Are your children hitting a wall with the Sandpaper Letters? Inspired by my children who were tired of the three-period lessons and still struggling to retain letter sounds, I created the Letter Race Game!

I wanted to create a game that

  • was interactive
  • was fun
  • offered multiple opportunities for practicing a handful of letter sounds
  • was somewhat different from the other games we play to learn sounds.

I usually save it for well into the year when we are a bit bored with our regular practice. Sometimes I bring it out and show it first to the child who needs that extra practice and let her become the “expert” and show the other children how to play!

Why Teach Letter Sounds Before Letter Names?


This game can be played by two children and practices the sounds of the sandpaper letters. This game is modeled after Snail Pace Race, and uses the same letter groupings and color coding from my Color Coded Sound Games. Each group in this game includes the four letter sounds from each color-coded sound game plus a vowel and a consonant from the previous group.

The Board

I made my game board from a white woven placemat that I got for a couple of dollars. Using a pencil and a ruler I carefully divided the space into six columns and seven rows. Each section needs to be large enough to hold the largest letter from the movable alphabet. 2 inches square was the size for us. I embroidered the lines using blue embroidery floss. This took a bit of time, but was well worth it. (You could draw it with a Permanent marker as well but I was worried it would bleed and I wanted it to look beautiful and be calling to the children!)

The Dice

Next I needed to make the dice for the color groups. I bought wooden cubes at the craft store and painted them with acrylic paint. I made one die for each color group: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. I used a black Sharpie marker to write the letters on the sides of the dice.

Red: I wrote the letters s, m, a, t and on the other two sides I put an * which means “roll again” This was necessary since the red group has only four sounds. When we play with the red group we fold part of the mat under since we only need four of the six sections.

Orange: c, r, i, p, a, m

Yellow: b, f, o, g, i, c

Green: h, j, u, l, o, b

Blue: d, w, e, n, u, j

Purple: k, q, v, x, y, z

Of course you could have any review letters you might want from the previous color group.

I store the dice and the movable alphabet letters necessary to play the game in a small glass bowl, but you could use a box, tray, bag, or fabric pouch. We code the moveable alphabet letters for this game with a circle drawn in the corresponding color of Sharpie marker. (The truth is they sometimes still get mixed up but it is certainly better than nothing!)

Stuck on letter sounds?

Check out my Color Coded Sound Games for 8 printable fun activities that practice these building block sounds for reading. Available in print and cursive.

Color Coded Sound Games Cathie Perolman

How to Play

In order to play, one of the two children has to know all the sounds of the letters in the letter group (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple). The children lay out the mat with the short side at the top of the table. They say the sound of each letter as they place each in one of the squares along the top row of the mat.

One child rolls the die and says the sound. (In my class the child who brought the work from the shelf to the table always gets to go first.) Then that sound moves down the mat one square.

Now the second child rolls, says the sound and moves the letter one space.

Continue playing taking turns. This game lends itself to a lot of analysis and discussion. “First ‘guh’ was winning but now ‘errr’ is ahead. I think ‘err’ will win!”

Continue playing until one sound “wins!

This game is very popular and children play with a variety of partners. Just keep an ear open to ensure that the children are practicing the sounds of the letters and not the name of them!

Cathie Perolman

Cathie Perolman, M.Ed

Cathie Perolman is a reading specialist, elementary educator, author, consultant, and creator of educational materials for primary and elementary students.

You can see all her original materials for sale in our shop, and read more about her and her life’s work here.