Bringing Life to Early Childhood

A Blog by Jan Jobey

Take Literacy Outside! Preparing the Soil with Alphabetic Principle

Literacy doesn’t just happen in the classroom. It’s all around us and with a little effort we can take literacy outside.  Discover and share exciting ways to promote literacy learning outside! With some “planting and nurturing”, literacy can GROW.  Kinesthetic learners will really benefit from literacy activities that take place in the outdoor environment.  Some components of literacy include Comprehension, Alphabetic Principle, Phonological awareness, and Concepts about Print.  This post will look at ways to GROW Literacy by preparing the soil with Alphabetic Principle: Alphabetic principle is the understanding that words are made up of letters and letters represent sounds. If a child understands these letter-sound associations, he is on the way to reading and writing words. (More on Phonological Awareness coming soon!). Just like in preparing the soil for a garden, we must enrich the soil of literacy with language about the alphabet, we must break it up with lots of fun, and we must plan and prepare activities for learning.  Let’s get started!

Preparing the Soil with Alphabetic Principle:
1. Scavenger Hunt for Alphabet in Outdoor environment.  Are there signs within the visual environment? License plates on cars that can be seen? Do you have or can you make traffic signs for trikes?  Provide a clipboard (with an alphabet list) and pencil tied on for children to record words they find with each letter.
2. I spy…alphabet.
3. Chica Chica Boom Boom Tree—hang large foam letters about to find and name.
4. ABC obstacle course.  “Plant” large foam letters about the play yard and have children follow the alphabet through crawling, climbing, running, hopping.
5.  Alphabet Simon Says:  Scatter carpet/foam squares with alphabet and have children perform gross motor acts along with finding a letter:  Hop on the “H”,  “Jump over the J”,  “Gallop around the G”,  ….
7.  Sandy Letters—find some plastic or magnetic letter shapes (or make some out of craft foam) to hide and find in the sand…Extend by asking “What sound does your letter make?”
8. Upper and Lower Case Mix-up:  Using jar lids from food containers, use a permanent marker to write letters (upper and lower case) in the inside of the lid.  Hide a few pairs along with a few more that don’t have a match in a sand box.  Encourage children to find the matching upper and lower case letters.
9. Hanging letters out to dry:  Locate some infant/child t-shirts without writing.  With a Laundry marker, put a letter on each t-shirt. Let the children “wash” the laundry and then hang on a low clothesline.  Give a child letters of his/her name…see if the child can hang the letters in correct order.  Variation:  Put upper case letters on t-shirts and lower case letters on shorts…match tops and bottoms.
10.  Freeze small craft foam (pre-cut) letters in ice cubes individually…Put them in the water table on a hot day….After they’ve melted, the letter could be used to play like making “alphabet soup”.
11.  Alphabet Bowl—use pop or water bottles labeled with alphabet.  What pins did they knock down, which one is left standing?
12.  Alphabet Hop Scotch–Write letters inside hop scotch squares and have children say the letter as they jump on them

I’d love for you to share any ideas you have about Alphabetic Principle in the great outdoors!


Here are a couple of ABC books about animals that make great “outdoor books”:

(click on the book to find out more!)


Woodland ABC's                              Pet ABC


  1. I am not sure if this is the Jan Jobey I knew when I was the Disabilities Mental Health Coordinator at Cookson Hills Head Start

    • janjobey2016

      June 29, 2016 at 6:32 pm

      Hi Kim! Yes, it’s the same Jan Jobey! It’s great to hear from you, I hope all is well! Please stay in touch and be sure to sign up for my newsletter at!!

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