Welcome to the Bright Idea Zone!

One toy, many ways to play.

Discover a multitude of bright ideas for each placemat and keep the fun fresh. Designed by educational experts and sorted by age and ability, these activities help keep little minds engaged and growing.

For offline play, click to download the printer-friendly version of this page, as well as your bonus printable tools, and begin your learning adventure today!

That’s right! /mmm/ like in “mom” and “moon”! Your child will light up as they master the letters of the alphabet and their corresponding sounds. Soon you’ll hear them coming up with a whole list of words that start with the same sound as their own name – just you wait! We’ve decided to keep it simple while keeping it memorable this side of the mat. Ready to learn uppercase letters? YES PLEASE.

A is For Apple, B is for Ball, So Many Letters, Let’s Do ‘Em All!

  • Introduce around 4 letter-sound pairings at a time. Start with some sounds your child already knows and/or the earliest developing sounds (b, p, m, d, t, n, and h).
  • Point to a single letter within the 4 selected and model a variety of words your child is already familiar with that start with that sound. For example, “D as dog, dad and digger!”
  • Repetition is key! Focus on these first 4 letters daily during meal and playtimes until your child seems to understand.   
  • Sing the alphabet! As you sing the alphabet while pointing to each letter on the    placemat, stop at the letters you are focusing on. For example, if you’re focusing on M, N, H, and Y, sing “L, M /mmm/ mom, mouse, mat, N /nnn/ nose, nap, net, O, P…”   
  • Make it tactile! Feel the letters! Gather the letters from your D&J ABC Find & Fit puzzle that are a part of the group of letters you are teaching. Trace the letters with your finger and make the beginning sound. Ask your child to point to the sound on the mat. “/d/ like DaD…Can you find the /d/ on the mat? That’s right /d/ like dinosaur!” 
  • Remember: It’s most important that your child can connect the sound with the letter. You can teach your child the names of the letters simultaneously or wait until they understand the sounds but be sure to focus on the sound the letter makes. 
  • When teaching the letter X, refer to the ending sound /ks/ in the word “box”. Other examples include “fox” and “ax”. Do not use the words X-ray or the /z/ sound from xylophone! 
  • As your child progresses through learning their letters and sounds, start a new section of 4 letters and continue to review the letters and sounds they have already learned! Repeat the activities above until you have yourself a letter-sound guru on your hands! (Each child will learn this skill at their own pace!). 
  • Note: If your child gets stuck and appears discouraged or frustrated with certain letters and their sounds, a great tip to help motivate them is to go back and review 1-2 letters they have mastered and then proceed forward, modeling the sounds that correspond to the letters they are having trouble with.

Let’s UP The Challenge with More Uppercase Exploration!

  • Match it! Spread your D&J ABC Find & Fit puzzle pieces on the table and challenge your child to match each piece to the placemat.
  • Letter hunt using sounds! “Can you find the letter that makes the D sound like you hear at the beginning of the word “dog”?” 
  • Using the phonics printables, match the corresponding phonics picture card to the letter on the placemat. 
  • Now it’s time to crank up the fun! Gather small objects or toys around the house and encourage your child to match the objects to the correct initial sound on the placemat.

The 411 On Uppercase and Lowercase Letters

  • When first explaining uppercase and lowercase letters to your child it’s helpful to see both letters at once. This can be done by lining up the lowercase printables on this side of the placemat or referring to the D&J phonics placemat, which has both uppercase and lowercase letters shown.  
  • As you teach the lowercase letters, flip to the reverse side of this mat to do so!   
  • Detective time! Ask your child to find the lowercase letter on the trim. For example, “Can you find the lowercase L on the trim? Point to it. Good! Can you find another one?” There are 3 of each lowercase letter on the trim. 
  • Mark it! Starting with the letter A encourage your child to find and cover each of the matching lowercase letters on the trim with a bingo chip or a snack (a goldfish or a piece of cereal). The child can find one of each letter or all three. Once they have found the letter, move on to the next letter. 
  • Make a match! Match the lowercase letter printable to the uppercase letter on the placemat. 
  • Lowercase hunt! Write the lowercase letters you’d like your child to practice identifying (or the entire alphabet) on Post-it notes. Have fun sticking the notes on the walls around your room. Encourage your child to find the lowercase notes and match them to the corresponding uppercase letter on the placemat.
  • Role the Die! Using a bingo chip or Lego figurine, roll a die and move that many images around the border. Then say the letter on which you land. Whoever gets around the border first wins! *Challenge! Say a word that begins with that letter sound.
  • With a marker, write out the uppercase letters of the alphabet on clothespins, bottle tops, or Post-it flags. Match them to the lowercase letters on the trim.