Looking for a fun, easy way to help your kids practice their letter recognition skills? You’ll only need a few basic materials to set up this cool activity that can be adapted in various ways depending on their age and abilities! Your little ones will love seeing hidden letters and shapes magically appear as they paint over them!
This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. We only endorse products, services and merchants that we have personally used/tested and consider of the highest quality standard. Please see our full disclosure for further information.
Lately, our three-year-old has been learning to recognize the letters of her name, so we’ve been trying to come up with fun ways for her to come in contact with the alphabet.
With three little ones running (and crawling) around, our hands are usually pretty full. That means we don’t always have a lot of time to prepare activities in advance. Thankfully, there are tons of things you can do to practice letter recognition that require very little planning or preparation!
This particular activity is fun, easy to prepare and requires only a few simple supplies. It can also be adapted depending on the age of your children and how far along they are in recognizing the letters of the alphabet!
How to Do a Hidden Letter Search
Here’s what you’ll need to set up this simple letter recognition activity:
- White cardstock
- Crayons (one of them has to be white)
- Liquid watercolours or kids’ watercolour paint
1. Write Words
Start by choosing which words you want your kids to search for. If they’re just starting to recognize the letters of the alphabet, you might want to start with just their first name. Older kids who are more familiar with the alphabet can search for a variety of words.
Whatever you choose, use a crayon to write it down on cardstock. You can also use a pen, pencil or marker, or even type it on your computer and print it, but I prefer to use a crayon so it looks as similar as possible to the letters your children are going to be searching for.
If you’ve chosen multiple words, you can cut the sheet of cardstock into little rectangles and turn it into a set of cards you can reuse for other letter recognition games.
If you’re not planning on reusing the cards, you can use regular printer or construction paper for this step, but won’t be able to use it for the next step or it will turn into a soggy mess. You could, however, use kids’ watercolour paper instead of cardstock for the second step if that’s what you have on hand.
2. Write Letters
On a separate sheet of cardstock (or on watercolour paper), write down all the letters from your chosen word(s) in random locations using a white crayon. They won’t be very visible, but you should be able to see a faint outline that will prevent you from writing letters one on top of the other.
3. Add Extra Letters
Next, you’ll want to add some letters that aren’t found in the word(s) you’ve chosen. This adds a bit of a challenge for your kids since the goal is for them to find all the letters contained in the word(s) on the card(s).
If your children are old enough, I recommend writing the entire alphabet on the sheet of cardstock. It’s easier to keep track of and will allow you to spell out anything you like, even if you decide to add more words after the fact.
If your kids are younger and you don’t want to confuse them, add only a few extra letters so it’s not too difficult, or simply skip the extra letters entirely.
4. Reveal Letters
Now comes the fun part! Give your children a paintbrush and some liquid watercolours or kids’ watercolour paint (I used the three primary colours to add a colour-mixing component to this activity!) and let them paint on the sheet of cardstock.
As they paint, the letters you wrote in white crayon will magically appear! Just try not to let them soak through the paper completely by adding too much watercolour paint, as that might prevent the letters from appearing properly.
If the paper does start to get too wet, you can pat off some of the excess liquid using a paper towel.
5. Find Words
If you’re teaching your kids their first name, show them the paper on which you wrote it and have them determine if each letter they reveal is part of it or not.
For older children, do the same thing using one word card at a time, or show them all the cards at once and every time they reveal a letter, ask them to determine which of the words contain that particular letter.
How to Adapt this Activity for Different Age Groups
If you’re not certain whether your kids are the right age for this activity, there are several ways you can tweak it to make it appeal to younger or older children. Tweaking this activity according to your children’s abilities will ensure that they’re learning useful skills while also having fun!
Tweaks For Younger Kids
Very young kids will enjoy this activity even if they’re not searching for anything. Just draw anything on the paper in white crayon, give them a paintbrush and some paint, and they’ll love revealing the secret patterns you drew!
Kids who are a little older might be able to recognize and match shapes more easily than letters. Instead of writing down words, make cards representing shapes or simple objects that they’ll recognize easily.
Draw those shapes and images on the sheet of cardstock and have them match the cards to the images they reveal. Depending on their abilities, you could also forgo the cards completely and simply ask them to tell you what the images represent!
Tweaks For Older Kids
If your kids know the alphabet well and are learning to spell, skip the cards and ask them to visualize simple words and search for the letters used to spell them!
Form New Words
If they know how to spell and want an additional challenge, ask them to reveal only a few letters at a time and to try to form new words using the letters they’ve revealed.
Related Learning Activities
Looking for more fun learning activities that you can do at home with your kids? Check out this article:
You can also subscribe to my newsletter to receive new craft and activity ideas right in your inbox! You’ll gain access to my free printables library and I’ll even occasionally send you exclusive content that may never be posted to my site!