Flashcards can be boring, but they certainly don’t have to be. Here is a giant list of fun and simple ways that I’ve used alphabet flashcards with my kids to make learning fun.
How do you feel about flashcards? Is it just me, or do you think they get kind of a bad reputation for being a boring tool for drilling information into the brains of children?
Probably because they are traditionally used for mind-numbing, rote memorization.
And yet, we know that repetition is KEY to learning. (SOURCE)
If you think repetition is “old school”, consider the words of the much-respected educator, Dr. Maria Montessori, who claimed, “Repetition is the secret of perfection.”
In fact, brain research shows that every time you repeat a task or revisit a piece of information, you strengthen the mental pathways to that concept in your mind. Essentially, repetition tells your brain, “This is important. Keep track of this information.”
Is it possible, then, to use flashcards in a more creative way to achieve the goal of repeated exposure without the boring rote memorization?
Last week, I shared a free printable set of flashcards to help you teach your child the alphabet. If you haven’t gotten your set printed yet, you can get your alphabet flashcards here.
Ready? Here we go!
23 Unconventional ways to learn with alphabet flashcards
1. One minute time trial
Set a timer for one minute (I use my phone or just tell Alexa to set a timer for me). See how many letters your child can correctly identify before time runs out. If they miss one, put back in the “draw” pile. See if they can get through the whole alphabet in one minute.
Yes, this one is pretty basic, but there is something about racing the clock that gets kids excited. My six-year-old LOVES to do this with sight words.
Select 6-12 letters of the alphabet you want your child to practice. Get both the lowercase and the uppercase cards for each letter. Shuffle and place them face down on a table (or floor) in a grid. Take turns flipping over cards and trying to find the matching letters.
3. Letter scavenger hunt
Hide flash cards around your house and encourage your child to find the whole alphabet. Bonus points if they can put the cards in order as they find them so they know which ones they are missing!
4. Object scavenger hunt race
Rather than hunting the alphabet cards (like in the previous idea), hunt for objects that start with the letters of the alphabet. Shuffle one set of letters, either upper or lowercase. Place the “deck” face down on the table (or wherever the baby won’t eat them…not that we have that issue regularly…). Encourage your child to flip over a card, read the letter, and then try to hunt for an item in the house that starts with that letter. Toy airplane for A…book for B…car for c…etc. See how many letters you can find an object for!
Give your child a stack of mixed up flash cards and encourage them to alphabetize them. To make it harder, set a timer and race the clock. Have an older sibling work on a team with a younger sibling to encourage teamwork.
6. Musical “chairs”
Tape several letters in a circle on the floor. Play music and have your child(ren) walk/dance around the circle. When the music stops, hop onto a letter, and shout its name. Then, do it again!
7. Target practice (with darts)
Use painter’s tape (again) to affix several flash cards to the wall. Encourage your child to shoot darts (we have little Nerf guns that we like to use) at the letters. When they hit one, they must say its name, then they may take it off the wall. The child wins when all the letters have been hit and identified.
8. Play dough fun
Rather than tracing with dry erase markers, make play dough snakes and use them to form the letters on the cards. Clean up is a breeze as long as you laminate your cards. P.S. – This is my favorite fool-proof recipe for easy homemade playdough.
9. A is for…
Shuffle the alphabet flash cards and place them face down to create a “draw” pile. Take turns with your child drawing a card, naming the letter, and saying something that starts with that letter. For example, “I got J. J is for jellyfish.” Make it a greater challenge by seeing how many words you can think of that begin with that letter. See who gets stumped first!
10. Writing in the sand
Pour some sand (or salt, sugar, etc.) in a small tray. Shuffle the alphabet flash cards, and place them face down on the table. Encourage your child to flip over a card and write that letter in the sand using their finger (or you can give them a stick to use as a writing tool). Erase the letter and draw another one!
11. Alphabet Go Fish!
Use both the upper and lowercase flash cards mixed together to play Go Fish! Deal each person seven cards and take turns asking things like, “Do you have the letter D?” We like to play that if you get a match, you get to go again. Keep playing until all the matches have been claimed.
12. Dry erase tracing
If you laminate your flash cards, you can give your child a dry erase marker to trace the letters on the flash cards, practicing their writing skills.
13. Fly swatter game
Use painter’s tape (I love that stuff!) to affix several flash cards to the wall. Give your child a fly swatter and tell them to smack each letter as you call it out. If you have multiple children (of similar ability), you can have two kids race to see who can swat the correct letter first.
14. Alphabet zip line
Create a zip line using string and a paper clip. Send letters down the zip line to your child. When he/she catches the letter, encourage your child to say its name out loud. Get all the details for this game at Gift of Curiosity. Little brother LOVED this one!
Grab these free printable alphabet BINGO sheets created by From ABCs to ACTs, and play the classic game together. Use the flash cards to draw letters, and mark them off on your BINGO sheet using a pen or small pebbles/candies as markers.
16. Bean bag toss
Tape letters to assorted buckets/plastic containers (old tupperware works great). Invite your child to toss a bean bag into one of the buckets. If they make it, they say the letter on the bucket and get a point!
If the tupperware is too hard for your child, just lay the cards on the floor and have them call out whichever letter the bean bag lands on…or closest to.
You can use just a few letters (make it a mix of ones your child knows well and ones they need to practice more), or let your child “collect” the card once they score in its bucket. Then you can add a new card to the bucket to give them exposure to more letters.
17. Don’t touch the lava!
Little kids (my boys especially) love anything dangerous…and if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! I created this learning game out of necessity on a rainy day, and it’s been a huge hit again and again.
Invite your child to hop across placemats or pillows to find and “rescue” the alphabet letters from the lava. Read all the details of this game here.
18. Alphabet race
Spread out the cards all over the floor. Have your child start at “A” and then race to pick up “B”. Continue through the alphabet. If your child is engaged. Repeat the activity and time them to see if they can beat their previous time.
19. Special delivery
Lay out one set of cards in a long line on the floor. Tell your child that you are going to pretend that they are the delivery man who needs to deliver the alphabet letters to you. Give them a truck (dump trucks work great) or a “mail bag” (even a grocery sack will do).
Sit at the opposite end of the room from the letters and your child. Call out a letter and encourage your child to bring the “delivery” (letter) as fast as possible. Then tell them another letter to deliver. Keep going as long as your child shows interest.
20. Letter sorting
Together with your child, come up with a question about the letters of the alphabet, such as, “Which letters have holes?” Sort the cards into two categories, one for letters with holes, and one for letters without holes. Here are some other questions to use:
- Which letters have curved lines, straight lines, or both?
- Which letters are tall or short?
- Which letters dip below the writing line?
- Which letters do you have to lift your pencil to write?
21. Let’s go fishin’
Clip a paper clip to each alphabet card and scatter them on the floor. Make a magnet fishing rod (like THIS ONE) and use it to “catch” alphabet letters. Be sure to read the letters as you catch them.
22. Erase the ABCs
Write the alphabet letters with a dry erase pen on a large window or sliding glass door. Shuffle and stack the alphabet cards in a pile, have your child flip over a card and erase the letter on the card. Get more details on this activity on Busy Toddler.
23. Alphabet STOMP
This activity might win the award for simplest EVER, but it’s also the one that my structured-activity-averse four-year-old actually WANTED to do. What can I say? He likes stomping!
Simply scatter the alphabet cards on the floor and call out one for your child to stomp on. You can tell them to imagine the alphabet letters are bugs they have to squash. Repeat for as long as your child is interested.
There you have it!
Twenty-three activities to get your kids moving and learning in fun ways…all using one free printable set of alphabet flashcards.
Let the games begin!
Want MORE alphabet activities for kids? Check out Flash Card Fun!
Help your child master foundational academic skills through simple, play-based activities!