Wax resist Name Recognition and Letter Learning

Aug 28, 2015

My 3 (almost 4) year-old is really into letters at the moment. 

He's asking questions about them, pointing them out, recognising/naming them, making them and just generally showing that now is the time to follow his interest and provide him with opportunities to practice and learn more about letters and his name.

I don't have time for fancy set-ups or anything that takes a long time to prepare these days (3 year-olds really keep you busy!) and it's almost always the simple activities that are most enjoyed and get the most use. 

This wax-resist activity is a classic that doesn't go out of style. You only need a candle, paper and some watercolour paint to have fun practicing name recognition, letter learning, number learning and just having fun.

Ages: 2+
See the bottom for handy tips to simplify or extend to suit your child's age & level of development.

  • Watercolour paints
  • Candle (we used a tealight candle but the long thin candles would probably work better for drawing and writing with)
  • Paper
  • Paintbrush (we use the Micador Early Start brushes as they're great for little hands)

I presented the activity with him name already written on the paper in wax. What was on the paper? It was a fun surprise to find out.

As you paint, see if the children can guess what is appearing. Is it a letter, a number, a symbol?

By this stage he could see that he was uncovering letters!

"It says Noah!" he realised with great delight.

Now it was his turn to try writing and drawing with the almost invisible wax.

He managed to write some of the letters really well despite not being able to see what you're writing. 

This is a new challenge for children and allows them to really focus on the shape and lines of the different letters and how they are formed.

Next up he uncovered a number page that I'd done for him earlier.

Talk with the children about what they are uncovering as they discover it. 

How can they tell what the different shapes are? 
Can they make guesses based on the shape of the letters and numbers? 
Where else have they seen these symbols?

Handy Tips:

Simplify for younger children by only focusing on one letter or their name on a single piece of paper. 

Have the child try to copy the letter themselves on another piece of paper with the wax/candle. 

You could even draw a faint pencil line on paper that they can attempt to trace over with the wax before painting with the watercolours.

Extend this activity by:
  •  Encouraging children to attempt to write the letter or name themselves. When focusing on writing the letter, show children the correct starting point and direction they should write the letter so that they get used to doing it the right way.
    Also make sure to practice writing and uncovering both the lower-case and upper-case letters.

  • Having children brainstorm things that start with whatever letter you're focusing on and have them draw these in wax around the letter or on a separate poster.

  • Going on a letter scavenger hunt to find items that begin with the letter you're working on.

  • Making super fancy name posters with fancy written letters, borders and decorations all done in wax

  • Using this technique to practice spelling or sight words.

Mix it up by using a white oil pastel or white crayon instead which will deliver a very similar result when water-colour paint is applied over the top. You could try writing on different surfaces like cardboard, fabric or canvas.

Good to Know. If you are practicing handwriting at home, I would be finding out how they teach it at your local schools so that your child can learn it the same way. 

It can be difficult re-teaching children how to do it the expected way so if they learn correctly from the beginning it's much easier. 

Obviously your children will experience text in all different forms and be exposed to a huge variety of fonts that they will need to recognise but it will make it easier in the long run if they learn to write the letters in the expected way to begin with. (ie, here in Victoria, schools use "Victorian Cursive" which is what I use when working on letters/words/writing with my children)

Talk with your child about what they are doing while they are doing it. Encourage children to name the letter and the sounds it makes. 

Use the process of uncovering the hidden letter/name/word to talk about the shapes that make it up (ie. straight lines, curves, etc.) and try to distinguish the characteristics to guess the what might be on the paper. 

Happy playing,
Debs :)

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