Prep: 10 Minutes / Activity Time: 5-10 Minutes

Help promote your toddler’s interest and future understanding of letter names and letter sounds by making them a part of her everyday experiences. Learning to distinguish differences in letter shapes involves many hands-on opportunities to touch, see and explore the letters of the alphabet. This fun activity takes letter discovery into the water. Do this activity indoors at bath time or take the activity outdoors at a time when your child can get wet. Remember to closely supervise your child any time she is involved in water play.

  • For bath time play:
    • small foam alphabet letters
    • small plastic kitchen strainer
  • For outside play:
    • large plastic bin to hold water and letters
    • cookie sheet to place letters on

Step 1: Purchase a set of foam alphabet letters or a foam alphabet puzzle and a small plastic kitchen strainer from your local discount store. If you plan to do this activity inside, just add foam letters to your toddler’s bath water. If you plan to do it outside, place foam alphabet letters in a bin and add enough water for the letters to swim.

Step 2: Encourage your toddler to scoop up a letter using the plastic strainer. Bring her attention to what is happening.

See how the letters are floating? They look like they are swimming! Can you try to scoop that blue letter? Look! All the water came out of the strainer, but the letter is still there.

Step 3: Talk about the letter name, letter sound and letter shape. You might encourage her to say the letter name and sound with you. For example:

You caught the letter B. The letter B makes the /b/ sound. I see that the letter B has a long stick, and two bumps. See? Can you say B? We will put the letter B right here.    

Place the letter on the bathroom wall (wet foam letters stick to most tiled walls) or on the cookie sheet, if you are doing the activity outside.

Step 4: Continue scooping out the letters until all have been scooped or she is tired of the game. Take time to look at the collection of letters and invite her to help you put them away for next time.

At this age, these types of activities are all about fun, failure-free exposure to letter sounds and names. It will take many, many repetitions before your child will start to master the skill. Keep it fun and successful for your little one. It’s about exposure to letters, not mastery of letter names or sounds.