Alphabet Grab Bags- How To Make And Use A Grab Bag With Preschoolers

A grab bag is a bag that’s full of objects that start with one particular letter. I use these when teaching preschool to go with my letter of the week format in Catholic ABC’s. I used to make new ones each week, but after teaching preschool for 6 straight years, I made permanent bags.

letter of the week bags

Here is a quote straight from Catholic ABC’s on how to use a grab bag. You say what’s in red.

Now, are you ready to see what’s in the grab bag this week? Hold up the grab bag. In this bag, there are many things that start with the letter ___. Let’s see what they are! When I call your name, you may come up, grab one object from the bag, and then sit back down on your square. After you’re sitting back down, you can tell us about it. Ready? Call their names one at a time, going counterclockwise around the circle. Have each child pull something from th bag, then sit back down and tell the class what he or she picked. Repeat the name of the object, stuttering the first sound. If there are items remaining after everyone has had a turn, the teacher takes them out and talks about them. Then have the children return the items to the bag. _______ name of child, can you please put your  _______ back into the bag? Thank you! Continue until all the items are back in the bag. 

In Catholic ABC’s, I go over how to use a “grab bag” during circle time. This happens each week when you introduce a new letter of the week. The kids love this, and in my 6 years experience in doing this, the grab bag is the preschooler’s favorite part of circle time! They love the mystery of “what’s in the bag” and they love to hold their object they get out. I also believe for this to be a great pre-lesson in presentations, as you do have to speak in front of the group to tell everyone what you got (kind of like show-and-tell, but the item is provided by the teacher).

How To Make Permanent Grab Bags

After getting tired of stuffing a grab bag week after week for several years, I made a set of permanent grab bags. I did this during a huge toy organization/purge. I knew if I got rid of all of our random toys, I would’t be able to fill my grab bag anymore. I relied on those random toy bins in my house that were not going to exist anymore.

I had Lydia write all the letters of the alphabet A-Z, one letter each on index cards. We spread them all out on the Living Room carpet. After putting away all the toys that had a place (like train tracks, blocks, things that belong in sets, action figures, bath toys- obvious stuff) we brought all of the “random toys” that were left in the living room, and started sorting by letter. This was a great activity for my kids. It kept them busy all afternoon.

When you do this, try to adhere by my letter rules. You’ll have things with no good place… such as a plastic chair. This doesn’t make a normal “c” sound, so it’s useless for grab bags. Don’t try to “force” things. We took everything that was left, and took it to Goodwill. I’m not big on toys, and I try to keep ours to a minimum. This was a good way to save things that had memories associated with them, such as baby toys or souvenirs, without cluttering my every-day space.

When we were finished, we put all of the objects into separate freezer baggies according to letter.

beginning letter bags

I store all the freezer bags in a big rubbermaid tub with a lid on the shelf in our school room labeled “Alphabet Bags”. Now I can just grab whichever bag I need and dump it into my opaque grab bag for the week. I love having these ready to go all the time!

how to store extra montessori activities

Whenever I find something new around the house or at the Dollar store that is a good fit, I toss it into “Alphabet Bags” bin. Every once in awhile, I open it up and salt everything into the appropriate bags.

There were a few letters at the end that we didn’t have nearly enough objects for. We combined these all into 1 bag as we waited to collect more items.

weird letter grab bag items

As I collected enough objects for each letter, I moved them to their own bag so I knew I was done. I wanted at least 8 objects for each letter because that’s about how many preschoolers I have in my class at a time, and I need one thing for each kid.

We also sacrificed a board book with a different letter food on each page. We cut the pages apart, and salted them into the bags. We also got a magic letter toy that I salted into each bag. It has a hologram on each one that shows the big letter, little letter, and something that starts with that letter.

To fill in, I went shopping at Michael’s. At pretty much every craft store, there’s an aisle of wooden “stuff” that’s available pretty cheap. You can even buy some that are already painted. They’re usually .50 to $1 each. I bought some of these for letters I was lacking in. In my “A” sensory bin, you can see an angel, apple, and alligator I collected this way.

alphabet sensory bin for preschoolers

When I use our grab bag at home, I make this into a letter of the week sensory bin. You can read all about that here.

Ideas Of Things To Put In Your Grab Bag For Each Letter:

Don’t forget that your ABC Saints can make an appearance in every bag, A-Z! Also, if you’re really stuck, print a coloring page of things that begin with that letter, cut them out, and fill the bag. Do what you have to do so you don’t cut this very valuable time out of circle time!

Things that start with the letter A: St. Anne, Alligator, Apple, Angel, Alien, Armor, Angel (statue, holy card), American flag, Acorn, Arm (from Mr. Potato Head), Airplane, Ace, Ant, Ape, Altar Boy (holy card or peg doll), Arrow, Astronaut, Ax *Vowels can be triky- make sure you only use things that make one of the actual letter sounds!*

Things that start with the letter B: Block, Ball, Bear, Baby, Book, Bible, Ballerina, Band-aide, Boat

Things that start with the letter C: Comb, Car, Coin, Cup, Cross, Candle, Cone, Cape, Corn, Cards, Cat, Clock, Crucifix, Crayon, Candy, Clothes pin. *Avoid things starting with “ch”!*

Things that start with the letter D: Dog, Dragon, Dinosaur, Dress, Doughnut, Dice, Doll, Dolphin, Duck, Dime, Dove, Domino.

Things that start with the letter E: Envelope, toy Elephant, Eagle, Mr. Potato Head Ear, Easter Egg *Vowels can be triky- make sure you only use things that make one of the actual letter sounds!*

Things that start with the letter F: Fish, toy Farmer, Feather, Flamingo, Flower, Flip Flip, Family (holy family statue or holy card), toy Fairy

Things that start with the letter G: Glasses, Glove, Goggles, Guitar Pick, Gorilla, Glitter, Glue, Gold, Grass, Grasshopper, Gum.

Things that start with the letter H: Horse, Hat, Hairbrush, Happy face, Hippo, Headband

Things that start with the letter I:  Iguana, Igloo, Indy car, Ice cream cone, Indian corn, Inch worm, toy Iron, Invitation, Ivy, Island, Icon, Immaculate Heart, Insect, Instrument *Vowels can be triky- make sure you only use things that make one of the actual letter sounds!*

Things that start with the letter J: Jingle Bell, Jacks, Jello, Jack O Lantern, Jar, Joker, Juicebox, Jerky, Jet, Jump Rope, Jaguar, Jelly, Jellyfish, Jellybean, Jug, Juicer, Jewel

Things that start with the letter K: Kitten, Koala bear, Kangaroo, Ketchup packet, King, Key. *Avoid anything starting with “Kn” that doesn’t make the classic “K” sound*

Things that start with the letter L: Lizard, Lilac, Lion, Lamb, Lollipop, Lipstick, Locomotive, Lotion, St. Lucy Holy Card, Ladder, Legos

Things that start with the letter M: Monkey, Money, Man, Monster, Moon, Moose, Mother Teresa holy card, Motorcycle, Mouse, Mug, Magnet, Marble, Mouth or Mustache (from Mr. Potato Head), Monk

Things that start with the letter N: Nuts, Napkin, Nail polish, Nurse hat, Necklace, Nun doll, bottle Nipple, Nail file, Nail (use caution), Name tag, Nativity, Nerds candy, Net, Newspaper, Notebook, Nickel, Noodles, compass for “North”, Nose (compliments of Mr. Potato Head), Nutmeg

Things that start with the letter O: Ostrich, Octopus, Orange, Olive, Oven (from dollhouse), Oatmeal, Owl, Oak tree leaf, Oval, Onion, Octagon, Our Lady Statue *Vowels can be triky- make sure you only use things that make one of the actual letter sounds!*

Things that start with the letter P: Peanut, Papal flag, Priest, Prayer card, St. Peter holy card or statue, plate, pen, pencil, pecan, parrot, my little pony, ponytail holder, popsicle stick, post-it note, potato, potato head, pretzel, princess, puppet, purse, puzzle

Things that start with the letter Q: Quilt (or quilted paper towel), Quarts crystal, Q-tips, Quarter, Football player (Quarterback), Bee toy (for Queen bee), Quail, Quill (take any feather, cut the end off, and scribble on it with a sharpie), Queen, Quaker oatmeal

Things that start with the letter R: Rosary, Rabbit, Race car, Raisins, Rock, Rag, Rainbow, Rat, Rattle, Receipt, Rectangle, something Red, Rhino, Reindeer, Ring, Rocket, Ruler, Rooster, Rope, Rose

Things that start with the letter S: Snack, Saint Statues, Sock, Strawberries, Star, Snake, Sun, Snowflake, Salt, Sugar packet, Stone, Soup can, Smiley face, String, Sand or Sandpaper, Sail boat, Soap, Sardines, School Bus, Screwdriver, Seashell, Sunflower Seeds *Avoid things that start with the “sh” sound rather than a true “s” sound.*

Things that start with the letter T: Truck, Train, Tiger, Table (from a doll house), Tennis ball, Triangle, Tank, Tap shoe, Tape, Tea bag, Tea cup, Tie, Tissue, Tongue (from Mr. Potato Head), Tools, Toothbrush or Toothpaste, Top, Tractor, Turkey, Turtle, Tu-tu, Twisty tie, T-rex *Avoid things that start with the “th” sound rather than a true “t” sound.*

Things that start with the letter U: Umbrella, Ultrasound picture, Uncle, Unicorn, United States flag or map, Udders (plastic cow), Universe picture, Undershirt, Utensils *Vowels can be triky- make sure you only use things that make one of the actual letter sounds!*

Things that start with the letter V: St. Veronica holy card, violet, velvet, toy van, vanilla, vegetables, vitamins, valentine, vaseline, picture of Vatican City, veil, vest

Things that start with the letter W: world, wax, wolf, whale, wheel, whipped cream container, whiskers, whistle, whiteout, window, wig, wind chimes, windsock, plastic wine glass, wings, wizard, wood, water color paints, water gun, walkie talkie, wallet, walnut, wand

Things that start with the letter X: picture of an X-ray, Xylophone, foX, boX, crucifiX, waX, the number siX, plastic aX, toolboX *I would say try to avoid things that make a “Z” sound, but it’s already so impossible to stuff this grab bag that I give you permission to do what you have to do* 😉

Things that start with the letter Y: anything yellow, boat (for yacht), yard sale sign, yard stick, yarn, yearbook, yeast package, yield sign, yo-yo, yak (if you’re so lucky to have one)

Things that start with the letter Z: zebra, zucchini, zig zag, zipper, zero, ziplock baggie, picture of the zoo

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Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing the list. I remember looking for and wishing for a list such as this, when we started the Catholic ABCs at the start of this school year. Now, here it is! Thanks! If you ever have another edition of your Catholic ABCs book, maybe you could include this oh-so-helpful list in the grab bag section of the book. Just an idea. I’m just glad to have it now before we get to some of those difficult letters at the end (U, O, Y, Q, and Z, I’m looking at you!). Have a blessed week!

  2. Thank you so much, this list is terrific! I am curious about one thing – several times you talk about “salting” things into different bags, and I’m curious whether that is some regional term or if you kept trying to type “sort” and the computer was trying to correct you??

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