Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

By Chrysta Naron

All my kiddos are top notch chefs. I have eaten some of the best imaginary banana cupcakes and sand buckets filled with stew in the world. I bet you have too. So today, let’s cook up a little “edible” literacy activity for you and your little one to enjoy!

Dramatic play (aka “playing pretend”) is a very important part of child development and one of the most enjoyable parts of any day with young kids. It can be tough to ask a child to stop being a superhero in order to sit and do a worksheet or review flashcards. Making alphabet “soup” is a terrific way to incorporate both pretend play and literacy practice into one fun game. This playful activity feels fast-paced but still requires children to reflect on letters and their sounds to find the right ingredients for their “soup.” You can scale it to play one-on-one or with a group. 

Read on for step-by-step instructions, plus tips on modifying the game for early letter learners or those with limited mobility.

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Materials Needed:

  • Large empty container 
  • Mixing spoons

Cost: Nothing! Just get creative with a big “pot” for your alphabet soup.

Step 1: Find a good-sized empty container, like a laundry basket or empty box. Place it in the middle of the room and give your child (or each child) a spoon. Tell them that they’re going to make alphabet soup and this container is their “pot!” They need one ingredient for every letter of the alphabet. That’s 26 things! 

Tip: For children who are just learning their letters, you can make soup with a subset of letters. Start with letters the children are familiar with, including the first initial of their names, plus common letters. You can also focus on certain skills with special versions like “vowel soup.”

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Step 2: The first ingredient has to start with the letter “A.” Remind your child of the different sounds the letter can make and then send them off to explore for items! Will they find an apple? An alligator? An acorn?

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Step 3: Each time your child brings back an item, have them place it in the “pot” and remind them of the next letter and its sound(s). Then send them to search for the next ingredient, which will begin with the next letter in the alphabet (or in your subset of letters).

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When you have all the ingredients, stir them up and try your yummy new alphabet soup!

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Adaptation: If your child has limited physical mobility, another option is to place a variety of items on a table or other surface they can reach. They can direct you about which ingredient to pick up for their very special soup.

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At the end of the day, what I want my students to take away with them is not only the memory of letters of the alphabet and early literacy skills, but also the memory of the joy they had while learning. Alphabet soup is a dish that provides both.

Bon appetit!

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Alphabet Soup