Alphabet Activity: Clothesline Names
As a trilingual family, we rarely do anything in English because we want our kids to continue speaking to me in Mandarin and to my husband in French. However, we are breaking the rules this week because we want them to learn how to spell their names in English. Why? Safety. If somehow God forbid they get separated from us, we want them to be able to say and spell their names to the policeman or whoever found them. And it’s not like we have an easy last name like “Smith” or “Johnson” – most of the time I say my last name, the reaction is, “uhh… can you spell that please?” Therefore, it’s important for our children to be able to spell their last names so that the authorities could find us quickly.
This name activity was inspired by Pre-K Pages’ Clothesline Names activity. Originally, I wanted to use clothespins because I thought my kids would really love opening and closing the clothespins, but that turned out disastrous. I did not have mini-clothespins, so we tried using the regular-sized ones. However, they were way too heavy, so the letters kept getting flipped upside down once they were clipped onto the string. Thus, mommy improvised and used ribbons instead to hang the letters.
I will be honest and say that this isn’t the easiest activity to do, but my children thoroughly enjoyed it. I had most of the materials or something similar enough to substitute around the house except for containers with lids. So I went out and bought some YoCrunch yogurt with M&M’S® mix-ins, and I had a really hard time eating all the delicious vanilla yogurt and chocolate to empty out the containers. I know, the sacrifices we make to teach our children.
Supplies we ended up using:
- Thin ribbon
- String (or yarn)
- A pair of disposable chopsticks
- 2 containers with lids
- Letters printed on pieces of paper (I laminated the paper but not necessary)
- Hole puncher
Here is how everything went down:
I first asked my kids to find the letters to their names and then put the letters in the correct order. While they were doing that, I tied the string to the thicker end of the chopstick and wrapped the string tightly around the chopstick a few times. You can use hot glue to secure the string to the chopstick, but I found it unnecessary because my string wasn’t going anywhere. I liked how if I wanted to make the clothesline longer, I could simply unwrap the string to make room for more letters.
Then I handed my kids the hole puncher to punch holes in the paper. I got a little crazy here because I am such a perfectionist and watching my kids punch a hole out of place was killing me. Therefore, I ended up putting a little dot with a black marker where I wanted them to punch the holes so that we didn’t end up with a hole at the corner of the paper instead of the middle right above the letters.
Here is the more “labor-intensive” portion – I had to make little loops with the ribbon so that we can use it to hang the letters on the string. It was not the easiest thing to do because the ribbon was so thin and the loop was so small, but not the end of the world. I will admit my hand did cramp a little from tying the ribbons, but mommy persevered (and was very thankful we didn’t give our kids long names).
After all the letters got their ribbons, I gave the chopsticks and letters back to the kids so that they could thread the letters onto the string. Great fine motor activity! While they were busy threading, I cut holes into the lid of the yogurt containers. Caution: Do be careful so that you don’t cut yourself doing this. I had to push quite a bit to get the knife through the lid, and when it finally broke through, it gave me a heart attack because it made quite a big cut. Also make sure that you are cutting on something solid because there is a chance the knife might go through the bottom of the container and you don’t want to have a knife stuck in your hardwood floor, book or foot.
When I thought the activity was almost done, I noticed I left out a major supply. I tried to stick the chopsticks in the containers, but I couldn’t get the chopstick to stand straight up and the weight of the chopsticks was toppling the containers. I tried many times, but to utter failure. Then I realized what I was missing – something heavy to stick the chopsticks into and to weigh down the containers. My first thought was sand, but I didn’t have random bags of sand lying around and I couldn’t even imagine what would happen if my kids decided to dump out the sand from the containers. Therefore, I looked around the house and found … PLAYDOUGH! We have tons of playdough, and so selected the ones that were mixed together with other colors or older ones that were starting to dry out to put in the containers. Like magic, the playdough helped the chopsticks remain straight up and the containers were no longer tipping over.
One realization after I found playdough – I could have just used the playdough containers instead of the yogurt containers! ARGH! The lids of the playdough containers would have been easier to cut into as well. I could have saved so many calories! Not that I am complaining about vanilla yogurt and chocolate, but now I have 4 empty playdough containers that I don’t know what to do with.
My children absolutely loved this activity! After we were all done, they proudly took their creations up to their rooms and displayed their names on their dressers. Even though this was the first time my daughter ever heard the letters in her first name spelled out in English, she already learned all the letters and how to spell her name. Children learn so fast!
Onto the next name activity to teach my children how to spell their last name!