Teaching short vowel sounds can be tricky — which is why I decided to teach short a with sensory play. My toddler could join in the fun, and both my Three and Five were challenged. A win-win-win!
First, we got out our materials.
- Dry oats. I bought these at a low price from our discount grocery store. (And since I pack them up after we’re done for future sensory play, we get a lot of use out of them.) If you have just one or two kids playing, you won’t need three giant canisters. But I have three busy boys.
- Funnels and scoops for pouring. As it turned out the oatmeal got stuck in the funnels. But the scoops were perfect. As they played, my Five got out a hand-held sieve and my Three found some measuring spoons.
- Letter A’s on blocks and magnets. These were for repeated exposure to the letter — since my Three and Five have a good handle on their alphabet, this was for the sake of my One. I admit I didn’t call attention to it, because he’s not interested in the alphabet yet. But if he were ready, I’d ask him to find the A’s.
- Printed picture cards, apple numbers, and words. I designed these cards to be used with siblings of different ages and levels – after reading an awesome post about multi-age sensory bins from The Educators’ Spin on It.
I created a set of 10 picture cards: each has a picture of something that begins with the short a sound — starting with one item and going all the way up to ten.
I also made a set of ten numbered apple cards.
Finally, I printed a set of word cards to go with each picture card.
After we removed our scoops and funnels, the boys each got to dump a canister of oats onto the letters and cards.
Then they dug right in!
The boys didn’t even look at the printed cards for the first forty-five minutes. That’s what I love about a good sensory bin: it may lead to a mess, but it keeps kids happy and busy for a long time. I was able to put my feet up (a luxury as I was 7 1/2 months pregnant when we did this activity).
And I did something I almost never do since I began blogging… I read a good book! (It was The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon — the latest in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. You haven’t read them?! Ack! Reserve the first book at your library right now! They’re my absolute favorites!)
It was so fun to see my toddler (22 months) get into this. He transferred oats with his hands, poured, dumped, and dug. After about 45 minutes he also started throwing handfuls of oats across the floor — at which time I scooped him up and declared it snack time.
My Five, who always finds something interesting to do, grabbed a sieve from the drawer and crushed oats with his hands to make oat flour. After quite a lot of work he was pleased to have made about three tablespoons of fine flour. 🙂
When my toddler started snacking – and the big boys were starting to lose interest – I said it was time to start digging for all the picture, number, and word cards. I helped them see how each picture started with the short a sound.
My Three needs work at counting objects, so the math part of this was great review for him. My Five, who is a beginning reader, was able to identify most of the words.
And there you have it! A fun way to learn the sound of short a – with some sensory play and math practice thrown in. It was a hit!
Get your free sensory printables!
Alphabet Curriculum for Preschool
Our curriculum includes lessons for teaching both upper and lowercase letter names and sounds. You’ll get three lessons per letter, built-in review, simple handwriting practice, rhyming, syllable counting, phonemic awareness, and a whole lot more!
Looks great! Wasn’t able tp download the sensory printables.
Heather Groth, Customer Support
Thanks for letting us know, Hillary. The link is fixed now!
Getting ready to start up a letter of the week with my 2.5 year old (and my 4 year old will be joining along as well for review and fun!) and your site was, of course, the first place I checked out. I seriously love all your ideas am so so grateful for people like you sharing all your hard work (your creative ideas and actual tangible things like worksheets and games). Your site is such an inspiration to me when it comes to teaching my kids!
Thank you so much, Meghan! Your comment was so encouraging. I’m so glad my site is helping you do more creative learning with your kids!
We did a sensory play the other day with elbow macaroni, three different sized bowls, and three different sized spoons. Instant 3 Bears reenactment!
Sounds like fun, Sarah! So great to see you popping over here 🙂
Great ideas here. I love activities that require the kids to “search” for things. Such important sensory input. Great job.
Thank you, Renae! It’s great to see you in KBN.
Sensory can be messy but you really can’t beat it. Kids love hands-on learning. As in getting their hands tactile and messy.
Hope you get more opportunities to put up your feet.
Yes, sensory play is so important — I should set a goal of pulling it out more often. My feet aren’t up too much these days, so I’m extra thankful our baby has a sweet temperament!