beginning sounds, montessori, phonics

Easy and Fun Beginning Sounds Game (Letter Object Matching)

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Montessori Sandpaper Letters with Objects to explore beginning sounds

In my previous blog post, Montessori Sandpaper Letters: 3 Easy Ideas To DIY At Home, I talk about associating sounds and symbols in this sensory, hands-on phonics activity. 

As your child explores the sandpaper letter lesson and learns the sounds that go with them, you can explore beginning sounds even further with objects! 

You could also use pictures or cards instead of objects, but I have found that young children love objects even more. 

During my first year as a Montessori teacher, one of my strongest memories is that many of the youngest children (three-year-olds) overwhelmingly wanted to work with the language objects that went with the sandpaper letters. 

Although they weren’t ready for that lesson because we hadn’t explored I-Spy games yet, we sat together and explored the objects but talked about the names of the objects (vocabulary) and the beginning sounds we heard.  

In this post, I will share how to do the sandpaper letters with objects lesson I learned from my teacher training and how it went with my four-year-old daughter, Annie, at home! 

sandpaper letters with objects pin

In This Post

beginning sounds, montessori, initial sounds
matching the objects to the letter

Why are phonics based beginning sounds activities important?

According to The New York Times article, Sounding Out a Better Way to Teach Reading, a push for literacy across the United States led to:

"immense and conclusive research supporting explicit phonics instruction. Once students learn the alphabetical code — letters and sound recognition — they can decode words, improve their fluency, build their vocabularies and begin comprehending text."

The Montessori sandpaper letters and objects phonics activity helps with the:

  • development of writing and reading
  • recognition of the difference between vowels and consonants
  • phonetic building of words
  • visual recognition of letters
  • kinesthetic recognition of letters

Learning the letter sounds, then reiterating that knowledge by playing a fun game like matching objects with the beginning letter sounds sets a strong foundation for learning to read. 

I have discovered that matching the letters with the objects brings phonetic instruction to life for young children!

beginning sounds, montessori, sandpaper letters and objects
A tray with 5 letters and matching objects for beginning letter sound matching

How to do the sandpaper letter and objects lesson

What you will need

You’ll need a set of sandpaper letters and a basket with a collection of objects to match the initial sounds with the letters. 

You could have just one object per letter. However, I’ve always preferred to have 3-5 objects for each letter because it helps to reiterate the sound many times. I have always found that at least 3 objects was the “magic number!”

When choosing objects that go with the letters, select objects with the basic “soft” or “short” phonetic sounds. For instance:

  • For /i/, choose iguana or igloo instead of ice or ice cream
  • For /g/, choose a gorilla instead of a giraffe
  • For /c/, choose a picture of a cat instead of a city

We will deal with the different variations of the sounds and spellings when we get to the green double letters and later in the language sequence.

Be creative in choosing your objects and pictures! I have another strong memory of when I first became a teacher. I remember that it was so tricky to find objects for short vowel sounds. I remember for /u/, we had barbie doll “underwear,” which made everyone in the class laugh when they got to that sound!

As I mentioned in my phonemic awareness and I-Spy post, we got our language objects from Montessori Services. They are pricey, but I found them to be worth the cost because you can use these objects for several language activities, such as:

Young children also love animals, so I also used several animals from the Safari Ltd. Toobs collection. 

beginning sounds, letter and sound, Montessori, sandpaper letters and objects
Matching objects from around the house for sandpaper letter /j/

You could also use objects and toys around the house to match the letters. I seem to find great ideas for objects in the kitchen, depending on the letter. For example, juice, jam, jelly, and jar for the letter sound /j/.

*I also created a printable of pictures to match the sandpaper letters (a-z and green double letters). I also made the matching sandpaper letters I talked about in my previous post. If you’d like to download them all, sign up for the resource library at the bottom of this post. If you’re already a subscriber, check my newest email for the updated password.

The a-z photos included in the printables are below:

  • astronaut 
  • balloons
  • car
  • duckling
  • elephant
  • feather
  • guitar
  • horse
  • iguana
  • juice
  • kangaroo
  • leaf
  • mouse
  • nest
  • ostrich
  • piglet
  • quilt
  • rabbit
  • sunflower
  • turtle
  • umbrellas
  • van
  • walrus
  • x-ray
  • yak
  • zebra

The double-letter photos included in the printables are below:

  • ai – snail
  • ar – harp (and shark)
  • au – sauce
  • ch – cherry
  • ee – wheel (and queen)
  • er – helicopter
  • ie – pie
  • oa – boat
  • oo – foot
  • or – horn
  • ou – sprouts
  • oy – toys
  • qu – queen
  • sh – shark
  • th – sloth
  • ue – glue
sandpaper letters pictures a-z pin
sandpaper letters pictures double letters pin

Step-by-step sandpaper letter and objects lesson

Check your child’s progress tracking sheet.

*I created a progress tracking sheet for the sandpaper letters. If you’d like to download it, sign up for the resources library at the bottom of this post. 

Invite your child to a table or rug. Sit on your child’s dominant side.

beginning sounds, montessori, phonics
Line up the letters and take out the objects and name the objects

Ask your child to choose 4 or 5 letters she knows. Review the letters with your child using step three of the 3-Period lesson—line up letters down the left side of the rug.

Obtain the basket of mixed objects that match the letters she chose.

Sit on your child’s dominant side.

beginning sounds, montessori, phonics
name all of the objects that go with the letter sounds

Select the objects with corresponding initial sounds to the sandpaper letters. Invite your child to name each object.

Trace the sandpaper letter at the top of the table or rug, give the sound /o/, and add the object’s name, “octopus.” “Octopus begins with /o/” Place the object next to the sandpaper letter.

Invite your child to trace the letter and name the object.

beginning sounds, montessori, sandpaper letters and objects
matching the objects to the letters by initial sounds

Continue with each sandpaper letter and object.

Invite your child to continue with this work or return it to the shelf.

beginning sounds, montessori, initial sounds
match all of the objects to the letters

Note: It’s important to choose letters that your child already knows for the sandpaper letters with objects lesson. You are reinforcing what your child already knows about letters and sounds with this lesson. Go back to the sandpaper letter lesson to learn the sounds.

Note: It’s okay if your child places the objects directly on top of the sandpaper letter (instead of to the right of the letter). In my experience, most children want to put the objects on top of the letter!

Tip: You can use the “third period” of  3 period lesson for the letter sounds to double check that your child knows the letters. 

Ideas for storing the objects

In my experience as a Montessori teacher, I have seen and tried various ways to store and organize language objects for the sandpaper letter lessons. 

My favorite is storing the objects in individual containers. This way, you can easily focus on one letter at a time or mix and match a group of letters with more freedom.

I’ve also seen objects and letters grouped in specific sets in some classrooms. Some teachers do it this way because of reading lessons that the children will move on to in the future. 

For example, I’ve seen the letters mcta, and b grouped as the first set of letters because of the “Mac and Tab” phonetic readers. It’s totally fine if you want to do it this way.

beginning sounds, Montessori, phonics, sandpaper letters
kiwi, key, kangaroo, kettle, koala, and kazoo begin with /k/

A great space-saving way to organize your objects is to get a small cabinet with small drawers. You could find something like this 30-drawer cabinet from ArtBin

It would be best to create labels for the letters to put in front of the drawers. I like that there are 30 drawers on this one because all 26 letters will fit. Four drawers will be left over to place the double-letter objects (4 in each drawer). If you find a cabinet with 24 drawers, typically, we would stick x, y, and z in the same drawer.

Another idea is to get individual small bags or containers (1 for each letter) to store the objects. I’ve seen cute little linen bags with letters written or printed on each bag. You could also get small containers with lids to keep the objects by letter and label them. 

I love this DIY idea from How We Montessori. Her post also includes many inspiring ideas from other websites and social media accounts to store your language objects!

beginning sounds, montessori, initial sounds

More ideas for the letter and objects lesson

Another fun idea is to get all 26 letters and all of the matching objects and match all of them in one game. I’ve done this with some of the kids in my classroom; it was a lot of fun. The best part is setting up the work on several rugs on the floor and then putting everything away at the end! 

For children who need to move their bodies, you could walk around the house or room and find different objects that begin with the letter and bring it to the letter to match. I remember this being an exciting game as a teacher, but the trick is remembering where everything goes when it’s time to clean up!

Also, once your child plays extensively with different objects, you could move on to working with pictures. You can use the photos from the printable I created, which you can download below. You could also find more images from old alphabet books or pictures online. 

You could sort the pictures with five letters at a time or try to do all 26 letters as a massive picture-sorting activity. See what calls to your child and have fun with it! 

sandpaper letters with objects pins

Concluding Thoughts about the letter and objects lesson

Annie loves the sandpaper letter and matching objects lesson. We explored this lesson many times, starting when she turned three-and-a-half. We tried playing this game in different ways, which helped to reiterate the sounds that go with the letters. 

We have also done a single letter at a time with a small box of objects that go with that one letter. We did this while completing Annie’s letter sound book, which I’ll discuss in my next post. 

The letter sound book is a fun extension activity to explore the letter sounds further while keeping track of all the letter sounds your child has mastered. 

I have found that adding hands-on objects or pictures to the sandpaper letter lesson helps make learning and exploring sounds so much more engaging and exciting. Your child is also practicing essential phonetic skills that will lead to success in writing and reading later on. 

Have you tried the sandpaper letter and object matching game with your child? What were your child’s favorite and most fun objects? Leave a comment below! 

More Montessori Resources

If you liked this post, you’ll also like:

Montessori Sandpaper Letters with Objects to explore beginning sounds

sandpaper letters with objects mockup
sandpaper letters pictures a-z pin
sandpaper letters pictures double letters pin
sandpaper letters a-z printable pin
sandpaper letters double pin

32 thoughts on “Easy and Fun Beginning Sounds Game (Letter Object Matching)”

  1. Pingback: Simple Letter Recognition: 4 Engaging Moveable Alphabet Ideas

  2. Pingback: DIY Letter Sound Book: 1 Brilliant Idea To Keep Track

  3. I love helping my daughter learn through play! Plus this game is so simple which is crucial. What age do you think this is best geared toward? My just-turned-2-year-old might be too young for it, right? but I’m so excited for when she’s ready to learn through more advanced games like this!

    1. Hi Catia,

      Thank you for your question. This lesson is geared towards 3 to 3 and a half and up. It’s important to teach your 2-year-old vocabulary words and explore with sounds you hear first. Before using the sandpaper letters, use the objects, name them, and point out the beginning sound without the letter symbols. If you’re interested, check out the language lessons you could start out with for your 2-year-old. Start with my blog post, The Essential Guide To 11 Fun Oral Language Development Activities at this URL:

  4. I love teaching kids! I don’t know much about Montessori learning, it’s kind of looked down on here, but this really got me interested. I think it’s a great way to teach children.

  5. This is helpful. My daughter is just beginning with this and this can definitely make learning more fun. Thank you for the guide on how to do the sandpaper letter. Appreciate it.

    1. Hi Clarice,

      I am so glad you enjoyed the beginning sounds activity with the sandpaper letters and objects!

  6. I also believe that using objects in lessons in a better way to teach the objectives in a lesson. Pictures are great as well, but objects is just more fun.

    1. Hi Carmen,

      Thank you so much! Objects are much more fun for young children when they match beginning sounds!

  7. It is nice to have some activities to fit in learning with kids. These are great ways to find educational opportunities in games.

  8. I love how helpful and thorough this post is! I am so excited for my daughter be old enough to start with letter sounds

    1. Hi Fransic,

      Thank you so much for recommending the beginning sounds activity to your family!

  9. Charlie-Elizabeth Nadeau

    I love how you have developed such engaging games that also aid with reading and writing. Fun while learning is the best way to help with development. Well written and thought out read, than you for sharing!

  10. What a fun way to teach beginning sounds to children. I am a huge fan of Montessori learning…and this is just another reason why! Your idea of including several items (recommending 3) that start with the same letter seems like that would be key to reiterate the sound more than once!

    1. Hi Michelle,

      Thank you so much! I am so happy that you found the beginning sounds lesson helpful and that you’re a big fan of Montessori!

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