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I've been on the lookout lately for some activities to do with my four year old daughter to help her get ready for 'big school' in January. Thanks to the good start she has had at nursery she is quite comfortable with her initial letter sounds but it seems that when it comes to writing the letters down it is a different matter. It was for this reason that I wanted to find some things to help her practice writing the letters down - so I was very pleased to spot in Sainsburys these wipe clean flash cards to help to learn to write letters.
The pack contains twenty six double sided cards (covering all the letters in the alphabet)which all have a wipe clean surface. A special pen is also included so that your child can write on the cards over and over again. The cards feel very sturdy and will take quite a lot of wear and tear I should think! There is no cloth provided but the pen comes off very easily with just a piece of dry kitchen towel.
All of the cards follow exactly the same format so if I just describe the letter 'A' card you will get a taste for all of them. On the front of this card, taking up about half the space, is a bright photograph of a juicy green apple on a bright red background. Beneath this picture you see the letter a in both lower and upper case. Around these letters are also bold dots to show you where to place your pen to start writing these letters and arrows to show you the direction to go in. The idea would be that your child can use the pen to trace over they shape but this ensures that they start in the right place and make the correct shape as they are writing. As you can wipe the pen work off, they can practice as many times as they like.
Below the two traceable letters is the word apple showing how the letter 'a' starts this word. Here again your child can trace over just that letter but this time, although there is a dot to show where to start, there are no arrows to follow. On the reverse side is the letter A practice. Your child can make rows of upper and lower case letters and also see the letter starting other words - in this case the words are acorn, ant and angel. Beside each word there is a picture showing what it is, which means that your child can have a good guess with what the word is.
As I said, this is the format for all the cards which means that your child will get used to the way they work and can even have a go using them independently. The photos on all the pictures are very bright and attractive and are all of everyday objects that your child will be sure to recognise.
There is also a very brief parents' guide but this really does not tell you anything that you could not work out for yourself! It says that your child is practicing writing and fine motor skills and is suitable for children from the age of three years. Where it is lacking perhaps, is in providing guidelines about how to use these with your child in order to enjoy and learn at the same time.
My suggestion would be to use them in whichever way your child wants to. You could work through the cards in order or you could perhaps work first of all on some easier letters leaving other slightly harder ones until they have gained in confidence a little. You could also look at the letters in their name or brothers and sisters' names first as these are the words that they are most likely to write. You could also just use the cards as flashcards so that your child starts recognising the letters and can match to the corresponding sounds. I do think though, that how ever you choose to use the cards, you should be guided by how much your child wants to do, and only play with them when they want to and are likely to enjoy themselves.
My four year old really enjoys these and often says to me - 'let's play schools!'. They cost me £5 in Sainsbury's which is quite good value, but were even better at the time as they were part of a BOGOF offer!