An oldie but a goodie for you today, my friend. A flashback to 9 years ago when I was beginning to teach letter sounds to Sam. Spoiler alert—it worked!
Here is that post on how to teach letter sounds from all those years ago…
We are playing our way to learning to read! My little one just turned 4, and I am in no rush for him to read. I read to him oodles, and we play fun games (like this one) to give him the skills he will need to tackle reading successfully—when he is ready. So for now, we play!
This game is actually a reading activity. It is ideal for wee ones who are just learning their letters and sounds or phonics. When teaching letters and sounds to kids, I find it best to start with name letters. From there, we introduce the letters and sounds in a very special order.
I talk about that, and a bunch of other tips for teaching little ones their letters and sounds in my Free Teaching Letter Recognition Guide. You can grab your copy right here:
Name in a Jar Activity to Teach Letter Sounds
For this reading activity, you need:
- as many jars or containers as letters in your child’s name
- small household or nature items
We used three jars for Sam. Because whenever we do an activity like this, I choose to call my Sammy Sam 🙂
It is a great idea to take your time with this reading activity. One jar and letter a day is plenty. Sam took a few days on his “S” jar. Once he was happy with his findings, and I was happy with his understanding of the sound “S,” we moved on.
This activity is so very simple!
Step 1: Go on a scavenger hunt for the first sound in your child’s name.
Your child is on the hunt for any items that can fit in the jar that start with the same sound as his or her name. Sam, therefore, started his hunt looking for all things that started with the sound “S.” For simplicity’s sake, I left out all blends (such as the sound “sh” in shoes).
Sam began in the toybox and had almost immediate success: Screwdriver! Yes! That definitely started with the sound “S” like Sam. It was also big enough to fill almost the whole jar… hmm…
After finding a few more treasures in the toybox, his search led him to the kitchen: Spoon… and snack…
Alright. Good. Now with a full tummy, our search led us to the backyard in search of a snake. Thankfully (for me, not Sam), we did not find a snake. But we did find a stick.
At the end of our “S” scavenger hunt, Sam had found:
- silver car
- snack (though not in the jar)
Step 2: Continue this activity a few days later for the second letter in your child’s name.
We searched for all things “A.” Sam had found:
Step 3: Continue to teach letter sounds for each letter in your child’s name, filling a jar each day.
Because my wee one has only 3 letters in his name (at least that is how we cheat for activities like this), this was his last jar. He finally searched for all things “M.”
Reading activities can be adventures and build on a little one’s natural sense of wonder and curiosity. My kids all love this ‘Name in a Jar’ Reading Activity—even my oldest helps out (she was on the hunt for something Metallic for Sam’s ‘M’ jar).
It is a great idea to keep these jars in your child’s bedroom for a while. They can play with the items and practice their sounds and letters, all the while having fun!
Some reading activities double nicely as math activities. This is a great activity for sorting. Once you have found all of the items for your jar, you can really challenge your wee ones and have them mix up the items and try to put them back in the correct jars.
For me, the important thing to remember is to follow my little one’s cues. He will let me know if he is ready to do the activity I am asking, or if it is too challenging. If it is not fun, we stop. Plain and simple. This means we stop a lot of Mama’s activities to play cars or make mudpies… which is absolutely a-ok with me!
If you’re interested in teaching your child to read, starting from the very start, How Wee Read covers it all. From rhyming to reading in 60 sequential, simple, and beautiful lessons:
- Step One: Phonological Awareness (7 lessons)
- Step Two: Letters, Sounds, and Blending (12 lessons)
- Step Three: Special Rules (5 lessons)
- Step Four: Familiar Readers (36 lessons)
Check out How Wee Read right here:
Thank you so much for reading!
I LOVE this activity and I know for sure my little boy who is about to turn 4 will love this too! I am going to do this with him tomorrow, thank you.
So glad it will work for you both! Thank you for taking the time to let me know!
Thank you Sarah. I am so excited and looking forward to having lots of fun while learning, with my niece Olivia who is almost four.
Diana Burress says
I love the name jar idea! I’ll have to try this as a small group activity with my preschoolers.
What a great idea. This will be a perfect activity to do with our wee one while home during Christmas break. Thank you!
I am so happy you like it Sheila! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I hope your wee one had fun!
I will surely try this name in the jar with my Sammy ?, my son’s name is Samuel and I called him Sammy or Sam, just like your son ?
Awww another little Sammy!! Love that! Thank you for taking the time to let me know Mei – I hope your Sammy loves this activity as much as mine.
What would you do for letters that have the same sound? My daughter’s name starts with a K. How does she know to differentiate between the k-sound in “key” and the c-sound in “cup”? If she found something that starts with c, do I just tell her “no, that’s a c?” I imagine she will get frustrated fast.
Great question Allison! At this stage of the game we begin with the most common sound. So any /k/ sound – be it a ‘c’ or a ‘k’ work perfectly as we are just trying to get our children noticing beginning sounds.