An A to Z box is great kit to create to practice learning letter names and sounds. As kids hold each item (for each letter or sound), they have a physical and sensory (in come cases!) experience to help solidify the letter sounds and names. Plus, what could be better than handling little toys to play with the alphabet? Our alphabet box is a fun way to practice recognizing and sorting letters in a hands-on way.
Book Inspiration for an Alphabet Box
I love alphabet books! In particular, in Kipper’s A to Z: An Alphabet Adventure by Mick Inkpen, Kipper and his friend Arnold decided to find things that start with every letter of the alphabet, beginning with ant and a box to keep it in. Of course, the ant crawls away, and many of the items they find, such as the enormous elephant, certainly don’t fit in the small box. But it’s a fun book of searching for items as they learn the alphabet. (Kipper can’t think of anything that begins with K. Can you? My daughter loved pointing out the obvious to the silly dog.)
Although we are not about to find an ant to keep in our A to Z box, I’ve always wanted to have our own to go along with this same concept.
Making an Alphabet Box
Full disclosure: A friend gave me her A to Z box when her daughter outgrew it. My Strawberry was just 3 or 4, and it was perfect for her at that point. When we recieved the box, it mostly had pictures for each letter of the alphabet. You'll see we've updated it significantly.
We’ve loved adding small figures and toys to put in the canisters to go along with the images already included. I’ve actually gone ahead and added more images to the canisters too! I have always wanted one of these (honestly, ever since I read Kipper’s A to Z), so I was delighted to take what my friend had and go from there!
In our alphabet box, we have canisters (empty Crystal Lite containers) that are labeled with letter stickers. An uppercase letter is on the canister, and the lowercase letter is on the lid. Inside each of these canisters are images and small toys to go along with each letter.
We’ve added small items we’ve found. Check the Dollar Store, Toob Toys, Shopkins, doll accessories, or any other play sets that you may have. Fast food kids’ meals come with little trinkets, and garage sales have boxes of cars or other small items for a quarter each. I also used everyday items in the canisters as well. Anything that could fit!
Using an Alphabet Box
There are a few ways one can learn with an A to Z box.
The first way is to make separate smaller containers for each letter. This is how mine is set up. We then took all these letter canisters and put them in an overall big box. When my daughter was learning letters (and even still today), we’ll take one letter canister out at a time and play with the toys and name the items in the pictures. She likes to randomly claim a day for a letter so we can do an activity related to that letter!
Another way to learn with the alphabet box is to keep all the items in a single big box. Maybe you only want one toy per letter. Maybe your kids already know the alphabet. In these cases, find a single box and put it all together. Kids can help you sort the items into the right letter.
Another idea is that you can alphabetize or sort the mini-toys as you take them out of the box. Pretty much, any way you want to use the alphabet from A to Z box is going to be fun when you have it stocked with familiar items!
Mini-Toys for an Alphabet Box
Here are some toys and everyday items that I’ve stocked in our alphabet box. I am still working on finding some items for some letters (cough: x)! I’ve indicated where I got them for those that I know. I’ve also tried to include items for the most common letter sounds for each letter (for those that have two sounds).
A – plastic apple, acorn (find one outside in autumn), arrow, plastic ant
B – baby (from Toob Toys), beads, plastic mini-bone, block, button, bow, bell, balloon (deflated)
C – carrot (plastic food), car (matchbox size), cat, clip, circle, cupcake-shaped eraser, candy
E – plastic egg, eraser, plastic train engine, baby elephant figure, envelope
F – frog (jumping frog), feather, plastic fork, fake fries, faux fur
G – giraffe, gem, plastic goat, (kid) glove, glue stick
H – hat (lego brick style), hay (block from a playset), Monopoly house, plastic horse
I – ice cream (shaped eraser), igloo, index card, identification card
J – jacks, small jar, jet (plastic airplane), jack-o-lantern (small decoration)
K – key, kite (make a mini one), kettle, or king (from chess)
M – magnets, plastic man, marble, monkey (from Barrel of Monkeys)
N – nail, nickel, small note pad, necklace
O – plastic ox, plastic octopus, oval, ornament
P – penny, plastic polar bear, pencil, pipe cleaners, puzzle piece, mini purse
Q – quarter, q-tip, quilt (tiny homemade one), question mark (magnet)
R – rubber band, ring, ribbon, small ruler
S – spoon (just a plastic one), string, plastic skateboard, stamp, stickers, baby sock
T – train or train track (mini-sized), tiny toy top, tube (tiny one from a marble play set), travel sized pack of tissues, plastic tree
U – unicorn (plastic), umbrella toothpick (like this)
W – watch (an old broken one), wood (small piece), wand
X – ?? (I just have pictures of x-ray and xylophone in this one)
Y – Yo-yo, yellow crayon
Z – zero (a number magnet), zipper
Alphabet Box Labels
To help you in however you want to implement this, I’ve made some Alphabet Box labels. This printable has a label that says A to Z Box, as well as uppercase letters that you can use for sorting the mini-toys or labeling the canisters.
In addition, this includes an alphabet of images. My goal was to find items that you may be able to find in small format to fit in a small alphabet canister or box. If you cannot find the small items, just cut out the pictures and include those in the canisters!
Make an Alphabet Box
Make an A to Z box to learn the alphabet letters and sounds! As kids hold each item (for each letter or sound), they have a physical and sensory experience to help solidify the letter sounds and names.
First (pages 4-5) are 2-inch square letters for using as labels. Then follows (pages 6-10) 4-inch square letter labels. Use the size that is appropriate for your needs. If you desire, you can use these labels for boxes/canisters. Or, use them as mats for students to alphabetize the items from the boxes.
Following the alphabet labels are images for each letter of the alphabet, which includes up to 4 images (u-z have 2-3) for each letter. These include sample images for the most common sounds. For example, there is a giraffe and a goat, an octopus and an ornament. Collect physical items from around the house to make your alphabet a sensory sort activity.