Sunday, January 15, 2012

Montessori-Inspired Snowman Letter Activities

By Deb Chitwood from Living Montessori Now

Montessori-Inspired Snowman Letter Tray

Last month, I shared Montessori-inspired snowman color activities. I loved the printable for winter activities, and I’m going to use another free snowman printable from the same blogger. This one focuses on letters.

The main printable I’m using is Put the Hat on the Snowman from “The Kids Place” Home Daycare and Preschool. For an alphabet control chart, I’m using a printable alphabet tracing page from Ziggity Zoom. A third printable is from Montessori Materials – a movable alphabet that looks like the Nienhuis font and is donated by Logendra.

In the snowman printables, only the letters vary rather than the shape, size, or color. Notice that every snowman’s hatband and scarf is the same color. Like the printable last month, this meets the Montessori principle of isolation of difficulty that will help children learn the concept most easily.

In this post, I’m talking about activities that are extensions to initial work with letters and phonetic sounds and add interest. In Montessori education, phonetic sounds are introduced before letter names. Lowercase letters are introduced before uppercase letters. My Inexpensive and DIY Sandpaper Letters post has lots of resources for purchasing or making sandpaper letters and for presenting the phonetic sounds. Sandpaper letters are the ideal formal introduction to letters.

Here are some Montessori-inspired snowman letter activities to help young children with a number of skills:

Preparing Snowman Letter Activities

Materials Needed (and preparation tips):

  • Snowman letter printable, alphabet control chart, and movable alphabet printable (optional)
  • Materials for printing, cutting, and laminating printables
  • Sandpaper letters and salt (for salt tray extension)

Nested Trays

  • Activity trays. I used two inexpensive wooden activity trays that came as nested trays from a hobby story (Michael’s). I especially like that they’re nested for homes or preschools with limited shelf space. The salt tray (see extension below) can be placed beneath the other tray on the shelf if you don’t have space for both trays (or space to have a separate table for the salt tray and snowman letter activity).
  • 2 small containers for the hats and movable alphabet letters. I used parts of a bead storage container from the hobby store for the small containers.
  • When preparing the activity, make it as attractive and orderly as possible. Typically, you’ll want to arrange your materials in left-to-right order on the tray as an indirect preparation for writing and reading.
  • You’ll need a low shelf or shelves for the activity trays in your classroom or home where the children can easily reach them, allowing for freedom of choice in their activities. Activity trays on shelves are wonderful ways to have activities available when children have an urge to repeat an activity or are drawn to an activity because of the needs of a sensitive period.
  • Especially if you have more than one child, it’s helpful if you have a few rugs in the room so a child can lay out the materials for an activity on a rug on the floor. The rug defines the child’s workspace. Rugs can be rolled up and stored in a container in a corner of the room.

Presenting the Activity

  • If you’re presenting to a large group, go to the rug container, get a rug, and roll it out on the floor in front of you. For an individual child or small group, it’s helpful to use a rug if you’re presenting an activity on the floor.
  • Go to the shelf where the activity tray is located, pick up the tray with both hands, and carry it to your rug or to a table.
  • For a large-group presentation in a preschool, generally the children will be seated in a circle. Present the activity facing toward the group. If you’re presenting to an individual child, have the child sit to your left if you’re right-handed so that you don’t block the child’s view with your arm.
  • Lay out the snowmen in rows on the rug or table, starting at the left and working to the right. For this activity, I would probably put them in the order of the alphabet like they are on the control chart.
  • As I place each snowman on the rug I would say, “The letter ‘a’ makes the sound /ă/; the letter ‘b’ makes the sound /b/….” Later on, I might say, “’A’ makes /ă/; ‘b’ makes /b/….”
  • Lay out the snowman hats in mixed order below the snowmen.
  • Show how to find the first snowman hat and place it on the snowman’s head, saying something like, “’A’ makes the sound /ă/.”
  • In Montessori education, activities are presented slowly with precise movements. As few words as possible are used. In another preschool environment, you may want to adapt the presentation according to your own teaching style.

Snowmen Alphabet

  • Often at this point in a group presentation, I’ll ask someone in the group if they’d like to match another snowman’s hat. I might go around the group giving the children turns matching snowmen with hats. With an individual child, I'll let the child join in when he or she feels ready.
  • This isn't "Montessori-inspired," but when the alphabet layout is complete, I would sing the "ABC Song" with the child or group of children, pointing to each letter snowman as we sing the letter name.
  • When you’re finished with the activity, put the activity away on the shelf. Always show how to clean up and put away an activity when you first present it. If you had a rug out for the activity, roll the rug up and put it away.

Other Extensions/Variations

Sandpaper Letter with Snowman Letter Salt Tray

  • Introduce a salt tray and sandpaper letter for practice tracing individual letters. I like the idea of placing one of the snowmen in the salt tray, since the salt looks a bit like snow. Again, I say the phonetic sound when tracing the letter. Here I would just say the phonetic sound (rather than the letter name) as I trace the letter in the sand using my index and middle finger. (See the videos linked to in the sandpaper letter post for more about presentation.)

Montessori-Inspired Snowman Letter Tray with Movable Alphabet

ABC Letter Snowmen with Movable alphabet

  • Children can place the movable alphabet letters below the snowman letters.

Snowmen/Movable Alphabet Spelling

Enjoy the rest of the winter! :)


Deb Chitwood is a certified Montessori teacher with a master’s degree in Early Childhood Studies. She taught in Montessori schools in Iowa and Arizona before becoming owner/director/teacher of her own Montessori school in South Dakota. Later, she homeschooled her two children through high school. Deb is now a Montessori writer who lives in Colorado Springs with her husband of 36 years and their cat of 10 years. She blogs at Living Montessori Now.

Linked to AfterSchool Linky Party, Living Life Intentionally Linky Party, The Mommy Club Resources and Solutions at Milk and Cuddles and Crystal & Co. , Thrifty Thursday, Preschool Corner, Show-and-Share Saturday, Link & Learn, The Sunday Showcase at Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas and Classified: Mom, What's on the Tray Wednesday, and Fun Stuff Friday.


  1. Deb~ this looks like "snow" much fun! You have great ideas for letter recognition and writing practice here! Thanks for sharing them! :)

  2. Great ideas for introducing letters with fun learning! Deb! with your permission I will share with my children at Reach Montessori Nursery. Thanks for sharing my dear.

  3. This would be great for my special needs kiddos, even though they are older they could still benefit from this type of activity. Thanks for sharing!

  4. - LOL, Ayn! Thanks for your kind comment!

    - Shabnum, thank you for your kind words. I'd love to have you share the activities with the children at Reach Montessori Nursery!

    - Thanks, Ms. Rachel! I love Montessori activities for children with special needs. I think the hands-on materials and isolation of difficulty really help make concepts clear and easier to learn. For children working on concentration and impulse control, practical life activities are amazing:

  5. fun activity! I think every type of child would enjoy learning this way!

  6. - Thanks, Momto8! So true that children enjoy hands-on learning ... and I love seeing children's excitement from seasonal hands-on learning materials. :)

  7. Deb,
    Your snowman inspired ideas are simply fabulous! Thanks so much for sharing with us!

  8. - Thanks so much for your kind comment, Shauna! Of course, a lot of the credit goes to the generous printable designers! :)

  9. I absolutely love this! It would be a great idea for our Grandparent helper that comes in daily to work with children in a one-on-one setting! Thanks a bunch!

  10. - Thanks for your kind comment, Carie! How wonderful to have a grandparent helper ... and I love your idea of using this type of activity for the grandparent helper! :)

  11. This is great, Deb! I really need to find time to make some sandpaper letters for Boogie. I think doing that and the salt tray together like you suggest will help him get the motions down eventually. And using a fun image like a snowman to reinforce the letter helps him build connections. You have so many great ideas! Thank you so much for sharing at WOTT!

    1. Thanks so much, Sierra! And good luck with your sandpaper-letter-making project! :)

  12. Nice idea! Thanks for sharing with Afterschool.

    1. Thanks for your comment - and thanks for hosting the Afterschool Linky Party! :)

  13. Oh what a GREAT activity! Visiting from TGIF. I'd love to invite you to link up with us for Fun Stuff Fridays.

    1. Thanks so much, Lindsi! Since I'm a bit late for Friday's linky, I'll just pin some posts to my Pinterest boards from the linky and link up on Friday! :)

  14. These are FANTASTIC!! i just pinned and shared on Facebook. Deb, I LOVE all your tips, awesome post! Thanks so much for linking up at Thrifty Thursday!

    1. Thanks so much for your kind comment, Katie! And thanks for pinning and sharing on Facebook! :)

  15. Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Lisa! I'm glad you can use it! :)

  16. what a great way for kids to work on the Alphabet, my boys are very hands on and this would work great. Writing letters in the sand tray is always a favorite. Thanks for Sharing.

    1. Thanks, Nicole! I love both salt- and sand trays for writing. :)

  17. These are great! I can't wait to use them. I really appreciate how you explained the montessori principle of isolation of difficulty. That makes complete sense! It fits very nicely with Marie Clay's idea to only work on the skill you have targeted to teach and let everything else go.
    I'm glad I learned something new today!

    1. Thanks so much, Jackie! I'm glad that helped! It's interesting that the concept of isolation of difficulty does fit well with Marie Clay's idea. :)

  18. I like the color twist on these letters and snowman theme alphabet and handwriting study ideas. Thanks so much! Carolyn

  19. Replies
    1. Thanks, Michelle! Phonics was always one of my favorite subjects to teach, and I love that the resources available online make it so easy to create new phonics/letter activities. :)

  20. Fun activities. I need to do more thinks like this with my boys and I think they would really enjoy this!

  21. I love all of these great ideas Deb. You always share such fabulous things. Also I was wondering why I can't pin the pictures. I'm just curious if someone is stealing your work. Hopefully not!


We would love to hear from you! Please feel free to leave a comment below....

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...