When children have already learned how to recognize and name letters before entering kindergarten, they “tend to have an easier time learning to read than do children who have not learned these skills.” (U.S. Department of Education) It’s important for children to be able to also recognize beginning letters in familiar words, distinguish between lowercase and capital letters and to recognize the relationship between some letters and their sounds.
By encouraging children to recognize letters, and not just sing “The Alphabet Song” we are preparing our children for reading, and for success in school. Here are some fun ways to help our children learn the alphabet.
1. A Letter a Day. Take direction from PBS Kids’Sesame Street and teach one letter a day. Focus activities, books, snacks or meals and games on that day’s letter. For example, if today’s letter of the day is “M,” serve milk, macaroni and cheese, muffins, or any other yummy and nutritious foods that start with the letter “M.”
There are many books to choose from for studying the letter “M” including books about the moon, monkeys, money, monsters, mice, Mexico, manners, mountains or measurements. Read from books related to the letter of the day. For the letter “M” choose from Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown There’s A Monster Under My Bed by James Howe or a book about everyone’s favorite monkey, Curious George by H.A. Rey.
2. Make Temporary Letters. There are a number of safe and fun ways to make letters with children. Either make a letter of the day, following #1, or do parts of or the whole alphabet. If you have alphabet cookie cutters use them to make roll-out sugar cookies to eat. Or use the cookie cutters to make letters out of play-dough. Make less permanent letters by drawing them in the sand when outside, or on a cookie sheet or large plate covered with white rice or any small dry beans.
3. Make More Permanent Letters Cut large letters out of colorful construction paper or bend them into shape using pipe cleaners or yarn. Or purchase an unpainted wooden letter or letters from a local craft store. Help you child decorate the letter or paint it with his/her favorite color. Collect and decorate the whole alphabet to decorate a child’s room or play room.
4. Read, Read, Read. Make time to read with your children, either in the form of an alphabet book or other children’s books. If your home selection is small, be sure to visit the children’s section of your local library. Reading different books to your child provides the opportunity to introduce a greater variety of new words and phrases.
5. Flashcards. Either make your own flashcards on card stock with letters, or letters and related pictures. Print out pre-made alphabet flashcards from Beginning Reading, or make animal flashcards at BillyBear4kids.com.
6. Store-Bought Letters. Magnetic letters for the refrigerator are always a fun way for children to see letters of the alphabet. Another alternative for younger children is foam letters. Or, find an an alphabet puzzle made for early learners. You could also play with lettered tiles from the game of Scrabble.
7. Coloring Letters. Find workbooks or print letter outlines from abcteach which children can color in.
8. All the World’s A Classroom. When you are out with your child, point out the letters that are all around. This could include license plates, street signs, products in the grocery store,restaurant menus…the list is endless.
9. Games. Use two sets of store-bought or homemade flashcards to play the match game, which is sometimes called concentration. Turn the letters upside down and let the child turn over two cards at a time to find matches. For younger children, do portions of the alphabet in different rounds so the child does not get overwhelmed with too many cards. Another game you can play inside or outdoors is “I Spy.” Pick a letter and help your child discover everything in sight that begins with that particular letter.
10. Make Your Own Alphabet Book. Use construction paper, a notebook or a three-ring binder to hold the pages. Each day or week, depending on your schedule, choose a new letter to work on. Write the letter neatly on a piece of paper. Have your child draw a picture of an object that starts with that letter or look through magazines for related images.
Make learning the alphabet a fun part of the day by engaging children with creative activities.