|Good ol' magnetic letters. Cheap and easy to find!|
One of the first investments I suggest is a subscription to starfall.com. At only $35 per year it is a bargain as the activities can take your child from a preschooler learning the alphabet through a fluent First grade reader. The activities on starfall match up with and supplement the Growing Readers program nicely.
I like the way Handwriting Without Tears teaches letter formation. I'm not a big fan of workbooks unless you happen to have a child who just loves them. If you are going to purchase any workbooks, I would recommend these for pre-K, Kindergarten, and First Grade. Even if you don't purchase any of their products, watch the videos on how to teach letter formation. You can purchase more of their resources or use your own chalk boards, chalk, etc.
A chalkboard and chalk is essential. It provides different tactile feedback than a pencil on paper or a marker on a whiteboard.
A table top pocket chart is a great basic purchase that you can use with lots of things for years to come. You can get them in a wide range of sizes that can hang on the wall, or you can get a table top version like this one:
|Smethport Table Top Pocket Chart with Building Words cards|
|Word families for the pocket chart|
|Sight Words for the Pocket Chart|
|Beginning sounds for the Pocket Chart|
|Discount School Supplies Sight Word Pocket Chart|
This one from Really good stuff has both a pocket chart and magnetic dry erase. A bit more expensive at $40, but you get both the pocket chart and magnetic dry erase all in one. Perfect for small spaces!
|Desktop Pocket Chart with magnetic dry erase from really good stuff|
To go with your magnetic white board you'll want some magnetic letter manipulatives. Remember, the goal is to buy things you will use for a few years. A set of letters can be used for basic letter identification at the preschool level, all the way to building spelling words in 3rd grade. You can choose tiles or plastic or foam letters, like these:
|EZread Soft Touch™ Economy Multicolored Foam Magnetic Letter Kit|
|Magnetic Alphabet with Red Vowels|
This kit from Lakeshore has letters and activities for alphabet learning, basic phonic, lots of hands on activities:
This is another kit with letters and activity cards.
Keep for eye out for good deals and thrift store finds. Think of these things when grandparents ask what to buy your child for a gift.
With just a few resources you can learn and play with letters and words for several years!