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Numbers, Shapes, Letters, & Colors

Somewhere along the way, many of us (parents, teachers, caregivers) lost the meaning of childhood. Somewhere along the way, we were pulled away from the core of early childhood passions and directed toward something practical, something useful, something you must know in the real world, & in the long run something that’s going to be on the test.

Children need a chance to have a childhood. But instead, they are all too often having their childhoods interrupted by academic pressures starting in early childhood. There can be a balance of giving them a childhood while exposing them to learning. 


The early years are all about setting the foundation for the rest of a child’s learning journey. Creating inviting and intentional ways for children to mentally, physically, creatively,  and “academically” prepare for writing, literacy, math, etc. in open-ended + play based ways helps get them ready through developmentally appropriate practices and engaging manner that ignites their curiosity and wonder for learning. 

When a child is invited to explore and play in an environment with open ended materials they are interested in, it ignites their curiosity and gives them opportunities with no pressure to become genuinely ready to retain new information which will in turn make skills like writing, counting, reading, etc. at ease because THEY are ready.  

Now, this doesn’t mean letters, numbers, shapes, colors, etc. won’t be within their environment, it just means we will intentionally set invitations in play-based ways to make them curious about symbols. As they are continuously exposed to the symbols within their environment then they will show interest, and we will be ready to support and foster it more. When they are intrinsically motivated to learn or master symbols, they will learn it way better and their mind and body will be ready.  

While all of our centers (dramatic play, art, building, sensory, etc.) are open for a child to choose where they want to play, we have open-ended invitations that further ignite the child's curiosity or play. Here are some intentional invitations that provide exposure and experiences to letters, numbers, shapes, and colors that are developmentally appropriate in early childhood. 

1. Sensory Bin Dig: In a sensory bin place any materials (rice, sand, beans, etc.) Place any type of puzzle (shapes, letters, #s, colors) within the materials. Provide tweezers. Invite the child to sort through the materials and match the puzzle to the correct space. 

2. Sorting Cups: In bin place letters, numbers, shapes, colors (wooden, acrylic. etc.). Provide tweezers and invite the children to sort the materials according to the colored/numbered/lettered dishware. 

3. Molding Materials: Provide laminated sheets, cards, place mats that have numbers, shapes, letters, etc. on it. Provide playdough, foam dough, wikki stix, loose parts etc. and invite the child to mold the materials to the designs. 

5. Tracing in Sand: Provide a tray with sand. Place cards with letters, numbers, or shapes and have them trace it in the sand with their finger, brush, tool, etc. 

6. Sort and Match: On laminated cards, dry erase boards,etc. have them sort through loose parts with (letters, numbers, shapes, or colors) and match it to the symbols on the card. 

7. Writing Tablet: Provide letters, numbers, shapes, cards, loose parts and have them practice writing on the tablet. 

5. Butcher Paper: On butcher paper draw letters, numbers, shapes, lines, colors. Provide loose parts (flat marbles, pom poms, stickers, etc.) or paint. Invite the child to trace the symbols with the materials. 

6. Excavate Ice: Freeze letters, numbers, shapes, or colors with water. In a sensory bin provide droppers and water. Invite the children to release the materials. 

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