Curriculum Reviews, Homeschooling

A-Z Magnatab: A Hands-on Activity for Teaching Preschoolers Letters

It’s been so fascinating watching as Lochlan (age 3.5) begins to be enamored with the alphabet. Aveline was obsessed with letters from an early age, but since I knew her journey wasn’t typical, I didn’t expect Lochlan to be the same. I assumed he wouldn’t show much interest on his own, and imagined I’d teach him his letters at five or six, especially since — as everyone keeps reminding me — “He’s a boy!

But I also believe in honoring the marvelously individual child God created, truly seeing their unique individuality, and following their cues.

[Disclosure of Material Connections: I received a complimentary A to Z Magnatab from Timberdoodle in exchange for writing and publishing this post. All opinions β€” and photographs! ;) β€” are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.]

A few months ago when Lochlan started realizing the ABC song he’d heard on children’s music albums was connected to letters he’d seen in his wooden alphabet puzzle, an adorable light bulb went on. So I got out some workbooks for him to read and explore alongside his puzzles and songs. Soon, he began to notice the tracing dashes printed over letters in his workbooks. He asked, “Why some o’ dese letters have woad twacks on dem?!” What a perfect segue to explain letters can be handwritten — and introduce the A to Z Magnatab!

The A-Z Magnatab is perfect for preschoolers

Timberdoodle includes the A-Z Magnatab — an analog magnetic writing tablet — in their preschool curriculum kit for ages 2-4. Like all their educational resources, the Magnatab is available for individual purchase as well. We’re using it Γ  la carte in our eclectic homeschool. (I love being able to hand-tailor a personalized educational experience.)

The manufacturer’s recommendation for the Magnatab is ages 3 and up, so Timberdoodle’s suggestion of ages 2-4 is a great guideline. Right now at 3.5, Lochlan is at the perfect age to get a lot of use out of the this. Last year, he wouldn’t have known what to do with it. As always, watch your child’s readiness clues, and pay attention to where their curiosity takes them.

The A-Z Magnatab is a reusable hands-on writing tool

If the term magna makes you nervous about loose magnets, don’t worry. I wondered the same thing when I saw the name, but this is a one-piece tool (two when you count the included stylus.)

The A-Z Magnatab is a sturdy plastic tablet, or slate of sorts, which contains grooved uppercase letters from A to Z. Each of the letters is dotted with holes. At first, the holes are empty, but when you pass the magnetic stylus over the letter, the metal balls lift up, snapping into place in the holes.

Ready to start again? Simply press the metal balls down with your finger, and they disappear beneath the surface, leaving the holes empty so you can trace again.

Lochlan was immediately — and very intensely — interested in the Magnatab. I could barely get him to look up. Without prompting, he even began to repeat the letters sounds to himself as he practiced.

The next morning, he ran downstairs and asked, “Where’s da letter thing?” and proceeded to trace the letters over and over and over, without a single bit of input from me. (Talk about kid-approved!)

Since then, he’s played with the Magnatab at least once a day.

A quick aside: when homeschoolers chat about teaching preschoolers letters, the subject of salt trays inevitably comes up. While I understand the advantages of preschoolers using their fingers to trace letters in salt, sand, or rice, there are disadvantages too, such as the mess factor. (Yes, I’m one of those people.) For everyday independent play, I much prefer the Magnatab. Lochlan can wander off with this and turn it upside down without any ill effects. That’s a big plus in my book.

And another bonus? The A-Z Magnatab is aesthetically pleasing, and looks great on a learning shelf. (Yes, I’m also one of those people.)

Our A-Z Magnatab from Timberdoodle is red and white, but right now Timberdoodle has a pretty multicolored Magnatab in stock. It functions the exact same way; the only difference is the color.

How to use the A-Z Magnatab in your homeschool

Of course, the most obvious use is to trace the letters with the magnetic stylus. And this is a lot of fun! But that’s not all you can do with a Magnatab. Since it’s easy for little hands to hold, you can point to the letters on the tablet during phonics lessons. It also serves as a great visual while singing the alphabet song. And the Magnatab easily doubles as a reference chart, too, for older kids who need reminders of alphabetical order while working on language arts. Stroke order arrows are printed right on the surface next to each letter, so kids can refer to it when learning to write on paper also.

Lochlan even invented his own game! He sets the Magnatab and his wooden alphabet puzzle side by side on the floor, then systematically places the wooden letters on top of the corresponding Magnatab letters, one at time, until the entire alphabet is complete.

I love how much learning the Magnatab has inspired in our home, and it was especially fun to introduce right when Lochlan began to be intensely curious about letters!

Shop the Magnatab, and other fantastic homeschool preschool resources, too.

P.S. The NEW Timberdoodle homeschool catalog with all sorts of new fantastic finds will be released in late April 2023! Are you on the mailing list?


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