paint bag writing and letter learning

paint bag writing and letter learning |

Today, Owen and I took a teeny bit of time before his rest to do some Paint Bag writing. It was such a beautiful day, and he played so hard outside at preschool, that I knew he needed something low-key and quick.

And with everyone still adjusting to the time change and waking up at the crack of dawn, this mama needed more than a second to recharge this afternoon.

Owen and I have used the Paint Bag several times now, and it’s really just another way of getting little ones to have fun while they practice writing letters and numbers.

  • Paint Bag Writing: I made this Paint Bag several years ago for tutoring and for Maddy when she first started writing, and it’s held up remarkably well.

All it is is a gallon-sized ziplock bag filled with a mix of finger paint and tempera paint inside. It doesn’t matter what you use, as long as the paint isn’t too watery and can hold the impressions of letters and numbers. Our color is not very fun, but the kids don’t seem to mind. Some people duct tape the top to be safe, but I did not.

I pulled out our Alphabet Cards from reading a-z for this, but you can really use any Alphabet Cards on hand. (alphabet cards & games are here to download.)

paint bag writing and letter learning | teachmama.comOwen’s little ‘X’

I pretty much followed the same system as I do most times I practice letters with emergent readers; I didn’t set up Owen for a race, a test, or a high-pressure situation. Don’t get me wrong; letter games are great, but when kiddos are just learning, sometimes the stress of having to quickly form a letter or having to call out a letter name on the spot makes them anxious and upset.

Rather, after Owen made a bunch of squiggles, circles, and lines on his own for a bit, I flipped two letter cards at a time and said, Okay, Owen, which letter will you write first, an ‘X’ or an ‘I’? Or, Ooooh, these are two of my favorite letters because they are in my name. Can you name one? Which one will you write first?

paint bag writing and letter learning |

Making letters with the Paint Bag


We went through about half of the letters and then he said he wanted to write his name, which he did a few times. Then I grabbed his Family List–just a list of the people in our family with our pictures next to them–which he and Maddy both have in their little Traveling Writing Centers.

I said, Okay, you pick a name and write it, and I’ll try to read it. Owen wrote a name, then I wrote a name, and we did this a few times until he said he was done, and that was that.

Just a little bit of letter writing practice today, on probably one of our last warm fall days of the year. We had to save up some energy for more playground time after kindergarten pick-up!

fyi: Where to start with letter learning?
If you’re not sure where to start with letter learning, start with the letters of your child’s name. Focus on the first letter, and then introduce the names of the people in your family. If a little one can recognize that ‘M’ is Mommy’s letter, ‘D’ is Daddy’s, and so on, then that’s a start!

Research says that children tend to learn “the first letter of their names more easily than the rest of the alphabet”. They then usually learn the first letter of their family members’ because that “capitalized first letter is visually more salient than the other letters in these names.” Makes so much sense.

from Bradley, B.A., & Jones, J. (2007, February). Sharing Alphabet Books in Early Childhood Classrooms. The Reading Teacher, 60(5), 452–463

Want a few more alphabet activities? Check out:


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  1. Jac @ Wuzzle Makes Three says

    What a great tool!! We are getting to the point where we're thinking about how to go about teaching these things, and I am definitely going to try this method!


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