Developmental Tools for Teaching Letter Recognition

Letter puzzle pieces and a magnifying glass focusing on letter E. Text reads "letter identification"

This blog discusses activities for teaching letter recognition. At its most basic, letter recognition refers to letter identification. It is one of the main skills children need to know before they can name, write, or sound out the letters. The following fun letter recognition games for preschoolers are based on development and skill progression.

Be sure to read through our blog post on name practice for kindergarten for resources and tools to support letter use and recognition in children ages 5-6 or for kids at the level where they are recognizing letters in their name. These ideas are great for beginning reading for kindergarten.

Use our new color by letter worksheet to further develop this letter recognition skill.

Teaching letter recognition

What you need to know about Teaching Letter recognition

Letter recognition, or the ability to recognize and identify letters begins at a very young age. But did you know that teaching letter recognition skills starts way before kindergarten and and even before entering the classroom?

Kindergarten students are many times exposed to writing and copying letters on trace worksheets, and writing pages. But before a young child can do these skills that are part of the curriculum, knowing what skills lead up to these skills is helpful.

Even before a young preschooler is able to identify and name letters in printed context such as books or letter play activities, they are learning this skill through the immersion of seeing letters in everyday life.

Letter identification and the ability to recognize letters in printed form might occur through exposure on television, printed media, following along while a book is being read, or while engaging with technology. 

There is a progression in the important literacy skill of recognizing printed letters:

  • Letter recognition in isolation – example, pointing out all of the upper case letter As on a letter picture book
  • Letter recognition in every day life – example pointing out the letter S on a stop sign
  • Letter identification – identifying and stating letter’s names
  • Letter identification in text -reading and sounding out a letter’s sound in reading or sounding out written text
  • Matching upper case and lowercase letters– matching the upper case letters to lowercase, and vice versa

Each step of teaching letter recognition skills is founded in experience and practice. This includes communication with others, exposure, and reading with caregivers. 

Not every child learns the same way. Starting as young as preschool, caregivers can support children by using their interests and strengths to teach them new skills.

Children don’t need to read or write until well beyond toddlerhood, but preschoolers enjoy looking at books, finding letters on walks, and learning letters through movement. 

The best way to teach letter recognition
The best way to teach letter recognition is by first covering the prerequisite skills.

Prerequisites to Letter Teaching Letter Recognition

Several areas are needed to develop letter recognition skills:

  • Object permanence
  • Form constancy
  • Visual discrimination
  • Visual figure ground
  • Working memory
  • Visual memory
  • Visual scanning skills
  • Cognitive skills
  • Physical development

You can see that these components are founded in visual motor skills, perceptual skills, and working memory.

Before any of this can happen (and through the process), young children should be exposed to rhymes, songs, and singing the alphabet song. (Add alphabet exercises for movement fun!) Letter formation rhymes can support literacy as well. This is actually the first step in the road to literacy!

Teaching letter recognition requires Visual discrimination Skills

Letter recognition/identification is when a person is able to look at a letter and recall it from previous experience. Recognition of letters occurs both in uppercase and lowercase form. Additionally, there is a cursive letter recognition aspect as well. This blog post covers cursive letter recognition skills.

This site states that even before letter identification, there are a few other skills that should be taught, including visual discrimination, so the child is able to find differences among lines and shapes. 

Visual discrimination can be taught in isolation through books or letter formation worksheets, or in games and activities such as Memory games, matching and sorting activities, or playing “what’s the same” and “what’s different” through hidden picture activities and puzzles.  We cover this visual perceptual skill in our blog post, Wacky Wednesday book activity.

Visual Memory Another great play-based activity to develop the visual perceptual memory skills needed for letter recognition, are games that challenge kids to notice differences. Present the child with a tray of everyday items, and ask them to memorize the items on the tray. Ask them to look away or cover their eyes. Take away one or more items, and have them recall the missing items. 

Letter activities- Other ways to encourage letter play is through printed alphabet worksheets, puzzles, letter magnets, or other alphabet manipulatives such as letter beads. You can ask the child to sort letters based on shape, such as those that include straight lines, versus curved line, or diagonal letters. You can also sort letters by letters based on size: tall letters, short letters, and letters with a tail that hangs below the lines.

One way to encourage functional handwriting is through addressing letter size. This tall and short worksheet has a fine motor and visual motor component that can be incorporated into whole-body movement activities to teach these concepts that carryover into letter sizing and use in handwriting.

Prerequisites to teaching letter recognition begins in infancy

These prerequisite skills that support letter recognition, such as visual discrimination and memory, develop as early as infancy, when young children identify 3D objects that are familiar to them like their bottle, favorite toy, or their parents. It is important infants experience tummy time in order to develop visual motor skills, and strong oculomotor skills, as a result of time spent on the belly while looking at objects.

As children grow, their visual discrimination becomes more refined and they are able to identify pictures and written words.

Toddlers are able to point to a picture of a puppy in a book they are reading, or identify who is hiding under the blanket.

Object permanence and working memory

When a child sees an object and knows what it is called, this is referred to as object permanence. This requires working memory skill development to use what is seen, remember it, and store it for later retrieval.

While visual discrimination is the ability to detect differences and similarities in size, shape, color and pattern, cognitive ability is necessary to recognize these differences based on previous exposure, along with memory to have stored that information away in their mind’s eye to recall when needed.

This skill is typically associated with letter formation and handwriting skills. Identifying and discriminating between differences in letters allow kids to copy and write letters from memory. However, noticing and identifying the differences in the curves, diagonal lines, and lines that make up a letter are essential build up to that skill.

Hearing and saying the letter sounds associated with letters are part of the process, too. Phonemic awareness is developed initially through play, but this skill continues to develop and progress as reading and literacy skills are refined in kindergarten, first grade, second grade, and beyond.

Teaching letter recognition begins with the ability to recognize details in visual images

In more depth, students should identify likeness and differences of shapes or forms, colors, as well as the position of various objects and people. Developing discrimination skills will help children learn the alphabet and then both read and print letters a lot better. 

There are numerous types of visual discrimination that children should begin to understand and develop. These include: 

  • 3D Objects
  • Shapes
  • Drawings & Pictures
  • Colors
  • Letters and Words
  • Sequences

Letter recognition games

The letter recognition activities and games and listed below are fun ways to instruct children in the essential skills needed for reading and literacy. It’s literally the building block to reading.

  • Name Recognition- Start with recognizing the letters of their name. Point out letters in the child’s name and ask them to point to letters in a book or on a sign. Children can first begin with recognizing upper case letters of their name, then moving onto the lowercase letters. Working first with uppercase letters is best, because capital letters are easier to discriminate between. Lowercase letters have many similar letters, b,d,p,g,q, and j. 
  • Bean Bag Letter Toss – Affix upper and lowercase letter stickers to one side of each bean bag. Put a basket or bucket across from your child. As your child throws the bean bags into the bucket, ask them to name the letters and their sounds of the letters. Students can run around looking for matching letters scattered around the room.
  • Alphabet Play dough- Write down large letters on a piece of paper and place that paper into a sheet protector. Encourage your child to form the letters on the sheet protector with play dough of their choosing.
  • I Spy Letter Walk –Take a walk with your child and look for letters in their environment such as on license plates, street signs and building. Play, I Spy, searching for different letters, or letters in sequential order. The printable tools in the Letter Fine Motor Kit are a great resource for this activity.
  • Jumping to letters – Create a letter pathway with sidewalk chalk on a playground or sidewalk. Children can walk, run, jump, or crawl across the letters, naming them as they move forward! Change it up by asking them to walk backwards along the path. This is a fun motor planning activity.
  • Chasing the Alphabet – (Amazon affiliate link:) Sammy Chases the Alphabet is a book I wrote about Sammy the Golden Dog playing fetch with balls around his farm. Each ball has a letter on it. After you read the book, bring the story to life by adding letter stickers to ball pit balls. Toss the balls around a room or outside, and encourage your child to find them all, naming the letters on each ball they find.
  • Food Alphabet Worksheets – Pair real food items with these food worksheets. These worksheets include the letter, a food that starts with the letter, and all of the letters that make the word. As children sound out each letter, ask them to point to the letter that makes that sound.

more letter recognition Activities

Alphabet activities like the ones below support recognition skills through repetition. Alphabet recognition occurs through songs, play, and hands-on activities.

  • The Soundabet Song – Letter identification doesn’t just include what letters look like, it also includes what letters sound like. Can your child point to the letter name as well as the sound it makes? This Soundabet Song is a great way to teach kids how to pair the sounds of the letters to what the letters look like. 
  • Letter Push – This ABC play dough activity uses plastic letters and play dough! Add in some fine motor skills to alphabet identification, by having children push plastic letters into play dough while they name the letter. This can be done as a circle time game, where each child take a turn pushing in a letter, or a small group time where every child has the opportunity to push the play dough letters. 
  • Alphabet Sensory Bins – Nothing keeps my preschoolers entertained more then a large sensory bin! Adding alphabet letters or letter markers to the sensory bins for children to find and match, is one of the most exciting letter identification games. Check out these sensory bin base ideas to use in different letter recognition sensory  bins.
  • This alphabet sensory writing tray requires users to recognize letters by uncovering them from a sensory medium. This is a great activity for recognizing letter parts such as diagonals or the curved part of a letter as the letter is uncovered.
  • Metal alphabet tray play – My favorite is to add a metal pan to the sensory table, and ask kids to stick the magnet letters they find in the sensory materials onto the metal pan!
  • Alphabet Discover Bottle – This sensory discovery bottle can be used before naptime, bedtime, in a calm down corner, or as a learning activity. As children shake the bottle, they can name the letters that appear! 
  • Match letters- Match uppercase letters to lower case letters, match different fonts of letters, and match letters in different environments (books, signs, on television, in print, etc.)
  • Gross motor activities- Use a letter floor mat to jump on a specific letter. Ask the child to find a letter magnet and place it on the letter mat.
  • Letter recognition scavenger hunts- Use ideas like these letter clothes pins scavenger hunt for ideas.
  • Write letters in shaving cream or in sand
  • Sort letters by word families when teaching letter groups
  • Play beginning sound games- I spy with my little eye, a word that starts with /b/
  • Use dot markers to dot letters
  • Spot letters on a white board and trace with a dry erase marker
  • make letters from pipe cleaners
  • Sensory play activities
  • Trace letters on sandpaper

A note teaching letter recognition skills:

Learning through play doesn’t have to be stressful. Every child learns differently, and that includes recognizing letters of the alphabet. Once a child has developed the visual discrimination, expressive language and receptive language skills needed to participate in letter identification activities, notice what motivates them to learn.

Do they like to move, cut, color, dance, or sing? Pick a letter activity that you know your child will love, and they will keep coming back for more. This will result in increasing their attention span and learning new letters daily. Follow your child’s interests and you will surely have a wonderful time!

letter identification

Today’s post addresses Letter Identification. What happens if your student copies letters, but is unable to recognize them? Can a student who can not identify letters learn to read? Letter identification is at the core of reading and writing, which are important life skills.

letter identification before copying and tracing

Many therapists and teachers work on copying and tracing long before their students can recognize the letters. Have you thought about what happens if your student copies and traces letters, but is unable to identify them?

Tracing is not going to teach number/letter formation if the learner does not know what those figures are. To a learner who does not know these symbols, they will be tracing lines and circles, not learning numbers or letters.

This holds true for copying letters and numbers. For example, the “H” becomes just sticks, while the “b” is a ball and a stick rather than recognized symbols.

Theoretically if a person writes or traces the letter “A” enough times, the body will start to recognize this pattern (through motor planning and kinesthetic awareness), and commit it to memory. 

This only works if the learner understands what is being traced or copied, and can add meaning to it.

can a student who is unable to identify letters learn to read?

Sadly students who are unable to recognize letters can learn to read, but not efficiently or effectively. Learners who are unable to identify letters will memorize the way words look as a clump, rather than using letter identification and phonemic awareness. This holds true for math. Students can learn ways to get around multiplication and division without memorizing these facts.

Because students can “get by” this is why it is critical to insure students have the necessary building blocks for learning before moving on. Pushing students through to the next grade without having the necessary skills, is an ongoing problem. How many high school students have you seen that are unable to do simple math in their head, or spell simple words? Too many.


Let’s circle back to letter identification now that you have a better understanding of the need for letter identification before teaching reading, copying, writing, or tracing.

One of the pre-reading skills kids need to be a successful reader is letter knowledge.

Letter Knowledge begins with Letter Identification which is also known as Alphabet Recognition.

Students have different learning styles, therefore they need to be exposed to new information in various ways.

Learners can understand information by:

Offering several different teaching styles is the key to meeting the needs of all different types of students. Sometimes this takes many trials to find the one that sticks.

I had a reluctant learner who was unable to recall or identify his letters despite repetition, flash cards, games, puzzles, worksheets, or any other activity I presented. In the past I had used my students specific interests to spark their learning. Many lines were made making Thomas the Train tracks across the paper.

This student loved Star Wars. He could name every character. Lucky for me, there are many Star Wars characters! I paired a letter with each character. We used A for Anakin, S for Stormtroopers, C for Chewbacca, and so on. At first we worked on pairing them verbally/auditorily. Then I made flash cards with pictures of each character near their name and picture. Because this was motivating for him, my student quickly learned letter identification!

activities to teach letter idenfication

Before children are able to learn to read or identify letters, you can work with them to understand what they are. This can be done by reading stories, singing songs, telling nursery rhymes, and talking to them. Once they begin to notice that stories or other items have symbols, you can point to the words as you read them. Here are some simple letter identification activities:

  • Point out print wherever you see them. On signs, license plates, television, books, packages, clothing, or anywhere you might find written print.
  • Look for specific letters in books or magazines. Ask the child to name the letter and the sound.
  • Make arts and crafts with specific letters. Write it in sand, shaving cream, or a foggy mirror. Letter of the week crafts are fun, too. We have printable letter crafts inside The OT Toolbox Membership.
  • Practice writing letters with different toys or activities. Magnetic letters, books, magazines, puzzles, flash cards, and games like Scrabble, are handy options to have letters readily available for letter identification.
  • Form letters out of pretzel dough, play dough, popsicle sticks, pasta, or cookie cutters for sensory letter formation.
  • Play a Letter Scavenger Hunt and have students look for certain letters you have hidden around the room or house. A scavenger hunt is another great use for magnetic letters. Enhance this activity by adding finding items that start with that letter.
  • Use a keyboard to identify letters. Keyboarding skill is a great life skill tool to have. Finding and identifying letters is a great way to practice and learn the letters in a functional way.

ot toolbox resources for letter recognition

  • Developmental tools for teaching letter recognition – This blog discusses activities for teaching letter recognition
  • Here is a recent post on Learning Letters with Bottle Caps
  • The OT Toolbox Archives contain dozens of posts related to letter recognition.
  • Alphabet Movement Cards – Alphabet Movement Cards combine love of letters, along with aerobic activity to work on muscle strength, tone, focus, attention, or add a much needed sensory break between tabletop tasks. 
  • Letter Formation Themed Activities – This page includes all of our Letter Formation theme activities. You’ll find letter formation themed fine motor activities, letter printables, and A-Z therapy tools of all kinds! Plan out a week (or weeks) of activities for your whole therapy caseload. Just print and go!

Letters are everywhere!

When you start to think about letters, you realize they are everywhere! Use what is readily available to immerse your learners in knowledge. You might have to get creative once in a while, like my Star Wars guy, but that is what makes this job so fun!

Jeana Kinne is a veteran preschool teacher and director. She has over 20 years of experience in the Early Childhood Education field. Her Bachelors Degree is in Child Development and her Masters Degree is in Early Childhood Education. She has spent over 10 years as a coach, working with Parents and Preschool Teachers, and another 10 years working with infants and toddlers with special needs. She is also the author of the “Sammy the Golden Dog” series, teaching children important skills through play.

The Letter Fine Motor Kit is a 100 page printable packet includes everything you need for hands-on letter learning and multisensory handwriting!

This resource is great for pediatric occupational therapists working on handwriting skills, fine motor skills, visual motor skills, and more. Use the activities to promote a variety of functional tasks.

Teachers will find this printable packet easily integrated into literacy centers, classroom activities, and multisensory learning.

Parents will find this resource a tool for learning at home, supporting skill development, and perfect for therapy at home!


Grab the Letter Fine Motor Kit and use all of the senses, including heavy work, or proprioceptive input, through the hands ask kids build and manipulate materials to develop handwriting and letter formation skills.

Clay Letters

clay alphabet

These clay letters are a fine motor activity we made years ago, but we still use them today in multisensory learning activities. In fact, the clay alphabet is such a great tool for sight word and spelling word manipulatives. This week, we used two of my top Occupational Therapy recommendations in a combined fine motor power activity…to make stamped letters for learning!

We used clay and alphabet stamps to make our own clay letters for hands-on learning, including practicing spelling words, sight words, letter identification, and letter order.  This was the perfect learning tool for my second grader, kindergartner, and preschooler!

Make clay letters with alphabet stamps and use them in spelling words, decodable reading, word building, letter identification, and alphabetical order activities for multi- age learning ideas and hands-on learning in this fine motor work learning and play idea for kids.

Clay Letters for multisensory learning

As an Occupational Therapist, I often times recommended using clay as a therapeutic tool.  It’s resistive and provides proprioceptive feedback while working on hand strength.  Combined with letter stamps, we were able to make our own movable and colorful letters.  


Pressing the alphabet stamps into the clay is a great fine motor exercise and one that strengthens the hands, promoting a functional pencil grasp, separation of the sides of the hand, and intrinsic hand strength.

Make clay letters with alphabet stamps and use them in spelling words, decodable reading, word building, letter identification, and alphabetical order activities for multi- age learning ideas and hands-on learning in this fine motor work learning and play idea for kids.

Fine Motor Work Activity

Make clay letters with alphabet stamps and use them in spelling words, decodable reading, word building, letter identification, and alphabetical order activities for multi- age learning ideas and hands-on learning in this fine motor work learning and play idea for kids.

How to Make Clay Letters

This post contains affiliate links.

You’ll need to start with alphabet stamps for pressing into the clay, and some colorful clay. You’ll want to get the type of clay that quick dries.

We used our Alphabet Stamp Set to press lower case letters into small, rolled balls of modeling clay. I love the bright colors of THIS brand.

To make he clay letters, kids are really strengthening the hands.

First, ask your child to first pull off small pieces of clay from the long rolls.  Roll the clay into small balls and gently press them into disks.  

Then, have your child find the letters of the alphabet in alphabetical order.  Using the Melissa and Doug Alphabet Stamp Set was a great way to further our fine motor work.  The size and shape of the letter stamps in this set are perfect for working on intrinsic muscle strength and tripod grasp.  

Pressing the stamps into the clay is a nice way to address precision.  

Press too hard, and the clay disk is too thin.  

Press to lightly, and the letter’s impression is not deep enough in the clay.  This precision of grasp requires proprioceptive awareness.

Make clay letters with alphabet stamps and use them in spelling words, decodable reading, word building, letter identification, and alphabetical order activities for multi- age learning ideas and hands-on learning in this fine motor work learning and play idea for kids.

The brand of clay that we used does not harden.  This makes a nice activity for kids, but if you want to keep your letters, use a modeling clay that does dry out.

Make clay letters with alphabet stamps and use them in spelling words, decodable reading, word building, letter identification, and alphabetical order activities for multi- age learning ideas and hands-on learning in this fine motor work learning and play idea for kids.

Learning Activities with Clay Letters

We used our clay letters in a bunch of different activities. Try some of these hands-on letter activities:

  • Practice spelling words.
  • Practice spelling sight words.
  • Arrange letters on the table.  Ask kids to visually scan for letters to find in alphabetical order.
  • Practice letter identification.
  • Copy the letters to work on letter formation.
  • Arrange the letters on a table.  Pull out a letter and ask your child to name a word that starts with that letter.  Ask them to write the words to practice handwriting.
  • Practice decodable reading and word building with the clay letters.

Make clay letters with alphabet stamps and use them in spelling words, decodable reading, word building, letter identification, and alphabetical order activities for multi- age learning ideas and hands-on learning in this fine motor work learning and play idea for kids.

More Letter Fine Motor Activities

You’ll love the fine motor activities in our Letters Fine Motor Kit. The printable kit is loaded with letter activities that build fine motor skills. You can grab it and all of the other themed fine motor kits below, to build skills through play.

Working on fine motor skills, visual perception, visual motor skills, sensory tolerance, handwriting, or scissor skills? Our Fine Motor Kits cover all of these areas and more.

Check out the seasonal Fine Motor Kits that kids love:

Or, grab one of our themed Fine Motor Kits to target skills with fun themes:

Want access to all of these kits…and more being added each month? Join The OT Toolbox Member’s Club!

Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to

Valentines Hole Punch cards

Valentines Day hole punch cards

Today’s post is highlighting a new activity, the Valentines Hole Punch Card. This is a great tool to add to your Valentine’s Day occupational therapy activities, while using a hand strengthening activity with a heart theme.

There has long been a debate about the validity of Valentine’s day.  Some claim it to be a “Hallmark Holiday,” for the greeting card companies to make a quick buck.  I would venture a guess that women like it more than men.  Men tend to see any sort of shopping or gift giving as a chore, and this is just one more on the list.  Women see this as another opportunity to receive something special,  wrapped up in a tiny box.  I see it as a way to break up the long winter between New Years and Easter.

Be sure to grab these printable Valentine’s Day cards, too!

Valentine's Day Hole punch cards for using to strengthen hands with a heart theme.

Why do children like Valentine’s day?  It is not writing out cards or focusing on letters, but candy of course!  Any opportunity to get candy is a welcomed treat for most young people. Now that we have established who is in favor, and who is opposed to this holiday, let’s focus on entertaining and celebrating with the children, since we KNOW they appreciate a good Valentine.

Valentines activities hole punch CARD

Since not many goals are accomplished purely from unwrapping and eating candy, there needs to be motivating ways to encourage learners to work on skills such as fine and visual motor, social function, and behavior.  Combining fun holidays with activities like the Valentines Letter Hole Punch Cards, into your lesson plan, is a great way to help reluctant learners agree to participate in non favored activities.  

The OT Toolbox has a kit of VALENTINE’S DAY FINE MOTOR ACTIVITIES to add to your lesson plan. This is a print-and-go packet of resources designed to build fine motor strength and coordination.

Ways to use and modify this valentines letter hole punch card task:

  • Use traditional and alternative types of hole punchers to build hand strength and dexterity, while matching the letters
  • Use crayons to mark the matching letters
  • Dot markers can be used to dot the correct letters.
  • Pages can be colored and cut out, glued onto larger sheets and decorated
  • Enlarge or shrink this page to change the level of difficulty
  • Change the type of paper, heavier weight is easier to handle, but may be harder to punch through
  • Colored paper might be more motivating, or provide better contrast
  • Project this onto a smart board to make it a touch task or have students follow along with the diagram
  • For learners who do not know their letters yet, this will be more of a shape matching task than letter recognition
  • Create a booklet of all the letter pages, tackling a couple each day
  • Make a Valentines lesson plan around each letter for the day including writing the letters, reading about letters, identifying items that start with each letter, and learning the letter sounds
  • Add a Valentine’s Day Handwriting Slide Deck to your plan to make it even more motivating for your learners

What skills does this Valentine hole punch worksheet address?

  • Fine motor skills: manual dexterity to hold and used the hole punch, coloring and drawing if designing the activity for writing
  • Strength: core strength, hand and wrist stability. Using a hole punch improves the intrinsic hand muscles critical for writing and cutting skills
  • Bilateral coordination: using one hand for punching or cutting, while the “helper hand” supports the paper. Keep an eye one which hand is primarily used as the dominant side
  • Visual perception: figure ground to pick out the correct letters from the field of many. Scanning to correctly find all of the letters. Visual memory to remember what letters have been looked at already. Form constancy to recognize the letters in their different forms or sizes
  • Executive function/behavior/social skills: Following directions, attention to detail, turn taking, waiting, social skills, compliance, behavior, and work tolerance
  • Cutting on the line ( if you choose to add this step), within half inch of lines, in the direction of lines

When working on this Valentine letter hole punch activity, there are several observations that can be  made: 

  • Can your learner scan the page to identify the correct letters?  Are they recognizing what they are matching or merely matching shapes?
  • How many items can your learner correctly match?
  • Can your learner correctly hold and manipulate the hole punch? How much assistance do they need to grip the puncher and punch the holes?
  • Can your student continue to hold the puncher while trying to manipulate the paper?
  • How many times do you need to repeat the directions so your learner can follow them?
  • How many reminders does your learner need while doing this activity?
  • What is your learner’s frustration tolerance when they make a mistake or cannot accurately do this task?
  • What types of modifications and adaptations were needed for your learner to be successful?
  • Is there any cheating or cutting corners going on? There always is.

For more great learning opportunities, click on this: Valentine’s Fine Motor Skills post from 2021

The best laid plans are multi-dimensional. The OT Toolbox has many options for varying your treatment plans, including fine and gross motor, social, coordination, strengthening, and sensory activities.

The OT Toolbox has a Valentine’s day sensory BIN to add to your Valentine treatment ideas

Free Valentine’s Day Hole Punch Cards

Thankfully the OT Toolbox has you covered this month!  Today’s activity is no exception.  We are rolling out several Valentine related activities for preschool, kindergarten, and entry level learners.  While these are appropriate for young learners, they are also great for beginning or early level learners of all ages. Some learners as old as high school can benefit from this type of task if this is their fine motor or cognitive level. 

This Valentine Hole Punch Card Activity Sheet is an excellent way to work on multiple skills at once, while creating a cute take home worksheet packet.  

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    Now that Valentine’s Day is on the horizon, I am off to find some of that candy!

    YUM – Victoria Wood

    Victoria Wood, OTR/L is a contributor to The OT Toolbox and has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.

    *The term, “learner” is used throughout this post for readability, however this information is relevant for students, patients, clients, children of all ages, etc. The term “they” is used instead of he/she to be inclusive.

    10 Ways to Teach Letter Formation

    letter formation activities

    Here we are covering creative letter formation activities to help children with letter formation practice to create the motor plan of actually writing and forming letters. This handout on letter formation will support parents, teachers, and therapists with advocating for this functional handwriting skill.

    Letter Formation Activities

    To get started, be sure to access these practical and creative letter formation tools:

    In addition to the ideas below, be sure to grab a copy of our color by letter worksheet. It’s a fun way to teach letter formation through a coloring activity that helps kids with the visual memory needed for letter writing skills.

    One thing that is apparent in teaching Handwriting is the very real need  that parents and teachers struggle with when it comes to teaching letter formation.

    Teaching letter formation can be a complicated thing for children with visual perception challenges, fine motor skill difficulties, or sensory processing concerns. In this article, you will find creative ways to teach letter formation.

    So many members of the group question how to teach letter formation. They wonder where to start with teaching kids to write letters or they are challenged by kids who have formed bad habits with letter formation.

    They are seeing kiddos who form letters incorrectly or don’t know where to even start to teach letters accurately from the beginning.


    Read on to find 10 creative ways to teach letter formation whether you are starting at the beginning with a young child or are addressing those pesky bad handwriting habits that have resulted in poor letter formation and therefore, legibility.

    Creative Ways to Teach Letter Formation

    These fun handwriting activities are those that add a fresh concept to teaching letter formation. You can use these ideas to teach pre-writing skills or to work on specific letters.

    Creating a motor plan for handwriting to form letters from muscle memory is the key here. These creative activities support that skill.

    But first, consider these thoughts when teaching kids to write letters…

    When using the ideas below, it’s typically recommended to start with uppercase letters because of the simplified forms and letters that for the most part, start at the top and are formed in a downward pencil stroke, which is developmentally appropriate for young children. Read more about the order to teach letters like cursive letter order here.

    Using a non-pencil activity to teach handwriting can be the trick to get kids interested in writing!

    When kids are learning to write, knowing how to write letters can be hard! These handwriting activities are great for anyone trying to teach letter formation to kids.


    10 Ways to Teach Letter Formation

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    1.) Work on letter formation by “building” letters- This is a question for some parents, teachers, and therapists. Sometimes we see children who construct letters by parts, but use inappropriate letter formation when building letters. When writing a lowercase letter “d”, they might draw a circle and then draw a line, without the re-trace. Drawing or building letters can have inefficient consequences if kids are just allowed to copy letters inaccurately and without being taught. So often, we see this in those writing tray videos over on Pinterest or Facebook. Read more about writing trays and handwriting and how to use writing trays to effectively teach letter formation. Teaching kids wot build letters with proper sequence in each letter formation is essential! This color-coded letter building activity teaches kids to start at the correct starting spot and to pick up the pencil when necessary. Try this activity for those children who respond well to visual cues. Adding a kinetic twist to teaching letter formation can be just the tool that makes formation stick! 

    2.) Teach Letter Formation with a Writing Tray- The fact is, using a sensory writing tray for handwriting is a technique to practice proper letter formation is a way to incorporate multiple senses into learning letter formation.

    Multisensory learning approaches to handwriting are very effective. Be sure to encourage proper starting points and direction of letter lines such as starting letters at the top and lifting the writing utensil when appropriate to form parts of letters such as the curves in a “B” or the slanted little lines in a “K”. Writing trays can come in all sorts of themes, sizes, and using all types of mediums. You can even create a mini-sensory writing tray like we did. Take it along in your therapy bag or on-the-go to learn and practice letter formation anywhere!

    3.) Use the Sandpaper Letter Trick to Teach Letter Formation- Use a sheet of sandpaper to work on letter formation! This multi-sensory activity uses the senses to teach letter formation, by providing feedback for pencil control and line placement. Adding a quick sheet of sandpaper to your therapy toolkit is an easy way to work on letter placement by adding additional prompts to handwriting.

    4.) Teach Letter Formation with Soap- Kids can learn to write letters in shaving cream, soap, and even pudding! Using multi-sensory strategies to work on letter formation can help kids remember the proper formation. So often we see strategies that are taught in isolation and then not carried over to the classroom or home. When a child is asked to write with increased speed or in a distracting environment, we may see letters that revert back to those bad habits. Adding sensory activities to letter formation such as writing in soap, shaving cream, or sandpaper can provide the feedback kids need to add just one more cue for formation. Remember to provide instruction in proper letter formation and line placement and not just setting up a child with an activity and then letting them “play and write”.

    5.) Teach Letter Formation with Gross Motor Play- Sometimes, adding a movement component to teaching letter formation can be all it takes to make letters “stick”! There are so many options for adding gross motor to letter formation. 

    6.) Teach Letter Formation on an alternate surface with a sensory bag- Fill a sandwich bag with soap, foam, or other liquid material and practice letter formation. You can even tape the sensory bag onto a wall or window to practice letter formation. Read more about how to create and use a sensory bag to teach letter formation in this older post on sensory handwriting

    7.) Use a resistive surface to teach letter formation- The motor plan needed for letter formation can occur with practice on a resistive surface. We’ve shared ideas to teach letter formation on resistive surfaces such as using carpet squares or carpet scraps, a styrofoam tray to learn letter formation, and foam sheets to teach letter formation.

    8.) Teach Letter Formation with the “Ghost Writing” Trick- Have you tried the ghost writing trick to teach letter formation? It’s a fun way to explore the pencil strokes needed for letter formation as well as skills needed for legible handwriting and pencil pressure in written work. 

    9.) Use Boxes and Dots to Teach Letter Formation- This box and dot letter formation trick also helps kids learn letter size or spatial awareness in written work. It’s also a tool to help kids who struggle with letter reversals. You can make your own paper or use graph paper to create a quick practice tool for teaching letter formation. 

    10.) Help kids learn to write with a Kinetic Letter Formation- This is fun kinetic fine motor activity is another spin on adding resistive input and a motor component to letter formation, all using recycled materials or objects found around the home. Use a recycled can and push pins to teach letter formation while improving hand strength and fine motor skills. 

    Working on handwriting with kids? These creative handwriting activities can help kids with letter formation and are a tool for anyone trying to teach letter formation in handwriting.

    Do you have any letter formation activities that you love to use when teaching handwriting? Tell us about them! There are over 14,000 members in the Sweet Ideas of Handwriting Help Facebook Group that love sharing ideas to work on handwriting. 

    Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to

    The Handwriting Book is a comprehensive resource created by experienced pediatric OTs and PTs.

    The Handwriting Book covers everything you need to know about handwriting, guided by development and focused on function. This digital resource is is the ultimate resource for tips, strategies, suggestions, and information to support handwriting development in kids.

    The Handwriting Book breaks down the functional skill of handwriting into developmental areas. These include developmental progression of pre-writing strokes, fine motor skills, gross motor development, sensory considerations, and visual perceptual skills. Each section includes strategies and tips to improve these underlying areas.

    • Strategies to address letter and number formation and reversals
    • Ideas for combining handwriting and play
    • Activities to practice handwriting skills at home
    • Tips and strategies for the reluctant writer
    • Tips to improve pencil grip
    • Tips for sizing, spacing, and alignment with overall improved legibility

    Click here to grab your copy of The Handwriting Book today.