The Rainbow Gel Alpha Boats are a wonderful addition to early learning play and education resources. Their sensory nature means that they really appeal to children. They are ideal for squashing and squeezing, the colours and the texture allow the children to slow down their play and observe the letters that are clearly printed onto the boats. One of the best things about this resource is that on one side the letter is in lowercase, and the reverse side the letter is in uppercase, so there is lots of learning potential.
My son, who is four, is beginning to show interest in learning letters, he especially likes recognising them while we are out and about, these pocket sized boats are great for taking out if you are focusing on or searching for one letter at a time. I have found one of the best things about these boats is that they are not presented in the typical stationary way as some other resources. They appeal to him because they are fun to look at and hold.
I’m going to talk you through some of the games we’ve played with our alphabet boats, and some I plan to play as he develops his knowledge, it’s great to have a resource with this kind of longevity.
My son isn’t overly keen on using pens or pencils yet, so we have used a sand tray for early writing and mark making. The alphabet gel boats have such a clear letter shape on them, we used them for him to copy the letter into the sand tray. Or I would write a letter in the sand tray and ask him to search for the boat with the matching letter. I will then extend this activity to CVC words, asking him to initially copy the missing letter, and then to copy all three while making the sound of the letter.
One of the unique things we have done with the gel letters is to freeze them! I chose to put the letters in his name in the freezer so their texture was different to the others, and simply let him explore the letters. While he was looking at them and playing we chatted about the letters in his name and again the sounds they make. Being able to make a physical distinction really helped him with initial recognition, and led him to want to write his name for the first time – as you can imagine I was extremely proud of him, and equally delighted he had led this learning.
A simple CVC activity I set up using the gel letters was matching the words to a toy we have. I used the gel letters to spell out words such as dog, and cat and asked my son to use the letter sounds he knew, and helped him with the ones he didn’t to sound out the word and match it to the toy we had. He just cannot resist holding these super sensory boats, so would pick up the boat, and squash it while learning, and saying the letter sound. Another version of this sound game was some single letter sound matching. I presented my son with a toy, for example a tomato, and asked him to find the letter T among the alphabet gel boats. The clarity of the letters on the boats is perfect, so really easy for them to see.
Of course, these boats are perfect not just in formal learning set ups, but in play too. We’ve used ours with our organza’s while creating beach and sea play set ups, we’ve used them as treasure when playing pirates, and as items to buy in our play shop. But, by far the most popular activity we have done with these boats was in the bath! They are the perfect bath toy, and hopefully provide some subliminal learning too! We used a bath bomb to colour the water, and a kitchen sieve and tongs to fish out the boats. My son was so receptive to this activity, he started by fishing out random boats and asking me what letters were on them, and then decided he wanted to fish out the letters from his name!
I have found these gel boats to be a valuable addition to our learning toys, they are more than just an educational resource. With so many opportunities for learning, and play they are really a valuable addition to your collection. Their sensory nature is appealing to children (and adults alike) and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them.