Alphabet Bags

Learning the sounds that letters make is an important step in learning to read. Play this game with children, using just grocery bags and things around the house!

Prep It

You have everything you need for this activity already lying around the house!

  • Grocery bags or any other kind of bag
  • Scrap paper (optional)
  • Marker
  • Household items that start with the same letter
  • Household items that start with different letters

Play It

On a bag, write one letter. (You could use a permanent marker or tape some scrap paper on the bag).

Find things around the house that begin with that letter, and let the fun begin!

Things around the house that start with the letter S:

spoon, sock, salt, soap, scissors, straw, and string.

Before you start, collect items that start with your chosen letter. (For example, the letter “S”.) Put them all in the bag, and tell the child: “Everything in this bag starts with the same sound and letter. They all start with the letter… (S). (S) makes a (ssss) sound. Let me hear you say (ssss)!”

Go through all the items and name each one together, exaggerating the first sound of the word — for example: “This is a sock! Ssss-sock!”

TIP: continue exaggerating the first letter sound for most or all of the activity.

Next, dump out all the items and ask the child to find ones to put back in the bag. After you’ve gone through all the items, name them together again, and ask the child, “What sound is at the beginning of all these words again? That’s right, (ssss)!”

Then introduce some new items, some that start with the same letter and some that do not. Tell the child: “We will be working together to decide if the new things should go into our (S) bag or not.” For each item, let the child name it, then say something like: “Should a hhhh-hot dog go into our ssss words bag?”
Have many items that start with two different letters available to sort into two different bags. As the child learns more sounds, you can add more items and bags!
Go on a scavenger hunt to fill the alphabet bags. Let children pick a sound they would like to hunt for, or tell them which one to hunt for.

If you have multiple children in your care, this would be a great opportunity for them to hunt for different letter sounds and share what they found with each other!
Instead of just sorting by a beginning letter sounds, children who have experience reading and writing can play this activity in many unique ways:

-End sounds (pen, spoon)
-Digraphs (words that have CH, SH, CK, or TH)
-Rhyming words (sock, rock)
-Vowel sounds (pot, sock)
-Spelling words (teachers often have spelling lists that follow a sound pattern- you can hunt for these patterns in the words of things around the home)

Proud Moments

Well-done spelling tests, math quizzes, and book reports adorn the refrigerators of proud family members and caretakers all over Flint. The kids in your care have many non-school achievements, and you can show pride in those as well!

Prep It

You just need a few materials to proudly celebrate children’s achievements:

  • Paper- the back of envelopes, junk mail, anything you can write on
  • Writing utensil- marker, pen, crayon

Play It

Sit down together and talk about things children have achieved lately that you’re proud of.

For example, “I’m really proud of you for being resilient and learning how to ride a bike even though it took a lot of practice,” or “I’m really proud of you for being responsible and choosing to do your homework before you play video games.”

Write these down on the paper, throw a big A+ or smiley face on them, and hang them up on the fridge!

Invite the kids to tell you what they’re proud of in themselves too. You might learn a lot about who they are when you’re not around.

Wouldn’t you love to hear, “I’m really proud of myself because I was nice to the bully in class, even though they’re not nice to me”? The PEP team sure would!

Enjoy these special moments together!

Sort Anything

Next time you put away laundry, kitchen utensils, or other things around the house, invite the children to learn about making groups while they help you! Children will get lots of practice observing, thinking about similarities and differences, and using descriptive vocabulary.

Prep It

All you need for this activity is a mess 😉 You could use dishes, laundry, toy boxes, Legos, or shoes- no need to buy anything!

Play It

Ask children to make groups of things without telling them how, so they can think about how they want to group them. Once a child creates a group, say “tell me about this group you made” so that they can explain their thinking.

To encourage children to make many different kinds of groups, you could suggest they sort items by color, size, shape, purpose, or person. You may find that these prompts are especially useful for toddlers.

Shape Hunting

Looking for shapes is a fun way to help young minds grow! Develop language skills and ideas about shape, space, and size all while playing this free and easy activity.

Prep It

You don’t need any special toys- everything your kids can get their hands on or point at is great for exploring shapes.

Play It


Talk with kids about the shapes around you anywhere you go. What shape is that jar, that cracker, or that cereal box? Is the back of that chair straight or curved? Is the plate flat? Is the milk container tall or short?

Once kids are comfortable with shape names, add colors and textures: Is that door a white rectangle? Is that cookie a bumpy circle?

Play shapes I-spy

How many circles, squares, rectangles, and triangles can you find?

Make shape jokes

Is that spoon a square? Nooooooo it isn’t! (Trust us, this is funny when you’re 2 years old!)

Prompt deep thinking

Use “what if” questions to help children think about why things are certain shapes. What if that wheel was a triangle? What if that cup was flat?

Gone Fishin’

For a fun way to practice letters, sounds, and numbers that also helps kids practice their hand-eye coordination, try fishing!

Watch and learn how to play with Sarahi!

Prep It

1. Collect Materials

You will need:

  • Paper (scrap paper, construction paper, sticky notes)
  • Marker (or pen, pencil)
  • Metal paperclips
  • String (ribbon, shoelace, yarn)
  • Scissors
  • Stick (a ruler, long spoon, or tree branch)
  • Magnets (use one off the fridge if you’d like)

2. Make the “Fish”

Cut paper into squares about the size of small sticky notes.

Use a marker to write one letter or number on each square.

Slide a metal paperclip on, and you have a “fish!”

3. Make the Fishing Rod

Tie one end of the string to a stick, and the other side to a magnet.

Don’t have a magnet?

If you don’t have a strong magnet, or just want to physically challenge your kids more, tie a paperclip to the string and bend it open so it can be hooked onto the fish.

The paperclips on the fish may need to be bent a little to make it easier.

Play It

Spread the fish around the floor and let the kids find and catch them! Try the activities below, but also let children come up with their own ways to play!

– Letter names
– Letter sounds
– Number names
– Try having them catch fish in alphabetical order ( A, B, C, D…)
– Or number order (1, 2, 3…) and (10, 9, 8…)
– Counting how many fish they caught after identifying the letters
– Letter groups ( “Catch all the letters that can make the ‘Kuh’ sound,” like C, K, and Q )
– Patterns (number, letter, number, letter; or even, even, odd, odd…)
– Equations ( “Catch the fish that is 5 + 2;” or “Catch the fish that is 3 less than 7” )
– Skip counting (2, 4, 6, 8… or 4, 8, 12, 16…)
– Catching many fish to make a big number (if they catch 2, 7, 3, and 9, they will tell you the number ‘two thousand, seven hundred thirty-nine)
-Spelling words by catching each letter (you may need to make more letter fish for this)

Tip: Looking at school-aged children’s homework or take-home folders might help you decide what to practice. If you aren’t sure, a great way to find out is to talk to their teacher! Call, email, or visit teachers to get the best recommendations!

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Homemade Playdough

Make playdough using ingredients you might already have around the kitchen- Sarahi will teach you how!

Prep It

Gather the following materials:

  • 2 Heaping Tablespoons Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Cooking Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Warm Water
  • Food Coloring (optional)
  • Mixing bowl
  • Tablespoon (any spoon will do)

Play It

1. In a bowl, mix warm water with cooking oil (wet ingredients). Then, add the flour and salt (dry ingredients).

? Ask children: Is the flour and salt dry or wet? What about the oil and water?

2. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together with your hands until it looks and feels like play-dough.

? As a challenge, ask children: does this feel wet or dry to you?

3. If the kids think the dough is too wet and sticky, try saying: “Oh no! Should we add more flour or more water to make it more dry?” Slowly sprinkle more flour into the dough until it feels like play-dough.

Or, if the kids think the mixture is dry and crumbly, try saying: “Oh no! Should we add more flour or water to make it stickier?” Add just a few drops of water at a time until the dough is smooth.

4. To add color, squeeze a few drops of food coloring into the dough. This is a great opportunity to learn about color: point at different food coloring tubes and ask the kids to name the colors.

For a mini science experiment, mix two primary color food coloring dyes (red, yellow, and blue) and have your kids name the colors you made together.

5. Keep the dough in a sealed container to use over and over again!