch them like this?” [Demo tracing down from the top to bottom of letter slowly]
– Introduce one letter a week or so, and leave it in an accessible place to let her return to it and touch it. Repeat the sound when she focuses on it.

Process for Letter of the Week
– “So you’ve been talking about the letter ‘m’ at school, right?”
– “Can you show me where ‘m’ is?” [She picks it from 3 or 4 sandpaper letters laid out on the table – in the past if I wasn’t sure she could find it I would pick it out myself and say “This is ‘m’! Muh, muh, muh for Mum”]
– “The ‘m’ lets you spell Mum! Can you trace the ‘m’?” – If she does it correctly, moving her fingers in the right direction from the correct starting point, move on to closing eyes and repeating. If she didn’t quite get it:
– “Wow, that’s great that you can trace the ‘muh’. May I try? [trace letter extremely slowly] Your turn!” Let her try again (only if she wants to!)
– Once correct, it’s fun to try with eyes closed. “Let’s close our eyes and see if we can trace it – can you feel the sandpaper?”
– Little and often is the key here I’ve found. Leaving the letter around for us to pick up whenever there’s a spare moment means we often trace it many times each day, while getting ready for dinner, after dinner, before bed. The more the better! Doing this means that, when she gets a pencil in her hand, the motion of writing this letter should be familiar and easy.

Our golden rule is that, as soon as it’s not fun, we stop. “Well that was fun, let’s put it away for today and we’ll do it again another day!” There’s plenty of time later to understand the concept of doing things you don’t want to do; for now, I feel like the greatest gift I can give is teaching them how to find fun in everything. The more they enjoy, the more they repeat, the more they learn.

Children who can trace the letter in the correct way consistently can move on to tracing and writing activities. We’ll post some of our favourites in this series!

What are your favourite Letter of the Week activities with your kids? Please feel free to comment and leave links to your posts too!

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