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Sensory Ice Play: Exploring the Letter "I" Through All Five Senses

Tot School Letter of the Week: Toddler and PreK Learning Activities for the Letter "I" 

If you've been following along with our Tot School Letter of the Week explorations since they began in August, you know that we explore each letter through all five senses and that I often include preschool level learning activities too so that both of my boys, Caterpillar (2) and Wild Thing (4) are involved. I originally anticipated that we would be on the Letter N by now, but we've been taking our time and taking a relaxed approach and enjoying the explorations and find ourselves just now sharing about the Letter "I" which is among my favorites, tied with "a" and "p." (P has great pomegranate and pumpkin activities, which are quite seasonal right now, so if you missed it, pop over and check it out, and if you want more pumpkin fun, we shared 13 fabulous pumpkin activities from the Kid's Co-Op last week).

The first Letter "I" activity we did was for touch and involved sensory ice play. 

First, we explored the ice while it was still in the ice cube trays. (Tip: we got these cute shaped ice cube trays at Ikea for 99 cents each). Then, it was time to stir and touch. 

Finally, some painting seemed like a good idea. 

Not only is ice a great sensory experience, but the word really stresses the long "i" sound well with my toddler. I made an ice word card for him that worked well, since ice is such a short and simple word. 

From ice, it wasn't a long leap to ice cream, our letter "i" word for taste. I arranged for us to do our ice cream activity on Wild Thing's birthday and the ice cream taste test was a big hit! 

You can see we tried three different flavors and added toppings -- it was an exciting birthday treat. Plus, Wild Thing learned to read the word ice on his I is for Ice Cream word card. If you look closely, too in the ice cream photo you can see our vase of irises in the background. 

This small bouquet of irises was only $2 at Trader Joe's, so we explored them for the sense of smell. The boys love smelling flowers. I kept asking if they wanted me to get out purple paint so that they could paint some pretty purple iris flowers themselves, but they weren't interested. After a few days, I had a different idea and set out this invitation to play (or rather invitation to paint) on our creative table one afternoon. 

Success! Though looking at the iris flowers and painting their own purple flowers was not of interest, painting with the iris flowers was the perfect adjustment. 

For sound, we explored instruments -- and learned some new vocabulary while we were at it. While the boys were familiar with lots of instruments: drum, piano, guitar, bells, cymbals, etc. I had not realized that the word "instrument," was a new word for them. Once Wild Thing learned it, he couldn't stop saying it and the instrument basket became a quick favorite. We've been getting it out and exploring it regularly. It is much of the reason that we spent two weeks on the letter "I"! 

I also discovered that music time and instrument exploration works well as a simple sibling play activity and encourages practice taking turns and sharing. It also encourages innovation. Wild Thing found two other items to add to the drum we already had so that he could create a drum set that he and his brother could play at the same time, so I decided that "i" is also for impromptu drum set! 

I like the drum set best because it is actually not that loud. Our clean up bell, which became part of the instrument basket, often got taken out of rotation for the sake of my sanity. You can also see the instrument basket and some other instrument photos over at The Good Long Road on Facebook in the Tot School Photo Album. Here's the infamous bell. It was interesting to see how different each of the boys were with it. 

Finally, for sight, I pulled out two small magnifying glasses for them. One of our letter "i" books had a page featuring an inspector. Thus, "i" was for inspector and investigations -- learning some more new vocabulary words -- and having a lot of fun in our yard looking for insects (another "i" word). 

In addition to looking through dirt and in tunnels for insects, our tree with exploding sap gained their attention a lot as did some of our more colorful leaves. We also worked on filling in our letter "i" pages with insect stickers. 

All in all, we're really enjoying our tot school and preschool learning activities. Wild Thing is looking forward to the Letter "J," but wanted us to wait and do it when G'Ma was here. She just arrived yesterday, so I expect will start our explorations soon. Sharing this at: Montessori Monday.

You might also like:
Letter B Baskets
Letter D + ABC Activities from the Kid's Co-Op
It's All About Fall! 


  1. We have that same ice cube tray! I love the activities you do with your boys - such fun learning!

  2. Wow! You could make this a series and separate into five blog posts. So many great activities! Thank you for sharing on the Learn Through Play hop!


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