At the age of three, your little one is ready to start learning the fundamentals of reading. Memorizing what letters are what, and learning about the sounds each letter makes is part of that process. Playing a memory matching card game can be really fun and a great start.
My son took this idea one step further and came up with the idea to create a train board game where each letter was a passenger that needed to go to the seat that matches his letter. So the letter “A” sits in the “A” seat, and so on and so forth. This idea can be applied to more than just a train. You can cut out planes, dinosaurs, or a castle, and then create a game that is personalized to your child’s favorite things!
Step 1 I had my son pick out what color paper he wanted me to write the letters on. He only wanted brown so that’s the color I used. I wrote the alphabet A-F, out twice. I did this intentionally so that he could master those letters first. Once, he has a firm grasp of letters A-F, we will make another sheet with letters G-J, I will continue to add four letters at a time until we have learned the entire alphabet. This teaching technique is called scaffolding. Where you’re teaching your kiddo what they need know gradually and building upon prior knowledge.
Step 2 My son now owns a pair of safety scissors designed for three year old years. So, I put little dashes around the letters where my little one knew he could cut along to make the game pieces we would later need for the game.
Step 3 After all of the letters were cut out we played the matching game as you would normally. Then, once all of the pairs were found, this next task was to put letters A-F in alphabetical order. When my son was able to accomplish this he excitedly said that he’d made a train with his letters. This is how we decided to move onto the next step and change this game up entirely. So, the following steps are optional.
Step 4 (To build train cars.) Have your preschooler pick out the color they want the train car to be. Cut those three papers in half diagonally.
Step 5 Parents put the glue in a square on the paper where you want you preschooler to put the letters onto your newly created game board. Keep the duplicate letter aside to use later for the game.
Step 6 Ask your little one what color wheels the want, and cut out circles in that color for them to glue two wheel to each train car. Let your preschooler place the wheels on top of the glue.
Step 7 As it dries… Play the new game. The duplicate stack of letters are now your passengers, they need to sit in their matching seat. You can have them place in any order you want. Let your little pretend they are the conductor collecting tickets and be sure to narrate what letters they are matching.
Step 8 If you want to create a train engine, glue the following shapes onto a half sheet of paper: a triangle at the front for the grill, a small rectangle for the smoke stack, a square for the window and another rectangle for the door.
Step 9 Optional Add-Ons: For practicing number recognition, you can number the train cars 1 through 3. Another optional addition is to have your little one name the engine and write it along the side of the engine. More fun with your preschooler if they are still enjoying the game is to allow them time to color their newly created game boards however they choose.
Step 10: Put all of the pieces into a plastic bag and store for use later!
I hope you enjoy this game with your preschooler as much as I did! Remember if your child isn’t big on trains, you have other options. For instance, the letters on the castle could be rooms for the royal guests, the dinosaurs could each need special food so they only eat the letter that matches what’s on their tummy, an airplane would work similarly to the train version of the game, super heroes need a special letter matched to their cape to gain their super powers, and so one and so forth. Be creative and have fun!